Category Archives: Reader Favorites

Bubble Boy

Bubble Boy Frontal

Bubble Boy 

Many of you were at the annual Trilanders dinner last month. For those of you that weren’t, Jon Anderson and Martin VanDenack shared the concern of many of you that I was having a pattern of fairly serious bicycle accidents. There was the “Iceman Crash of 2000” that caused an A/C joint separation. Then there was the “Saugatuck 100 Miler Crash of 2002” that caused a flake fracture of my left hip and a large hematoma that had to be surgically removed. Then there was the infamous “Ironman Crash of 2003” and I won’t bore you with the details of that one again.

So it touched me that they cared enough and took the time to fabricate a protective suit so I would be safe when I rode my bike. I’m sure many of you thought it was a joke, but I took it seriously. The attached pictures are of me on my bike. Yes, I’m on the trainer in front of the Florida mobe, but I wear it on all my rides. I get a few stares, but I’d rather be safe than look good.

I have a suggestion or two on the design. First of all, you can see by the picture from the side that my stomach is well protected, but the hip and the head could use some padding too. Secondly, you can see by the picture from the front that the family jewels are adequately protected but, while putting all my weight on the seat, the bubbles started popping left and right. It was a great sensation (hence the smile on my face), but weakened the protection capabilities fairly quickly.

And thirdly, unlike our tri suits, the fabric doesn’t breathe well. It would be fine for the people on that weight loss show to use it to sweat off a few pounds quickly on weigh in day. But, as many of you know, I have a problem with dehydration during long hot races. Wearing the suit in a race may not be my best choice.

I still don’t remember the bike accident at Ironman Wisconsin 2003, but the attached pictures may shed some light on what might have happened. The picture from the side shows me looking at the camera. You all know that there are cameras all over the course during Ironman races taking pictures of all of the pros and some of the age groupers. It’s possible that one of the cameras came by while I was on McCoy Road. I probably looked at the camera and posed for a picture. By the time my eyes went back to the road, there were the potholes and the rest is history. Timing is everything.

Speaking of timing, I rode the Suncoast trail the other day from Anderson Snow Park to the South. About a mile before I got to Highway 52, I met a group of riders that Jean and I rode with last year a couple of times. I went on to the highway, turned around, and caught them just as they were getting to County Line Road, about a mile and a half from where I started (obviously they were riding very slow). They stopped at Anderson Snow Park for a bathroom break and we chatted for a couple of minutes (no, not in the bathroom…outside). It was the first time they had ridden that section since last year and it was the first time for me too. Timing.

On my next ride, I parked at the same spot and took the trail North. It’s hillier and crosses Spring Hill Drive, a very busy road. I waited for the lights to change and crossed in the crosswalk like we always should. I got a mile or so down the trail and a Snowy Egret flew across the trail a few feet in front of me. When he crossed the trail, he dropped a load of what was probably the last four meals he had eaten. If I had been 3 seconds faster, I would have been wearing it. Timing.

I’ll be flying back to Hastings on Thanksgiving Day (do you think they’ll serve turkey and dressing on the plane?) for a meeting Monday morning at 7AM and our normal hospital board meeting Tuesday at 11:30AM. I’ll fly back down here on Wednesday the 30th.

Ta ta ’til next time

Just (Hot And Sweaty From The Pictures) Jack

Beginning Training

 Jean and I are back from our trip to San Francisco to see Anna, Matt and Tonya. We checked on them and they seem to be behaving as young adults should so all seems well. I got some groceries today and my grocery bag stuck to the kitchen counter. There’s a 99.9% chance it’s food that didn’t get wiped off but Rocky was here alone while we were gone and we all know what can and often does happen spontaneously in the kitchen so we’re having it professionally cleaned.

Over the holidays, while I was recuperating, I started fessing up to Mom about my mis-spent youth. I told her about when Jimmy Wohler’s  parents went on vacation, left him home alone and I told Mom and Dad I would be spending the night at some other kids house but actually went to Jimmy’s. The police only showed up once all weekend and I didn’t admit to any of the details of our activities (Mom’s family has a history of heart problems and I didn’t want to be the cause of a meltdown after IM Wisconsin 2003) so I thought this conversation would start to pay for all my sins. Not so! Paybacks are hell (Mom, paybacks are heck).

When we got our tickets they were replacement tickets for last September’s canceled trip so Northwest Airlines picked the seats. First of all they were in the last two or three rows on every flight and secondly they were always directly in front of children who traveled badly. On the flight out the girl was kicking my seat and, at the top of her lungs, was bawling and wailing that her seat belt was too tight while mother and grandmother told her the plane wouldn’t take off unless she stayed in her seat.

On the way back a guy about 35 was supposed to be behind me. He notice a family was split apart by the aisle and asked if they wanted to switch seats. Of course they said yes. This time I had a happy girl who was swinging her legs while she colored, kicking my seat the entire 3 1/2 hour flight. She sang the alphabet song at least five times in a row and did the “John Jacob Jingleheimerschmidt” song at least fifteen times (isn’t there more than one verse?). She was by the window as we crossed the Rocky Mountains and must have asked her parents a dozen times if we were going over the North Pole. On the last flight a couple two rows in front of us had what appeared to be twins about 4 months old who screamed almost the entire trip. Needless to say napping was out on all flights. As they say, what goes around comes around.

Without dwelling on “bike-dive” recovery issues it appears I have developed some bathroom problems. Before you think you will be grossed out, read on. I noticed there wasn’t a towel on the shower door where I always keep it so I got a nice one out of the drawer. After my shower, as I was drying off, I noticed my feet were getting wetter and wetter (no, it wasn’t an old man leak problem). Apparently I had let the towel drop a little low and I was standing too close to the toilet and you know the rest. Luckily the toilet had been flushed. Lesson one-don’t stand so close to the toilet with a towel in your hand.

While we were in San Francisco we stayed at a great bed and breakfast called “Inn 1890” ( see http://www.inn1890.com/ ). We were in the lowest level with a walkout to the small back yard. Being at that level, the toilet and shower were in two small separate areas on a raised platform. In the shower area, the shower stall was raised even further. The shower area was so small that you had to hang your towel just outside the door. As I retrieved it I thought I was stepping down one step when I was actually going two. Without getting into the physics of the whole thing Jean saw a naked old man quick-stepping across the room and almost take a header into the wall about 10 feet away. Lesson two-pay attention to where you step.

The first night we were there we went out to eat with Matt, Anna and Anna’s roommate, Maread (Tonya had to work late so we punished her by making her cook the following night-Salmon, Asparagus, Baby Carrots and Garlic Potatoes preceded by a couple of bottles of excellent wine-great meal!!). After we got back to our room Jean and I went to bed. It was 9 their time but 12 our time which is past the old folks bedtime. As many do I felt the call to nature in the middle of the night. There was a small amount of light coming through the windows but not enough to see where the light switch was so I was feeling around the walls. As I went past the sink my wrist bumped the 20 oz. container of hand soap and it went to the floor.

The good news was that it was plastic so it didn’t shatter. The bad news is that the top popped off and 19 of the 20 ounces spilled on the floor right in front of the toilet. After a couple of choice words (Mom, it was Oh Crap!!) I got one of the hand towels and started to mop it up. Again, without going into the physics of the whole thing, soap doesn’t soak into a towel very well so I rinsed it out in the sink. First of all there were so many suds I thought they would be coming up out of the street drains the next day. Second of all is Lesson three-If you really have to go (number one, not number two) don’t run your hands under warm water.

At that point I couldn’t wait so I took two washcloths and put them on the floor where my feet would be so I wouldn’t slip in the soap. I misjudged the placement of the washcloths and I wasn’t quite as close as I should have been. I had to lean forward with my hand on the wall behind the toilet for proper trajectory. By then Jean had been awakened by my turning on the light outside the toilet room to see what I was doing and the sound of constant swearing (Mom, I didn’t swear-Jean just thought I did but was obviously mistaken). Needless to say she wasn’t very happy and disgusted to see her naked husband standing in the bathroom on two washcloths taking a pee. She thought I had a relapse and she didn’t want to go through that whole recovery process again. Lesson four-don’t make your wife mad in bed-the thought lingers and it plays havoc with other activities.

Lucky for me Jean is in the first few weeks of her training for Lake Placid and I start my training for Wisconsin on Monday so we won’t see each other much for six months. The week after Wisconsin I’ll swim the Tiburon Mile with Matt and Anna (?) out in San Francisco Bay so maybe the irritation will wear off by then. I’ve tentatively penciled her in for the Friday of the fourth week in September. 

Better go. It’s run day and times a-wastin’.

Just Jack

Bike Wreck

I woke up sometime the day after the “big race”. I was doing Ironman Wisconsin which consisted of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run. I remembered the swim and the start of the bike but couldn’t remember any of the rest. I thought our triathlon group had celebrated when everyone had finished and I thought I drank too much because I felt like I had a terrible hangover. Those thoughts sound like it was a while before I understood I had been in a bike accident but what seemed like a long time was about three seconds. I don’t remember who was there but it didn’t take me long to realize that I had been hurt and was in a hospital.

The first people I remember were my wife, Jean, and Roch Frey, the Ironman bike race director. I don’t remember what we said to each other but I’m told we discussed the benefits of morphine. Jean had been pulled out of the race, a race she would have won in her age group to qualify for the world championships in Hawaii, by Roch when she was half-way through the bike portion because I was in the hospital and “wasn’t good”. He had brought her to the hospital and had gone back to our hotel room to pick up a change of clothes since she was wearing her bike riding outfit.

At first I didn’t know how severe the injuries were. Jean, the doctors and the nurses told me things but I would forget quickly and it was much later before the words stuck with me. I had suffered a fractured skull, fractured scapula (we didn’t find that out until much later in Grand Rapids), left eye contusions with the eye swollen shut, road rash on both elbows, both knees and my right ankle, and three brain hematomas-one epidural and two subdural (my right ankle took five weeks to heal which was the least of my worries). When I was taking my first shower I noticed a huge bruise that went from my butt cheek to the joint on the back of my leg. I was extremely dizzy and lost most of the hearing in my right ear. That was because I had bled both inside and outside the ear and the dried blood had caked on the eardrum. My hearing came back eventually.

Bleeding inside and outside my eardrum frightened me. I knew that when people bled like that there was likely to be brain injuries and I didn’t know where that would lead me. I knew who I was and who everyone else was too so I knew I wouldn’t be a vegetable but would I ever be normal? And what would normal be anyway? Would I ever be able to ride a bike again? How about run or even walk?

I only remember small pieces of my stay in the hospital at Madison but it seems like I had tests all the time. Jean told me that I wanted to leave the hospital and was happy when I was discharged. She was not. She had been in telephone contact with our family doctor and he said it sounded like I shouldn’t be discharged but the doctors in Madison did it anyway. He told Jean to keep an eye on me and, if anything serious happened, pull into the first hospital she could find. Jean flew Sara, my daughter, over to Madison to help her get me home since she couldn’t drive and watch over me at the same time.

I don’t remember the night I was discharged from Meriter Hospital in Madison. Jean said we went to a Perkins restaurant to eat dinner and all she could get me to eat was a chocolate milk shake. I vaguely remember getting in the car the next morning and, when we pulled out of the parking lot, telling Jean we were going the wrong way. I don’t know how I knew that since I had never been to that motel and had no idea what part of town it was in. I would guess that somewhere in my memory I had seen signs from the day before when we came from the hospital.

I remember very little of the trip home and I’m told I slept sitting up off and on most of the way. I remember we stopped at a McDonalds for lunch in Michigan City, Indiana and, when I got out of the car, I felt terrible. I remember walking around in circles in the parking lot. When Jean got the food I’m told I went inside and ate some of it. I don’t remember much of the rest of the trip home and little about going into the house. I vaguely remember Pat Loftus, a good friend of mine, being in my bedroom telling me I had to go to the emergency room at the hospital so I did.

When we got to the hospital I remember they got me a wheelchair and it seems like I went into an examining room right away. The rest of the examination was a blur and I only remember Doug Smendik, a doctor but not an ER doctor nor my regular doctor, telling me I was sick and had to go to Grand Rapids to another hospital. I remember they put me in an ambulance, strapped me to a narrow gurney, and away we went. I don’t remember much of the trip and don’t remember arriving at Spectrum Hospital (I still call it Butterworth).

I remembered more of the stay at Spectrum than in Madison but I still would forget many things. I’m told I would receive telephone calls, talk at some length, and then forget the call soon after I hung up. I’m told I was flirtatious with the nurses which is not at all like me. I do remember trying to give one of the nurses a $10 tip because she was doing such a good job and telling Jean she was really nice but quite homely after she left the room. I’m told I had one day that I swore constantly. I don’t remember much of that although I do remember swearing some when I got in the shower for the first time. It seemed like every spot on my body hurt and, when the water hit me, hurt even worse. At the same time I was hooked up to an IV and a bunch of wires and was a little irritated that I couldn’t unhook them all and shower like I used to. Jean tells me I was a little snippy with her when she tried to help me into the bathroom.

I’m told that there were times when I would quit breathing and my heart rate would go down to around 20. The nurses didn’t know what to do so they would send me down to intensive care where I would get straightened out and get sent back to the floor. Jean says eventually they told her to rub my feet when I wouldn’t breathe and that would stimulate me to start again. I do remember some of the tests and the nurses or aides getting me up to walk around the hallways.

One of the procedures I remember was when they sent me to be tested for seizures. It seemed to me I was in the basement in a small room. I remember the start of the test but don’t remember anything they did. I may have fallen asleep or they may have “put me out” but I do know that when I awoke I felt my face and it seemed like it was covered with spider webs. I felt like I was in the basement of a haunted castle in some mid-fifties horror movie.

At another time they sent me down to have a “Cat Scan”. Again I felt like I was in a basement but the room seemed brighter and I was in a conversation with the tech administering the test. She told me that the results would be read by a radiologist named Scott Lancaster, a doctor who had practiced at Pennock Hospital where I was a member of the board of trustees. I don’t know whether I told her or someone later but I remember saying “Oh yeah. He’s the radiologist that’s suing us”.  Again that’s not like me because I spent thirty years in Public Accounting where confidentiality was a way of life.

I went home after the fifth day and thought I felt fine. When I got home there were a couple of friends from our triathlon group and we visited about things I don’t remember. My mother and my two other children had flown in from Florida and California and I remember them being there the next day. I know they were concerned and I told them I felt fine but they knew differently. I couldn’t sleep in a bed because it hurt to lay my head down on a pillow so I slept in a Laz-e-Boy chair for six weeks.

I was unable to drive a car and was allowed to walk by myself for a half hour at a time. I would walk to the bank, walk to the post office and would walk through the downtown area. I saw many people I knew and would talk about my recovery from the accident. As time went on I walked farther each day but still was not allowed to exercise much. Jean tells me I was an SOB for the first couple of days and she “couldn’t do anything right”. I don’t remember any of that and, apparently, it didn’t last long.

About six weeks after the accident my mother and Jean drove me down to Florida where I would spend time recuperating. The nice weather made it easier to walk outdoors and I was able to walk farther and at a faster pace than my walks in Michigan. I began driving at around eight weeks and started lifting weights and swimming around that same period of time. I noticed improvements each week up to around three months. I felt entirely recovered but that wasn’t really the case. After that the changes came about more slowly and still continue today, but I consider myself cured.

All through the recovery period I would have memory difficulties and would be unable to think of certain words. I would often have trouble coming up with someone’s name. It was often a friend or someone I had known for several years. I would remember where they lived, where they worked, their wife’s name, but theirs wouldn’t come. I would usually remember it later. Sometimes it took two minutes, sometimes two hours and sometimes two days but I always would get it eventually.

Sometimes the words I couldn’t get are everyday words I have known all my life. I remember telling my son a story about my first visit to New York City. I was staying at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, and I described the train ride into the city in vivid detail. It was a long story and ended with the sentence “Then the other drunks helped him to his feet and took him back to sit on the …….”. I couldn’t get that last word but I knew what it was. I described it to him as a thing that comes up out of the ground that flattens out with two “ears” and has water in it. He asked “Do you mean fire hydrant?” and I said “Yes”. I went home and told my wife the strangest thing had just happened and described the story to her in a short version. I said “When I got to the end I couldn’t remember the words ……”. They wouldn’t come again.

Those episodes continue today nearly six months from the accident except that when I finally get the word I usually don’t forget it. The words have been common like resume and shoulder and convoy among many others. Most of my friends and family know that missing words may happen and they are very understanding. Jean and I have an agreement that she won’t help me with missed words or forgotten names. We both feel that forcing me to work on remembering may help in the recovery process. If not at least it’s a fun little game. Often minutes and sometimes hours later I’ll walk by her and say nothing but the missed word. Sometimes it takes her a minute to figure out what I’m talking about but she always remembers the situation and says “Yes, that’s it”.

There are many stories about what I did during the hospital stays. Some I remember and some I have learned second hand. During recovery I would e-mail my friends and family with my recovery progress. Looking back at those e-mails I can see many changes. The early ones were brief and told limited information about my progress. As time went on they became lengthier. Sometimes they were serious and talked about the accident and other times they contained stories in my strange sense of humor. Whether for the humor or the information on the healing process many friends and family told me how much they enjoyed the e-mails and I should “keep them coming”.

I have been very open with my progress and have noticed some changes in my personality. Before the accident I was quiet and soft spoken. Since the accident I notice I talk much more than I did before and usually say exactly what I think. I don’t think I say things that are offensive to people and I don’t walk up to women on the street and say “My, what a nice set of jugs you have”. I find myself at meetings talking more than I should and have attempted to tone it down a little. I still say things I think need to be heard but I try not to go overboard to the point of boring everyone.

Without going into detail about the countless adventures during my recovery this would be the end. But there are many parts that only I know about. I have told a couple of people a couple of the stories but not in much detail. Borrowing from radio personality Paul Harvey, “Here’s the rest of the story”.

In one of the e-mails I sent to friends and family keeping them informed of my progress, or at least my take on my progress, I mentioned that when I first awoke I felt like I was coming from a spot that was pitch black, quiet and I was alone. I’m sure that many felt I was thinking I was in that spot between living and dying and was having one of those “near death experiences”. That isn’t what I felt at all. My accounting geek thought process had to put everything into its proper niche. I thought the appropriate niche was the reaction of the brain when severe trauma occurs. I have no medical background but felt that when the brain is injured it shuts down all non-essential processes (dreaming; unrelated thoughts, etc.) and devotes its entire existence into healing and recovery.

That doesn’t mean I never worried that I was close to death. I’m not afraid of dying. It will happen to all of us sooner or later, but I wanted it to be later. I have some things left undone and probably always will. Maybe I see the need now to tie up all the loose ends because life can change in one split second. I joke about wanting to spend the money I worked hard for all my working life rather than let Jean spend it on Guido, the cabana boy but that really is a joke unless anyone has seen Jean and Guido while I was in Florida. My worry was that what I set up in my trust in 1991 when all the kids were home it is different than what I would set up now that they are all grown up (no jabs intended-they are all grown up much as Mothers think they aren’t). So it’s time to get the trust fixed along with Jean’s will which leaves everything to me that I don’t need and her boys do.

I’m sure that many also felt that the part that talks about feeling all alone was a scary part to me and it wasn’t. I felt all alone because I was. I know there were doctors, nurses, family members and friends around but they were only around part of the time. I had lots of trouble sleeping at night, probably due to the pain, and I was alone most of that time. Family and friends were home sleeping in their beds and the nurses were trying not to bother patients so they could sleep so there was no one there.

It sounds like a complaint but it’s not at all. It’s great to have friends that come by and show that they care; doctors come by and tell you that you are improving; nurses that come by and take care of your basic needs (I hope I was never catheterized or had to crap in a bedpan); family that would come by and show you their love and concern; but you are still alone with your thoughts-sometimes for long periods of time. I also don’t think I had life changing revelations. I thought about the thoughts and beliefs I have had all my life even though they often oppose the accounting geek side of me.

In that same e-mail I say I fear that …”an arm could reach out and pull me back to the black hole”. I’m sure that many readers felt again that I was worried about dying or becoming a vegetable and that wasn’t it at all. During that long time alone I had lots of time to think about my life and life in general. I worried about family and friends and their uncertainties but in the long run my biggest worry was that I would be the kind of person I read about in the papers or hear about on the news programs that spend all their time trying to blame someone else for their misfortune. My heart breaks when I think about the victims of the 9/11 tragedy but it wretches when I hear newscasters push and prod people to put a price tag on “compensation” for their loss. The same goes for the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing and the other disasters in life; some man-made and some natural disasters.

It’s not that I disagree that individuals that directly cause tragedies should not be accountable, but the blame finger points in too many directions and tries to include too many of the indirect sources. The argument can go on and on and many people feel strongly that the blame should go as far as it can. But how many people agree with the jury award of millions of dollars for the woman that sued McDonalds because she spilled hot coffee in her lap? A friend of mine is the treasurer for a boat manufacturer that was sued by the family of a man who drank liquor all day long, was extremely drunk, pulled the pontoon boat into two feet of water, climbed onto the roof of the pontoon and dove into the water breaking his back because there wasn’t a sign that said “DO NOT DIVE OFF THE ROOF OF THE PONTOON-IT MAY CAUSE SERIOUS INJURY OR DEATH”. The family won the case.

My worry was, is and will always be that I try to blame someone or something for the bike wreck or other things that changed my life. I think it’s healthy to try and find out how it happened so I can do what I can to prevent it from happening again. But first of all my accounting logical brain tells me that there’s a huge possibility that the wreck was my own fault. I don’t care if a six foot trench caused the accident. Probably 1,200 plus riders went by that same spot before I did and didn’t fall so I shouldn’t have either. I have second guessed all kinds of possibilities and the Ironman organization has been no help at all. From the front tire catching in an expansion joint or road crack to too much weight forward causing a loss of control and everything in between, blame doesn’t matter. I was telling one of the guys at the YMCA about the accident and he asked me if I was wearing a helmet. I said yes but it broke into three pieces (that’s second-hand information-someone threw my helmet away for me so I’ve not seen it). He said “You ought to sue them”. I said “If I didn’t have the helmet on I would probably be dead by now”.

I’ve made arrangements to enter the Ironman Wisconsin again in 2004 against the advice of some of my friends but mostly with support and understanding. I’ve used the macho explanation that I have to “beat the race that beat me” but that’s not really how I feel. I feel that I have to face down the “demon” and the demon is me. I’m sure I will make a pilgrimage to the spot where the wreck happened and spend a few minutes alone to look or pray or swear and that may be a necessary part of the race but I need to do the race without trying to pawn the blame on to myself or anyone else. What happened has happened and nothing in this world will change it. If I use the tragedy as an excuse I’ll be losing control of my choices and that’s not the way I want things to be.

For some people maybe pointing the blame finger works so they feel better. I could blame someone else or myself and use that crutch to excuse myself for drinking too much or living in anger or carousing in bars or becoming depressed. Maybe some people feel that I do any or all of those things although half my time in bars is spent drinking caffeine free diet coke but that’s not the point. We all live all our lives the best way we know how but do things that are “life’s choices”. We are on this earth to live and we make our own life’s choices every day. Some of those choices are good and some (mine included) are, in hindsight, not so good. But that’s the human condition. And when our final number comes up we add the pluses and minuses and see if we are where we wanted to be. For those who have a base in religion as I do, we feel we are ultimately judged by God. For those who aren’t religious and those who are, we know we are judged by everyone who has ever known us.

But before those other judgments happen we spend our whole lives living and judging ourselves on an ongoing basis and I want to think I have a rolling “A”. As Anna recently put in an e-mail about her history test, maybe only a 90 but still an “A”.

Final Recovery Report

 Here is the final recovery report. That doesn’t mean I’m fully healed, but the major portion is over and the long process of baby steps will continue for 3 to 6 months. Jean and I will be leaving for Florida on Friday and I will be forced to heal on the beach.

First an update on last week’s report. My conversations with Rush Limbaugh have been terminated about OxyContin. I’m not a big fan of Rush, but I admire his fortitude to admit to the public he is addicted to pain killers and to admit himself to rehab.

Second, sadly Bill and I didn’t get any volunteers to wield the magic markers so we resorted to phase two. Since Bill is working long hours and I’m not, I was assigned the task of creating stencils for the marking. Our thought was to put the stencils on a bench, mark the blank areas with magic marker and then sit on them. Sadly there were two problems. With my brain not fully recovered I put the stencils on the bench so I could read them while Bill slid into his thong. So when we sat on them, the words imprinted backwards. Secondly I used permanent magic markers instead of the washable kind so the mistakes will have to wear off. We looked like dogs with anal gland infections as we scooted along the carpet trying to erase the errors.

I had two medical appointments in Grand Rapids. The first was at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital on Tuesday and the second was with Dr. Visser, a Neurologist on Friday. At Mary Freebed test one was to park the car in the parking ramp and then find our way to the 8′ x 8′ registration room embedded within the clinic. With directionally challenged Jean at my side, we were able to find it after wandering through the restricted construction area only once. I met with a Psychiatrist for the first half hour and a Physiatrist the next hour. Both said they were pleased with my recovery so far and I seemed better than they expected after reading the hospital reports from Wisconsin and GR hospitals. The Physiatrist had two recommendations which didn’t thrill me. One was to take part in the Drivers Rehab test to see if I could drive well. Oh by the way, the cost is $900-$1,000 and, oh by the way, it isn’t covered by Insurance. I think I’ll try to entice Ernie (retired teacher, driving instructor, driver’s license tester) to test me at a reduced fee. The second recommendation was to practice having bike wrecks without landing head first. If anyone has football pads and a helmet, I would like to borrow them.

The visit with Dr. Visser was likewise encouraging. I quit taking the pain medications on Thursday and he seemed OK with that. He will continue me on the Dilantin anti-seizure medication for six months, and if no problems, pull me off then. During the mental tests he did find that I was a full inch off plumb which brings me to this dilemma. What do you think?

a) I will never make it to normal and will spend the rest of my life trying to blend in with all you normal people and hide my shortcomings, or,

b) My recovery takes me to exactly where I want to be. I’m different-maybe better, maybe worse, but definitely different.

(choose b, choose b, choose b, choose b)

Early in the week I asked Jean about some of the things that went on in the first couple of days after the accident. I heard things that made me feel uneasy so I don’t want to know the details any more.

To end on a serious note:

A friend held me while I bled on the road until the ambulance came.

Jean pulled out of the race she was doing well in to watch me travel through the darkness.

A friend gave me a medicine bundle to guide me in my return from the abyss.

A friend gave me a finger puppet to entertain myself in the hospital.

My daughter flew from Hastings to Madison to help Jean get me back.

My son and daughter flew back from San Francisco to help me through some difficult days.

A friend gave me an Ironman Wisconsin cap to protect my broken head.

A friend gave me a squeezable ball to release tension during my bad headache days.

A friend gave me a heatable neck ring to ease the tension in my whip-lashed neck muscles.

A friend gave me cookies to nourish me in my recovery.

A friend gave me home-made chicken soup to nurse me back to health

A friend gave me Bell’s Beer to celebrate my full recovery, whenever that is.

Friends and family have sent cards, e-mails, have called and stopped by to see how I was doing.

I spent four years in college and thirty years in public accounting and it took this freak accident to teach me that all of the above is more important than the balance in my checkbook.

I fear the past. The place where I first went was pitch black, quiet, and I was alone.

I fear the present. I’m halfway through recovery, but I know an arm could reach out and pull me back to the black hole.

I’m apprehensive about the future. I don’t know where I’m going but I thank God I have friends and family to help me along the way.

Permanently 1/4 Goofy Jack

Dilemma

 If you are easily offended you should delete this e-mail now and not read any further. This is smut!! Not intentional smut-sociological smut-but smut nevertheless.

When most people meet me they think I am a conservative, laid back typical accountant, which I am. But as people get to know me they come to understand that I have been up and down the road a few times. So when I say that I have never experienced anything like this before, it’s saying something.

When I came out of the YMCA today I told Jean that I didn’t know whether I had just been hit on or not-hence the dilemma.

The YMCA is about 14 miles south of Hudson in a fairly new area on the way to Clearwater. The first time we went there to work out was at three in the afternoon. The other YMCAs we have been to in Florida have been mostly senior citizens-yes, older than us. This one was over run by high school kids. The next couple of times we tried to get there mid-morning. Each time it has been over run by young mothers. The stationary bike spinning class was all young women and was in one corner of the main room. There is a Pilates class going on in one of the workout rooms, again all young women, and a step aerobics class in the gym. Yes, you guessed it, all young women. Two or three personal trainers have group sessions with four or five young women in each group.

While lifting weights, Jean and I had to alter our routines because the groups would take over an area and stay for a while. They were sometimes lifting weights but always talking. After lifting, we both went to the outdoor pool and swam for an hour or so. After swimming we took showers. The shower stalls had no hooks or shelves to put a towel, goggles, shampoo and my glasses so I put them across the aisleway on a bench in the handicap shower. I finished showering and went over to the handicap shower stall to dry myself off. I looked down the aisleway and, at the end of the shower room, are hair dryers (like the hand dryers in bathrooms) mounted high on the walls. I saw a guy down there dressed, but holding something up to one of the dryers.

I’m not an exhibitionist but I’m not shy either so I was standing in the aisleway drying myself off as normal. I didn’t have my glasses on, but it seemed like the guy down at the hair dryers kept looking at me. When I was dry I wrapped the towel around myself, picked up my goggles and swimsuit and walked down past the guy to the door. He watched me all the way and was smiling at me. As I got closer to him I could see that he had a t-shirt on but no pants or underwear. He looked to be about sixty-five. As I passed by him, he said, and I quote “You know you have a nice healthy pecker there”. He went on to say “A lot of big guys have those short little stubby ones, but yours looks real good. It’s nice to see a good pecker on a man.” I was flabbergasted and didn’t know what to say so I timidly said “thank you”.

I went out the shower room door and he followed me. I went to the locker where my clothes were and his locker just happened to be right next to mine. His things were all spread out on the bench and he started talking to me as we both dressed. He told me he was from Long Island, but was retired and lived in New Port Richey. He worked at a grocery store part time as a bagger for some extra money.  I was shaking like a leaf and my towel slipped off twice (I hope it didn’t come off “subconsciously” on purpose) before I could get my clothes on and get out the door.

So here’s the dilemma – Was he hitting on me or was that the worst choice of a conversation starter in the history of the world?

On the one hand, if he was trying to pick me up he wouldn’t have referred to me as a “big guy”. That’s like telling a girl her extra weight looks great on her-not a good line. Plus, he really didn’t say anything off color after that and didn’t ask me for “a date”. He didn’t follow me out the door and I never heard from him again. So maybe after swimming and the resulting shrinkage, he was just giving me a compliment to be kind.

On the other hand he broke three of the most important locker room rules:

1) Don’t stare

2) If you are talking to a naked man, maintain eye contact at all times

3) Never verbalize what you see (if you do, making fun with comments like “Oh My God!!!” or “ha ha ha ha” may be acceptable. The line “you have a nice healthy pecker” is way off limits)

So what do you think?

Jack

TriStory

 There was once a young boy named Jon Dewey, but his family and friends called him JD. He lived in a land called Everyone. It was called Everyone because everyone was able to do everything. His life was just like everyone else’s life. He went to school and everyone else went to school. When he went out for recess, everyone went out for recess. And when the children played together, everyone took their turn. And at the end of the year when they would have their track and field day, everyone got a blue ribbon whether they finished the race first or last.

Everyones’ mothers told them bedtime stories and JD’s mother was no exception. One of his favorite bedtime stories was one that his mother told him about a place called Triland. Triland was a land that was far away from Everyone. Normal people did not live in Triland. It was the land of the immortals. It was a land of all play and no work. And when the immortals played, they played games that only one of them would win. When they swam, they would change themselves into dolphins, and would swim faster than anyone from Everyone could imagine. When they rode their bicycles, they would change into race cars and would go faster than anyone from Everyone could imagine. And when they ran, they would change themselves into Cheetahs and would run faster than anyone from everyone could imagine. JD would fall asleep and dream about one day moving to Triland and becoming the King.

JD grew up in Everyone and went on to college at Everyone University. When he got out of school, he got a job at Everyone Body Parts Factory. This was a place where Everyone would go when their body parts wore out. Everyone body mechanics would fix the broken down parts and JD’s job was to test the body parts to see that they worked like Everyone else’s body parts. He got married and began to raise a family, just like everyone else in Everyone. He had a wife, Laura and two children, Emma and Ben. JD loved his family and he loved his job at the Everyone Body Parts Factory, but he still dreamed of Triland.

One day, JD decided that he was going to pack all of his belongings, and put his family in their Everyone-mobile, and he was going to move to Triland. And so he did. When he got there, he was amazed. There were no immortals living there. The people looked just like the people in Everyone. When he swam, he felt like he turned into a dolphin, just like in his bedtime story. But when he looked, it was just JD swimming, but swimming faster than he had ever swam before. But every once in a while, when he was swimming, he would stop and flail his arms around wildly, and then start swimming again. Laura asked him what kind of new stroke that was. Jon told Laura he was just shaking the weeds off his arms. When he biked, he felt like he turned into Bobby Labonte’s race car, just like in his bedtime story. But when he looked, it was just JD on his own bike riding faster than he had ever ridden before. When he ran, he felt like he turned into the fastest Cheetah on the Serengheti, just like in his bedtime story. But when he looked, it was just JD in his PF flyers running faster that he had ever run before.

JD decided to make himself the King of the Province of Special in the land called Triland. He made Laura his Queen and named her Queen Laura of Brunch. He made Emma his Princess and named her Princess Emma of Drawing Pictures. He made Ben his Prince and named him Prince Ben of Running Naked. He represented his Province in the Triland games and won many blue ribbons. Not just blue ribbons for being in the race like in Everyone, but blue ribbons for being first. King JD surveyed his Kingdom and was very happy. But something was missing in the Province of Special and one day it came to King JD. King JD had no subjects. What is a King with no subjects? King JD fell into a mound of despair. A King with no subjects. How sad is that? King JD moped around the castle for days, unable to eat or sleep. The only music King JD would listen to was Michael Jackson. Queen Laura had just about had it with King JD! She was pregnant with another Prince or Princess and she could not stand to see JD unhappy. Queen Laura was wise, and she knew that nothing would bring King JD out of this Blue Funk unless he had some subjects. She told JD to go back to Everyone and see if he could talk anyone from Everyone into moving to the Province of Special in Triland.

King JD set off for Everyone with a knapsack filled with oatmeal raisin cookies and a bottle of Province of Special pure spring water. He went to the Everyone Body Parts Factory to see if he could talk anyone from Everyone into moving to the Province of Special in Triland. When King JD got there, he went to the Everyone Games Room. This was a special place where everyone from Everyone would practice swimming and biking and running. Everyone would be swimming in the Everyone Games Room pool. They would swim back and forth, forth and back. Never going anywhere because there wasn’t anywhere to go. Everyone would be biking on bikes with no wheels. They would bike for an hour on a bike that would never move. Never going anywhere because there wasn’t anywhere to go. Everyone would be running on treadmills.They would run as fast as they could, but they would never get anywhere because there wasn’t anywhere to go.

King JD knew that everyone in Everyone thought that there were only immortals in Triland. But King JD was a dreamer, and he knew there were other dreamers that he could convince to move to the Province of Special in Triland.

First he saw Lynette the Body Parts Nurse. A Body Parts Nurse does all the things that the Body Parts Mechanics don’t want to do but want to get paid to do. Lynette the Body Parts Nurse and King JD were involved in spinning together (no, not that kind of spinning!!). This spinning is where everyone from everyone would go to ride bicycles that didn’t go anywhere. King JD knew that Lynette the Body Parts Nurse knew how to swim, could ride a bike, and knew how to run. King JD started with little hints here and there about how nice it was living in Triland. He told Lynette the body Parts Nurse that immortals did not live in Triland. The inhabitants of Triland were real people-special people, but real people nevertheless. King JD coaxed Lynette the Body Parts Nurse with words of encouragement like “You can do it! It’s easy. No problem”. Lynette the body Parts Nurse agreed to move to the Province of Special in Triland. After she was there, she realized that she knew much more about herself than she ever had known before. She had learned initiative, determination, capabilities and limitations. She found personal triumphs and had her share of tragedies. She found great personal satisfaction and conquered fear and self doubt. She was happy she had moved to Triland and yearned for others to move there too.

Then he met Larry the Flyboy. Larry had been in the Everyone Navy, but instead of cruising the Everyone Ocean in Everyone Navy ships like almost everyone else in the Everyone Navy, he would fly in the air in Everyone Navy Airplanes, making the skies safe for everyone in Everyone. Larry the Flyboy had just finished running in a Marathon at his Grandma’s house in Western Everyone. He was very tired from running, so he decided to swim for a while instead of run. So he swam in the Everyone swimming pool in the Everyone Games Room. He had heard of “cross-training” before and thought it would be nice to start spinning in the Everyone Games Room spinning room. That was where King JD cornered Larry the Flyboy and started talking with him about moving to Triland. Since Larry the Flyboy wasn’t certain his Grandma would invite him back to run in her marathon, and he needed a new challenge to vent his pent up energy, he agreed to move to the Province of Special in Triland. Larry the Flyboy thought that he knew all there was to know about training in Triland, but after  a serious case of Triland Road Rash, he realized that you should only get off your bicycle after it has stopped. King JD coaxed Larry the Flyboy with words of encouragement like “You can do it! It’s easy. No problem”. This is starting to sound a little repetitious, isn’t it? Larry the Flyboy loved Triland and enjoyed training with other people that could remind him not to fall off his bike unless, of course, he wanted to.

Jean the Jock (yes, women can be jocks even though they don’t need to wear them) had been taking Everyone aerobics classes for years. You see, Jean the Jock grew up in Everyone at a time when Everyone girls didn’t do athletic things because the Everyone boys said they would get hurt, that they weren’t tough enough and that they couldn’t run. If they wanted to do anything athletic, it was cheerleading at the Everyone football games. Everyone football games were where the Everyone High School boys would run around and knock each other down to impress the Everyone girls, especially the Everyone cheerleaders. This made Jean the Jock mad. She knew she could do anything the Everyone boys could do and could do some things better. She practiced Everyone aerobics, just waiting for her chance to prove what she could do. King JD knew that girls could live in Triland too, and talked to Jean the Jock about moving to Triland. Jean the Jock told King JD that she swam like a rock, and wasn’t sure she could live in Triland not being able to swim. King JD coaxed Jean the Jock with words of encouragement like “You can do it! It’s easy. No problem”. Jean the Jock, being a true blonde, believed King JD and agreed to move to the Province of Special in Triland. She practiced and practiced swimming. Finally she was able to swim far enough to take part in the Triland games. It was then that something came over her. There was a competitive spirit that no one else knew she had. She didn’;t just want to compete-she wanted to be the best. So she worked hard with encouragement from King JD and became the best in her age group at the Triland Games.

Lynette the Body Parts Nurse’s husband was Harry the Man. He was called Harry the Man because he had lived in Triland before King JD ever thought of moving there. Back in those days Triland was a much different place. Oh, the swimming was the same and the running was the same, but bicycles had not been invented yet. The Triland games were swim, run, swim in those days. They didn’t lose many people in the first swim or the run, but that second swim was a disaster. Only half the people made it out of the lake-they were so tired from the run. Harry the Man knew that bicycles would be invented soon, but until then he had to come up with something. Triland was running out of Triathletes (that’s what they called the people who lived in Triland in those days). Harry the Man suggested using hay carts with stone wheels (this was a real breakthrough because wheels hadn’t been invented yet either). They would swim across the lake and the grab the cart with the stone wheels. Then they would go out to Parmalee Road and haul the carts up the hills.They would jump in and ride down the other side. They continued one hill right after the other. They lost a few people that way because they didn’t have steering wheels (you guessed it-they hadn’t been invented yet), but not as many as in the second swim. Harry the Man talked about his days in Triland but no one would believe him. Everyone in Everyone thought Harry the Man was making up stories because they knew only immortals lived in Triland, and Harry the Man was no immortal. So he decided to join King JD, Lynette the Body Parts Nurse, Larry the Flyboy and Jean the Jock in the Province of Special in Triland to prove that he could do a Triathlon.

You remember Jack and the Beanstalk. Well, when Jack grew up he became -what else – Jack the Bean Counter. Jack the Bean Counter’s problem was that, apparently, every time Jack counted a bean, he would eat one too. Jack the Bean Counter knew how to swim since he was a little Beanstalker. But one day, he was swimming in a pool of alcohol, and his arm came right off. He went to the Everyone Body Parts Factory to have a new arm put on. After that, he didn’t swim at all. Jack the Bean Counter also used to run down the streets of Everyone, but when his arm came off swimming, he used it as an excuse to quit running altogether. The only exercise Jack got was his counting finger. He had the thinnest counting finger in the Everyone Body Parts Factory Games Room. Jack the Bean Counter went to the Province of Old to help his mother and father move from one Everyone house to another Everyone house. His brothers Smoky Bill and Smoky Bob helped the Senior Beanstalkers move too. It was then that Jack the Bean Counter realized that he was getting older and fatter and unhealthier. Jack the Bean Counter realized that having a thin counting finger was not the same as being healthy, so he decided to do something about it. His wife, Jean the Jock was already living in Triland, and King JD convinced Jack the Bean Counter that it was never too late to move to Triland. So Jack the Bean Counter joined his wife Jean the Jock and the others in the Province of Special in Triland. Jack the Bean Counter participated in the Triland Games and ended up in last place each time, but that didn’t matter. He never quit and he knew he did his best for that day and he beat everyone in Everyone that was sitting on their couch watching the Everyone television, and that was good enough for him.

At the entrance to the Everyone Games Room, King JD met Tim from Tony the Tiger Land. Tim had just started a new job in Everyone at the Everyone Hose Factory (get your minds out of the gutter). Tim had dreamed of living in Triland since he was a small boy, but he knew that mere mortals did not live there. He had always dreamed of doing a Triathlon (that’s the game all the special people in Triland played) before he was thirty, and at 29 he didn’t have much time left. King JD used his special convincing powers that only kings have, and so, Tim agreed to move to the Province of Special in Triland.

Jerry the Yellow-jacket worked at the Everyone Body Parts Factory. No one knew exactly what Jerry the Yellow-jacket did there, but it must have required drinking a lot of coffee in the Everyone Green Street Café because that’s where King JD found him. Jerry the Yellow-jacket had heard of Triland, and had talked about moving to Triland with a bunch of Tri-Kats. These were special cats that were the pets of the immortals in Triland. King JD explained that he had already moved to Triland and that some others had decided to move there too. Jerry the Yellow-jacket didn’t know if he could talk his wife into moving to Triland and leaving all their friends. So he bought her flowers, and a card (for no reason at all) and put on his best smile. When Jerry the Yellow-jacket arrived home, his wife was standing in the driveway with her bags packed. She and all of Jerry the Yellow-jacket’s children were wearing the official Triland T-Shirts. Jerry the Yellow-jacket knew he was on his way to Triland and it made him very happy. Jerry the Yellow-jacket was a good swimmer, but what King JD didn’t tell him was that he would not be swimming in a nice, clean, warm pool, but would be swimming in a place called Lake Macatoilet where the water was cold and looked like chocolate milk. Jerry the Yellow-jacket was beginning to have second thoughts about this move to the Province of Special in Triland, but he looked around and saw other Yellow-jackets. That made Jerry the Yellow-jacket feel good because he knew that he was among friends going through the same misery that they were.

Kim the Finger Painter was happy swimming in the pool in the Everyone Games Room at the Everyone body parts factory. She would swim back and forth-forth and back. Not going anywhere. Kim the Finger Painter was happy with her life. She enjoyed swimming alone because she didn’t want to inflict herself on any team for fear of failure. Her self-confidence was non-existent. King JD would hint to Kim the Finger Painter that “good swimmers make good Triathletes”. He didn’t say much more than that. King JD knew that Thursday was the day that Kim the Finger Painter went from school to school and sniffed glue with the Everyone School children. Oh, she pretended that it was “art”, but everyone knew it was just legal glue sniffing. King JD had to catch Kim the Finger Painter when she was light headed. He cornered her at the Everyone Games Room pool and talked her into moving to the Province of Special in Triland. When Kim the Finger Painter awoke from her stupor, she realized what had happened and she was frightened. She tried to swim away across Lake Macatoilet, but she couldn’t see the lines on the bottom and she lost her way. She returned to the shore and there were her new friends to greet her. This made Kim the Finger Painter very happy. She liked her new friends because it did not matter to them how she did or what she did. They gave her wholehearted support and encouragement without one string attached.

Diane the Body Parts Mechanic had been a runner for most of her life. She was satisfied to run by herself in the Everyone running races. She would race against herself, but wasn’t very interested in racing against other people. She just wanted to do her best. Diane the Body Parts Mechanic was very busy working at the Everyone Body Parts Factory. It seems that the boys from Everyone and the girls from Everyone were getting together and making everyone babies. Apparently they didn’t want anyone to know so they snuck in the Body Parts Factory in the middle of the night. Diane the Body Parts Mechanic’s job was to help the babies come out. King JD had known Diane the Body Parts Mechanic for a long time. He knew that she had run for a long time but that she did not swim very much and didn’t even own a bicycle. King JD talked Diane the Body Parts Mechanic into buying a mountain bike and riding it in the snow. King JD must have used his special kingly powers because Diane the Body Parts Mechanic hated the cold weather. It was ironic that Diane the Body Parts mechanic broke one of her own body parts and while she was recovering, she couldn’t run or bike but could only swim. You don’t think King JD had anything to do with that, do you?? Diane the Body Parts Mechanic moved to the Province of Special in Triland because she had heard that there were therapeutic mineral baths there. The other special people in Triland knew that Diane the Body Parts Mechanic hated sleeping past five o’clock in the morning. But they agreed that if Diane the Body Parts Mechanic would make them coffee, and give them bagels every Friday, they would swim in the therapeutic baths and keep her company. Diane the Body Parts Mechanic was happy that she had found new friends that had given themselves the gift of good health (even though it made less work for the body parts mechanics).

Denyse the Builder and her husband were very busy building Everyone business buildings and fixing up everyone homes for everyone in Everyone. Denyse the Builder had been so busy she hadn’t had time to look in the mirror and when she did, she didn’t like what she saw. Denyse the Builder decided to change her life so she could feel good about herself again. She knew it would take a long time to do it, but it would be well worth the wait. After a time, Denyse the Builder decided it was time to join the people at the Everyone Games Room and work with a personal trainer. She heard that King JD was in town trying to recruit people to move to the Province of Special in Triland. Denyse the Builder knew that if she moved to Triland and surrounded herself with healthy people, it would help her become more healthy. So Denyse the Buyilder (knowing that she could be a builder in Triland too) moved to the Province of Special in Triland. Being a part of the Triland family has helped inspire Denyse the Builder to reach her goals.

Years ago, Jen, the Storytelling Retro-girl had moved to Everyone from Retro World and was having trouble finding a place to feel like she belonged. She wandered into the basement of the Everyone Body Parts Factory and found the Everyone Games Room. She had spent years swimming, biking and running alone, and because everyone in the Everyone Games room was so friendly and nice, she did not mind never going anywhere. She did not mind not having anywhere to go. She was so happy just to feel like there was a place where Retro-girl fit in. The people in the Everyone Games Room did not seem to mind how much she talked, or how loud she was, or the extra energy she often needed to burn off in the Games Room. Retro-girl, Jen met King JD when he was leading everyone in a class about how to bike on bikes with no wheels and she was impressed with King JD’s talent and gift for being able to help everyone  believe that they could accomplish anything. What was so amazing was that King JD did not push or prod or yell…he simply suggested, with a smile, that everyone’s lives would be much better if they set goals and believed in themselves. And then he would let everyone decide for themselves….oh, every once in a while he would whisper a suggestion into everyone’s ears, followed by…”You can do it….It’s GREAT!” Or he would call them on the phone each day just to see what they were doing to physically and mentally better themselves that day…of course he assumed they had planned that part  of their day first. It was all a part of his plan to lure as many people from Everyone to come with him to Triland. You see, King JD had a strong belief that with a positive attitude, everyone in Everyone could make their dreams come true. To King JD, the sky was not even a limit, but it was more fun to accomplish dreams when you had a group of dreamers to accomplish them with. And, He knew the Province of Special in Triland was the place where everyone’s dreams could be realized. At first, the Storytelling Retro-girl resisted the move to Triland. She thought that her life needed more “balance”. But, she soon realized that she had always held back a bit, always placed some limits on what she thought she could do. King JD had shown her that anyone from Everyone (even a transplant) could do anything, if they wanted. And so, the Storytelling Retro-girl gave up her wool running hat, her cotton sweats and her perceived need for “balance”. She traded it all in for Cool-max, Micro-sensors, heart rate monitors, and rubber suits. She followed King JD and the other wonderful subjects, and moved whole-heartedly to the Province of Special in Triland to make dreams she did not even know she had, come true. The move to Triland changed Jen’s life completely. She never knew what it felt like to go beyond the sky’s limits. She learned to do things with King JD and the other subjects that she never knew she could do. She even developed the special gift of dropping Muffins while running, and thus was given the new name of Muffin Girl, (You should see the strange crop of corn in Triland).  Jen had never known this Joy and Happiness before, except for the time she spent with her partner, The Lone Ranger. She knew that moving to Triland with King JD was the right move. There was no turning back. And she had a loving admiration for all the other subjects who had followed King JD to Triland.

Gary was the Lone Ranger of Everyone. He was married to the Storytelling Retro-Girl. Together, they had done many things, but it was not always the Lone Ranger’s style to follow anyone in Everyone anywhere. The Lone Ranger, Gary, was use to doing things in his own way, and in his own time, but he fully supported everyone in Everyone to do things in their own way too. Oh…The Lone Ranger, Gary loved to come the Games Room in the basement of the Body Parts Factory to join everyone in Everyone there who were riding bikes with no wheels, not going anywhere. He always felt stronger when he left. His favorite bike leader was King JD, and the Lone Ranger always showed up in his classes. He enjoyed the challenge and the camaraderie of the others from Everyone there. The Lone Ranger was very good at supporting everyone in Everyone and he made them feel successful and good about themselves. The Storytelling Retro-girl could attest to that. The Lone Ranger had an undying faith and belief that everyone in Everyone should always do and feel their best. You see, the Lone Ranger, Gary’s life work was to help the younger people of Everyone who where struggling to learn all they needed to learn. He made them feel like they could learn anything. The Lone Ranger had a quiet way of making everyone in Everyone feel fine being just the way they were. When King JD asked the Lone Ranger if he wanted to move to the Province of Special in Triland he said yes. He had  watched his Retro-girl start to transform herself into a strong subject of King JD’s Province of Special in Triland. He saw that now she could swim like a Dolphin, bike as fast as a race car, and run like a Cheetah. The Lone Ranger started to train in Triland, but, he would often leave to go do other things. And so, sometimes he trained in Triland, and sometimes he trained alone, and sometimes, he and the Retro-girl would train together. The Lone Ranger used a special hops-based beverage to help his training along. The Lone Ranger had long, strong arms, long strong legs, long strong hair and a very strong mind. He was a natural at swimming, biking, and running. Some of the subjects in the Province called the Lone Ranger a Gazelle and they loved to watch his easy smooth running style. The Muffin-dropping Retro-girl was glad that the Lone Ranger wanted to be in the Province of Special in Triland because she hated to be without him. So, now with all the other subjects, they could both share in making new dreams come true. And so you see, King JD even lured the Lone Ranger into Triland because it WAS much more fun to accomplish dreams when you had a group of dreamers to accomplish them with. The Lone Ranger often supplied the subjects with his special hops-based training beverage after long and demanding races and it really seemed to help ease everyone’s pain.

Elaine the Speed Skater had lived in Triland many years before King JD ever thought about moving there. In fact, she had lived there when King JD was a young boy, sitting on his mother’s lap, listening to the stories of Triland. She even lived there before Harry the Man lived there. Elaine the Speed Skater had swam like a dolphin, and biked as fast as a race car and run like a cheetah, but she hadn’t done those things for a long time. She had married Len the Race Car Driver and had lots of children. Her time was taken up with raising a family. She often longed for the day when she could move back to Triland. When she heard that King JD was looking for special people to move to Triland, she jumped at the chance. She practiced swimming in the Everyone Games Room swimming pool, and when she moved to the Province of Special in Triland, she swam at Diane the Body Parts Mechanic’s House (as long as there was coffee of course). When she swam in Lake Macatoilet with Jerry the Yellow Jacket and the other subjects, something strange happened. Her body parts rusted and they wouldn’t move. They took Elaine the Speed Skater to the Macatoilet Body Parts Factory but couldn’t find any reason why her body parts rusted. Elaine the Speed Skater was sad because she wanted to live in Triland, but her body parts just wouldn’t cooperate. She decided that if she took some time to rest, the body parts would fix themselves. She would go to all the Triland games and help the others get ready and give them words of encouragement. This made the subjects of King JD very happy because Elaine the Speed Skater was still part of the family. This made Elaine the Speed Skater happy too.

Bill the politician had also lived in Triland, but much more recently than Elaine the Speed Skater. He would take part in the Triland games, but he would be all alone. He would drive to the Triland games alone, he would swim, bike and run alone. And then he would drive home alone. Bill the Politician would talk to some of the people at the Triland games that he had seen at other Triland games, but he still was alone and he liked it that way. Bill the Politician decided to run for President of Everyone and spent lots of time on the campaign trail. After a time, he could see that his campaign was not reaching the people, so he decided to come home. He heard that King JD was in Everyone looking for special people to move to Triland. He liked training alone, but he thought he would give the group workouts a chance, so he moved to the Province of Special in Triland. Bill the Politician liked living in Triland and liked working out with the other subjects of King JD, but he liked working out alone too. He was still busy with family activities so he couldn’t spend all of his time in Triland, but Bill the Politician was happy because he loved to watch his son and daughter play their games and he knew he wouldn’t have them around that much longer. He even changed his name from Bill the Politician to Bill the Counselor.

Jim the Engineer had lived in Triland for quite some time. He had raced in the Triland races many times, but he had never dared do the half-ironman triathlon. The half-ironman triathlon was a race that only the immortals could do, or so the people in Triland thought. But King JD was wise, and he knew his subjects would do anything he asked (no, not just anything within reason—ANYTHING!!). Some people called the half ironman triathlon the “Tin-man” race, but those were obviously people who had never tried it. King JD convinced Jim the Engineer that he would have fun if he moved to the Province of Special in Triland and joined the group. So Jim the Engineer did just that.

Others moved to the Province of Special in Triland to join King JD and his subjects. Marsh the Football Man moved to Triland to be with his wife Kim the Finger Painter. He had some trouble swimming in the Boy Scout pond so he decided to live in Dua-land which was next to Triland until he could practice his swimming more. But he promised–you all heard that– he promised to practice swimming all of the cold time and would make a permanent move to Triland in the spring. Dennis the Spinner had some trouble swimming in Lake Macatoilet and also promised to practice his swimming so he could move to Triland permanently. Bobbie the Painter moved to Triland for a short time, but she had just gotten married and seemed to have other things on her mind. The subjects of King JD knew that Bobbie the Painter would be back.

King JD and all of the subjects were very happy and life was good. King JD even wore a hat that said life is good. King JD and his subjects were a family and that made them very happy. Because, you see, when you are family, you stick up for each other no matter what. When you are a family, your love is unconditional. When you are a family, each contributes according to their own ability. When you are a family, you look to each other for support when you are sad, you look to each other to share your happiness, and you look to each other for help when you need it. And your family is always there.

I would like to say that King JD and his Queen Laura of Brunch, and Princess Emma of Drawing Pictures and Prince Ben of Running Naked and all of the subjects of the Province of Special in Triland lived happily ever after. And they did– but they knew they could be happier if it weren’t for the evil King Adriano and his subjects from the Province of Alpine in Triland, but that is a whole other story.

Fred Eckardt

Fred was my “ex” father-in-law and I always considered him a good friend as well. He taught me a lot about life in general and I never really thanked him for that before he died. Fred had lung cancer and went into the hospital for an operation. His wife Dorothy, my “ex” mother-in-law, got sick and went into the hospital around the day of Fred’s operation and died a couple of days later. Fred came through the surgery just fine, suddenly took a turn for the worse, and died a few days later.

Remember-the evening before you went into the hospital for surgery, and you and Dorothy and I were going over some last minute instructions in case something happened, and you were telling me how to shut off the heater in the gun shop because Dorothy didn’t know how to do it, and we talked about death and dying, and you said “…after all, outside of my family and a few friends, who’s going to know or care if I’m dead or not?” Remember-when Sue and I had only been dating a couple of weeks, and she had told me how you delighted in giving all of her dates a hard time, and I was bringing her home one early evening, and the roads were a glare of ice, and I turned in the driveway, and the car didn’t turn, and I ran into your truck, and it didn’t do any damage to the truck or my car, and I walked the five miles from the driveway to the living room, and I told you I had run into your truck but it didn’t leave a mark, and you didn’t even go out to look (at least until after I had gone), and you just said “No harm done”.

I think-you probably were thinking that this is just another one of Sue’s dates, and he probably won’t last long at this rate, and his hair is too long anyway, but you were trying to teach me that it’s important to admit your mistakes, and even though it’s hard sometimes, you have to be willing to accept the consequences of your actions.

Remember-when I was working for you out at the garage, and I did a lot of odd jobs, and once I found a dollar in the front yard while I was raking, and a dollar meant something then, and you gave me a shovel to go out and dig something, and I used the shovel to pry a rock, and I broke the handle of the shovel, and when I told you, you just said “I’ve been trying to break the handle of that shovel for 15 years”.

I think-you were trying to teach me that by correcting someone with kind words rather than harsh words, they learn a better lesson.

Remember-the story you used to tell me about when Gerald Ford came out to the farm where you grew up, and you had been shooting pigeons with a 12 gauge shotgun, and he wanted to shoot pigeons too, and you talked him into pulling both triggers on the double barrel at the same time, and you told him if he braced himself against a tree it wouldn’t kick as hard, and you knew that would make it kick twice as hard, and I was impressed that I knew someone who knew someone who became President of the United States.

I think-you were trying to teach me that no matter how important other people think we are,that people are still just people, and we should treat all people with dignity and respect, even though they may not grow up to be President.

Remember-when we all went camping in your fifth wheel trailer, and at night when Dorothy was getting ready for bed, and the curtains were drawn, and Dorothy began squealing, half crying, half laughing, and you asked her what was wrong, and she said she had gotten the tubes of Ben Gay and Preparation H mixed up, and how we all laughed.

I think- you and Dorothy both were trying to teach us that we should never become so self-centered that we can’t laugh at ourselves.

Remember-when I was home on leave from the Air Force, and it was during deer season, and I wanted to go up to Grand Marais to hunt with Dick and Mildred and Dickie and Warren, and you knew we had a better chance of shooting a deer out our back door, but you drove us both up there anyway, and there was so much snow you said “The snow is ass deep to a tall Swede”, and we didn’t see any living thing, not even a chickadee, all the time we were up there, and we came back and hunted the last couple of days of the season at Dick and Mildred’s at Gun Lake, and you and John brought back a deer so that Johnny and Mike and I could have the opportunity to field dress it.

I think-you were trying to teach me that being with family and friends is more important than anything else in the world.

Remember-the story you used to tell me about hunting with your brother-in-law, John, and John would eat chili every night in deer camp, and you would follow him through the woods, and every time he would relieve his gastric distress it would cause you nasal distress, and so you laced his chili that night with Sal Hepatica, and the next day when John reduced the pressure he got a little surprise in his hunting suit.

I think-you were trying to teach me that even grown men do foolish childish things, and it’s okay to do foolish things—–sometimes.

Remember-when Sue and I split up, and we knew we had disappointed you and Dorothy (especially Dorothy), and whenever I stopped at the mill that summer you would shut the saw off, and you would sit on your chair, and light up your pipe, and we talked a lot that summer, and you never lectured me, and you told me over and over that I would always be your son-in-law.

I think-you were trying to teach me that even though people we love do things to disappoint us, we should continue to love them with the same unconditional love that God has for us.

Remember-the night Dorothy died, and after Sue and Joe and Matt and Sara and Anna and I had said good-bye to her, and we walked the five miles from Dorothy’s room to your room, and we waited outside your room for hours (or maybe it was just minutes), and we all walked in looking as if someone had died, and before we could say anything you said “With this gathering of people, the news can’t be very good”, and you ended up comforting us.

I think-you were trying to teach us that no matter how heavy our own burden gets, we should do whatever we can to relieve the burden of others.

Remember-the last time I came in to see you in the hospital, and we talked about the duck I was carving out of redwood, and the redwood was from a man who used to build picnic tables for the State parks, but I shouldn’t tell anyone where the wood came from, so I won’t, and I told you that the grain was hard, and the wood between the grain was soft, and when you worked with it, it would make ridges in the texture, but I thought it gave the duck “character”, and your face beamed.

I think-you knew that I had learned from you and our friend Davey Duck that computers and machines can make perfect ducks, but it takes human hands with God’s help to bring out the true beauty of a piece of wood.

Remember-in that same conversation we talked about me helping you with some things since Dorothy was gone, and you said that you would ask me for help, but only if I charged you, and you knew that I wouldn’t charge you, and I told you I wouldn’t because I didn’t charge family, and I felt good because I could help you, and we talked about our relationship, and you almost said “IT”, but you didn’t, but I knew, and you knew I knew.

I think-you were trying to teach me that you should never take people for granted, especially not family, and by making an offer you know they won’t accept, you give them the opportunity to do something for you, and it makes them feel good about themselves, and it’s hard for some people to say “IT”, but it’s okay if you live “IT”.

I learned-other things too, like it’s important to keep your commitments, and it was more important for you to keep your Valentine’s Day date with Dorothy than to spend any more time with us.

I hope-I’ve learned my lessons well because you’re not around to test me, and if you see Bill Riggs around, tell him I learned his lessons too, and I’m sending this letter along with you so you can read it, because you always has a hard time hearing me (you always said it was because I had a soft voice, but I think it was from when we shot the .44-40 revolver at the shooting range under a roof with no ear plugs and neither one of us could hear anything for the rest of the day), and I’m reminded that even grown men do foolish things—sometimes, and don’t show this around up there because if Gladys Youngs sees it she will have it all marked up for bad punctuation and grammar and run-on sentences.

Remember-when you said “…after all, outside of my family and a few friends, who’s going to know or care if I’m dead or not?”

I think-you were trying to teach me that what we are and what we know, we pass on to our children and grandchildren, and they pass it on to their children and grandchildren, and we live on in them, and a hundred years from now when no one remembers who Fred Eckardt was or who Jack Walker was or who anyone else in this room was, that they will be who they are, because of who we were, and they’ll be better people for having a part of you, and they won’t even know it, but we will know.

But on the other hand-maybe you weren’t trying to teach me anything, and I’m just being too sentimental. Sorry.