Appreciating Goodbye…

The last time I saw my father was in the assisted living facility where he resided in Las Vegas.  He had been on hospice for several weeks.  My brother and I made the trip to see him in Mach of 2012, to say goodbye, both knowing we would never see our father again.

The three of us sat in the commons area of the facility.  My brother and I shared a sofa, with our father beside us seated on his motorized scooter.  We made small talk.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

The last memory I have of my father is of him eating a lime green Otter Pop, wearing a yellow t-shirt, and questioning a caregiver about something insignificant.

When it was time to leave, I stood up, bent down, and hugged my father.  I then told him I loved him, kissed him on the head, and turned swiftly attempting to hide the lump in my throat, and the tears forming in my eyes.  I headed out the door, and into my rental car to wait for my brother, who would say goodbye after me.

Looking back, I wish I had been more engaged – that I asked him more questions, fostered a more sincere dialogue, but I didn’t.  I was in a hurry to get back to the hotel, to sip tequila, watch Sports Center, hit the treadmill in the morning, and get on with my life – to focus on the next Roy things.

Last week, my mother, in her 80s, flew across the country to say goodbye to her younger brother who is on hospice, the result of the cancer which spreads within.  It was a very hard trip for my mother; long flights, long car rides, staying in a strange bed, etc.  The trip clearly wore my mother out.

She has since told me of the conversations she and her dying brother had – that they held hands several times, that they laughed, cried, shared memories, and that she kissed him before they said goodbye.

She was there out of the deep love she has for her brother – for her family.

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When I said goodbye to my father, if I’m being honest, it was much more out of obligation.

It’s only now, 5 years after he’s gone, that I think to have held his hand, to have engaged him in greater conversations, and to have seen him for what he was – my family, my father.

If we are lucky enough to know – to understand that we are saying goodbye to a loved one, the best thing we can do is to make that opportunity about them.  I failed at that the day I said goodbye to my father.

And I ask myself this morning, is a lesson learned too late, a lesson learned at all…?  Jhciacb

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Thank You…

Living Intentionally…

Each morning I wake up with the best of intentions. In my pre-dawn meditation, as I take inventory of all I have and all I am, I remind myself to be the best possible father, son, friend, businessman, and neighbor that I can be. Most mornings I have screwed it up by 9:00am. Never though, do I quit trying.

Yesterday, after helping a friend complete the final stage of a move into her new apartment, it was a sincere joy to surprise her by treating her to a live Christmas tree. Her artificial tree had been lost in the move. Not only did I buy it for her, I chose to stay and set it up so she could spend the afternoon focused on her school work.

When it came to buying a stand for the tree I had 2 choices; $6.99 or $14.99. I chose $6.99. Once the stand was assembled, I tilted the tree up, positioned it in the center of the stand, and tightened the 4 screws which were to stabilize the tree. I was ready to be a hero for my friend, if only for a moment.

Like a bad case of Tourette’s though, the rapid-fire discharge of my foul language from my mouth, as the tree fell out of the stand was cause for my friend to take shelter behind a led shield. She just stepped into the kitchen instead, as her 2 dogs and my dog began to shake. So much for being a hero…

After offering my friend and our dogs my sincere apologies, and hiding behind a false calm exterior, I returned to the store to purchase the $14.99 tree stand in hopes it would actually work.  Though the short drive should have been a good opportunity for me to calm down and remember what’s important, each red light raised my blood pressure a few more points. By the time I got to the Wal-Mart parking lot on the Saturday before Christmas, I felt like Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down.  My hands were trembling and steps were fast and hard.

Then I stopped for a minute and re-listened to a voice mail message which another friend left me only hours before. In this message I had gotten word that an elderly friend and former client had been hospitalized – I was told she wasn’t going to make it. So a Christmas tree fell out of a stand, and I hit a few red lights – no big deal. I quickly remembered what’s important and calmed down.

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Goodbyes Too Often…

In the last few years I have known or known of more than a dozen people who have passed away unexpectedly and far too young. The younger brother of one of my best friends died suddenly and unexpectedly – he was in his early 40s. Another friend who had recently texted someone that she was having the best day of her life died of a heart attack only moments after she sent that text – she was 42. Last month the adolescent daughter of a friend and fellow fitness trainer passed – that one will haunt me forever. Earlier this year the son of a client and local business man passed – he was my age. I have run out of fingers to count these losses with. Hardly a month goes by…

Thinking of these people and their families is always grounding to me – a good reminder that, as cliché as it sounds, each day really is a gift.

So when I returned to my friend’s home with the better Christmas tree stand, I immediately put the stand down, kissed her cheek, and told her that appreciate her. After all, we were married for 17 years and have a daughter together. For me, that kind of appreciation is eternal.

Each morning I wake up with the best of intentions. I wish to be the best possible father, son, friend, businessman, and neighbor that I can be. I really do try. Most mornings I have screwed it up by 9:00am, though I never quit trying.

Thank You…

In the course of my life I have given everyone who knows me numerous opportunities to dislike me, if not sever our relationship. Family, friends, business associates, and neighbors have all seen me at my worst, despite that it is always my intention that they see me at my best. To be around me long enough is to see me go from zero to son-of-a-bitch in 2.3 seconds.

I suppose everyone who knows me well though, knows me well enough that they understand my good intentions. Like a quality golf shot on an otherwise poor outing, I guess that’s what keeps them coming back for more.

As another year closes out, and the mile marker of 2016 is within sight, and as I try even harder to let the better me prevail, I would simply like to thank my family, friends, business associates, and my neighbors for knowing me and liking me anyway.

If a tree falls in the living room, do I make a sound…? I will hope that in the future, I won’t. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from a later incarnation of Led Zeppelin. Enjoy…

Been; gone too long…

Originally written in August of 2010.  Wishing you all peace this day…. ________________________________________________

Been; Gone Too Long

My life has been shaped almost exclusively by physical culture and by music.  Often these two paths intersect, but rarely do they weave together.   Physical culture and music are both deeply rooted in passion.  I will suggest that people who might have an interest in both, often choose one over the other since passion can rarely be divided.  Although I love music very much, when I felt I had to choose between the vintage Gretsch drum kit in my childhood basement, and the weight-set on the other side of the room, the weight-set won and my passion had an outlet that has served me far better than those drums would have.

Still, I greatly admire music and musicians; songwriters in particular.  In an inverse way, music has influenced my perspective on physical culture more than physical culture itself has.  Back in the 1970s and 80s while many of my bodybuilding friends were influenced by other bodybuilders, my workout life was more influenced by song lyrics, intensity in music, as well as the writers, pickers, drummers, and bass players who brought those songs to life.  Earlier this week we lost one – a bass player that is.  Michael Been of the band, The Call died of a heart-attack while mixing and engineering the sound for a concert of his son’s band, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

Though The Call is known more as an 80’s keyboard kind of band, Michael Been’s lyrics were as important to me as oxygen and water, and when I needed them most.  Been’s songs were an undiscovered gold mine of hope for me.  Been managed to write the Golden Rule into almost every song, yet they were seamlessly non-preachy.  His lyrics have both reflected, and influenced my life in ways which have often seemed divine to me – literally.   

During the years after my divorce, I would of often find myself sitting by the ocean’s edge and reading the printed lyrics of Been’s songs as I listened to them simultaneously on my MP3 player.  It was a church with plenty of hope and no expectations.   I was repeatedly astonished at how much richness lay beneath the surface of what appeared to be simple pop songs.  I often wondered if he was writing to me, about me, to god, about god, and how he could have known both god and I so well.

In my post-divorce years Been’s lyrics taught me mindfulness above all else; a much needed lesson for me at that time.  The Call was never classified as Christian band.  This was good since I was never classified as a Christian listener.  Still, when one seeks to extract wisdom from lyrics, there are obvious themes relating to the good side of the Christian faith – the side that suggests that though we may often feel all is lost, there is hope if we are simply good to people.

Been was 60 years old when he died.

There are many things which sadden me about Been’s death.  One is that I have found no report of his death from any major news source.  A sad reminder that a man who had so much to offer the world, was largely unknown by it.  Unfortunately The Call’s best work is not available on iTunes, and only scarcely available on youtube in the form of some choppy videos with bad sound. 

If you don’t know The Call, I suggest buying the CDs Red Moon, Let The Day Begin, Modern Romans, and Been’s solo album, On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakthrough.  Through his body of work one can’t help but appreciate the evolution of this man’s heart and soul through the decades.

If I could work in Santa Clause time this evening I would crawl down every chimney in America with a copy of Red Moon, that the nation might be a better place for all the wisdom in its content.  This time two years ago it was David Foster Wallace.  This week it was Michael Been. The two most influential persons in my adult life are now gone.  Mark Cohen, you are number three; please take care of yourself.  Be well.  rc