Friday, June 25, 2010

My Dad My Son and Killer bees

There are not words to explain how much I love my kids. They have turned into the people that I hope they would be. Below is a picture of my BOY at a recent bicycle race. He is ‘hucking’ (as we say, see note below) a bicycle somewhere. Maybe he didn’t like the bike.

Seeing this I can’t help but think that growing up in Cave Creek has served him well. It reminds me of a day a few years back. My father had called to tell me that there was a huge swarm of bees in his Palo Verde tree. Usually this is no big deal, but he was on chemotherapy. Years before after a man in Carefree had died in an attack by “Killer Bees," my good friend and ‘bee keeper,’ Bill Payne had explained that bees get weird around sick people.” Apparently the bees react to the smells of the sick and it causes them to attack.

Not knowing if these were Africanized or “Killer” bees and not wanting my elderly parents to be another news story, I went over ASAP and brought my son Joey.

Upon arrival we found a huge swarm, about two feet across, in a branch of my parents tree, that hangs over their driveway. It’s quite a sight. The worker bees form a giant ball that protects the queen. This living ball of bees will park, so to speak, in a tree or shrub over night and then move during the day, until it finds a new place to build a hive. When they are on the move they can be extra dangerous.

After assessing the bee situation Joey and I decided that the smartest course of action was to shoot a pellet gun into the hive, hoping they would get mad and take off. We hid behind a wall about thirty feet from the bees, all the while having an escape plan that included running into my parents house. After several shots we decided that, although we were causing great damage to a few bees the hive was not aware of our assault. So we tried getting in the safety of the truck cab and ramming the tree. The problem being (get it!) we had to choose between hitting the tree hard enough to knock the bees free and not hitting so hard as to dent the bumper of my truck. After several tries and no mad swarm of bees and being the rocket scientist we are we, decided to “HUCK” rocks (Huck; a hillbilly colloquialism, meaning to throw or toss with great effort.) at this hive of several hundred, if not thousand, bees. This was one of the great redneck moments of our lives. We start out by standing about 25 feet from the tree tossing a small rock and then turning and jumping, as fast as we could. into the safety of the truck cab after about ten tries we moved a little closer and the rocks got bigger. Soon the redneck mind took over and the hucking began in earnest. This is where the element of being the best rock hucker, meets the possibility of a full-scale attack from thousands of pissed off bees. So we huck and run, huck and run. Each time the rocks get bigger and we get closer. Laughing harder and harder. Finally being the big dog, I have to just get it done.

I grab a huge rock and walk up to the tree and toss directly into the swarm; the sky is suddenly full of a cloud of bees looking for someone to pay for the disruption.

The humor has ‘gone south,’ with eyes the size of saucers, we jump, screaming, into the truck and floor it. Joey calls my parents and tells them not to go outside until the next day. My father being older, wiser and calmer, waits about ten minutes, walks outside to assess the situation, only to find the hive waited about five minutes and went right back to the protection of the Palo-verde, and where right where we had found them.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Never Enough (an Essay)

Lying on this hard, cold, table, the tech keeps saying, “Try to hold still.” Your back spasms. Try to ignore the pain. Think of anything else.

So you focus on the finely machined, stainless steel, mechanical pieces that hold the giant camera together, the one that is taking pictures of the inside of your heart.

You wonder, why is every piece of medical equipment painted the same greenish off white color? What causes that rough surface, on the side of the camera? What is that, slowly rotating about three inches from your cheekbone?

Thoughts shift. They’ve injected radioactive dye into the heart. The release form you’ve signed list the possible side effects as including death. Is death a side effect?

The male nurse says, “Don’t worry it’s perfectly safe.”

If it’s so harmless why did they bring it to the room in a lead-lined box? And why was he wearing that lead apron and gloves?

Don’t think about the pain. Don’t move. They’ll just have to start all over again. “Twenty minutes to go,” says the tech, in an attempt to reassure you.

Stop thinking. Go somewhereWhat about the box the nuclear medicine came in? Finely machined, hand made… like the screws on the camera. Beautiful, clean, shiny steel, cut and ground to an impressive finish. In the box the radioactive material in a special polished steel syringe.

No reason to think about the radiation’s effect in fifteen years. Shit fifteen years… Get through the next fifteen hours. Get through this test and survive the upcoming surgery. Think about staying alive.

That’s it, live through the surgery… Wake up from the procedure. Life starts at that moment. Get it all back. Fight, don’t give in, wake up.

“Could you call my nurse? I need some morphine. I’m way past the time and the cramps and withdrawals are starting”

The tech says, “I’ll call upstairs see what she can do.”

At first, the withdrawals feel like a stomachache, while standing in a cool breeze. But then they grow. Your muscles cramp. You start sweating. It feels like your bones are cracking and freezing at the same time.

The drugs call, a chemical harlot whispering. Saying how good it will be; how it will all get better. How she loves you better than anyone else can…Take all the pain away.

The pain, stop thinking about the pain… go anywhere in your mind… anywhere.

Go back to the beginning… to that child you were so many years ago.

You’re nine or ten and living in Austin, Texas. Coming from Minneapolis, it’s so hot here. Who can blame you for sitting around all summer in the air-conditioning, drinking Pepsi and eating chips?

When you go back to school, things are different. You have a little gut, but that’s all it takes for the kids to start.

At first, you laugh along with them when they start in with, “Pork chop” and “rollie pollie.” Then it happens.

One day, on the playground, eight or so of the boys jump you. You’re confused and frightened when they pull on your arms and legs, tight enough to lift you off the ground. At first you hope they’re just kidding around and try to make a joke out of it. This only serves to piss them off and so the other boys take turns kicking you in the back and sides with their polished black and brown hard-toed boots.

What have you done? Why are they hurting you? With each new kick, the pain shoots through your body. They have a wild look in their eyes that you’ve never seen before. Like they’ve all gone crazy. They seem to be having so much fun, making you scream and cry. And the harder you cry, the harder they laugh and the more they kick.

When they finally stop kicking, one of the bigger boys is furious that his fun has stopped. So, he and a friend grab you by the pant legs and drag you, kicking and screaming, over to a hive of fire ants. They hold you down on the hill of big black ants. The angry ants swarm all over you. In your hair, mouth, eyes, inside your clothing, everywhere. Each new bite feels like being pinched with red-hot pliers. Now more kids are running over.

Covered with the unrelenting fire ants and going almost mad, you fight your way free, running and flailing your arms trying to evade the other boys and to get the ants off. Too many to count, the ants, painfully biting and crawling on your neck, in your ears and all over your now ripped shirt and dirty pants.

The crowd of students has now grown into a huge swarming mob, just like the ants. They all want to see the fat boy get his ass kicked. For fun, some of the younger boys run up and hit or kick you. Even your so-called buddies join in. When it’s over, and you have almost stopped sobbing, you asked your best friend, “Why did you do that to me?”

“Nobody likes you. You’re just a fat piece of shit. What do you expect?”

Until that day you were just one of the kids… good friends, going through these early years together. But this beating will last for the rest of your life. You’re now dirty, ugly and some how less than everyone else.

For the next twenty years, every time you do something wrong, somewhere in the description of your error, is a comment about your weight. It is the common ground upon which all insults will be built. Fat lazy. Filthy slob. Ugly pig. Dirty pork-chop. Lard ass. Stupid fat cow.

As a teen the girls let you know that you’re good enough to be their friend, but not dating material.

At the age of nineteen you decide that you want to marry a girl from school. She, like all the rest, lets you be a friend, but that’s all. But you refuse to give up, and then one day a few years later, she sees the real you. Friendship grows, she falls in love and you get married.

Time passes. You have children. Your first child is thin. A few years later you have a beautiful little blond haired girl.

But around age five, she starts gaining weight. She has caught your disease… and it’s your fault. By age nine, she’s clinically obese. You and your daughter are both getting bigger.

For the next 10 years, you fight the demon of your weight. Every new pound makes you worth less. In your mid twenties you were 250 pounds. By the age of thirty you’re past 300.

In that time period you try endless diet and exercise programs, in an attempt to lose the weight, which you do, several times. Each time you lost the weight you gained it back, plus a few extra pounds. Several times you fast for more than 40 days, losing up to 70 pounds. But a year or so later you’re right back to 300.

You discover that you’re allowed to be funny, but not one of the adults. Whenever you’re in a meeting, you see the contempt in their eye. You’re fat, and acting like you’re one of their peers. They despise you for it, as if to say, “Listen to you, Jesus Christ! Get real… Take a look at yourself.”

There are people that you meet on the phone. You discuss business and it goes well. But then you meet them in person and once again, not enough… never enough…

Then at age 45 you make a decision that will change your life and the lives of your entire family. You really have everything that you ever wanted, a good job, a nice home, money.

You meet a doctor. Write him a check, a simple surgery, he can change everything. He can make you thin.

Then something goes wrong. You’ll need another surgery. They tell you it’s just a small procedure. Then a few months later something else goes wrong. Over the next three years you have major surgery every few months. And with each new surgery they increase your pain medication.

Then it really goes bad. You’re sitting at home. Have a pain in your gut. Go to the hospital. The next thing you know you are waking up from a coma. Tubes and lines coming out of you everywhere. On a feeding machine. Not quite sure what happened.

That was a few months ago and so once again they’re going to perform a surgery on you that will fix it all. Only this time, they keep talking about “Survivability issues.”

Suddenly a loud clicking noise, from the big camera stopping, brings you back into the room.

The attendant says, “We’re all done. Can I help you sit up?”

“Yeah… careful my backs killing me.”

Slowly sit up. Pain shoots down your leg. Cramps getting stronger. Completely addicted now. Ribs feel like they’re made out of brittle, frozen iron. Pain is getting worse. The ice water of the narcotic withdrawals, running through your veins.

Shaking, you tell the attendant, “I think I need my meds.”