Friday, July 17, 2009

Motorcycle Madness

Every weekend this summer, there have been accidents, some with fatalities, involving motorcycles. Each year the number of crashes seems to increase. Perhaps, because of the new popularity of bikes for "non-bikers", and the draw of an economical form of transportation, there are lots more motorcycles on the road than ever before. Not every rider is as competent or as observant as they could be; and not every motorist is looking for a two-wheeled rider in the oncoming lane. I see helmetless folks all the time. Many aren't wearing protective gear, like jackets, chaps, or goggles. Then there are the dozens of bikes parked for a social break in front of a couple of local watering holes. Everyone knows that drinking and driving don't mix, and the risk increases considerably with bikes. Do these people have a death wish, or do they just think they are invincible?? The laws of gravity and inertia don't give the poor guy a chance against a car, tree, deer, gravel, oil slick, pothole, or any number of other potential hazards. So why not boost the odds in your favor and wear the gear that might save your life? Rhetorical question, I know..... but, I needed to ask.
That, being said, I don't like over regulation of anything. We have plenty of laws and rules already. But there is a point where the freedom of the individual to feel the wind in their hair, and the public cost to rehab and support their subsequent traumatic brain injury intersect. We already have excessive governmental support of personal irresponsibility, we are saturated with it. So, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised or outraged with small potatoes like a helmet on a motorcycle...... but I am, every time I see it.
I used to ride, my last bike was a beautiful States Blue HD with an almost obscene amount of chrome. It was wonderful! As I was strapping on my helmet one day, a small voice in my head or heart or from somewhere said no. I had always told myself that I would quit when I heard that voice. I have taken care of trauma patients that told me they had heard it, but didn't listen..... they wanted that last ride. I listened then; be it wisdom or fear, and I never took the bike out again.
How many of these accidents have happened when folks did not heed a warning or premonition of some sort. I'll never know, of course, but I do believe there are guardian angels, or the like, out there that will protect us... or try to... even when we aren't protecting ourselves. Of course, when they fail, the taxpayers can foot the bill.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Who Let the Air out of Dad?

The phone call came early in the morning; Dad had a stroke and was in the hospital. He had just had his eighty-ninth birthday the week before. He is in good hands, some medication changes and rehab, then home with lots of help in a few weeks.... hopefully. It is difficult to picture him like this.

He was always larger than life; not in the physical sense, but in his presence. He was blind in one eye from a birth injury, and polio left one leg a little smaller than the other. He had overcome a stutter to become a gifted preacher and teacher. He never saw these as disabilities, so no one else did, either.

He was charismatic, articulate, brilliant. He was also alcoholic, bipolar, narcissistic. His childhood was dominated by an unyielding tyrant for a father and a very talented, but oppressed, passive mother. His only brother hanged himself one winter day. Dad told us stories of the cruelty inflicted upon him by his father in an effort to mature him, make a man out of him.

It is no surprise, then, that he parented rather poorly. Rules are rules. "Look at me when I talk to you." and "Don't make me take off my belt." still ring in my ears. I was the unruly one, his challenge and his trial. Lacking a role model for fathering and given a wild child for a firstborn, it was a "perfect storm" in dysfunction. He drew lines, I crossed them; he set curfews and boundaries, I broke them . He demanded good grades, I failed miserably. I was afraid of him, he was a huge, intimidating figure to me then. He was the Wizard of Oz and I was Dorothy. I needed his love, he didn't know how to give me what I needed.

We were out of touch for many years after I left home. I didn't make an effort, nor did he. He went through his own hellish seasons, divorces, losses, rehabs for booze. His life seemed to smooth a bit in later years, but then health issues appeared. A pacemaker, prostate cancer, and post polio syndrome beat him down a bit. He continued in his calling as a minister, and somehow had maintained a circle of friends that supported him through the hard times. I know that his life has not been a bed of roses, but I hope he has found some happiness.

I took the high road a few years ago and contacted him when Jim and I travelled back east. It was to clear my slate more than anything else, and to make whatever amends I could on my part. It was good, and we now have a relationship that, if not loving, is caring and respectful. I have a father, he has a daughter. I am no longer afraid of him. I see the man through my grown up eyes now, and he is not the big, scary Wizard. He is small, elderly, and frail. The image I once held is the opposite of the reality I face today. He needs care, and love, and comfort. I can hold him in the way he was never held a child, accept his frailties as he never did, love him in the way I would have liked to be loved by him.

So, who let the air out of Dad? I did. I grew up. I learned forgiveness and acceptance. I battled my own demons and in doing so destroyed some of his. I will make the best of what time we have left to make some memories, to love him without condition, to be the best daughter I can be. Healing runs both ways.

Beginnings and Endings

The wedding invites have filled the June and July weekends on the calender. Young couples, full of hope and joy, reciting vows of forever before smiling friends and families. What wonderful, happy occasions are these..... the culmination of dreams and plans, the future looking so bright.
I wish these young friends of ours the best. I wish them success in this partnership. I hope they are able to remember the joy of this day when the dark clouds loom overhead, and they recall the promises made to each other to love and respect and honor one another for a lifetime, when leaving seems like the only option.
My happiness for the newlyweds is dampened by an equal number of couples we know that have ended their marriage this summer. Lives are torn apart, so much heartbreak and anger, friends and family divided and saddened. These same people had their day in the sun once, the music, the flowers,the champagne, and the promises. What happened to them? Where did it go wrong?
Marriage is not for the faint of heart. It takes commitment, compromise, courage, and care to make it last. That Love that brought our happy young couples to the altar, ebbs and flows through the years, becoming more the action verb than the heart-fluttery noun. Feet must be planted in facts and rooted in those vows, not to be led astray by feelings. There is little room for the "I, Me or My" mentality.For a marriage to succeed, each party must give 75% and take 25%..... at least.
The happiest couples I know, are each committed to the fulfillment of their spouse, through the good times and bad. They pull together over the rough spots, ease each others burdens, respect and encourage each other; they complete each other. They are committed to making it through whatever comes their way; together.
It takes such hard work, but is so worth the reward. I see the result of such commitment in our friends, Jay and Janey. Their marriage of forty two years; decades of changes, joys and sorrows, held fast by perseverance and commitment. I love the way they look at each other, smile and connect on a very private level. The love they share is not an accident, they have cultivated something special.... something that is rare in this day and age of throwaway marriages, but, by the same token, available to anyone willing to make the effort.
My hope, my prayer, for the young couples making promises to each other this summer, is that they live a long joy filled life together, loving and learning and growing closer, where ever the road leads them. And for those who would like to erase the vows they made, I hope they are able to step back in time to a better day, remember the dreams and the plans, and perhaps heal the hurts and dissolve the disappointments that have pulled them apart.
I wish forty two years and more for us all.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sun Valley

Here we are in SunValley. This is where Jim and his Siblings made some wonderful memories when they were younger. We have all come down here to celebrate with Brandon, Jim's nephew (Sister Sandy's son) who will be forty on Sunday. What a hoot. There are a ton of relatives staying in various rental houses. We are in a nice condo at Elkhorn, complete with golf, tennis, bike and hiking trails, and a huge pool and hottub. We are right below a ski lift and right on the golf course. Pretty fancy for this bunpkin!!
There are lots of plans to keep us entertained all weekend. I'm looking forward to the rodeo tonite. It feels more familiar and more Me. Karen and I went into Ketchum yesterday and wandered around the shops with other tourists and some locals. Too ritzy and too crowded for my liking. We did find a secondhand store that was fun to search through finding a few books and other treasures.
Well, off to the rodeo with this crowd of family and friends. Yee-haw!!