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Don’t leave me alone . . .

Special note to the reader: In this posting and in many others on my blog, you will find considerable details concerning disease and medical treatment over a period of many years, and considerable information on personal feelings. Please understand that my postings on WordPress form at least a semblance of an autobiography—they are written and presented primarily as a sort of history for my three daughters. WordPress offers an outlet for me to say those things that are very difficult for me to express, but as an autobiography I am able to achieve far more depth than in face-to-face interviews with my children. Everything I write has, at the very least, a nucleus of truth to hold it together, sometimes a bit embellished but always based on facts. I tend to ramble, but with care my readers should be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.

This posting closes with a poem, poignant in its message but untitled by the author. Had I written the poem I would have given it the same title I used for this posting: Don’t leave me alone.

In late 1999 Janie—my wife, my love, my life—was diagnosed with Stage Two ovarian cancer. She was 68 years old at the time, and although the statistics for survival were not in her favor she refused to bow to the disease, but continued living and loving life for eleven more years. The photo at right was taken in the fall of 1983 at Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC. We celebrated her 52nd birthday in December of that year.

Her life was dramatically changed following the diagnosis, of course. She embarked on an eleven year journey, a grueling period punctuated with several major invasive surgeries requiring lengthy hospital stays, several rounds of chemotherapy, numerous X-rays, CT scans, PET scans, MRIs, blood draws, urine samples, frequent physical exams, trips to emergency rooms and brief hospital stays.

Throughout those years she held steadfast to her faith, enjoying life and considering each return of the disease comparable to the speed bumps found on city streets, each simply requiring a brief slow-down and then a return to normal speed, a return to living life and loving it. During periods of remission she frequently voiced her pleasure with life, saying “We have a good life.”

Seven years after the initial diagnosis of cancer and successfully holding the beast at bay, she was diagnosed with kidney disease, a complication probably caused mostly by the several series of chemotherapy she endured. The kidney disease progressed and she eventually required dialysis, a treatment that necessitated several more surgeries to place access ports for the dialysis needles, first in the chest while access in her arm was maturing.

My wife of 58 years, the mother of our three daughters, died at 9:15 PM on November 18, 2010 from complications of ovarian cancer and renal failure. We would have completed our fifty-eighth wedding anniversary just 25 days later on 13 December, and she would have celebrated her seventy-ninth birthday on the twenty-sixth day of December, one day after Christmas.

The eighteenth day of this month will mark the sixth month since she died, and the grief I feel—the loneliness, the heartache and the miserable feeling of being alone has flowed and ebbed with the tides of time. My daughters and friends have been stalwart pillars of support, even though rebuffed in those numerous instances in which my pity party was in full swing—and to my shame I admit that many times I have lashed out at them, desperately seeking someone or something on which to place the blame, or at least to share the blame with me.

I am constantly advised to remember all the good things I’ve done over the years, but I seem to be stuck in the ultimate low gear of self-blame. During my years of being gainfully employed I frequently spent long periods away from home, traveling all over the United States and other countries, and no matter how hard I tried I remembered all the things that I had done wrong and all the things that I should have done but failed to do. I’m reasonably certain that good things happened, but I had difficulty focusing on them, and now that I’m alone I’m still stuck in the same low gear.

I know, I know. There is a saying which tells us that one who represents one’s self in court has a fool for a lawyer. That same bromide can be applied to most attempts at self-analysis—in such situations one cannot see the forest for the trees, and ultimately help must come from someone looking in from outside the forest.

A hoary joke involves a drunk hurrying home late in the night, and in crossing his front yard he walks into a tree, the only one on the lot. He makes several attempts but runs into the tree each time. On the ground and stunned, he is heard to mumble, “Well, I may as well face it—I’m lost in a thick forest.”

In many ways I am like that drunk, although I am a teetotaler. I am lost in a thick forest of self-analysis and self-pity, frantically seeking someone to blame for anything and everything. Impractical and patently unfair, but it involves something psychiatrists term projection—we tend to project our faults into others, and then we criticize them rather than criticizing ourselves.

My neighbors to the west have been tremendously supportive during this transition period. The lady of the house recommended several online locations that she felt might help me in overcoming grief, or at the very least might help me learn to live with grief. All were helpful but one towered over the rest.

The following poem concludes a lengthy contribution to the Living With Loss magazine. I feel that in her poem the author gives sage advice that can apply to any grief situation, including mine.

From the introduction to the author’s essay: “. . . . although its subject matter is the loss of a child, it reveals commonality in grief such as the changes in the way survivors view the world and in the way the world views survivors, regardless of the loss.” Click here to read the complete essay and be warned—have a plentiful supply of tissues ready!

This is the author’s untitled poem:

Don’t tell me that you understand,
Don’t tell me that you know.
Don’t tell me that I will survive,
How I will surely grow.

Don’t tell me this is just a test,
That I am truly blessed,
That I am chosen for this task,
Apart from all the rest.

Don’t come at me with answers
That can only come from me,
Don’t tell me how my grief will pass
That I will soon be free.

Don’t stand in pious judgment
Of the bonds I must untie,
Don’t tell me how to suffer,
And don’t tell me how to cry.

My life is filled with selfishness,
My pain is all I see,
But I need you, I need your love,
Unconditionally.

Accept me in my ups and downs,
I need someone to share,
Just hold my hand and let me cry,
And say, “My friend, I care.”

Joanetta Hendel, author
Living With Loss Magazine
Bereavement Publications, Inc.
October 1988

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2011 in disease, Family, funeral

 

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Inside Edition interview . . .

A camera crew from Inside Edition appeared at the Customhouse at the Gateway Bridge in Brownsville, Texas one bright spring day in 1981 and requested permission from the port director to film from the bridge for a segment on that popular show. Because nobody else wanted to do it, I was asked—ordered, actually—to accompany the crew as they filmed, and provide information as requested by the crew, but to stay within the boundaries established by the Service.

There were two men, the reporter and the camera man. We went to the middle of the bridge and the camera panned 360 degrees, covering Matamoros on the Mexican side and downtown Brownsville on the US side, with closeups of vehicle and pedestrian traffic on the bridge, both outbound and inbound. Several minutes of that and the camera was focused to closeup on me, and a series of questions was asked by the reporter. I answered them as best I could—I don’t recollect having to say I don’t know to any of the questions. I believe the reporter had done his homework on Customs and Immigration operations, and most of his questions dealt with my opinions on the effectiveness of our enforcement operations and our control of illegal immigration. The image above is the Gateway Bridge in the early part of the 20th century—no, I’m don’t go back that far—I just thought it might be interesting to show how it was then. The image below shows Brownsville’s seaport—the waterway stretches inland to Brownsville from the Gulf of Mexico—it’s part of the 3,000 mile Intercoastal Waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

I gave the authorized percentages, items such as “We probably intercept no more than ten percent of the narcotics entering the US,” and referred the reporter to the Immigration supervisor for immigration statistics. The interview was rather brief, considering how far the crew had traveled—all the way from New York to the tip of Texas. I remember that I was asked my opinion on illegal immigration—we were allowed to use the term illegal aliens in those days. In fact, many in law enforcement still used the term wetback, mindful of the audience, of course, because political correctness was becoming more and more the norm.

I discussed the mortality rate of children born in Mexico—the statistics in that era—the early eighties—showed that for every ten babies born in Mexico only six reached the age of five years—the other four died before that age, a mortality rate of forty percent. The opinion that I voiced to the reporter was that I placed no blame on families wanting to come to the United States.  I also told the reporter that I was familiar with the Mexican economy, both la frontera—the border—and the interior of the country, and if for some reason I were banished to Mexico I would be back in the US the same day by going over, under, around or through any barrier erected by law enforcement, just as illegals have always done, are doing today and probably  always  will—and I would repeat that entry as many times as necessary, just as they are doing today. The records show that individuals have been deported fourteen times and more—deportation is no more than a speed bump in the road. It simply slows an illegal immigrant down for a day or so.

I may as well voice my opinion on illegal immigration here and now—not that it will be noticed. Stop the hiring of illegal immigrants and they will stay in Mexico. They can’t find work there, and it’s useless—completely unproductive—to brave the Border Patrol to enter the US in order to not find work here either.

The reporter on the Inside Edition team dutifully took my name and mailing address and told me that a personal copy of the audited tape would be mailed to me and I would be informed of the date it would be aired. And I’ll bet that you, the reader, can guess the rest of that story.

You’re right—I never heard from anyone connected with Inside Edition. I have long suspected that if a copy were mailed, it went to the official address of the bridge and was intercepted by the port director, but of course I could be wrong, and I can’t ask him about it—he is no longer on active duty with Customs. In fact he is no longer on active duty anywhere, unless he has a position UP THERE, or DOWN THERE, as the case may be. He died several years later while on a Customs assignment in Puerto Rico—or maybe it was Guam—I’m unsure.

I am sure that at sometime after I left Brownsville the port director was charged with several deviations from acceptable procedures, including bringing in alcoholic beverages without having federal and state duties and tax collected and for having items imported and the proper declarations not being made—I believe he dodged a bullet on the charges, very similar to the investigations of improper actions of numerous members of our House of Representatives and the Senate, and similar to the completely inadequate resolutions thereof.

I am sure of the deviations because I have a copy of the article that appeared in the Brownsville paper.

Such a shame about my personal copy of that tape—my performance may have been good enough  to qualify me for a future in films!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2010 in actor and acting, bridge, television

 

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