October

Camden, fall is my favorite time of year. October is my favorite month. The leaves start to turn, and temperatures start to drop. You can enjoy the outdoors without sweating your ass off.

Another reason is that October is my birth month. I am getting older, but I am not getting old. The best is yet to come.

Even more important is that in October you have the baseball playoffs, college football and professional football all going on at the same time. The Cards are normally in the mix of the playoffs. We are spoiled fans.

I almost forgot that my St. Louis friends also have hockey. I tend to forget about hockey.

Camden let’s get back to baseball for a moment. A sport born in America. Not
Canada. Just saying. Before the wildcard game I bought tickets for the playoff series against the Giants. I was confident I would be extending my vacation. Well it did not work out. Next year is our year Camden. Yes, next year. Stub Hub owes me money so I will look into Opening Day 2022 tickets. Never been to Opening Day. That is something I need to do.

Anyway October will soon be over so I figured that I better get these photos out before I had to change the title.

I try to make the Tiger’s Homecoming game each year. Here are a few photos. Okay, more than a few. Sorry, Memory Maker had a mind of its own.

Camden let’s start with a little history. I once had a family of little Tigers. Here they are on the 26th of October 2002. For Homecoming that year we played the school that we shall not name. We kicked their ass. We should play them every Homecoming.

Camden here is the gang of 2021. Not everyone was able to make it this year. Now next year I expect more people. It was pointed out to me that 2022 will mark 40 years since graduation. Hope to see everyone at the Homecoming

Tailgate /Class Reunion.

A gift from Amy. Did I mention that October was my birth month.
Here you go Amy

Okay, I will try to get back on the Homecoming track.

Camden I have been making it back to Homecoming for…well a long time.

A few years ago I decided to make a week of it and spend time exploring my Homeland and seeing friends.

When I decided to do this I told a friend of my plan. My friend also happened to be my therapist. He asked me if I considered what I was going to do as my farewell tour.

I laughed and told him no that was not the case at all. I was a long way from having a farewell tour. I told him that it was more of a Get Reacquainted With Kev Tour. It would allow me to reconnect with friends. Just in case.

Camden I want to take you through part of this year’s trip. I am going to save my visit to my hometown for another day. It needs a post all its own. Over the years I have written that essay over and over. It is just not ready. Someday it will happen.

Let’s start with Thursday. Why Thursday? Well that is the day I took a walk around the university. Here we go.

I found this troubled youth the day after the wildcard game. He was sitting on a bench near the Quad. I asked if he knew where he was. He told me that he wanted to gloat for just one day. I wished him luck surviving the day.

Camden, Middlebush is where the business school was located when I was in college. It was where I had many of my classes. I would hangout just inside these doors. The business school no longer calls this building home. I went inside to look around. While hanging out beneath where the clock was once located a guy asked me to sign his notebook. He looked a little pale and was actually as white as a sheet. As he floated away I asked him his name. He said: Harry…Harry Hartel. He then disappeared. Could Middlebush be haunted? Well, it is October.

This is the current business school. I do not think I could walk into this building hung over. I would have to consider changing my major. I am getting a little dizzy just taking this picture, and I have not been drinking. Maybe.

After walking out of the business school I headed toward the bookstore. I have not been there in a few years. My visits are normally expensive.

On the way to the bookstore I took a picture. It seemed like a Kodak moment. Maybe next time that tent will not be there.

Once in the bookstore I took this picture. I thought what if I could get someone to turn the lights off behind the Tiger. So I asked. That was a mistake.

The lady listened to me. Then she asked who I worked for, and she wanted to know what I was going to do with the pictures I had taken. She asked to see my credentials.

She added that no one was allowed to take pictures inside the bookstore without getting permission and credentials. Credentials? We don’t need no stinking credentials. (Very old Mel Brooks reference)

Then I realized that this lady must think that I am a professional. I guess I should have used my iPhone. It actually does a decent job most of the time.

I tried to explain that I was just an alum in town for Homecoming. It was “Homecoming Week” I told her. She asked me to stop taking pictures.

I told her not to worry that I did not even have any film in the camera. Okay, maybe I did not think of that at the time. I wish I had. That would have been funny.

Or I should have told her that I was with Sports Illustrated and that I was in town to shoot the football game. After the game I would be on my way to an exotic location to shoot the next Swimsuit Addition. Hey, a guy can dream. Well, I did not think of that either.

So what did I do when she asked me to stop taking pictures. Well…

I took this photo. Then I got the hell out of there.

So Camden a couple of firsts happened to me on this visit to the bookstore. Number one is that I did not make a purchase. I always make a purchase. If nothing else I buy you something. That lady saved me some money.

The other first was that I got kicked out of the bookstore. Sort of, I guess. Well that is my story.

I was not going to wait around for someone to show up with handcuffs and give me an Honorary Degree in Stupidity. Or maybe they would just give me a sign.

You can bet that next year I will show up with credentials. As well as a good cover story. I hope I can find that same lady. I would like to tell her about my career with Sports Illustrated.

After leaving the bookstore I headed over to 9th Street to see how the students had decorated the windows of the downtown businesses.

The Heidelberg. Interesting story about the Heidelberg Camden. It is the only bar where I have ever gotten sick my entire life. I was nineteen. I did make it to the bathroom. That gross piece of information might become helpful when playing Dead Man Trivia.

The artists
Oh yes, the great philosopher Ricky Bobby. Or his dad. I guess you had to see the movie.

Have several more pictures, but this cannot go on forever so moving on.

Had dinner with my friend Vicki Thursday evening. Had not seen her in a couple of years. It was nice to catch up. Of course after dinner we went out for ice cream.

What did I do on Friday?

Spent the day with Mom, my brother Keith, and Uncle Jimmie in Mexico. The city not the country.

Friday night went back to campus to see the decorations and skits in Greek Town. Not as many people there as in the past. Damn Covid.

I had to include this. Amy was a Chi O at the school that shall not be named. My Nieces Megan and Melanie were Chi Omega’s at MIZZOU. Love my Nieces to pieces. You too Amy.

I could not stay at the Chi O house long. Had to get over to the Tri Sigma Sorority. My Niece Allison is a Freshman at MIZZOU this year and pledging Tri Sigma. Had to see the show.

Tri Sigma
Allison was Truman.
Somewhere in Greek town

As the evening wound down I headed over to Shakespeare’s to meet up with Dave. I cut through the Quad. Yes I stayed off the grass. I took a picture.

Camden, they told us that we had an hour wait to be seated at Shakespeare’s. So we went to Las Margaritas and had drinks. Dave called Shakespeare’s and ordered carryout. Pizza was ready in 20 minutes. Went to Shakespeare’s got our order and found an empty table. An hour wait my ass. We then called it a night. We are older. Also wiser. Maybe.

Camden when you are in Columbia checking out the university you have to eat at Shakespeare’s. The one on 9th street.  Be sure to stop at Sparky’s for dessert. The Heidelberg is also a good place to eat and drink. You can skip getting sick in the restroom. Please.

It is now Saturday. Homecoming 2021. I needed to get up early to grab a parking spot for the parade. I did not. Damn!

So I did not make the parade this year. I was sent this picture. I wonder why. Remember, my Kansas friends, that I did not take the picture. (I wish I had.)

Off to our tailgate location. Camden these are my friends from college. You saw the group picture earlier. I have known these good people for over forty years. One of them I have known much longer. I have known Dave since fourth grade. We have many stories. I am still collecting money from him to keep me from telling his daughters some of those stories. He bought the pizza.

Let me show you some pictures.

Here we have Leslie and Julie. Two of my favorite people that I have known my entire adult life. Which means I have known them for almost six months.
Julie needing tech help from her daughter Caroline. “Can you help me find that Snap Shit app Kevin talks about?”
Caroline, Tammy, or Julie have any of you seen Dave. No we have not. We have just been enjoying our conversation. It has been nice and quiet. Have not seen him. Caroline maybe you need to find your dad.
Steve, Tammy, and Kevin

Steve and Kevin are responsible for organizing the tailgate and Kevin gets everyone tickets. Could not happen without them. They have not seen Dave.

Camden here are my friends Nanci and Ron.

Ron and I lived together for two years in college. One semester he borrowed one of my upper-level economics textbooks. At the end of the semester he sold my book back to the bookstore. He was a true capitalist. Buy low (or borrow) sell high.

Nanci and I never lived together.

Camden this is Natalie. She is Dave’s fourth and youngest daughter. I asked her if she had seen her dad. She had not. She did not seem to be upset about her dad being missing. I do not think she gets upset over anything. Very bubbly personality. I have known her since she was a baby. For a few years she and her family lived two blocks from me in Wichita.

Many Saturdays I would go out for a run and I would end up at her house. Dave would give me a beer and we watched football. After a beer or two or three I figured my run should be over by now so it was time to head home. I did not win any races that year.

Leslie and Kevin found Dave. He said that he had been here the entire time. Well except when the game started. He went to the game.

That must be why I could not find him. I did not go to the game. Stayed at the tailgate having fun visiting with Nanci.

Well the game is over and we won. Not sure we will win another game this year. Just not looking good.

The delicious food has been eaten and the area has been picked up. Tents taken down the coolers are empty. Dave has been found.

Natalie reacting to the news that her dad had been found. He is buying dinner.

Camden, one year, maybe next year I can take you to Homecoming. I will have a talk with your parents.

Nanci stayed with me at our tailgate location. Thank you Nanci.  I found comfort in your company.

Camden I had to deal with a bout of discomfort while with my friends. I am still trying to recover from my latest surgery. This one was difficult. I was unable to go to the game. I guess I could have, but I would have been miserable. I try not to let people see me when I feel that way. It has gotten more difficult to hide. Social media as we all know can be deceiving. People have not nor most likely will they ever see pictures when I am not well.

These are a few of my friends Camden. They are the best.

Well my Uber has arrived which means that it is time to leave. I will see you next week. I think we are going to stop somewhere and get a cat out of a tree.

Later.

Papa

The Greatest Day of My Life

What was the greatest day of your life?

Camden, I know that you are too young to yet answer that question.

But I am not.

Why am I even trying to answer that question?

Well, it is on one of my lists of writing prompt questions. Many of these questions involve self-reflection. Searching for my inner Oprah.

I have a few of these types of questions that I have answered. This one I have been avoiding. It is not that I do not want to answer the question. I would really like to know what I actually think on this topic. It is just which day do I choose and why? It is the why that is getting me.

I decided recently that I would seriously try to answer that question. I figured what the hell, if I had to be off work for over three weeks I might as well give it a shot.

Let’s start by taking a closer look at the question. Camden you can move back from the computer screen. You do not need to look at the question that close.

The question itself reminds me of the quote attributed to Mark Twain.

“The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you realized why you were born.”

Some say that Twain never said that. I do not care. Samuel was a Missouri boy so we will give him the credit.

Would it be easier to discover my greatest day if I realized why I was born?

But first I will have to ignore the obvious. My parent’s hormones got the best of them one night in the back seat of a Chevy. I need to look for a more philosophical reason for why I was born.

It has been written that humans are born to contribute. I think that I will try to run with that idea.

With that in mind do I pick out the greatest day that I might have contributed to society?

Would my greatest day encompass something I did? Money I donated?

Would I discover that my greatest day involved work, leisure, or philanthropy?

Am I over thinking this whole thing? Probably. That is what happens when I am off work for so long.

I started thinking about past work experiences that might fit the bill.

I wondered if it could be the day I stood in front of a man sitting on a couch while he held a gun to his head telling me that he was going to shoot himself.

No it was not that experience. That man did shoot himself. Therefore no one invited me to become a member of the crisis negotiation team.

The guy did live. So that was good. If you are wondering how he lived and what became of him, well that is an interesting story for another day.

Anyway that would not be my greatest day.

I thought of work-related rewards I had received. That review did not take awfully long. No, nothing there.

Moving to thoughts of my personal life. This must be where I will discover my greatest day.

Was it holding the door for the man at the post office who could not see over the top of his packages he was holding. No.

Was it saying hello and having a short conversation to a person I met on the street who really needed someone to notice that they actually existed. No.

Is it the money I have taken from each paycheck for the United Way. No, I am not Bill Gates so I do not see what I have donated really has anything to do with my greatest day.

Was it my wedding day. No, but I might be getting warm.

Was it the birth of my children. No, but almost.

After giving this much thought I have concluded that Erin’s wedding day was/is the greatest day of my life.

Now it has been brought to my attention that I might be trying to get myself out of the doghouse and back into her good graces since I recently had the littles dressed in Tiger clothing.

No that is not it. Maybe a little at first, but the more I thought about it I will stick with that being my greatest day. Let me explain.

I was having trouble choosing my greatest day. Then I started thinking that I was looking at this in the wrong way. My greatest day was not something that just happened. No my greatest day was the accumulation of many past days that when put together helped create what I might call my greatest day.

Your mom’s wedding is a snapshot in time to most, but to me it is the accumulation of my life.

I was in the room when she was born. I was there for her first cry. I cut the cord. I held her in my arms and looked at the tiny person we had created.

I watched her grow and mature into a wonderful, beautiful woman. She has always made me proud.

I would like to think that I played a role in the person she has become.

I remember all those evenings when I arrived home from work in the late evenings and walked into the house to be met by a screaming Erin who was refusing to sleep.

I would put her in the car, and we would go for a ride. She just wanted some dad time. When she got her fill, which sometimes did not take very long, back home we went.

As she grew we had many discussions and debates. Sometimes even arguments. Imagine that. You name a topic and we talked about it. Did not have Google back then so sometimes I had to produce answers off the top of my head. Not sure I was right all the time, but at least most of the time it worked. It’s just the weather Erin. (Inside Joke)

She grew up, while I grew out. Then one day she was all grown up.

In high school Steven started hanging out at my house wearing a Cardinals shirt. Smart kid.

Not sure when they started dating. I think Erin gave me a bogus birth certificate showing she was older than she was in order to go on dates with Steven. I cannot remember years and ages, or maybe I liked the kid.

After that, our time together started to diminish. We still had our talks. Just not as often.

Then came the day she told me that she was going to KU instead of the University of Missouri. Steven was going to KU. I should have seen that coming.

Then they got engaged.

A date was picked and plans were made. My contribution to all that I think was in helping plan the budget. I came up with a number I thought we should not exceed. It was a large sum of money. Others did not think so. I was fired. I still do not even know how much it actually cost. I think we were over budget. We survived. Looking back it was money well spent.

The week of the wedding Erin was home. We got to talk, reminisce, and laugh. Then I told her that I wanted to do one of those surprise wedding dances that Fathers have with their Daughter’s.

She laughed. Then she realized that I was really serious. She choreographed a dance. We only had a few days. We worked on it every night. I needed more time.  Not just more time to learn the dance, but more time with your mother.

Not many people knew that we had a dance surprise. It was fun. I still remember it very well.

Let’s get this party started.
Nailed it. Almost.

I remember the dance, and I remember that week. A week of reminiscing about the past and talking about the future.

The ending was excellent

I knew that soon I would be walking her down the aisle. I would be giving her away.

Giving her away?

Camden it is a custom dating back to…hell I do not know. A long time ago when the daughter was considered property of the father. Glad we have evolved. I like to think that it was a way for us to show our blessing.

It was a week that I knew would someday happen. A week to make more Father and Daughter memories. I realized that our relationship would change a little. I realized that she was leaving her childhood family to begin a family of her own.

While walking your beautiful mother down the aisle I was fulfilling one of my destinies so to speak. I was completing one of my commitments as a father. She will no longer live in my home but will forever remain a huge part of my life.

We raised her. We loved her. Now it was time for her to start her own family.

I had the privilege of the last walk with Erin Brown.  Steven had the privilege of the first walk with Erin Heger.

Happy 10th Anniversary Erin and Steven Heger.

The 8th day of October 2011 was a day that reminded me of what truly matters. It was the GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE.

For without that day, we would not have this day.

Forgiveness

Camden, I recently took a trip to St. Louis to visit friends.  I was only there one day.  It was a great time, and I do wish I could have stayed longer.  Maybe next time?

Getting there means that I drove through some Homeland.  Now I did not have the time this trip to stop and see everyone that I would really like to see.  So, if you are reading this and you are one of those people I hope that you forgive me for not letting you know I was in the area.  My plan is to return in October for Homecoming.  Not sure if I will be there the week before or the week after Homecoming.  I need to check with a friend to find out which week works best for her busy life and travel plans.  I will let you know.

Camden I did take the time to stop and see my mom.  She did not know that I was coming.  Yes, she was surprised, and at first not very happy.  Maybe a little pissed.  But hey, who could stay pissed at the charming guy that I am for very long?  Do not answer that question!

I did call her when I took the Kingdom City/Fulton exit off of I-70 headed toward Mexico.  Missouri, not the country.  I wanted to make sure she was going to be home and not a doctor’s visit or something else important.  So technically I did give her advanced notice.  What, maybe twenty minutes or so?

At lunchtime, I called Pizza Hut.  They delivered the pizza, breadsticks, sauce, and pop.  Or was it soda?  Or soda-pop? 

Hell, it was Pepsi.  Diet of course.  Mom is watching her figure. 

Of course I had pineapple on the pizza.  Pineapple does belong on pizza.  Just saying. 

My plan worked Camden. 

I did not want mom to go to a lot of trouble.  I did not want her to fix a big meal with three pies and ice cream.  We spent the day talking and going through photo albums. 

She forgave me for the lack of notice. 

I forgave her for no ice cream in the frig.  Hey if you are going to surprise her you get what you get.  I should have asked Pizza Hut to run by Dairy Queen for me.  Next time.

The picture you see here is of me and Uncle Keith on a pony, found in one of those photo albums.  I now have that photo.  I slid it up my sleeve.  The same sleeve where I keep the aces when playing cards.  Do not tell your mom!!  I did tell your great-grandmother that I was taking the photo. 

Along with a few others I found. 

Still do not tell your mom about the cards.  We will keep it between you and me.

Now getting back to the picture.  We are sitting on a pony at my grandpa’s farm.  He would be your great-great-grandfather.   

When we were young grandpa always had a Shetland pony or two as well as other ponies at the farm for us to ride.    

In addition to the row crops, he planted he had cattle and hogs on the farm.  He also from time to time would buy young unbroken ponies and break them.  He would then sell them.  

I will have to explain to you in another essay what I mean by breaking them, and how it was done. 

Basically, he would train the horse so that it could be ridden.  There were always several ponies to choose from to ride when visiting.  Most often the ponies did not stay long after they were trained for riding.  

Grandpa had two ponies that were permanent residents.  High Socks and Lady Bird were the oldest and permanent residents on the farm.  High Socks was auburn color with a black mane and he had white hair running way up each leg that looked like high socks. 

Lady Bird was black and white in color. 

I do not remember how she got her name. 

It would have been the period of President Johnson and First Lady:  Lady Bird Johnson.   Yes, I would imagine that is where it came from.  He also had a Shetland pony that was kept for several years for Keith and me to ride.  

A horse and a pony are different.  Ponies are not baby horses.  Both are measured in hands and a full-grown pony will be shorter than a horse.  He raised ponies.  They looked pretty big to me.  

I am not going to get into it any deeper than that.  I am not an expert and there are exceptions to the is it a horse or a pony rule. 

Nothing is ever easy.  

Take another look at the picture.  We are so cute on that little pony.  

I could not remember the name of the pony.  Nor could I remember the name of the pony that kicked me.  

The only person who could provide me with that information was my uncle.  My dad’s brother.  Mom had given me his phone number a few years ago.  He told her to tell me to call him if I ever wanted to talk. 

Like me, my father, and my grandfather, my uncle also had prostate cancer.  

I decided to call my uncle and talk.  I wanted the names of the ponies.

I dug through my sock drawer and found his number.  I keep many things in my sock drawer.  I will have to talk more about my sock drawer another time.

When I called we talked for a long, long time.  I had not seen my uncle or talked to him in over thirty-two years.  The last time I saw him Camden was right after your mom was born.  So it has been a while.  

We talked about memories from the farm.  We talked about grandma and grandpa.  He filled me in on his life and his two sons.  We talked about my dad.   

I described the picture to him and he told me that “Honey” was the name of the pony that Keith and I were on.  He also told me that “Brown Beauty” was the name of the pony that kicked me. 

Camden, I will give you a little background here and tell you that when I was young I had a fear of walking or standing behind any pony or horse.  I still do.  I do not think anyone should spend much time behind them.  You should pass through that area quickly.  Just my opinion.

I came to that opinion while watching grandpa breaking/taming ponies.  I saw them stand on their hind legs in defiance.   I saw them kick.  I wanted no part of being behind them.  

My uncle decided one day that he was going to help me overcome my fear of standing and walking behind the ponies.  Surprisingly I remember more of the incident than I thought I would.  I do not remember anything after I was kicked. 

This is what I remember.

After refusing over and over again he finally convinced me to stand directly behind Brown Beauty.  I was still not totally sure that this was a place I should be standing so I made sure that I was several feet back.

Once I was there my uncle went into the next stage of his plan. He hit that pony on her ass as hard as he could with his bare hand.  What happened next was not part of his plan.  

The pony kicked.  Brown Beauty kicked with both legs.  Imagine that dear uncle!  

Now this pony was not very tall.  I was seven years old so neither was I.  She tattooed my forehead with both of her hooves.  I went flying backward and hit the ground.

These are the words that my uncle used when he described what he saw.

“When you hit the ground I thought you were dead.”  

I did not ask how he was going to explain that to my parents.  I should have.  He continued talking.

“The pony’s legs were extended straight out so you were far enough back that you did not get the full force.  If you had been standing a quarter of an inch closer you would have been killed.”

My family was a little upset with my uncle.  Just a little.

I was taken to see a doctor in the little bitty town of Laddonia.  Now I would imagine that Laddonia might no longer have a doctor’s office, but 54 years ago they did.  

I have no memory of this so I will kind of wing it.  The doctor said, “Huh.  I think he is going to live.” 

That is when I told everyone present that I was one bad mother …  I heard someone sing, “Shut your mouth.” The legend of Kevin/Shaft Brown then started growing in my scrambled mind.  Actually, I think that was pre-Shaft, but we will overlook that minor detail.  I am not working for the New York Times.  Not yet. 

(I know most people will not get the Shaft reference, but I laughed)

I imagine the doctor mentioned that chocolate ice cream cures everything so I should eat plenty.  I believe that he was the original Team Kev doc. 

Wait a minute, Brutus just kicked me in a rib so I guess I should say that it cures almost everything.  Maybe I have not yet eaten enough?  That is my theory.  I am a walking chocolate ice cream clinical trial.

So since the title of this essay is “Forgiveness,” I guess we might want to talk a little about that here. 

Mom forgave me for not giving her much-advanced notice before showing up at her house.  But as Forgiveness goes that is a very minor situation.   It was more of an apology I gave her for not calling at least five minutes sooner.  An apology and a person feeling they need to be forgiven or a person who feels they need to forgive are two different things in my scrambled mind.  Brown Beauty messed with my brain. 

Regarding the pony taking me out in round one, is there a reason to forgive?  Maybe, I really do not know.  So let me ask a few questions.

Did my uncle intend for the pony to kick me?  I do not think that he did.  Brown Beauty was supposed to be a calm and gentle pony, but I guess no one had smacked her ass to actually find out.  Now we know. 

Did something bad happen as a result of his actions?  Yes, yes it was bad.  I am still trying to get some mileage out of what happened.  You should hear me tell the story when I explain that I was attacked by a man-eating ferocious wild Shetland pony stallion and lived to talk about it.  Shoot low boys, they are riding Shetlands.  But I digress.  I do that often.  Time to get back on (the horse) track.  I am so fucking funny.  No comments, please.

Did things return to normal? 

I think they did.  I had no additional medical issues. 

Did I get an apology or I am sorry from my uncle?  I do not remember.  I was seven with a scrambled brain.  Well, no harm no foul.  Life continued and I did not hate or dislike my Uncle.  So I guess I forgave him.   

I still to this day do not like walking behind a pony or horse.  If you ask me to stand behind one I might do it, but I will be in the next zip code.

I will not go over everything we talked about or else this essay is going to be way too long. 

Let’s move onto our discussion of his cancer.

From our talk, this is what I understand.

Once his dad and then his brother were diagnosed with prostate cancer he knew that he was at a very high risk of one day being diagnosed with the disease.  He knew that it would be very important for the disease to be found early.  He also knew that his two sons needed to be told of their risks and be checked frequently.

It was discovered from his regular test that his PSA had risen to a level where they needed to perform a biopsy.  The biopsy confirmed that he had prostate cancer with a Gleason score of 8.  That is considered to be aggressive cancer. 

My cancer was Gleason 8.  Gleason 8 often kills if not caught early.

He opted for surgery. 

His test following surgery showed no evidence of disease.  He continued to get regular checks and is still checked, just not as often.  He has been told that he is cured.   

His only medical treatment was the one surgery.  He did not need additional surgeries.  He did not need radiation.  He did not have poisons injected into his body.  He did not need to take pills day and night.  He did not feel sick.  He has not dealt with pain.

His story should have been my story, but it is not.  Mine unfortunately is the latter.  Not knowing what he knew has unfortunately led to much pain and suffering.  

Physically and mentally.

He asked about my cancer. 

I walked him through everything. 

Everything that has happened and what my future looked like.

Camden when I decided to call my uncle I knew that besides talking about the ponies and other old memories that at some point I would ask him Why no one had ever contacted Keith or me to inform us of our higher cancer risk.  I did ask.

The conversation was very informative.  It was not very pleasant.  It hurt.

After talking with family I have decided not to post what I learned and the details of our conversation at this time.  

One day it will be posted. 

It has to be posted.  I think it explains the reason I am in my current situation.

I am thinking that it will be posted after I am gone.  So don’t be in a big hurry.  I hope you have to wait a long, long, long, time. 

Leaving that part out makes this essay feel incomplete.  Messes with the title.  I do not feel like writing this whole thing over using a different slant.  This is like the sixth time I have changed this essay. 

So since this essay is titled “Forgiveness” I will just add that none was given.

So who can I Forgive to leave this essay on a more positive note?  First of all, I have Forgiven myself.  Who else can I Forgive?  Hold on I am thinking.  Yes, yes I know.

Brown Beauty, I Forgive you for kicking me in the head.  Now I can move on.

Later Camden.

Love

Papa

Love is Beautiful

June is Gay PRIDE month, and today June 28th is GAY PRIDE DAY.  I think today would be the right time for me to come out of my closet.  No, I am not gay.  That is not what I have been hiding.  What some do not know, but will now, is that I am the father of a gay child.  It is time to share a little of that story.

For the past six years I have not been completely truthful with friends and family.  It is not that I would lie, I would not fully disclose or would find a way to talk around a question.  I was lying by omission.  Now time for some background information.

Amy was home for spring break her sophomore year of college.  In a month she would turn 20.  She is now 26.

We had gathered in the kitchen and Amy pulled out an exceptionally large chocolate chip cookie she had hidden in the oven.  Amy purchased the cookie at a local bakery and the baker wrote two words on the cookie.  When Amy was leaving the bakery one of the employees said to her, “Good luck.”

Amy placed the cookie on the table where her mother and I sat.  The words on the cookie in pink icing were, “I’m Gay.”

Now you might be on the edge of your seat wondering what happened next.  I know I am.  Wait a minute I was there.  Okay let me get back on track here, now where was I.  I am now looking up to the ceiling, hand on my chin with an “I am thinking hard” expression on my face as I search my memory.  I know you are visualizing that right now.

Did we get mad?  Did we yell?  Did I disown my daughter?  We did none of those things.  We looked at her and told her that we were wondering when she was going to feel comfortable enough to tell us.  We knew.

You are wondering how we knew.  Amy wondered too.  Did we find a diary?  Did we overhear a conversation?  What had us thinking our daughter was gay?

That is a hard question to answer.  I am not sure I have anything I can pinpoint and say that was what did it.  I believe it was the totality of everything we were observing while she was in high school.

One day Christy and I had a conversation about the possibility that Amy might be gay.  I do not remember who first brought it up, but we both realized that might be the case.  Over the next few years, we talked about it from time to time.  It did not dominate our lives.   

We had decided that we were not going to push or pry.  We were not going to ask her questions.  We realized that when she was ready she would tell us.  We were waiting for that day.  So, when the cookie was placed on the table we were not surprised. 

We explained that we knew.  We wondered what had taken her so long for her to tell us.  We let her know that we loved her.  Her being gay would not change that. 

Amy had come equipped with pamphlets for us to read just in case we went into shock.  We did not need the pamphlets.  Amy was relieved.   

Amy explained that she was in a relationship with another woman.  We already knew that too.  The young lady she was seeing grew up with Amy.  So, she grew up with us.  She was at our house often.  It was like having another daughter.

Amy asked that we not tell other people at this time.  She explained that her partner’s family did not know their sexual orientation.  We live in a small slice of a big town.  You do not know who knows who.  I wanted to respect their wishes.  I wanted the young lady to be able to disclose to her parents when she was ready and not hear it from someone who knew about Amy. 

It was at that time that I went into my mental gay closet.  While in there I was thinking that someone should have made this closet a little bigger.  I was finding all kinds of issues in here that I did not want to face, and they were taking up a lot of room. 

I guess I should have started this blog years ago or at least a journal.  Writing is good therapy.  I have also learned that i comes before e, most of the time, and did you know that y is sometimes considered a vowel.  Blew my mind.  You can learn a lot about yourself with a journal, and you can also learn English.  Thank you spell check and all of my grammar checkers. (Family).  Okay, let’s not call it a journal.  That sounds so gay.  Damn, I gotta change and stop saying that. 

I soon realized that other things were also going to change.  Our vision of the future of our family and Amy’s life changed.  I understood that Amy was not going to find a nice boy and settle down in the suburbs where she would raise her family of two and a half kids.  Do you actually know of anyone with two and a half kids?  Me neither.  Her husband would not be asking me to taste his latest home brew.  Which is actually okay because I do not like most of that shit.  Bud Light please.

I guess what I am badly trying to say is that we all (I think) have visions of what our children’s lives might look like.  Do those visions come to fruition?  Sometimes maybe.  Most of the time probably not.  My dreams changed but not that much. 

My dream that she be happy has not changed.  My dream that I would always be part of her life has not change.  My dream that I would be there for her when needed has not changed. 

Many of my dreams remained.  But now I had new fears. 

I feared how people would react to her coming out.  Would they be supportive?  Would they tell me about gay conversion therapy?  Would they condemn her and what they call her “lifestyle?”  Would she be seen as a second-class citizen and treated that way or worse by religious fanatics or by her own government?   Would I need to fear for her physical safety?  Would she be disowned by some family or some friends?

This loss of family and friends was not only something I feared for her, but trying to be brutally honest here, I also had that fear for myself.

So, when Amy told us not to share her disclosure with others, I might have felt relief.  That meant that I would not have to have what might be a difficult conversation with others.  I would not need to defend my parenting.  I would not need to explain that no she did not turn gay.  She is gay.  I would not need to explain that no this is not a choice she has made.  This is her.  And I love her.

Love is the answer to most questions.  Okay maybe not the complete answer, but as long as love is involved you can get through the difficult times.  As long as you feel loved and share love you are doing what you were put on this earth to do.  Think about that. 

Over the last six years I have been doing a lot of thinking and now I think it is time for me to completely exit my closet.  A few years ago, Amy told me that her gayness no longer needed to be kept a secret.  The woman she was seeing had disclosed to her family.  Since then, I have been slowly coming out.  A little disclosure here and a little disclosure there.  

Most of our family members are aware.  Not all but most.  Many of my friends know, but again not all.  So, I have taken this opportunity to write this essay to tell all.  I feel so Joan Collins.

In telling it here I realize that moving forward I will need to change.  When asked if Amy has met any nice men, I am no longer going to say that she really is more career motivated at this time.  Which she is very career motivated, but I am not really being truthful in my answer.  I will now disclose that Amy is gay.  It might go something like this: “I imagine Amy has met many nice men.  But none that really interest her.  Have I not told you that Amy is gay?”  The conversation might then begin.

During these conversations I am willing to answer any questions.  All I ask is that you do not hate.   If hate is what will fill your heart when talking about gay people, then our conversation will be short.  Remember two things:  Number one is that Love is Beautiful and secondly remember what is written on this man’s shirt.

I took the picture of the man wearing this shirt at my first Gay Pride event in Bentonville, Arkansas on June 6, 2021

I am no longer worried about losing relationships with family or friends.  I really do not think that will happen.  But if it does, I am okay with that because my relationship with my daughter means much more to me than my relationship with you. 

I shared with Amy that I would be writing this essay.  I also had a few questions for her that needed updated answers.  Time can change your perspective.  I sent her the questions and she sent me her answers.  Here they are:

Why did it take so long to tell us?

It took me a long time to realize it for myself. I wasn’t comfortable with being “different” for a while. It was a long process reimagining what my life was going to look like, and it was different from everyone else in the family. Once I came to terms with that on my own, I knew I needed to tell you guys. I think that’s something many parents don’t realize. By the time your child comes to you and comes out, they’ve been out at sea alone trying to find who they are (and sometimes fighting it). It was a long journey I had to face alone before I could share it with you all.

Were you scared to tell us and why?

I understood that the dreams you all had for me would look different. I knew it would be a process for you guys to come to terms with it. I wasn’t afraid of telling you all I was gay.  I was more afraid of breaking your hearts and asking you to rethink everything you dreamed of for me. I always wanted to make you guys proud, and even though I know now this isn’t the case, it felt like I was letting you guys down.

I know now (and I knew deep down then), that it isn’t a letdown. If anything, I know you’re proud and it means the world.

How did you think we would react?

I knew you would react lovingly. I honestly thought you guys would have more questions than you did. I didn’t expect that you all would already know. It was relieving!

How did you feel about how we reacted?

You guys reacted perfectly. I can’t explain how lucky I feel to of had such a great coming out experience with my parents. I left the table feeling loved and seen. I wish more kids had that same experience. I think my confidence and independence when it comes to my sexuality has a lot to do with the household I grew up in. I was always taught to be my authentic self. The world would be a better place if kids everywhere came out to parents like mine.

—————————————————————————————————–
If you are a parent of a gay child I hope that something I have said or Amy has said might help you.  I hope that if not now then someday, you will have a great relationship with your child.   We are all individuals and deal with what life throws at us in different ways.  Sit down and have the needed conversations.  Do not go through life with regrets.

Regrets, well like Frank I have had a few, but then again too few to mention.   I have had one really big regret in my life which I will not go into at this time, but not having a relationship with my children will not become another one. 

I will be with Amy this 4th of July weekend.  We are once again headed to Table Rock.  When I see her, I will give her a big hug.  I am proud of the person she has become.  I will show my PRIDE.

Love is Beautiful.

Kevin

What do you like most about being a dad?  

Camden, that was the question I asked a few of my friends this past week.  I recorded their answers along with their telling of a dad joke.  I put the video on Facebook.  I did not answer that question on the video.  I will try to do that now.  

I have enjoyed watching my three children grow from the tiny people I held in my hands into wonderful adults who at times need a dad hug.  Or dad needs the hug.  That is most often the case.

I have enjoyed watching them reach different milestones in their development.  Their first steps.  Their first words.  A lot of words.  Very loud words at times.  They get that from their mother, grandmother, great grandmother etc.  If you know my family you understand.

I think of the small role I have played in what they have become.  That makes me smile.

Looking back over the years, I would describe my Fatherhood years as practicing.  

Fatherhood is somewhat like being a doctor in some respects.  They practice medicine, not really knowing if what they are doing is going to work for their patients.  I get that really well.  

Fatherhood is similar.  Over the years, I practiced being a Father hoping that what I said and modeled might have been the correct thing for that moment.  When the kids needed something, I hoped that I would be able to lay down some knowledge.   Or if not maybe bullshit my way through the situation well enough that we both actually learned something.  I wish Google or Siri had been around.  

Camden, if you have not caught on, as I was watching my children grow into adulthood, they were watching me grow into Fatherhood.  Who benefits the most from that?  Well grandchildren of course.  

Camden, you and Adalie are the benefactors of a well-oiled, (old), Grand Fatherhood machine.  I am just not quite as agile.  I realize that I may not be as good as I once was, but I am as good once as I ever was.  Camden I am sure Gaga will roll her eyes. (Thanks Toby)

Doctors have what they call a residency where they learn to be, well they learn to be doctors.  I grew up in a residence (see I told you they were similar) where I was supposed to learn to be a father.   Well, I will not go into that here today.  Let’s just say I learned by watching other fathers and by trial and error.  A lot of trial and error.  Fathers unlike doctors are not licensed.

Many a teaching moment would present itself while with one of the kids or all three of them while eating ice cream.  I loved those moments of talking and answering their questions, and of course eating ice cream.

There were other times I practiced being a Father besides when we were eating ice cream, but they all had something in common.  Love is what they had in common.  No matter what the problem we had to face they knew that I loved them.

It was those times of sharing.  Those times of counseling.  Those times of fun that I enjoyed.  Still do.

One Sunday after church we went out to lunch.  (Yes at one time I went to church) We were at a restaurant where they had great chocolate shakes.  Imagine that.

When they saw our family of five, and how young the children were, they found a table for us that was actually a distance away from other diners.  I did not blame them.  I actually kind of liked being away from others.

Only one table, which was a few tables away from us, was occupied.  There sat an older couple.  I would have said elderly, but I have stopped using that word.  No one better call me elderly.

We ordered our food which included chocolate shakes for everyone.  Of course, we four kids found a way to have even more fun with our shakes.  Someone, I am not saying who, because I do not remember, started blowing into their straw which of course caused the ice cream to bubble.  Okay, probably me, and if not then Justin.  

You could see the bubbles through the clear glass.  Everyone then became bubble blowers.  The bubbles would eventually pop.  The ice cream sometimes would go flying out of the glass, and we would laugh.  We were making a little mess.  We did this many, many times so we were a little loud.  Did I mention that my family was loud?

I noticed the older couple kept looking at us and I was concerned that we might have been too loud which was keeping them from enjoying their lunch.  We finished before them and as the family walked away from the table l lagged behind.  I approached the couple and apologized to them for disturbing their lunch.

It has been many years, but I will never forget what the man said to me.  He let me know that we were not disturbing him and his wife.  They kept looking over at us because: “We were enjoying watching you enjoy your kids.”  

His words made me feel that maybe, just maybe I was doing this dad thing right.  

I Have a Plan…Seriously I Do

Pictured below is my target from fall qualifications.  I am not the best shot in the world, but I think I might have at least scared Brutus.  As you can see a few shots are off the target.  Those were with my back toward the target while standing twenty-five yards away shooting over my shoulder while holding a mirror.  I need to practice.

Anyway, since I obviously cannot shoot Brutus I am going to have to come up with another plan.  I do have a plan.  Seriously I do have a plan.  More later.

I got a call from a friend last week, and during the conversation he asked how I was feeling.  He mentioned that it had been a while since I had written an update.  

I realize that it has been several doctor visits and two surgeries since my last update.  I explained that soon I would be seeing my doctors and I thought that I would wait to see what the latest test results were and then write an update.

Others have also asked how I am doing and feeling.  I need to apologize to those of you who have asked.  I know that I appear evasive.  I squirm and hem and haw.   I know that you are concerned and mean well. 

The reality is that I do not feel well, but how do I tell you that.  So, I lie.  I have experience.  I fish.

So, I will tell you today that I do not feel well.  I will spare you the details.  I do not know if I will ever feel well again.  

I have two choices.  You live with the discomfort that cancer can cause, or you deal with the side effects of treatments.  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.  

No matter which option I choose you just push on.  It is not being brave.  It is not being strong.  It is just something you have to do so you do it.  

Some days are better than others, and when having a good day or a good moment during a bad day I try to get as much living in as I can.  

I am not talking about doing anything major.  Sometimes it is the little things in life that maybe I have taken for granted in the past that make me happy.  Reading a book, calling my kids, watching a movie, or maybe taking Hope for a drive.

Maybe I will learn to cook.  Ha, ha, ha.  I was a little delirious for a moment.

Through it all I have tried to stay as positive as I can.  Let me tell you it is very tough.  Contrary to what you might think I cannot be positive all the time.  

What I have to acknowledge is that cancer has changed me.  My relationships.  My thoughts.  My goals.  My perception on what is important and what is not.  All these things have changed.  Cancer has changed everything in my life.  Some changes have been good.  Some bad.   Some are very ugly.

Through all this I have found myself from time to time riding the “Pity Train.”  The seats are not comfortable, and the food is terrible.  The train runs between Mount Hopeless and Disappointment Island.  Real Towns.  I try not to take that trip very often.  

Once I tried to get off in Intercourse, Pennsylvania.  Pun intended and yes that is an actual town in Pennsylvania.  I was denied entry.  

I am sure someone in my family is going to tell me to take this out of the essay.  We shall see.  I am just trying to not be so serious.  Smile people.  If I did not remind myself to smile, I would cry all the time.

I have never been a rah-rah guy.  I do not go out of my way to read inspirational quotes or books.  I do not pray for myself.  Never have.  I do like a good fortune cookie every now and then.

Yet people tell me that I am a positive person, and they admire my attitude.  Being positive helps me get through the days.  I try to have a good attitude about life.  The moment that I am in.  I also realize that I cannot beat cancer with only a good attitude.  Brutus does not care about my attitude.  The aggressiveness of my disease will determine how long I live.  

So right now, I understand that my prognosis is not good.  A prognosis is just a snapshot in time.  What we know now.  What we have now in the way of treatments.  I do not have an expiration date stamped somewhere on my body.  I can beat cancer.  I will beat Brutus.  

In the past my medical team has been wrong when I wanted them to be right.   Now I want them to be wrong.   

To make a long story a little shorter I was misdiagnosed by my primary care doctor.  I was also misdiagnosed by my first cancer doctor.

I decided that I would get more involved with my medical treatments and the decisions being made concerning treatments.  I decided that if someone was going to fuck me up then that someone was going to be me.

That is when I met the ghost of cancer future.  This ghost has taken me through hours and hours of research late at nights and into the mornings.  I have learned so much.  It has made me, I believe, my best advocate and has helped me make decisions.

I have heard and read people say that a person should stay off the internet and not research their cancer.  The thinking I guess is that they might get the wrong information from some sites.  I agree that might be a problem.  I would recommend that a person start at the major cancer sites and go to the leading cancer hospital web sites.  If you are looking for alternative treatments, they are not hard to find.

Read medical journals and research papers.  I do find them at times boring and confusing.  Some of them I just read the first few paragraphs and then skip to the conclusion.  If I find one that has piqued my interest I will attempt to read and understand the rest of it.  Nothing will put you to sleep faster than reading a confusing and boring cancer research paper at 2:00 A.M.  Good thing I have a comfortable desk chair.  Thanks Santa.

You need this information to have a better and more intelligent conversations with your medical team.  Many times, I have surprised them with my questions or my willingness to challenge them on their recommendations.  I am sure they wonder how I know this stuff, because they sure as hell have not shared.

You learn all the acronyms.  OS is overall survival.  PFS is progression free survival.  CSS is cancer specific survival.  So many more.  There is one I am trying to avoid and that is KURF.  You will figure it out.

During the years of dealing with Brutus and having seen many different doctors, I have to say that my radiation oncologist was the doctor who took the most time to go over in great detail what was happening inside my body and explain how she might be able to help me.  

She also stated that she normally did not radiate men with numbers as high as mine after surgery.  Humor me doc.  Blast away.

I would email her questions in the wee hours of the morning.  She would respond at a much more reasonable hour.  She would ask what I was doing up so late.  I told her research and training.  She wanted to know what type of training.

Boom shaka laka Boom shaka laka Boom

“Caaaancer Training, Ma’am!!”

Where’s Brutus?  “Raaaadiated up, Ma’am.”

She told me that after radiation treatments I would be a “Lean Mean Fighting Machine.”  What do you mean I would be?  

Okay, maybe part of that conversation never happened.  I needed another little humor side bar.  Have I ever told you that I am funny?  Just a few times I am sure.  “That’s a fact Jack.”

During my research, I discovered that the American Urologist Association has a book called AUA’s Clinical Practice Guidelines for the treatment of Advanced Prostate Cancer.  Oncologists also have guidelines. Many different cancer organizations also have treatment guidelines.  Wow! No one told me that, but I found them.

You find your diagnosis and the guidelines lists many different treatment options.  The doctor recommends a treatment from these options.  The doctor might also take into consideration his experience in making a recommendation.  That is why you find one who has been around awhile.  Once you discuss the treatment recommended by your medical team you decide.  YOU DECIDE!

A few but not all the guidelines I have read reiterate that it is the patients’ choice on treatments.  Some of the guidelines also have “no treatment” as an option that can be chosen by the patient.  

I researched all the options.  Learned all the pros and cons.  I made a treatment decision based on what I learned.  What I chose was not what my medical team recommended.  What I chose was one of the options listed in the guidelines.  I did not pull it out of thin air or get it from some alternative cancer site.  

The doctor’s emphasis was on survival and mine on quality of life.  They are on board with me for now.  It took a while, but they now better understand my goals.  My family understands my decision and I feel that going forward quality of life will remain my focus.  They understand that.  My plan is what is best for me.  We did not vote.  More decisions will soon need to be made.

During my most recent visit with my oncologist he made a point to go over my treatment plan.  He reviewed the plan with me step by step.  I agreed with what he was saying. It was my plan.  

I have since been thinking that I might pull a Lucy.  You know move the football when Charlie Brown tries to kick it.   I am thinking of moving the target numbers which would allow me to stay off the poisons a little longer.  He is going to be pissed.  I might just be getting nervous about going back on treatments.

No matter which way we go I am not going to feel well.  That is just part of the cancer process at this stage of my timeline.  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

I visited with my urologist on Friday, November 6th.  Again, my doubling time is too fast.  That is the biggest problem right now.

My goal in all of this is to turn my cancer into a chronic disease.  I cannot be cured, but if we can get this doubling time to slow down it might become a disease that can be better managed.  

I realize my disease characteristics might make that impossible.  But why not?  Why can’t I be one of those men?  I can become one.  I will become one. 

The urologist talked to me about updating my scans.  I know that new ones are needed.  I have not been scanned since they took my ribs out.

He also pointed out that since we were closing in on the end of the year all my insurance deductibles have been paid so having the scans done now would not cost me as much.  If we waited until 2021 more would come out of my pocket.

That is a very valid point.  I appreciated him pointing it out, but I told him that I did not want the scans done at this time.  I wanted to wait.

My body tells me that things are not going well.  I am concerned about what might be discovered.  The scans might show that Brutus has moved into areas we did not know about.

If that has happened, it will be much harder to stay on the plan I have chosen.  It would mean that I would have to go on the poisons now.  

Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here soon, and I would rather not be sick.  The discomfort that I deal with now comes and goes.  The side effects from the poison are with you all the time.  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

I have a plan based on science.  I might have to alter that plan from time to time, but I will always have a plan.  I plan on getting better.  I plan on beating cancer.

Actually, I have two plans.  Just in case that medical thing does not work out I have a plan to live my life.   That is where I want most of my focus to be.  Living.  

I have many adventures in my mind that I want to enjoy.  You might call it a bucket list.  Maybe that is what it is.  For me I want to do everything, so it is an exceptionally long list.  Not sure you would call it a bucket list.  

If the medical plan works out, I might get to enjoy some of these adventures twice.  Two trips to the South Pole.  Excellent!!

This will be my last essay on Facebook. 

I plan to continue writing.  Best therapy I know, but not sure how much will be about Brutus.  Maybe all, maybe none.  

In the future, everything will go to the blog.  If you are wondering what is on my mind or how I am doing check there every few months.

If something major happens I will let you know.  I am hoping that is not the case.  I hope the treatments will work and allow me to live a boring cancer existence.

One way or the other I will beat cancer, but I realize that having hope is not much of a plan.  That is why I have two.  

I am winning.  I will win.

Kevin

Homecoming

Game Day

Hey Camden, Papa here.  Just wanted to take a minute to visit with you this chilly Sunday morning October 18th, 2020.  Yes, it is still 2020.  I Will be glad when this year is over.  

Now I am supposed to be outside winterizing the yard and taking care of some of Gaga’s flowers.  I was given specific instructions.  The problem is that I had an idea pop into my mind, so I had to decide whether to write this little piece or work in the yard.  So here I sit typing away drinking my coffee.  Those flowers can wait.  I have a few hours before Gaga gets home.  She is at the hospital this morning helping to save lives.

What was that you asked Camden?  My idea.  Oh yes thanks for keeping me on track.  Sometimes I forget what I am doing.

Well yesterday was supposed to be Homecoming at the only school that matters.  I know that we were supposed to be there together, but not this year.  They were not even able to play the game.  It was cancelled and moved to another day.  It was a COVID thing.

Next year Camden I hope that you can make that Homecoming trip with me.  I look forward to taking you there and meeting my friends.  Both of them.

Since I live in another state, I have tried to make it to as many Homecoming games as possible.  Now I have not been to as many games as my friend Kevin Monahan.  How many in a row was it Kevin, 40 plus?  Kevin has been my ticket connection for many a Homecoming.

Camden did you know that Homecoming was a tradition that was started at Mizzou?  Now you do.  

We were the first and for you nonbelievers out there Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy both agree that Mizzou started Homecoming.  Suck it Baylor.

Alex I will take Homecoming for $5,000,000 please.  I know the answer.

Camden I was thinking about past Homecomings.  That is what old people do.  They often think of the past.

Beautiful day in Tiger land.  Fans at Game Day.

I remember so many games where your mom and Aunt Amy were wearing their Mizzou cheerleading outfits.  I do have pictures, but I will not embarrass them today.

My KU girls.  I am sure they are Tiger fans.  They just don’t want to admit it.

I have a specific Homecoming game that jumps into my mind.  That Homecoming game was played on October 23rd, 2010.  The day our Tigers played at the time the number one team in the country.  The Sooners.

ESPN was there on the quad with their show in front of the columns.  Had to keep them off most of the beautiful quad grass.  The rest of the quad belonged to the fans.  It was an exciting day.

I do not think we were picked to win that game.  But win we did.

Tigers 36…Sooners 27. Sorry it is out of focus.  The stadium was rocking.

The field was stormed by the fans.  I believe that your Uncle Justin was one of them.  I do not remember if they were able to get a goalpost down or not.  I do not think so.  The campus police do not take too kindly to having the goal taken down. (Camden I just heard from Megan. The goal post did come down. Excellent!!)

Justin is down there somewhere

One of the goals was taken down after a game my senior year of college.  

On November 14th, 1981 we also beat a highly ranked Oklahoma team that day.  The goalpost was taken down and carried to Harpos.  I think.  I may not have the story completely correct.  I am sure someone can help me here.

The goal post was cut up and I believe my friends Ron Hall and Steve Rasche have a piece or two of that post.  Not Homecoming, but another good memory.

Many Homecoming memories. The 2010 game has many special memories.  Camden your mamma was with us that day.  I believe that was the last Mizzou Homecoming game she has seen.  She was a senior at KU at the time.  We talked her into joining us.  Her cousins and Uncle Brad and Aunt Connie were with us, so I know she had a good time.  At least that is how I remember it.  Maybe next year I can talk her into joining us.  I would like that.

Erin at  the parade wearing her black.  Told you she was a Tiger.

Well Camden there you have it.  A few memories that just wanted to bust out of my brain.

I need to get outside now and take care of the flowers before Gaga gets home.  Or you might have to show up here to save my life.

Later Camden,
Papa

P.S. For you Tiger fans out there if you have a picture or two or a memory you would like to share put it here.  Camden and I would love to see your pictures and hear your stories.

Boys Are Born…Men Are Made

When I first started writing this essay my idea was to make it a Coffee with Kev segment.  Coffee with Kev are essays that I have not shared on Facebook.  They go straight to the blog.  I have only written a few, but I expect in the future to have many more.

Halfway through the rough draft I decide “No” this would not be a Coffee with Kev segment.  I want you to know more about the “little man.”  So here we go.

Camden today is September 20th, 2020, and I went on a run today.  Okay, it was more of a walk/run.  Okay, okay, it was more of a walk, walk, walk, short-run, walk, etc.  Hey, it is a start.  I cannot remember the last time I was able to get outside in my running shoes.  Sometime last fall.  

It has been two months since my back surgery.  A month since my last surgery.  I was told that I could start exercising, but not to overdo it.  My physical therapist told me that I should consider choosing another excise and give up running.  My surgeons P.A. told me that I could run again, but maybe I should wait a little while.  So, I waited a few more days before putting on the running shoes.  I always follow the medical professionals’ advice.

I wanted to run for a couple of reasons.  For one I have always run, but I have not always enjoyed running.  I have been in many races or just out running when I have wondered, “Kevin, WTF are you doing here?”

When it is over, I always take pride in that I was able to complete what I started.

In high school one year our cross-country coach gave me a silver bucket at the awards banquet.  He gave me that bucket because I gave each race my all including my lunch.

Over the last 29 years, when able, I have run the same course around my neighborhood.  I run in the grass, so I have learned where all the holes are.  I did find two new ones today.  Damn!  

I run without a phone or music or anything else that might distract me.  This is a time to think.  I have written many things in my head while running.  I thought of this essay today.

I will borrow a phrase my friend and great runner Tracey Repp likes to say, and I will paraphrase:  We no longer race to compete.  We race to complete.

I will admit that one big reason I wanted to get out there in my running shoes was because I am still competing against one foe.  That foe is cancer.

I need to prove to myself that cancer will not defeat me.  It is a way I show and tell myself that cancer does not define me.  That will only happen if I let it.  So, when the medical people tell me that maybe I should think of something else to do for exercise besides running they just do not understand.

Camden, you come from a long line of fighters.  In another essay I told you about your great grandmother.  How when she was seven, she walked into the kitchen and collapsed onto the floor.  Polio had attacked her body.  She has never walked since.

She did not give up.   She fought polio, and polio has never defeated her.  She has overcome so many obstacles.  She persevered.

Camden, you might be asking yourself where did Papa learn such big words?  Well Camden I do know a few.  I am just not sure I always use them properly.  That is the conundrum.  Read books, Camden.  Read everything.  You will learn so much.  Maybe even a few words.

Camden I am taking this time to tell you what motivates me.  I am telling you a little about your great grandmother’s story.  I am bringing these thoughts up because of your story.  

What most people do not know who are reading this is that you were recently diagnosed with autism.  We had suspected for some time that might be the case.  

We were told that you are high functioning, and that was good.  I do not yet understand how your future will look, but I know this.  This diagnosis will not defeat you.  You will not be defined by autism.  Unless you let it.

I know that with the Heger/Brown clan in your corner that will not happen.  What you need you will have.  The resources out there that can help you will be used.

Your parents are great advocates for you.  I worry at times that your mom worries too much and feels overwhelmed.  That is when the Heger/Brown clan can be used to take the baton and run as far as needed.  We are a supplement.

Everyone has their own mountains to climb in lfe.  Your path might be different than others.  That does not make it wrong.  Simply different.

I will immerse myself in the vernacular of autism.  (More big words) I will learn everything I can.  We will all do that to help you grow and become a man.  But for now, you just work on being the best little boy, big brother, and grandson I know.  No need to rush things.

Remember Camden that autism will not defeat you nor will it define you.  I plan on being around to see and help you reach your goals.  But in case I am not, just remember:

Boys Are Born…Men Are Made.

Don’t let that statement make you think that one day you will automatically become a man and at that point you are done growing.  Maybe physically.  But not mentally and emotionally.

Being the best you can be is a never-ending process of correction and growth.  People are not finished products.  We are constantly evolving.  So, I guess what is more accurate to say is this:

Boys Are Born…Men Are Made and Constantly Being Re-Made.  That I think is good.

The mountain of autism will be climbed and conquered.  During your journey, we will all become better.  We will all learn.  We will all grow.  I will become a better person, and you, my little man, will be my teacher.  

Love,
Papa

The Calendar

I am sitting in the kitchen this Friday morning, June 26th, drinking my morning coffee.  Got back yesterday from spending a few days in KC with the kids and grandkids.  I am still in vacation mode.  I only know what day it is because of the kitchen calendar.  Yes, the calendar.

I find myself looking, no staring often at the calendar.  It was purchased last year while in Alaska.  It has many beautiful pictures.  For the month of June, you see a wonderful picture of a Humpback whale jumping out of the water.  That picture makes me smile.  It takes me back to our adventure and seeing with our own eyes many beautiful places and things.  Including whales jumping out of the water.  The beauty of this world.

When I look at the calendar, I also see quite a bit of writing.  Like most people our lives are somewhat controlled by what is written on the calendar.  Some things are written in pencil, and others in ink.  What is on my calendar tells me where I will be going and doing.  What is on my refrigerator tells me where I have been and what I’ve done.

As I sit here drinking my coffee looking at that whale on the calendar, I can also see the writing on the calendar.  Now I cannot read it from where I sit.  Damn bifocals.  But I know what is on the calendar.

Most of what is on my calendar these days are medical appointments.  A few are for Christy.  Most are mine.   My months are full of medical appointments, and June has been a busy month.  July and August will be repeats of June.  Probably busier.  A few of those appointments are already on the calendar.  

I have two surgeries on the calendar in July and most likely a third surgery in August.  One is a back surgery the others are cancer related.   A couple of those Humpty Dumpty surgeries.  I am going to be home a while.  I guess if I cannot travel, they might as well do some cutting.  I hear that parts are parts, but I wish they could use original manufacturer parts.  I do not want to do anything to ruin the warranty on this great body of mine.  Back in the day.  Many calendars ago.

A guy called and told me that his records showed that the warranty on my car was expired.  I told him it was not my car I was worried about, but I could sure use a warranty on my body.  I explained that I was a classic 1959 model.  Had all the extras you know.  I just needed a little tune up to get that varoom back.  He hung up on me.  That is okay, because right now I have no room on my calendar for any other appointments.

The calendar does more than organize my days, weeks, and months.  Birthdays, anniversaries and other important dates are found on the calendar.  It reminds me to ask Christy if she sent my mother a birthday card.  I do not know what I would do if I were not married.  Probably miss a few birthdays. Also starve.  

What is not marked on the calendar is that I am now starting year six with Brutus.  It is this time of year where I try to reassess my situation.  Where I am at.  A review of my disease.  Right now, things are not going my way.  Improvement will be coming.  I think.  Here is a refresher along with some new information.

You know the story.  When I was first diagnosed my medical team thought that things would be fine.  We later learned that things were not as good as originally thought.  About a year and a half after my diagnosis I had surgery.  A few months later I was told that I could not be fixed.  That my disease had spread and that I was not curable.

After my advanced disease diagnosis, I wanted to know my prognosis.  My medical team did not like talking about my prognosis.  I often heard that my life expectancy would depend on how well I responded to treatment.

I did not like that answer.  That was the play it safe answer.  They had a good idea of my timeline.  I wanted no bullshit.  How was I going to plan for things if I did not know?

This is what I learned.

My prognosis has two numbers.  The numbers were low and just a little higher.  Damn!    

Six to nine years.  My second urologist said that he had a few patients like me who had survived ten years.  He said nothing about any of his patients like me surviving longer.  Damn!

At that time, the prognosis did not mean that much to me.  Nine years, well that is a long time.  That would give them plenty of time to find something that would fix me.  Well that has not happened.  So, I am now thinking that nine years is not long enough. 

My timeline has not changed.  I was hoping that everything we have done would expand my timeline out beyond those nine years.  That does not appear to be what has happened.  Hopefully, the treatments, surgeries, and poisons have pushed me closer to the nine.  I do realize that if we had not done anything that I would most likely not be here today.  My medical team has given me time.  I have seen more days, weeks, months, and years.  I have used a few calendars.

Now I just said that my timeline has not changed, but in a way it has.  My timeline is now one to four years.  I think I would rather say that my prognosis is twelve to forty-eight.  Now that sounds better to me.  

Things are getting serious.  Well I guess they always were, but I could put my disease in the background.  Brutus now has more of my attention. 

As I explained in a past essay that at this stage of my disease it is the doubling time that is the best indicator of life expectancy.  My doubling time has not improved and remains just under four months.  If the doubling time does not improve, well that tells me that I will most likely not maximize my timeline.  

The life expectancy of a man with my doubling time is around six years.  I hope that my 1959 body can find the varoom to prove them wrong.  But I would be lying if I told you that I was not concerned. 

I think of a comment made by my current urologist when we first met.  He could tell that I was feeling good.  He let me know that my disease could blow up at any time so I should enjoy these good times while I could.  He told me that they would not last. 

What I have just shared with you not many people besides Christy and the kids know.   I have tried to stay away from this conversation.  Thankfully not many people have asked.  Usually when someone has asked, I have told them, “Who knows?”  

I have debated with myself if I would ever share this information while living.  Or if it would show up in one of the A.D. essays.  

I feel that sometimes I pull back and do not share my feelings the way I had first intended when I started this blog. I worry about upsetting people.  I do not want to make you feel bad.

Just remember what I say here stays here.  We will not talk about it in person.  It is much easier to say these things to the internet.  Not knowing who reads these essays makes it easier.

I hope that my ramblings will make some sense.  Putting my thoughts and feelings on paper always helps.  

I have always realized that Brutus would have his day.  It is tough knowing that day is getting closer.

What the calendar is reminding me is that we are getting deeper and deeper into my timeline.  I can no longer tell myself that I have plenty of time.  

The battle of living I am winning and will continue to win.  The battle of life.  Well, that is a different story.   Brutus continues to grow at a fast rate.  My medical team is concerned.  I am worried.  I am scared.  I must believe that things will get better.

I look at it this way and as I have said before I will beat Brutus by living to the fullest.   Enjoying each moment that I have.  I know that one day this will all be over.  But Brutus will not have won.  He will not have won because I am not playing his game.  In my mind living and life are two separate things.  I must think that way or my theory does not work.  I ask what good is life if you cannot live?

As a side note a few people like to point out that I might get hit by a bus before Brutus has his day.  Why so many people use the bus analogy I am not sure.  I do not think that many people die from getting hit by buses.  I have seen men taken out by jealous husbands and boyfriends.  I think that happens more often than getting hit by a bus.  I think that it will be a jealous husband who gets me long before a bus.   Just kidding…maybe.  

Christy is not worried.  She asks me what woman would want a 60-year-old man with cancer.  She has a point there.  She is a smart lady.  She married me.  Well I guess everyone is allowed one fuck up in their life. 

Hope you laughed.  I needed a break.  Now back to the not so funny.

I think at times I get a little depressed.  Christy says that I am more than a little depressed.  I try to hide it.

I am not sure if I am now more depressed because of my timeline.  I find that to be just a little depressing.  

Am I more depressed because the coronavirus has cancelled many of my travel plans and I realize that I do not have extra years to do the things I wanted?  That too is a little depressing.  But I would give up my travel plans if the virus would stop killing people.  Damn virus!  Damn Brutus!

I hope to be able to again travel with Camden.  He loves trains.  We build tracks and play trains all the time.  He loves watching trains.

I talked to him about one day getting on the train in KC and going to St. Louis.  Making a few stops in between.  In St. Louis we would of course see a Cards game.  I have talked to him about that trip.  He got extremely excited and gave me a big hug.

I want to make that train trip.  I want to make that trip more than going to New York, New Orleans, Spring Training, fishing off the coast of Alabama, or going anywhere else.  I want to be with the little man.  I want that trip on the calendar. 

When I feel comfortable traveling again, I will hit the road.  The dates will be written on the calendar.

I have finished my third cup of coffee this morning.  So now I feel that I need to go write down some of these ideas before they disappear.

Before getting up from the table I want to take a few more moments to again look at that whale on my calendar.  I see a strong beautiful animal having fun enjoying living.  Not worried about the obstacles of life but enjoying the moment.  We should all do the same.

In a few days I will flip the page of the calendar to July.  I will have the surgeries and make all the doctor appointments.  The calendar is incredibly good in helping me keep track of where I need to be and when.  The calendar does more than that.  It motivates me.  It gives me an urgency that I might not otherwise have.

I do not know what the future holds.  I do not know what the next twelve, thirty, or forty-eight months will bring.  Good things, I hope.  I am prepared to make lemonade out of life’s lemons.  Hopefully, we can share a glass.  I would like to put that on my calendar.

After reading this do me a favor.  Look at your calendar.  What do you see?  Cross some of that shit out and add some play dates.  Live with some urgency.  Be that whale.  Jump out of the water and shine.

Oh, and if you are in the kitchen looking at the calendar treat yourself to a bowl of chocolate ice cream.  Enjoy!

Kevin 

Coffee With Kev — Call Your Mom

Camden, today on “Coffee with Kev” I would like to talk to you about calling your mom.  I will wait a minute for you to pour yourself a cup.  Ready?   Here we go.

I know that you are a little young to comprehend what I am trying to say here today.  One day you will get it.  So, let me explain.

Just like you I have a mom.  Yes, I do.  You know her as Grandma Oneta.  She is your great grandmother.  She is my mom.

I spoke to Grandma Oneta recently over the phone.  We talk every few weeks.  Not often enough according to her.  She is probably right.

We talk about all kinds of things.  We talk about my garden.  We talk about you and your family.  We always talk about the Cardinals.  We also talk about our health.  Yes, as you get older it appears that you spend time talking about your aches and pains.  

Grandma Oneta will be 80 years old soon.  People think that she must be older because I am getting close to 61.  She was a young mother.  She was almost 19 when I was born.  Remember Camden that the first child can be born at any time.  The second one takes nine months.  Wink…wink.

When my parents were married was kept a secret for many years.  They did not want me to figure out that I was sort of present at the wedding. 

Your Great Uncle Keith figured it out.  He told me.  I was too busy playing ball and getting into mischief.  He did the math.

I was a little bit of a surprise because my mom had been told by her doctors when she was younger that she would be unable to have children due to her polio.  

Polio.  Thank God that polio is not a word that you here very often these days.  Unfortunately, I understand that it is still common in other countries.

Today we are going through the Covid-19 virus pandemic.  When my mom was growing up, they did not have this coronavirus, but they had polio.

Polio is a contagious virus that is also transmitted from person to person.  I hope that soon we have this new virus under control like science was able to develop a vaccine for polio.  The polio vaccine came many years too late for my mom.

The poliovirus attacks the nervous system causing paralysis.  It attacked mom’s spinal cord which left her unable to use her legs.  That is why she is in that wheelchair.  

When I was growing up, she did not have a wheelchair.  She wore braces on both of her legs and used crutches to get around.  She got her driver’s license after she was married.  She never let not being able to walk stop her.

Of course, I was always a little faster than mom, and I often used that to my advantage.  Sometimes I would say things or do things that I should not have done or said.  I know that is hard for you to believe, but it did happen. 

Why not?  She could not catch me.  I did learn that I should have done more social distancing around mom when I would say or do things.  She might not be able to catch me, but boy she could swing a mean crutch.  Ouch!  She was a switch hitter or amphibious as I often say, incorrectly.  I do have a scar on my right wrist as I tried to block one of those swings.  One of the screws on the crutch left a lasting mark.  Where was child protective services when I needed them. HAHAHA.  I still bring that up to her.

You have only seen her in that motorized wheelchair.  She went to the chair after several rotator cuff surgeries.  Years of using crutches had taken their toll.

She gets around well in that thing.  She goes forward, backwards, up and down.  I bet it even slices and dices.  I think that chair is the Linda Blair model going around and around.  Do not worry if you do not get that Camden, most people will not.  I laughed.

I think that chair might also be possessed.  Because on a phone call a few weeks ago she told me how that chair broke her leg.  Yup, the chair broke her leg.  

This is what happened.  She drove her chair into the bathroom and when she was transferring from the chair to the toilet her clothes got stuck on the chair control stick thingamajig.  She did not have that bad boy in park so when it got a little juice it drove forward and pushed her leg right into the edge of the vanity snapping her leg.  Double Ouch!!

Broken so bad that if she had normal use of her legs she would have needed surgery.  But in her case, they wrapped an air cast around her leg.  She is still in it.

I wanted to have this little talk with you Camden to tell you a little about my mom, and how remarkable she is.  I am going to share somethings with you now that your mother, Uncle Justin, nor Aunt Amy know.  They will know now.  That is what this is about.  To give you a little history of your family.  Stories that if I do not write them down, well they might never be told.  At least not from my perspective.  Wink…wink.

When my mom was seven years old, I am sure she was just like most seven-year-old kids.  Running and playing on the farm trying to keep up with her two older brothers.  Her younger brother was not yet born.

When she was seven, she started falling often.  No explanation except that she had fallen out of a swing at school and it was suspected that she might have hurt her back.  She saw a chiropractor many, many times.  That did not work.

One morning before going to school she walked into the kitchen and fell to the floor.  She could not get up.  She never walked again.

She was running a high fever and the doctors thought that she had the flu and she was sent home.

Much later at St. Mary’s Hospital in St. Louis the doctors told the family that mom had polio and that she would never walk again.

Mom does not remember much of her life before polio.  She remembers the surgeries she went through before having her braces and crutches.  Before getting her leg braces she had to be carried everywhere or she scooted on the floor.  

She attended a one-room schoolhouse out in the country near Vandalia for grades 1-6.  She remembers being treated like all the other kids.  Since she could not walk her friends at school would put her in a little red wagon and pull her around.  She did not get her braces until she was 11 years old.  She persisted.

These are things I want you to know.  

Now when mom and I talk on the phone we often talk about the past.  I ask questions about things that have happened.  She tries to remember.  

Yesterday we talked about an uncle who was a midget clown in the Barnum and Bailey Circus.  You wonder where I get my height.  Uncle Alvee.  Not sure of the spelling.  Anyway, that is a story for another time.

We talk about current topics and what is new in her life.  Sometimes I get upset and frustrated.  You see as you get older the child in some respect becomes the parent.  That role for me is hard being hundreds of miles away.  I am so thankful that she has many good friends who look out for her. 

We also talked yesterday about one of her friends that recently died.  The fear of death is a worry we both acknowledge.  She worries about losing me.  I worry about losing her.

The phone calls have increased over the past years.  On my trips back to the Homeland I always make sure I stop by her house.  That did not always happen.  Yes, I may have driven to St. Louis for a ballgame and not stopped.  That does not happen anymore.  A few times I have showed up she had no idea that I was in the area.  I am a little shit.  

During one of our phone calls she told me about your last visit to her house.  You sat in her lap and she gave you wheelchair rides.  Up and down her porch into the driveway.  Over and over you rode.   She enjoyed your visit.  I hope they continue.

Have you finished your coffee yet?  I have been doing all the talking.  I need to microwave mine.  One last thing I want to leave you with today.

I realize that it does not matter how old you and I will get.  We both have mothers and we will always be their little boys.  

One day you will grow up and have your own family.  With that comes new responsibilities and worries.  It can be easy to lose touch.  No matter how complicated life gets promise me that you will do this:

Call your Mom!