Mom

I have mentioned how often “Death” has visited me. My mother-in-law, two brothers-in-law, three of our family dogs, and several close friends. This has been all within the last two years. Prior to that, many other friends and relatives. My father-in-law and my own father were really tough to get through when they passed and I don’t think I’ve even recovered from them. With all this death in my life, you would think a person would get used to it. Maybe shall I say more numb to it. Today my mother enters a hospice program and I write this hoping that by expressing my feelings I will be able to cope with this. My mother is over 90 years of age and has lost her memory and her ability to know where she is.  She hasn’t been herself for a long time.

My father was hospitalized when I was about 11 years old with MS. My mother was left to raise my three sisters and I. He passed away when I was about 20 years old. For years my mother and I use to drive on weekends for about an hour and a half to visit my father. He was in a state hospital where I would see my dad who I didn’t know any more or understand. My mother was tortured (though she didn’t show it) for nine years watching her husband deteriorate and feeling completely helpless in doing anything for him. He would never regain any resemblance to the man he used to be.

When I was about fifteen years old, I ran away to Southern Illinois where a friend was at school. It was a six-hour trip which was quite a distance and I didn’t tell anyone. They found me, and I went home a couple of days later my mother acted like everything was ok. I expected quite a beating but it never happened. About a year ago, I asked her why she didn’t beat the crap out of me. She said she thought it was something I needed to do and didn’t question me at all and knew I would come back when I was ready. I didn’t deserve her, but I thank God I have had her in my life for as long as I have. I have expressed my love to her many times and I know she knows that.

I have watched many people slowly slip away but, none of them were my mother. This show unfolding before me I cannot watch. I am not prepared for it, nor will I ever be.

The British Spy I Met

 

British Spy

I was a young naive man who up until that moment when I met him, had no clue about the world beyond the sheltered life that I had lived. I was a bellman and shuttle driver at a hotel near the world’s busiest airport, Chicago’s O’Hare International. It was a slow Sunday and the hotel seemed to be very empty with little activity at all. A guest suddenly appeared and asked if I could get his package out of receiving and have it ready for him in an hour. Of course, I responded with an enthusiastic response with yes sir, right away. Of course, I was thinking “tip time,” that’s how we bellman made our living helping our guests with whatever they might need within our ability.

Little did I know that it was a slow day and all the managers had taken the day off after a hectic week and no one had a key to the receiving dock office. Frantic phone calls to said managers were to no avail either. As I pondered as to how to break into the locked room I had to proceed on my scheduled airport run to pick up incoming guests.

As a driver I loved interacting with guests finding anything out about them was always interesting and I was pretty good at starting conversations. I picked up only one guest on this particular run and he sounded like he had a British accent. I opened our conversation with how his day was going and he returned the question back to me. I have no idea as to why I would share the fact that I was about to face a very upset guest and didn’t know how to explain to that guest that I couldn’t help him. In giving this stranger a few more details he laughed it off, stating it sounds like something he would do and how many times he had locked himself out of his own house but had always found a way to get in. He offered to help me and not wanting him to get involved I somewhat said I’m sure we’ll get hold of someone with a key soon. We arrived at the hotel and he proceeded to check-in and I thought that would be the last of me seeing him. Five minutes later, he came back and said please, show me the room and maybe I can help you.

What possessed me I’ll never know, but I took this stranger to the back of the hotel and showed him the secure receiving door with its locked handle and deadbolt. He said this will be all right. Reaching into his inside jacket pocket he pulled out a lock picking set and quickly picked both locks without any issues. I know my mouth was hanging open and I was in shock. I looked into the room and discovered the box wasn’t even there, it was behind the front desk and no one had said anything. I stated, “what am I going to do with this open door”. He said, “it will be fine, I’ll lock them back for you”. Within seconds, this man had secured both locks and I turned to him and asked him politely, what he did for a living. He stated that he worked for the British Government, smiled and turned and walked away and I never saw him again. This was one of my first encounters with some very interesting people I have met over the years in my career in the hospitality industry.

My Friend My Father

I was at the airport in Atlanta, either coming or going to a convention for the tourism industry and I would hear it. I could be in the middle of the convention exhibit hall and this booming voice would yell out for everyone to hear. “My Son My Son,” the voice would call and I knew who it was. He was my black father, he was Mr. Bill Williams. It was a sight to behold, my black father calling out to his white son. It was the 70’s and Bill and I had formed a strong bond together that wasn’t always appreciated by some people.

The first time my wife met Bill was also a shock in that, I hadn’t mentioned my “father”  to her. She was very curious as this black man called out for his son in the airport approaching me. His glowing praises to her about me, assured her I’m sure that she had chosen the right husband.

Bill and I formed our relationship while creating the Chicago Chapter of the Society of Government Meeting Planners. Bill was with the Chicago Convention Bureau and I was at the Congress Hotel, as a very young sales manager focused on the government market. Bill and I had an appointment one day with a group of Military Veterans to book their convention in Chicago. Our lunch meeting turned into seven hours in the bar with these gentlemen. I don’t think I even gave them a tour of the rooms, I had to leave. But we booked them and many other conventions for the city of Chicago over the years.

Bill had somewhat retired over the last few years but he stopped by almost weekly at our bar and restaurant in Hyde Park and as always, he would exclaim to everyone (which could be up to 100 people) who I was and they should all appreciate his son and what I had done for them and the city. For that my father, I am appreciative and will never forget you. I will miss you, my friend.

My Daily Commute

Daily I drive through undulating curving acres upon acres of corn and soybean crops. I am greeted by a diversity of animal life from fox and fowl, possums and peacocks, equines and egrets, and hawks and hounds. It’s a calming effect on my soul as I prepare for what is to come. The open fields and forests slowly disappear and my lonely peaceful trek gives way to concrete lanes filled with modern chariots made of steel. The landscape begins changing to boxes upon boxes made of brick and mortar, covering the former hills and meadows into flat earth with increased production of boxes of grandiose proportions.

As I progress, the speed at which these modern chariots travel increases dramatically and you must keep pace or be swallowed or pushed aside by these chariots of fire spitting billows of pollution scarring the air before you. From breathing fresh air to sealing yourself in my own chariot I must ride.

Reaching my destination the boxes reach into the sky almost turning day into night. There are no paths of green, only sheets of rock covering the earth for people to walk. Rare blades of grass fight to find a crack to peer out from beneath only to be covered by local pets for their morning constitutional.

A commute of 44 miles into the concrete jungle to dim your light, drown out the silence, and restrict your breathing. Then turn around and do it day after day for over 20 years. Was it worth it?

Chance You Were Your Own Dog

I usually call home a couple of times a day. The wife almost always has me on speakerphone as she continues to do what she had been doing. Suddenly, it will start with one short bark. Then another, and if I don’t respond to Chance, our last Shih Tzu will then begin a chorus of doggie expletives until he has my attention. I acknowledge him and he barks out what I assume is him telling me “what’s been going on all day” and or “why aren’t

you home yet and when will you be here.” I then have to talk to him and explain that I’m on my way and that he’s a good boy and I will see him soon. Sometimes he may add one more comment or two, especially if he’s agitated about something. But, usually, he accepts my response and goes to lay down on his bed and accept what I have said to him.

Every day it’s the same in that he has to talk to me and hear back or he won’t stop. The wife and I cannot continue our conversation until he is satisfied that he has expressed himself properly.

Chance and Lilly were the first dogs we had ever adopted from a shelter. We believe they were between 4-5 years of age when we chose them. We were told they didn’t have a happy life and were probably caged their entire life. We think they were used by a breeder and weren’t shown any love and they really didn’t know how to interact with us.

Somehow, in the family, it was decided that Chance was my dog. Our other dogs seemed to have bonded with other family members. Though Chance really didn’t seem to be want to bond with anyone as he was a solo dog. We could feed him and take him out but, he wasn’t much of a hugger and for the most part, stayed to himself. He would occasionally play with Lilly yet even with her he was a bit standoffish.

Lilly was with us for a few short years and acquired Ketoacidosis and was gone suddenly. It didn’t seem to faze Chance, he just went on like nothing was wrong. Actually, Chance didn’t seem to show any affection towards Lilly at all. He must have had it hard before we adopted him. He was a loner and didn’t seem to want anyone. If for some reason he would follow you around the house and not leave your side it was more of him being afraid than anything else. He didn’t want to be held, he just wanted to be protected from whatever he was afraid of.

I’m kind of the same way in that I don’t express my feelings either and stay a lot to myself. Though I could use a hug now and then.

Over the last few years, Chance’s health had been getting worse. Shih Tzu’s are prone to ear infections. His infections wouldn’t go away and in fact, spread to his skin as some sort of yeast infection that would make him scratch all his fur away. He was beginning to look like one of those hairless cats or dogs. The infections were also contagious to humans and if you touched him and didn’t wash, you could have pink eye in the morning.

Jake our other Shih Tzu had seemed immune to the infection and regularly tried to groom his buddy.  Jake just passed two weeks ago and Chance seemed to go downhill fast. I didn’t want to say goodbye so soon after having lost Jake. Despite Chance’s stance of being a loner, I loved that guy. I call home now and I wish I could hear his bark wanting to talk to me. I really do believe he understood me and I him. I believe that he got a second chance coming to be with us and we let him be his own self.