Monday, April 9, 2018

My DNA Story, After 35 Years and Change, has Reached a Fork in the Road.

 The course of my life has been an ever churning torrent of rise and recede. Carving great canyons like the Rio Grande of home. A singular life, witness to: wonders and horrors, experience and innocence, rain and shine. No matter the circumstance this life is mine and strangely enough, i'm pretty damn good with that. 
Like many of you, i jumped out of the nest the instant I thought I had feathers. I had plans. For years I watched those plans fall by the wayside. Largely, they were fanciful dreams never really meant to be applicable in the modern world. Seriously, how was I ever going to play trumpet for Ed Shaughnessy and Doc Severinsen on The Tonight Show?? (I had to look up the spelling of one of those words. On the up side, it wasn't Ed.) Then there was my perverse desire to study giant squid with Jacques Cousteau. Me, a Desert Rat from West Texas.......not bloody likely. Finally, there is the thesis of this opus, finding my biological Father. Again one of those fanciful dreams, until Genealogical DNA testing went mainstream.

Back in February (2018) I bought a DNA kit from Family Tree for the Family Finder and a moderate Y DNA kit. I thought if I were going to search the databases, i'd want to use the narrowest possible criteria going in and could widen my search results from there. I uploaded my raw DNA file to and compared with even more people (see the previous two entries for the complete story). There were something in the neighborhood of 78 Thousand cousins on the GEDmatch list from Second Cousin to God only knows how to calculate the relationship. But, as I alluded to in my last posting there was one person at the top of my match chart with a remarkable amount of shared DNA. In fact, He was a perfect half match to me. Just for the tally sheet that would be 3487cM (Centimorgans) That's a Parent/Child match.

I'm going to call him, Mr Y! Now for the most important question, how old is (Oh yeah, present tense, he's very much still alive) Mr Y?? I'll tell you I nearly passed out when I discovered he is not in his 20's or 30s. He's at just the right age for a Father. Well, for a Father with an adult child in their early 50's anyway. At this moment, I needed a minute or two to wrap my head around the impossibility of things. So, I walked away from my computer and just mentally gnawed on that gristle all night.
The next day I ran a utility program to determine whether or not my raw file had been corrupted and it turned out to be a bit noisy, but well within guidelines.
I compared Mr Y to known relatives and my X matches and there were zero commonalities. Okay, so he's a new and stand alone entity. What to do now? Research. Can I put him and my mother in the same location at the same time. This turned out to be the easiest step of the process. He went to college in the same town Mom went to high school. Ultimately, I discovered they both went to that same high school and had a class together.

 There was never a question as to whether to contact him or not it was simply how. The Database had an email address for him, so ding dong there ya go. Now, I studied English Composition at the University of North Texas and have had training in how to write for nearly any occasion or purpose. Writing to contact a Father from an unknown child, weirdly enough, slipped by the curriculum committee when they were deciding on what was important to teach. I sent an email loosely styled on an obituary. I did my very best to use soft pleasant words that alluded to a close genetic match and so on and so forth, sent it, and waited about a week.
During this time, I forgot the first rule of writing and that is know your audience. Every day that went by without a reply was grueling. Why wouldn't he answer? Then my crazy started kicking in. What if he had died and noone had updated the website at his job? What if he thinks this is an internet hoax or scam? What if he's batshit crazy too and just refuses to reply. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. On day six, I sent him another email. This time it was styled on an Arnold Schwarzenegger action film character birthday greeting. Sort of?? 

The main concern for me, now that I had found Mr Y was that I really wanted to know if there were any medical conditions which ran in his family. It's wasn't long after I sent the second email and BING!!! I got a reply. simply enough, he wanted to know who my mother was and what color my hair was when i was a baby/kid. Additionally he wanted to know where I lived. I obliged and said that my grandmother had always said I was "Toe Headed". I think that's how you spell it, I've never looked it up. In the very next email he advised me that if I hadn't had a colonoscopy yet, I needed to go ahead and have that done. I'm not sure what I was looking for in an email, but that didn't exactly not count. and I said I would do just that knowing it to be a favorite of men everywhere!!!

This is the part of the story that gets more private. I'm not doing it to be mean, rather i'm doing it to be fair for all the other parties involved. I will say that since making initial contact Mr Y and I have shared a number of emails. This past weekend Mr and Mrs Y shared a marathon phone call with my domestic partner and myself. I will say a little about that call as I believe it germane to the greater thesis.
The call had a relaxed familiarity to it, even at times when it should have been awkward at best. As we talked, we discovered similarities in behavior and interest. So much so that I grew weary of Donna hitting me every time one came up. It was like being Indiana Jones at the end of a successful caper.

We plan to meet up with the Y's (Face to Face) in the near future. I, for one, am looking forward to it. I know the Domestic Partner is as well and so are the Y's. If you are reading this because you have questions about your ancestry, no matter the case, I say, stop waiting and get after it. Keep an open mind as nothing is ever how you picture it. That Indian Princess your grandpa's grandpa married might turn out to be Irish, and you won't be sitting around years from now wishing you had done it.

I genuinely have a fondness for The Y's as they are a matched set. I don't know how to compartmentalize this and am not about to try. I have found the rest of my family and i'm grateful. Many times I'm derided for my view of fair weather Christians and what Jimmy Buffett referred to as, "that thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning." It is true, I am a confirmed Catholic, but i tend to lean more toward a Unitarian point of view. Toward that end, I do so thank God for this ever winding path, the family I have (old and brand spanking new), and all of you whom have touched my life along the way. I have found a peace I believed impossible.

Until I write again, Peace be with You!!!

Friday, April 6, 2018

A DNA Story 35 Years in the Making...and change

I would guess it fair to say, most of us have a pretty good idea of our genetic makeup. That is to say, largely, we know where we came from. Most of the people I know can spout off their parents,
grand parents, and to some degree even their great grand parents. Then there is the physical makeup: tall, short, stocky, thin, hair/eye/skin color. These are all fair indicators of ancestry. Next, religion can play a role in this. Lutheranism, probably German somewhere along the way, Presbyterianism, could be Scottish, Maronite Catholic? I'm thinking Lebanon. You get the idea. And then there is food.

The food we consume on special occasions, even on the odd weekend speaks volumes about who we are as people. So, for this, i'll simply stick to what I call ethnic food. For instance: if you eat Black-Eyed peas on New Years, you are probably connected to the southern United States. My first wife's mother (Helga) artfully made Beef Rouladen. A heavenly little package of thinly sliced beef wrapped around a pickle with some mustard and slow cooked in a clay cooker called a Romertorpf (My apologies if the spelling is incorrect). It may sound odd, but it's heavenly and very German. Among other things, my domestic partner Donna makes a meatloaf called Kibbeh (Kib-bee) and it's traditional Lebanese fare. My point here is we all have these ethnic markers around us all the time. We may not have all the answers on how we got here, but we carry the evidence of the journey and in many cases entrust this evidence to our children in the form of tradition.

Without going 20 postings deep, quite often our family names give us as good an insight into our ancestry as any other. Names like Cooper (Barrel Maker), Fletcher (the guy that puts feathers on arrows), and Wright or Smith (both denoting trades requiring the operation of forging iron) let us know our ancestors were most likely European and probably British. If you ever get curious about the origins of your surname, simply google (etymology of the surname *whatever your surname is.)

For my own journey, I took the four closest surnames; Duncan, Weyerts, Johnson, Williamson. This is actually pretty easy. Duncan is largely Scottish, Weyerts is German, both Johnson and Williamson are Scandinavian. Automatically I knew my ethnic chart on my DNA test would show Scotland, Germany, and Swedish or Norwegian. As you can tell by the image at the top of the page, the vast majority of my ethnic makeup is South Central Europe from France to Austria, including parts of Italy?? Insert giggle here as i'm the least Italian looking person on the planet short of say Jackie Chan?

This break down has everything to do with the algorithm they use to compile the data. As you can see in the picture with the purple boundaries, this second website's algorithm works a bit different as they show my German to be half of what the first one did and at the same time show the Scandinavian the first site didn't.

The important thing here is not to get too hung up on what a particular sites algorithm has you listed as because what you are is what you see in the mirror every morning and what others see when you interact with them. Side note: look on the bright side. The larger the sample size they have to work with the more accurate their algorithms will be. I'm predicting that in 20 years there won't be a speck of difference between the sites on ethnic origins. It really is simple statistics.

Another thing that happens when your test is completed, the service will show you a list of everyone in their database with whom you have a genetic match. For the standard consumer autosomal tests like, Family Tree DNA, Ancestry DNA, 23 and Me, etc. The matches carry you out to about 5th cousins. To put this into perspective: I used Family Tree DNA and when I saw my list of genetic matches and all of the 2nd to 4th cousins and noticed there were better than 4500 of them, I laughed.

Now, this is not all bad news. There is a measuring system to determine how closely you are related, but it's a little involved to get into here. If you want to know about the role of Centi-Morgans and SNPs, i'd suggest doing a YouTube search on reading your autosomal DNA report and then go to the ISOGG site and download a cheat sheet with the average numbers and their relationships. It's very handy. I forget what ISOGG stands for other than Genetic Genealogists. There are plenty of resources out there and many of them are in plain old "guy next door" language.

The top entry on my list of genetic matches was my cousin Dean Duncan. I knew him. He died a few years back, but he fit nicely into my family tree since I knew our association. The next closest match I'd never heard of. In fact, i'd never heard of any of the other names on the first page of the list. I sent out a few general "hello we match" type emails and it was still a big mystery as none of the surnames i'd heard of before.

Before I go further, it's important to know I have worked my mother's side of my family tree back to no less than 12 generations. In one spot, to the Massachusetts Bay Colony C.1630. This is just a short 10 years after the Mayflower hit town, so to speak.

So, I went back into research mode and discovered an independent website called You can upload your raw DNA data file to them and they will search their database. Remember I said I had about 4500 cousins on Family Tree, well at GEDmatch that number went ridiculous. If you are a Pop Culture Nerd, that number went Plaid!!!  Not only that, but the relationship numbers were quite a bit higher. I saw my cousin Dean again and another bunch of names I didn't recognize. Then there was the first name on the list. The one with the highest percentage of matching DNA. The number was wholly unlikely.

Let me take a moment to say a few things. I started this whole journey filling in my family tree because my grandfather gave me a piece of paper written in his father's own hand listing the Duncan's back 7 or 8 generations from him. To put this in perspective, two of them were named after George Washington and that's a true story. (Actually, the 2nd had a son whom he named the 3rd) I was curious why they would have left Scotland for the United States. Toward that end the search continues and likely has no real resolution. The reason I augmented my approach to this task with a DNA test was on the off chance I may find some cousins or some other relative who may have more information on that or get an idea of who my Father may have been. Let's face it, i'm in my early 50's and that would make the likelihood of him being alive and kickin' a statistical longshot, but not impossible. Besides, long ago I found that picture of my mother at Stone Mountain Georgia with a tall good looking blond guy who I always believed was the guy and he went to Viet Nam. The romantic in me has always believed he died in Viet Nam and the closest i'd ever get to knowing him would be the monument in Washington D.C.. Then there is the dirty truth of it all, I put off a DNA test because of what I thought I might find. I lived a number of years with little or no regard for anything or anyone, even myself. The thought I may discover a child or children out there that I had no prior knowledge of was a distinct possibility. It's okay, I found my Manties and took the test. What I will say about the closest match on the report is; the match is about as closely related as one can get and they aren't in their 20's or 30's

Until I write again, Peace be with you

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Prologue: Operation "Who's It?" a DNA story 35 years in the making.

"None of us are actually afraid of the dark; we are scared of what it conceals from us." Raymond Carver

--I do not fault my parents. They didn't get an instruction manual for life any more than I did. They did the best they could and that is all any parent can do--

I have decided to take a DNA test. Now for most of my contemporaries and even my Domestic Partner Donna, this would be somewhere between entertaining and mildly amusing. However, for me, as with nearly everything else that piques my interest, it's just not that simple. I have put this off for a number of years as not to cause anyone embarrassment and quite honestly, part of me fears what I won't or conceivably will find. This is likely to be a multi-part and quite lengthy posting, so I apologize now for my lack of brevity. Okay, so here is my side of those elements which led me here. Thank You.

(I'm fifteen at this point and terribly naive) On the way out of school that day, I was reminded by the school secretary that I needed my birth certificate by the next day or I would be dropped from Drivers Ed. So, I went home and expected to ask my Mom about it, again, but she wasn't home. The important papers were kept in a metal file box and I took it upon myself to go search for the document. 

I went into my parent's bedroom and stepped into no-man’s land. Being in there without being invited was forbidden. Despite my fears of being caught, i located the box, brushed away a half inch of crud, and opened the lid.  I rifled through the papers and found a birth certificate: The city was correct, born on an Air Force Base was correct, first and middle names were correct, and the birth date was correct. There was just one thing, the last name was wrong... Staring at this document, my young naive brain's first thought was; Wow! I have a brother born the same day as me. Does that mean I’m a twin? This is so cool! I continued searching for the birth certificate, the one bearing my surname and found nothing. 

For expediency, I'll stipulate that I had indeed found my own birth certificate. A revelation with far reaching implications and a singular truth. I am the product of an illegitimate union: A Bastard. Though few people even notice children born out of wedlock any longer, it wasn't so long ago where the last vestiges of this prejudice were firmly and stoically preserved, practiced, and held as something ordained from on high. 

Before I get ahead of myself, yes! I did get in trouble for rooting through the family files. Yes, there was an amount of drama and stories surrounding the origins of my birth. Setting down those stories into a narrative to accompany this journey serves neither the thesis nor those involved. I will however attempt to encapsulate the importance of a genetic history as a compliment to family (genetic or otherwise) and the incredibly fine line between belonging and litter on the highway.

I guess the first time I was truly inconvenienced by the last name I carry had to do with the U.S. Army and my enlistment. Since my Social Security card held one surname and my birth certificate another, I was lumped into a group of people who needed name and citizenship verification. Fortunately, i had recently gotten married and the girl I married took my name. In the truest of bureaucratic moves, they simply added an alias to my Social Security Account. This was good enough for the Army. Well, at least it was good enough for enlistment. 

In the middle of my second year of enlistment, i was selected to go to France for a test. Once again, the dual name thing caused me grief when I needed a security clearance upgrade to include a NATO designation. Eventually, I did get it, but not without some sacrifices. Toward that end, i won't even go into the whole Warrant Officer/ Helicopter Pilot debacle. Just know, at the end of that enlistment, I knew I was finished with the U.S. Army. I don't regret my service. In many ways it saved my life and yes i'd do it again. 

I spent the next thirty years, give or take, attempting to make my Social Security match my birth certificate. Interesting factoid, this was not rectified until I was forty-two years of age and was about to face some legal troubles as a result of the political landscape following Sept. 11, 2001. In the years following the 9/11 attacks I was unhireable due to the name game. This was the lowest. I'd been to the Social Security Administration so often we were all pretty much on a first name basis. One such trip I got lucky and met a man at the Social Security office in Denton, Texas who was originally from Kermit. He remembers the Social Security drives they had in the mid 1970's and in a whip of a pen all that dual name crap was a thing of the past. The other surname will always be associated with the file, but only in so far as a point of record keeping. Words escape me, but just like that I was whole.

There is an old adage: When one door closes another opens. For me, one recurring set of opening doors has led to Psychiatrists and Doctors from one end of my adult life to the other. I know, I know, what does this have to do with a birth certificate? Actually, not a lot, but they all contribute to the main topic here and that's, Why I got a DNA test. 

Studies have shown some mental illnesses to be genetically linked to the father. In my case, given the lack of a listed father on the birth certificate, it isn't as though I can call him up and find out what ails him. So, it's been old school trial and error. The other group of doors connected with these folks are your run of the mill, front line, general practitioner doctor. You know, the guy you go see when you get sick or need a physical. One of their standard forms is a medical history form. This is the form that wants to know if you or anyone in your family has suffered from three columns of diseases. At best, I've only been able to answer that half way.

Last year, I had a spot of skin cancer taken off my forearm which ended up running from side to side. This was the fourth piece I've had removed. In the middle of the procedure the doctor asked me if skin cancer runs in my family... Well, my Grandmother had skin cancer, but other than that I don't know. She certainly didn't seem to have it as often as I get it.  Months later I was at a Cardiologist Appointment and was asked if anyone in my family had a similar heart condition. I remember saying that I didn't know. He wondered if I could find out. We spoke briefly and decided it wasn't that important. 

Much like runway lights, my direction is painfully obvious. Get the DNA test. Don't these tests simply tell you where your ancestors were from?? Uh that should be easy, I’d say Europe, somewhere between Germany and Scotland. Okay, so maybe what I need to do first is to gather some information and do a little research on what it entails and what can be learned. This is a pile of reading and a surprising number of videos on the subject.

I learned quite a bit about the usefulness of DNA testing across a wide spectrum of need. It's time to do it or let it go Elsa!!! I ordered my test and in the next installment, I’ll fill in a few more of the blanks as to what i'm hoping to, and not to, discover.

Until I write again, Peace be with you,

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Romance Beneath Your Stove

Growing up in the high desert of west Texas such as I did, offered many advantages to interact with the world my city kids will never know. There was a freedom in that microenvironment. A freedom to explore, to individuate, and establish an intellectual foundation largely free of the hubris plaguing many of my metropolitan brethren. Before I get to back patting too furiously here, I'd like to say it wasn't because I was better than those more metropolitan kids, rather I/we had fewer choices when it came to our time. Hence, our simpler life afforded us entertainments and diversions which would have bored the hell out of our city counterparts. We all came to know, that at any time, any one of those diversions could be gone and perhaps we learned to appreciate them a little bit more.  

While my Grandfather fed me Heinlein and Asimov, he'd temper that with Maupassant and Chekov. Occasionally, he'd share a Playboy Magazine article with me. Salman Rushdie, Ray Bradbury, and others. I'm sure he hoped this would foster a love of math and all things space and science, but honestly all I got was romance and a racy picture or two. Now, let's not confuse romance and sex. I'm talking about romance here, though my head is suddenly filled with puns I'll spare you my excited, yet whimsical, state.

I didn't know it then, but it was the romance which drew me into these novels and short stories. You see, if you take a person or object and put them in an improbable/impossible situation and have them/it give freely of themselves/itself for the betterment of the other people or objects in the story it's a romance. Trust me when I say it isn't that hard, go enroll in an English Composition program and spend a whole bunch of money and you'll know it too. Or.....Just take my word for it.

Getting back to that crystal clear desert sky; many nights I'd lay out and just watch the movement of the world. Occasionally, I'd spot a satellite orbiting the earth, but mostly I'd just contemplate the vastness and the what ifs hidden above.  Somewhere along the way television and movies got involved. Star Trek was in syndication, Buck Rogers (horrible show), Battlestar Gallactica, etc. Then there were the movies like Star Trek The Motion Picture, Star Wars, Close Encounters, E.T., etc. Old movies like The Day The Earth Stood Still and TV shows, while not space oriented, still captured my imagination like, Night Gallery and The Twilight Zone. Suddenly, every time NASA farted, I wanted to watch.... This fascination with NASA really took hold of me one morning in Marana, Arizona. My Ex-wife and I were visiting her cousins and the Challenger flight happened that morning. I stood there watching the shuttle clear the tower and make it's quarter roll and then... well we all know what happened. For the briefest of moments, I felt like I let someone down. Then the Pundits (least favorite word) speculated on all manner of causality. Eventually, they fixated on the words Morton Thiokol and O Rings. Increasingly absent was the human side of the story. Our space launches had become so routine a catastrophic event had all but fallen away from the list of possible outcomes. As we know, the shuttle system was scrapped a number of years back due to the aging vehicles and the rising cost of maintenance. However, the space program has given us some pretty neat gadgets based on the technology developed from their work.
MRI, CT Scan, Programmable Pacemakers, and the list is awkwardly long, but one of my favorites has to be the use of LED's in brain surgery. These advances were all born on the back of heroes. Heroes like Gene Krantz and his homemade mission vest, Christa McAuliffe the school teacher on board the fated flight of the Challenger, and many many others. Faceless, Nameless, Dreamers attempting to convert the theoretical into the mundane only to discover a new definition of theoretical. 

Enter Elon Musk. I'll start this by saying, Hell Yes!

Hell Yes! I'm a fan. I don't care that he has the worst track record in history for meeting deadlines or that some of his ideas are so far afield they just don't make any sense to the average Joe. What I do care about is his lack of "we can't do that". We, collectively, have enough "we can't do that" coming out of Washington on a daily basis to set our country back two hundred years just to reach equilibrium. 
 While this next part relies heavily on Elon Musk, it's about SpaceX and not about his car company Tesla. (If you haven't driven one, don't. Doing so will change the way you see cars.)

When I first heard that SpaceX was going to make the Falcon 9 and that it would be reusable and the cost per launch would go from 60 Million to 600 Thousand I audibly laughed. I made a joke out of a rocket that took off and landed like Marvin the Martian. Yet, here we are. The damn thing takes off and lands like Marvin's. This is incredible. The software for the computer controls has to be an amazingly simple and yet fully fleshed out product. Let's start with something basic in landing one of these rockets. THE EARTH IS MOVING. The earth is not a stationary target. It is spinning inside a bubble of air, so the software has to match the speed of the planet, control the pitch, roll and yaw of them and burn and shut off all at very precise times. That's on the landing pads at Canaveral. When they land one on the drone ship, the also have to compensate for the pitch and roll of the deck. There are other factors like wind, atmospheric pressure and other things, but pitch, roll, and yaw are the important ones, then elevation. I'm no rocket scientist, so don't beat me up over my simplistic assessment, but to me these would be the biggies in making this thing land and you can't reuse it if you can't land it. Landing is where the cost savings comes from. I love watching them land. This week after the launch of Falcon Heavy, I got to see two of them land at the same time. That was the coolest thing ever!!!

...And then...

   Instead of a large concrete block, they really did shoot his Tesla Roadster into space!!!
This reminded me so much of the opening scene from the movie Heavy Metal when the guy returns to earth in a late fifties Corvette. It was exciting. It was romantic. It was just plain awesome!!!

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person to think so, but the (ugly word alert) pundits were not impressed. Some called this the height of hubris. Why didn't he fill the compartment with science experiments on the cheap? Why didn't he launch an armada of cube satellites? All of these highly educated professionals had the same blinders on and just couldn't see it for what it was.  It was a test flight. There was a better than fair chance it could have ended in very large ball of fire. NASA used to send up large blocks of concrete as payload on test flights because it would shatter and burn up on reentry. Musk sent his own damn car into space to be the coolest art installation ever and had the whole thing blown up, the pundits would be talking about how foolish he was to risk his car like that.

So, when you go to bed tonight remember this: There is a Tesla Roadster 2.0 cruising through the galaxy 250 Million miles beneath the crap under your stove and that's romantic.

Until I write again, Peace be with you.

Monday, April 24, 2017

This past weekend, I made a quickie trek out to Alpine. Really and truly I needed to reset my taste-buds and renew my nose to country air. I just needed to get out of town for a couple of days. I was stale. Berutted: if you like. For a brief case of ad nauseum, my zest was all pith!
This July would have marked two years since i had taken any time to slow down and measure the world around me. Yes, my yardstick was dry rotten. Interestingly enough, once I hit town all I wanted to do was curl up at the hotel and sleep. I'm sure Karl Jung would have a wise theory or two about that, but the next part would have caused him some contradiction. I generally don't dream. I simply pass out and wait for the next day to start, but from the first night I dreamed of running.
Years ago, in a galaxy far far away, I ran. I'd been doing it since I was a kid. If I wasn't running, i was biking. So when I left High School at 17 I weighed about 180lbs, but it was all leg and butt. I could open beers with my toes, but struggled to carry in groceries with my chicken wing arms. Well, the Army got the arms in line with the legs and my first two company commanders were both runners. I had it on good advice that if my commander was into something I better be able to converse in it without sounding like an idiot. So, I started running after hours and early mornings. A few miles here and there. I kept it to a three day a week type thing. Honestly, i was never disciplined enough to be a serious road runner. Oh sure, I did take a crack at it.
In 1984, or there abouts, I and my company commander both ran the Mule Mountain Marathon from Bisbee to Ft Huachuca. He ran the full thing, I ran a half. We both started the race as the first member of a 5 man relay. I remember i crossed the 5 mile mark right at 30 minutes. It was 29 and change and Carrington my commander was about 10 or so seconds ahead of me. (Side note: Alberto Salazar ran that year and he was about 20 seconds ahead of me)
At the half, I crossed walking at just short of 1:40. I felt good. My legs were chapped and sore and my shoes had long since failed, but I felt pretty damn good. I was invited to have beers with my friends that night and i made it through about a half of one before I fell  asleep.
That next year, I met the Hoyt's in Tucson. I'm still blown away. In those few brief moments, i learned what a Father's Love really is. In a nutshell, it's something i'll never achieve, but in my own weird way I do try. That last sentence makes me a bit sad, but it is the honest truth.
At this time in life, i varied between 202 - 215 pounds. Which is too heavy for a runner, especially one of any distance. I was reminded of this regularly. The guy at the local shoe store there on Fry Street loved me. I stopped in regularly to get a new pair of Asics. He took pity on me with some pretty great discounts and naturally I sent everyone to him.
I ran in Tucson, Phoenix, hell the Army had an MWR (morale, Welfare, and Recreation) run through Death Valley. I did that one twice and it nearly killed me. So, that little voice in the back of my head about being too big to run came to the front and with a new wife came a new life. Oh, I still ran here and there, I largely gave up on running until i got back to Alpine in '89.
That period, I would get out and run the loop road, or to the airport and back, I ran in from the road side park out west of town and from the Y. It was a great stress reliever.
One of the last times I went out for a run was pretty early on in my current relationship. I had been going out pretty regularly for a two to three mile run, when one morning I had stopped out by the airport on my way back into town to walk and drink some water and I met a guy who was also out for a run. it turned out he was in town to make a superbowl commercial for Footlocker. Oddly enough, I had gotten a day job as Assistant to the Location Manager for that same shoot. The runner was Joe Falcon. He was a real nice man and yes, he did find it odd that someone of my size was out running. I couldn't believe that I had just met a world class runner in Alpine. The last I heard, he had become a police officer or something of that nature.
I woke up from this dream where I was running around loop road, waving at Roy Dodson, who was painting a door leaned up against the rock wall in front of his house, with fireworks going off at the park in the middle of the day. I sat up. Then, I stood up and my feet groaned. Today, i'm somewhere north of 300 pounds. All the years of pavement pounding and the resulting arthritis and bone spurs reminded me i'm still too big to run, but as long as I keep moving toward the next destination i'm still in the race.
It is my custom to post around my Birthday even when I post nothing further in the year. I recently turned 52 and this will have to suffice as my celebratory post. These days my thoughts are of my family. My aging parents who no longer go to bed late and get up early, but have traded that for something horrifyingly different. My children whom have all grown and found lives of their very own. My little grandchildren whom I could never see enough. Most interestingly, i'm watching all the friends from all the years have their faces betrayed by time and the crisp colors of their hair turned into a rainbow of starlight revealing the pain and wisdom hard won in races of their own.
As I keep moving toward the next destination I pray that each of you stays in the race for you are valued. A little more wrinkle, a little more silver, or even being too big to run are preferable to no race at all.
Until I write again, Peace be with you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Don't Miss Out

    Today is November 10, 2015. It's been nearly a year since my last posting. For all intents and purposes, i've lost the spark, or desire, or quite possibly my muse did a no call/ no show at some time previous. I have no idea which is the relevant answer. What I do know is I've stopped writing. Writing has always been a compulsion. More to the point an obsession. Tiny scribblings of pieces and parts strewn about like prayers upon the wind. Alas: no litter, prayers, or wind. I'm left with the smoldering embers of a fire whose smoke rises in small wisps staining the walls and choking the apparatus. I owe myself so much more. I owe my children more. I owe my reluctant audience more.
     I turned Fifty this year. The day came and went without incident. Any attempt from me to illustrate my relief at waking the next day would be feeble at best...Perhaps, I digress.
     When I was approaching my Thirtieth Birthday an acquaintance of mine offered the following, "Nothing is ever the same after you turn Thirty." It was within a few weeks following my Thirtieth when I had my collapse. Was this the product of self fulfilling thought or had I been running on the fringe of human endurance for so long I just gave out? I don't know and it will remain unanswered. That same day this acquaintance went on to state, "...and if you think Thirty is rough, just wait till you hit Fifty. Oh Man!!!"
     Thirty was a turning point for me. No more caffeine or stimulants of any kind and the beginning of a stunning inventory of medications which has taken the better part of Twenty years to hammer out and pare down to a handful which will accompany me the entirety of my days. So, with her words about Fifty echoing through my skull, I spent the better part of a year vacillating between: fear, anxiety, and reconciliation.
     In the weeks leading up to my birthday, I could feel myself becoming more and more out of control. I'm not talking about the sort of control we would like to believe we hold over our lives, but the control over the thoughts betraying me at every turn. My attendance at work suffered, my home life suffered, and those closest to me suffered in there was absolutely nothing they could do for me. Then the night before my birthday, just before I went to bed, I said my Rosary for what I believed to be the last time. I patted my sleeping partner on the forehead and stroked her face. Just before laying my head down, i placed a note to my best friend with everything he'd need to know under my phone. In that moment, my life was complete. Perhaps not complete, but settled to a reasonable degree.
     On April 20th, I woke. My life continued. I looked up and said, "Thank You." It seemed like the reasonable thing to do.
     Since that morning, I've been working at being alive. I've seen a Cardiologist, all clear there. My Widower Son-in Law has become engaged to a great woman. She is not a replacement for my Daughter, rather she is the next incarnation of his life. I wish them all the best and more. Over the fourth of July, I was reacquainted with my oldest son. I met his wife and their two children. They are a fine young family. They are conscientious parents and my Grandchildren are no less than what i'd expect them to be, and beautiful too. My boys whom are half out of the nest are turning into fine men. All I expect of my children is to obey the law and do something with their lives and they are actively working it. My job is very trying at times, but as I consider these folks an extension of my own family, I do my best to provide them with the best I have.
     Looking back to my birthday this year, had I stayed sleeping en perpetuity, I would have missed out on a great many things. Then again, those people in my life, most certainly, would have missed out as well. If I am to retrieve a single pearl from this it has to be nothing short of it isn't over until it is over. Try not to sweat the silliness around you and as Matthew McConaughey says, "Just Keep Livin!"

Until I write you again, Peace be with you,

Sunday, January 25, 2015

On the occasion of January 25th

 Please, Forgive me. It's been nearly ten months since I have written anything in here. To say that i've been busy wouldn't be lying, but it's not exactly the truth either. I've been doing what all functioning mentally ill people do; get up everyday, deal with it, and hope my train doesn't derail in public. Toward that end, I was hired by a friend of mine to handle her business' virtual presence and to automate some of its associated processes (They are teaching me to repair sewing machines too, what a bonus!!!). It is not hyperbole when I say, "She saved my life". Even her knowing how the rats tear at my skull, she still hired me when so many others have not. I will love her forever.
Given the nature of my job, I have hours to think. An endless parade of point, counter-point. A focus for the echoes, the could haves, the should haves, and the wills yet to see fruition.
Everyone has benchmarks in their calendar which bring about celebration or remembrance. For me January brings about a period of remembrance.
The end of January is a hard time for me. The weather usually matches my mood, though today, as I write, it's in the 70's, sunny  and a lite breeze. What might be deemed the perfect weather seems oddly appropriate for the "Thesis Du Jour".
My Grandfather (above), teacher, life coach, confidant, and friend died this day in 1994. He left this world in a very short time and left a void in my life which I never expect to fill. My Daughter (Right), teacher, life coach, confidant and friend died this day in 2005. Today marks the tenth anniversary of her passing.
Few helped shape me as these two have. Funny and all weathered. Each possessing a zest for life and a boundless curiosity of all things. Music lovers and rascals each, they left this world a smaller place, but the memories and stories we tell brighten my cave.
A friend from my youth lost her husband a year or so back and the only thing I could think of was what not to say. That thing being, "I'm sorry".  Another friend from my youth lost her son recently and i've struggled at something of value to say to her and again, my words fail me.
I've been to far too many funerals and the words, "I'm sorry" just don't assuage anything. The intent may be present, but the substance is gone. It's all used up. Condolences should never produce numbness and ire. Yet the desire to say something generally overrides sensibility and we are left with "I'm sorry". I could postulate a thousand theories as to why we use sorry in that venue, but I believe most of us could. "My thoughts and prayers are with you", grows more stale by the day, but it really is the thought that counts at times like these. Though it doesn't have to be. With a little effort we can bridge a span of that gulf which lies between the living and those surviving, but it takes initiative on your part. In the absence of that initiative, we default to what's handy.
So we march on. We remember those gone on and await our own mystery to unfold. Every day an unknown. Don't waste it on the petty. Instead, visit your Grandmother and show your children where you come from, go call a friend just to let them know you are thinking of them, hold your child even if they are grown. Today is the day to tell them who they are to you.

Until I write again, Peace be with you,