Sunday, March 29, 2009

Empty Nest, Broken Heart

So, here's a couple pics of Hurricane Jake sporting his new shirt while we're waiting around to take the stage at the Ag-Expo.  

Something weird is happening right now, I'm writing this blog entry from Jake's room.  That in itself doesn't seem all that strange, the weird thing is; Jake's not here.  Sadly for his mother and I, Hurricane Jake took his act on the road, Hurricane Jake left the nest, Hurricane Jake stepped out of the cozy, safe confines of mom and dad's house into the cold harsh world, taking his Elvis posters, guitars, furniture and amplifiers along with a huge piece of my heart.  

The first three days were pretty rough on Hurricane's parents, his mom laid around the house eating, dad laid around the house thumbing through photo albums crying.  I vividly recall bringing the little guy home from the hospital, sending him off to his first day of Kindergarten, watching his first football game, his first guitar, his first girlfriend, his first car and a thousand other memories.  Suddenly I find myself all alone in a room that used to be filled with joy, wondering where the time went.  

I'm pretty sure I'll be able to process this whole thing as time goes by.  I know he did the right thing, it was time for him to move on, but right now it hurts pretty bad.

Friday, January 30, 2009

So, I had this dream last night.  It was a little look into my existence as if it were a walk through a tunnel, always downhill and always curved so I can't see where I'm going or where I've been. The stream of people is steady and each person on the journey is carrying a picture of themselves, the picture captures them at a younger age in what they consider their prime.  Take a walk with me.


As I walk, I can't help but notice that the people in front of me are giving me a clue into my future, I see how they age and their footsteps begin to slow down, their once snappy cadence seems to have lost its vigor, like a slowly unwinding spring losing its tension.  Strangely though, they always remain ahead of me on the slow trudge downward. Each carries a picture of themselves from a point along the road.  They chatter with excitement as they narrate the little pieces of still-life to anyone willing to listen.  As the scene pours over me, I can't help but notice how time and the journey has painted them nearly unrecognizable from the persons captured in the image.  Gray hair, wrinkles and limps of various kinds serve to disguise them and hide what was.  I can't help but think that those in line are slowly unraveling like a large ball of twine and soon their end will be found.

Occasionally a marcher sits by the wayside staring into the picture of their youth silently longing to have someone stop and share their moment in time.  Those passing dare not make eye contact or slow down fearing that somehow the disease of aging will infect them and rob them of their precious time.  As I walked the road I did something that seemed very wrong, as I passed one of the men seated by the wayside I shared an indiscretion - our eyes met - I winced, the contact was almost painful I trained my gaze back to the floor in front of me, however my moment of weakness allowed the distraught man the launching pad he needed.  He began to sing a song, directly into my ears, and my ears alone, his dirge was slow and precise uttered with a bit of tremolo in his ancient voice:

Brother - take a look, look into my soul.
Tell me what you see, tell me what lies down below.
Is it the man I am or is it the boy I used to be?
Am I strong?
Am I weak?
Will you reach for me and help me find relief?
I'm all alone.
Trapped inside a silent world.

His words seared my conscience like a hot iron on flesh, the haunting melody drove my feet into silence as if they became too heavy to move.  I looked back at the man, his eyes now appeared as windows and as mirrors.  A window deep into the man and a mirror in which I could see my future, the effect of time on a body, his wrinkles and gray hair would soon be my own.  Yet there was also something compelling in his appearance after a moment of searching I discoveed something, it wasn't in how he looked, he almost appeared repulsive, it was in fact that we'd shared a moment of real humanity, our hearts had touched as his song had washed over my hesitant ears.

He beckoned me to come sit with him, moving over to one end of an oak bench that gave the appearance of a butcher's block.  I could do no other, I had to sit down.  I studied his appearance and noticed that we had on the same clothing, his was faded and worn from the journey much more so than mine.  On his chest was a name tag that read: ANCIENT

I stared into Ancient waiting for him to tell me the story captured in the photograph he held, that seemed to be the norm for such an encounter, I'd seen quite a few of them on my journey.  After several hours of silence, I realized that this wasn't an ordinary meeting.  I felt drawn to ask the man some questions, he appeared to be full of wisdom.

Trout:  Tell me sir; where does this road go?

Without hesitation the man answered.

Ancient: This road takes us to death and to eternity. 

Trout:  How far is it?

Ancient:  The same distance for everyone, it goes from start to finish.

Trout: How can that be?  Some leave the tunnel early, others travel far.

Ancient:  Traveling into eternity one never goes "far", one only goes.

Trout: You said the road leads to death.  Why must we go there first, why doesn't this road lead to eternity?

Ancient:  We must first be changed, we cannot go like this.

Trout: Why?

Ancient:  Eternity only allows perfection to roam her hallowed halls.  To live imperfect in eternity's house would be the very definition of Hell. Being exposed for what you are under the white light of forever's scrutiny would burn you, yet eternity would dictate that you must not be consumed.

His word picture was chilling, making me wish I had my coat.  I curled up on the bench for a nap hoping to digest all that had happened and perhaps even forget the future that had been revealed.  I closed my eyes but the sleep I found was uneasy, even tiring in a way.  I woke up to find myself alone on the bench, my slumber was such that I was glad to be awake.  I wondered where Ancient had gone, I looked at the spot on the bench where I'd last seen him.  Instead of finding him, I saw a note.  I wondered briefly whether or not I should read the note or just get up and leave, continuing my journey downward, content in what was left of my ignorance. I knew I could not, I must know what the note said.  I grabbed the note, I had to see what was inside.  

As I read the note each word disappeared as if it had been ingested and consumed, it read:


There were two more questions you wanted to ask me, I couldn't wait for you to awaken to give the answers in person, the journey called my name.  I'll finish our conversation here.  You wanted to know why the old are never overtaken on the journey by the young even though the young walk faster.  As a boy I wondered the same thing, as Ancient it seems all too obvious.  Time speeds up for the old, a summer has become like an afternoon, a year has become like a young man's week.  A boy's day spent trapped inside the house on a rainy day seems to play out for eons, for the old man it's but the blink of an eye.  My advice to you is enjoy every raindrop, breathe in and savor each and every moment, this life is far too fleeting and evanescent to rush down the tunnel.

As for your other question, Brother, I've written the answer on the back of this note - the moment you're going to die -  it's yours to see or to ignore, few are offered this knowledge for good reason, it hastens the journey.

Farewell, Brother.  Drink in the journey to its fullest.

As the last word disappeared into my eyes, I was left staring at a blank page.  I was wishing that I'd never made eye contact with Ancient, there was no way I could un-see or un-hear any of the things I'd learned.  They were part of me now.  I couldn't help but hate myself a little bit for what was about to happen, I knew that I could never leave the back of the note unread, I didn't have that kind of power.  Given such a choice I had to look into my future.

I turned over the note and watched the numbers disappear into my soul sealing my fate.  

In one hand was my photo, in the other, Ancient's note, in between them a man facing the present.  Longing for the past, fated to die, I did the only thing I could . . . I stretched out on the bench and wept. 


I wonder about the signifigance of such things, dreams and daydreams.  I have quite a few interesting dreams, so many that I have a pad and pencil next to the bed where I can write them down before they're forgotten in my morning coffee.  As I reflect on them I notice scraps of conversations I've had with people and images I've seen that have left an impression on me.   Or maybe I'm insane.  Either way I'm fine with it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

RIP Uncle Deke 1943 - 2009

Meet my Uncle Deke, he's seated on the wall on the left hand side of the above picture.  Those other two people are my mom and dad.  My mom decided to stay home when it was time to go to Deke's funeral but she gave us a note and told us to give it to Deke if it was possible.   What a wild man he was, and what an impact he had on my life.  He was born in Carbon County Utah in 1943, and there he died.  He was an extraordinary person, he was quick witted, tall and handsome, had a voice that commanded attention and the most wonderful smile I've ever seen. His smile was contagious, he smiled and it's as if a warm summer breeze blew over you.  I remember many things about Deke, many great stories that are told frequently among my family wherever we gather, but not surprisingly I learned something new about Uncle Deke at his funeral.  First, let me hit some of the stories I remember:  

True Story: Uncle Deke holds an unbreakable record in Carbon County Utah, most arrests. Nearly 200.

True Story: Uncle Deke believed that the firewood cutters were going to cut down all the trees on his favorite mountain, he took it upon himself to block the road and have an armed standoff with the sheriff. The sheriff saw through his binoculars that Deke had a bottle of Jack Daniel's with him. The sheriff waited until Deke passed out, then went and got him.

True Story: Uncle Deke rolled me my first ever cigarette, I was 10.  We were getting ready to pour some concrete sidewalk and Deke decided it was break time.  He said, "Let's take five"  Deke then proceeded to roll a cigarette, to my surprise he handed it to me and said, "I'd feel bad having a cigarette without you, here you go, I'm not going to light it cause I know you're ma would be mad."  I felt like a real man sharing that moment with Uncle Deke.

True Story: As I watched in horror, Uncle Deke ran over my pet duck, (DuckyDaddle) I ran out into the road and knelt down next to Ducky Daddle sobbing, Uncle Deke knelt down next to me sobbing, but it was a miracle, Ducky Daddle was only stunned, he got up and walked away. He was no worse for wear, he only lost a couple tail feathers.

True Story: I was mad at my dad one day and went to vent my frustration to Uncle Deke. Uncle Deke listened for about 10 seconds and said, "Your dad is the finest man I've ever known, you say one more bad thing about him and I'm going to kick your ass, now go home, tell him you're sorry and do whatever he tells you".

True Story: While deer hunting, the road we were camped on became nearly impassable due to mud. Deke, myself, my dad and my brother were in the cab of my dad's truck, it's pitch dark outside. Dad decided it was time to throw on the tire chains, Deke jumped out and tried to put them on, but due to Deke's blood alcohol content, he was only able to lay down, roll around and get muddy from head to toe  - so much so - that my dad wouldn't let him in the cab, dad told Deke to ride in the back. Dad put the chains on and blasted off down the road to camp probably a couple miles, he really had to "go-for-it" to make it through some of the mudholes.   We get to camp - no Deke - dad had hit a bump so hard that Deke had flown out of the bed of the truck into the road. My brother and I hadn't noticed, we were scared that dad was driving like a maniac because A) he didn't want to get stuck B) he was really pissed at Deke for being drunk and muddy.

We hopped out of the truck and could faintly hear Deke's cries, "Yo, Gene, I fell out of the truck . . . wait for me, I fell out of the truck"

Dad said, "#&$^, you boys wait here while I go get your Uncle Deke".

True Story: My dad and Uncle Deke were working on a high rise project in SLC, one morning they got to work and found a man getting ready to jump off the building and kill himself. Uncle Deke talked him out of it.  The man had thrown a chair through a picture window on the 12th floor and was standing on the ledge getting ready to launch himself onto the street below.  My dad and Deke spotted him and went inside the room to try to talk to him.  The jumper talked for a minute or two with both of them then told my dad to, "get the hell out of there".  Thirty minutes later Deke walked out of the room with his arm over the shoulder of the jumper.

True Story: Uncle Deke was staying with us one hot summer night, the neighbors were having a HORRIBLE fight next door, I mean a plate throwing, sailor language, hair pulling knock down drag out fight. The woman was mad at her husband because he'd smoked all the cigarettes and refused to go get more. It went on for quite a while, finally Uncle Deke got up, put his pants on ran outside and threw a pack of cigarettes through the neighbor's window and said, "Shut the $&*# up we're trying to get some %^&ing sleep over here, and watch your language there's some little kids here".

True Story:  One payday when my dad and Deke were working together they decided to go to the bar to cash their paychecks instead of coming right home. (Deke was living with us at the time)  They stayed at the bar and played a few games of pool and didn't get home until about 8 o'clock.  Mom was FURIOUS.  When they finally got home, dad came into the house, took off his boots, put down his lunchbox and asked, "So, what's for dinner?"  My mom whirled around with daggers in her eyes and said, "Dinner was at 5".  I think those were the last words spoken in the house that night.  Mom had conveyed plenty of meaning using that short sentence.  Dad and Deke went to bed hungry.  The next morning nothing had thawed out, tension was still at critical mass.  We were having breakfast at the table when Deke came into the kitchen.  He sat down with his coffee and was very quiet.  He waited until my mom came to the table to give him his breakfast, then Deke flashed my mother his trademark smile, and with his wonderful voice asked, "So, Eva, what time's dinner tonight?"  We all looked in horror at my mother, we just knew her head was going to explode and it wasn't going to be pretty.  She looked at Deke for about ten seconds - in complete silence - then she couldn't take it any longer, she began to laugh, then we ALL had a good laugh.  What great timing Deke had.

At the burial, Deke was laid to rest next to his wife Sharon who died last Spring.  His funeral announcement said that Deke had died of a broken heart.  I really thought that was just something nice his brother had added to the program, Deke didn't strike me as the hopeless romantic.  When we were at the cemetary I found the headstone that had been moved so Deke's grave could be dug next to Sharon's.  It had the most wonderful tribute to not only Sharon, but a look inside my Uncle Deke's heart as well: 

It reads:

"A death has occured and everything is changed by this event.  We are painfully aware that life can never be the same again.  But there is another way to look upon this truth.  If life went on the same without the presence of the one who has died, we could conclude that the life remembered filled no space - meant nothing.  Life can be the same after a trinket has been lost, but never after the loss of a treasure.  Deke."

When I was saying goodbye to Deke at the viewing I remembered the note I'd been given by my mother.  I held it in my hand and I couldn't help but take a peek at it before I put it with Deke.  I unfolded it and in my mother's handwriting it said, "Deke . . . dinner's at 5"

Thanks for everything, Uncle Deke.  You may be gone but you certainly aren't forgotten.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The "Chuck Norris" of Swimming

Something very cool happened to me tonight, my young friends at the pool gave me a new nickname and a new shirt.

The Chuck Norris of Swimming

I'm all kinds of proud.

My swimming career began when I was 6, my mom took me to the pool for some lessons, I had a fascination for water and she was worried about me drowning.  

The pool we went to had a swim team, I really wanted to be on the team, I begged my mom to let me try out, I overheard her speaking with the coach one day, she asked what it would take to get me on the team, the coach told my mom that I really wasn't cut out for swimming, he suggested that I try something else.  Well, a couple of years later I'm pretty sure I'd proved the coach wrong.

I swam from the age of 6 up to to the age of 12.  Swimming practice two hours a day 5 days a week year round tends to burn a little guy out, even on something he loves.

I picked up swimming again when I was about 18, I swam for a few months to get myself in shape for a triathlon.  After the race, I stopped.

Two years ago I decided to pick it up again, I'm really enjoying my time at the pool, it's been a lot of hard work, but it's been paying off as well.  Not only is it good exercise, but swimming on  a team adds an element of fellowship that was lacking in my exercise life.  It's hard to stay motivated 
when you're all by yourself.  That isn't a problem when there are others around with similar goals.  

I swam my first race since making my comeback a few months ago, it was an open water race, the swimming leg of a triathlon relay.  The course was about 900 yards long, there were 364 swimmers ranging in age from 14 to 75.  My time was fourth best overall.  with less than three seconds seperating 2nd, 3rd and 4th.  The overall winner was only twenty seconds faster than me.  

Not bad for an aging grandfather with asthma and a bad heart, eh?

"Chuck Norris" can hardly wait for his next race.