Earlier this morning, I took some time to revisit some prior posts on the blog. Initially, I wanted to check to see if anything needed editing or, if thoroughly embarrassing or inappropriate, deleted. As I quickly found myself going back to my years as a Jersey City resident, I was happy to see that the overall tone of my posts was overwhelmingly positive. Getting to see my life, travels, and experiences documented through words and images reinforced my belief that starting this blog more than ten years ago served as much more than an opportunity to share m passion for photography.
Blogging allowed me to communicate my thoughts while sharing my work. Perhaps the most unexpected gain has been finding consistency, and being able to backtrack and see my progress has been rewarding, though there’s always plenty of room for improvement and growth. I feel that it’s more than worth the effort and time. I created and built this blog on my love of photography, art, and life itself. I’ve learned a lot more than I’ve taught, and I hope to continue to learn more about myself and life before sharing my ups, downs, and experiences with the people who dare to read and follow. Here’s to the future, present, and even the past.
Somewhere between awareness of my symptoms and diagnosing them came knowledge and acceptance that things might get a lot worse before they ever or never get better. While a pretty hard pill to swallow, (No pun intended.) I feel lucky that I have such a fantastic support system in my wife, family, friends, and doctors. However, there is one thing in particular that has become harder and harder to accept as time goes by. That is, people always checking in on me and asking how I’m doing. Arguing with and fighting over her being too helpful or over-attentive. As time goes by, I feel myself becoming more resistant to help, while closing myself off to others. I also notice that it doesn’t take much to light my fuse or lose my temper. Whether it be snap reactions or just getting angry over things I can’t control, I’ve come to fear of becoming a cranky old son of a bitch than an optimistic one. As I move towards a new year and a new decade, I hope to move forward by taking somewhat of a step back to the practices I approached and learned from in the past. Simple things, such as meditation, breathing techniques, eating, and exercise, could all help while bringing improvements to my attitude, as well as my life. Hopefully, these little things can help in bringing me the peace of mind and mindfulness I so desperately seek.
Having positive role models and heroes are very important when growing up and forming your moral compass. As one who didn’t have very many adult male role models to look up to. I often found leadership and guidance in older friends. Looking back to my childhood, I was fortunate in that I had many older friends to look up to and depend on for the guidance and reassuring that a stoop session or kick in the ass that a not much older, but somehow wiser head could offer.
This morning I was informed that my old friend Jimmy had passed due to a heart attack.
Though I had only reconnected about ten years ago at his fortieth birthday celebration and shortly after at his brother Frank’s funeral, I felt that getting to see both of them and thank both of them for the guidance and support they often provided. While neither Jimmy or Frank understood or remembered the times they went the extra mile to keep me out of the line of fire. I remembered every instance and episode with detail.
I initially met Jimmy and Frank on the corner of ninety-third street and thirty-fifth avenue on the steps that led to Blessed Sacrament Church.
It was where we’d meet to catch the school bus that would deliver us to day camp in nearby Whitestone. Though it would be a few months before the start of the third grade and my inevitable transfer to Blessed Sacrament School. Though at the time, a typical classroom of school was often a Kickstarter when it came to friendship. I credit Marvel Comics and Stan Lee as the common interest that ignited our first, second, and third conversations. Those comic book trading sessions led to a long-lasting friendship that would follow through elementary, high school, and beyond.
No matter the situation. Whether it be a fistfight with a family member of the C.C. Boys or a random street fight, Frank or Jimmy would always be there for crowd control or to make sure it remained a fair fight. A few years later, after being hospitalized with a brain tumor, Frank traveled from Queens to New York City, where I was hospitalized to see if I needed anything. I never shared that with anyone, but it meant a lot to me.
So, with a considerable amount of respect, I say goodbye to another childhood friend and urge anyone who has or had someone that, in one way or another, had a positive influence on you. Find them and thank them though they might not remember. It will more likely have a positive effect on both parties. Thanks again, Frank. Thanks, Jimmy. You both left a positive footprint in my life.
More about Frank
Though I’ve never been one to make new year’s resolutions, this year I decided to set some goals for myself. While I feel that some of these goals are quite ambitious, I think that they’re both realistic and attainable. One of those goals will be to focus more time on my writing, with a focus on non-fiction and, in particular, highlighting my early life and experiences. In recent weeks, I’ve focused much of my free time writing and trying to relearn the essential grammar skills I learned in school. Though my editor at Jersey Beat and my half-brother both teach at different levels and both volunteered to edit my work, I don’t feel it’s right to burden them with more work than they already have. Aside from my books and lessons I’ve learned, I’m considering hiring a writing coach, or at least utilizing some of the services available online.
In the end, it might be worth noting that my interest in creative writing preceded my passion for photography. For one who thrived on creativity, yet somehow suffered when not nourished by such. Writing and photography served as balance, allowing me to lean towards one while the other stagnated mentally. Short story long, I feel that some, if not many of my own stories need to be written and told while memory still serves.
After months of hard work trying to obtainn medical records and test results from hospitals in both New Jersey and Washington state. I was finally able to secure my appointments at the Mayo Clinic, book a hotel and flight to Rochester, Minnesota. It was a frustrating process that took months. A frustrating time where I often questioned whether or not I would be around long enough to to walk through the doors of the storied institution.
Due to the fact that my first appointment was at 7:30 am Tuesday morning. My wife and me flew in on Monday, which gave us an entire day to wander around and explore an area we had never been before.
Though I didn’t feel that going to the Mayo Clinic would help me find any new answers or a magical cure all for the progressing issues I’ve been experiencing. I arrived open minded, knowing that I would be seeing the very best doctors and getting the kind of concentrated care I had never before experienced. I’d also be giving my wife the peace of mind she more than deserves.
From my first appointment on Tuesday morning. I felt as if I was experiencing a level of care like I had never before seen. The answers of my questions were addressed and answered with a a great deal of detail and explanation. Before my first appointment ended, the initial three I had scheduled had morphed to six and by the time the days second one was over, I had learned more about my condition in a few hours than I had in the two years since being diagnosed.
As the week wore on the amount of appointments, test and waiting began to wear me down both physically and emotionally. After a blood and urine test, an MRI and a CAT scan the doctors all agreed that the calcification my my brain was creating my balance and speech issues, but questioned whether or not a I had FAHRS. Though not concluded, it seems as if the radiation for a brain tumor I had as twelve year old might be the culprit. Where I had felt so positive during my first couple of days there. the last two days there left me with a much better understanding of my condition but so many more questions than I arrived with.
What’s most bittersweet about all this is I will be returning for another round of appointments and tests in late September. Not to be negative but, I sometimes with that the original diagnosis and death sentence I received (a month to live.) when I was twelve, would have come through. I, nor my family and loved ones, would have to experience and suffer from all the bullshit that followed. And while I’d describe my trip to the Mayo Clinic as very positive. I wish I’d be returning home with a more detailed and defined outline of things.
Whenever someone likes one of my posts, leaves a comment or decides to follow the blog, I receive an email notification from wordpress. Though this has become standard for some time. I admit enjoying the sense of anonymity that comes along with the comfort zone that accompanies the feeling that I can share a thought, opinion or experience with people I don’t really don’t know. So, imagine the surprise when I checked my email this morning only to find out that my Mother was following me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my mother and feel so lucky to have her in my life. That said, she does not and never has respected my rite to privacy and personal space. I have to admit, I had a lot of feelings regarding her visits and initial decision to click the follow button, including putting an end to the blog and refraining from continuing to post my darker, personal biography. In the end though, I’ve decided to stay the course and write whatever the fuck I want.
Every time I sign in for my appointment at Virginia Mason. I’m asked for my name and date of birth in order for me to check in and direct me to the right floor and pavilion. With a date of birth and birth weight that are exclusive to the number seven. I’ve more than become quite versed in the inevitable follow up “Oh wow. You must be the luckiest man alive. You should play the lottery.” Well, in the gazillion times I’ve heard those words.” I’ve smiled awkwardly, before advancing to point B.
This time however, Perhaps due to the nature of my visit. Or the fact that I had yet to partake in my morning coffee ritual. I couldn’t help but respond with the first thing that came to mind. I leaned in and smiled, as the words “I’m checking into a fucking hospital. How lucky should I feel?” rolled off my tongue. While not well thought or intended to have even the smallest hint of meanness. It felt good. As if I had been holding back a sneeze or postponing a celebratory jiz. Quickly adding “Besides, have you ever heard of someone winning the lottery using a succession of the same number?” I felt a sense of release and satisfaction. A heaviness left me chest as if a curse had been lifted. “Sorry kid, I had to test these guns before I declared war on the rest of the small talkers.” The next time someone hits me with a “God is testing you.” I’ll hit them so hard, their words will be lying in blood two miles down the road. Until then…