Bootprints of Our Journey

My wonderful partner,

A buddy sent me an email message recently, commenting on your walking with me on my first day returning to work after being confined at home with a broken leg.  You rode with me on the Metro into the city and walked with me to my office. My buddy said, “Love walks with you.”

I smiled when I read that. It caused me to think about my relationship with you. You have walked by my side now for 17 years. You aren’t out front, you’re not behind. You are right by my side. You are my teammate on my life journey.

I look a bit more introspectively at my relationship with you, and your relationship with me. It has taken us a while to achieve this level of understanding. There are certain tasks at which I am better suited to complete, and other tasks that you do better. That’s normal and understandable.

But it’s more than that. When it comes down to the tough issues, requiring hard work and “hard thought,” we do it together. We ask questions, and talk it through. We make a plan of action, and follow it. We reconsider our plan if it isn’t working and redouble our efforts to achieve our goals.

I think this is descriptive of what makes a good relationship: we respect each other and engage the other’s natural talents. Further, we talk it through. We identify what components of a task are daunting, and how we can resolve them, whether we do it ourselves or if we have to hire a professional. It’s a joint decision.

I guess that summarizes a lot about our relationship: “it’s a joint decision.” Often as I am pondering a question, I find myself thinking, “what would you think about?” or “what would you say?” or “what are the questions that I want to ask you?” You are always in my mind, and I benefit so much from your intelligence.

There are lots of stories and fables over time about how couples walk side-by-side on their life’s journey. The poem by Mary Stevenson about the man who was angry with God because there were only one set of footprints in the sand at the low points of his life’s journey, and he thought God had abandoned him. God replied, “that’s when I was carrying you.”

This parallels my last couple of months. If you look at the figurative bootprints of our life journey, you’ll see only one set of bootprints during the past couple months. That is when you were carrying me.

I won’t quote clichés. Instead, I reflect on my lifemate, my partner, my best friend, my soul, and say, “love, walk with me.” You smile, take my hand in yours, and say, “let’s go, it’s our journey.”

I am so humbly appreciative of you. But you know what, if we’re going this strong after 17 years, I think we’re on to something (smile.)

I love you. Today, always, and together as we make bootprints on our life’s journey.

Me 🙂

Easing Into Leather

My recovery from the broken leg is going very well now. I am walking with a more steady gait, and not limping (much…). I can wear two normal boots with relatively flat soles. I have been getting a lot of exercise by swimming and walking. That helps me regain the range of motion in my ankle, as well as helps control weight… though it’s coming off in ounces and not by the pound. (I expected that. All good things take time.)

During the eight weeks that I was housebound and had a splint or cast on my leg, I couldn’t wear a pair of leather jeans if I wanted to. I probably could have put on a pair of chaps, but I wasn’t interested. It was a chore just to get situated into my easy-chair during the day and back to bed at night, so attempting to get leather gear out of the closet and put it on was too much to think about. Plus, my partner was much more concerned about me and my recovery to think about getting me any leather to wear.

Even though the cast has been off for more than a week, my right ankle is still swollen. By the end of the day, it is rather large. I have to elevate it and put ice on it. So again, at least for the past cast-less week, I have not considered wearing any leather. I guess another reason that I haven’t thought much about wearing leather is that I am prohibited from riding my Harley, so I don’t need to put on protective clothing.

However, as I am regaining my strength and stability, and while it is still cool outdoors, I am also regaining interest in wearing leather again. Let’s say that I am “easing into it.” I have worn a leather shirt around the house when I get home from work. I’ll probably put on a pair of leather jeans soon to see how they fit. I will not, however, be able to wear leather breeches that zip closed around the lower ankle to fit inside tall patrol boots. The ankle swelling situation has to go away before I can even “think” of wearing leather breeches or patrol boots again. Perhaps by autumn… but not now, and probably not during the summer, either.

All good things come to those who wait. I am a patient man.

Life is short: think forward!

Linear or Divergent Thinker?

I love my partner; however, what I am about to describe is one of his attributes that drives me most crazy, and my alternate approach is nerve-wracking to him.

That is, my partner is a linear thinker. One thing at a time. Do what’s on your mind when you think of it. Get the job done, then move on to the next in sequence.

Me? I am a divergent thinker. I often think of the “big picture” and organize my tasks logically, but not necessarily sequentially.

This is how we are different: my partner will be setting the table for dinner. He will notice that the napkin holder is low, so he will go to the cupboard to get more. He will notice that the supply of napkins in the kitchen cupboard is low, so he will immediately go into the basement where we store a larger supply to get more.

Okay, that all makes sense. But he should finish setting the table first, rather than carry the forks and knives in his hands as he makes these treks around the kitchen and basement (this would be funny if it weren’t true!)

For me? Well, here’s an example of what I do that is similar in task accomplishment, but from a different style of organization. When I am preparing a meal, I will pull out all the ingredients that are needed to make it and put them on the kitchen island. I will begin making my creation. As I go along, I realize that I have used up two or three items. But that’s okay, I know there are more in the basement pantry. I “make a mental note of it” while I finish preparing the meal. While the meal is cooking, I will then go get the items that need to be replenished.

Trouble is, that works fine most of the time, but being the absent-minded type, there are often times when I forget to go get the stuff we need, and remember it later. My partner and I will be seated in our basement watching TV, and I’ll remember, “oh, yeah, right… I need this-n-that.” I will get it out of the basement pantry and put it on the steps, so I will see it and remember to bring it up when we finish watching TV and go up to bed.

My partner, on the other hand, will harrumph and sigh, and just bring the items up right then, leaving the TV show running and missing part of it.

My partner’s way of doing things “when seen, right now” causes me consternation. For example, when my leg was broken and I was seated at the kitchen table, he would bring me my plate, but leave my glass of milk on the counter while he went and filled the napkin holder, put an extra knife away, put a pan in the sink and washed it, then brought me my milk and sat down himself to eat. There were times when the food would get cold while he was doing all these tasks so exactly and so sequentially.

Who’s right? Which way is best? Well, in almost 17 years, neither of us believes that the other’s approach is correct. However, we manage and deal with our quirks and idiosyncrasies, even though my way is better. I love him, always. (smile.)

Life is short: how do you think?

Being Called

Yesterday morning, my partner and I got up early and went to the swimming pool, where I swam 40 lengths so I could get much-needed exercise and work out the stiffness in my injured leg and ankle.

When we got home, I prepared breakfast, then put some ice on my ankle and elevated it to rest for a while. Then a cop buddy of mine came over, and he went with me to practice driving again! We spent an hour in an empty parking lot where I turned, stopped short, reversed, and otherwise got comfortable behind the wheel again. Yippie! I can drive!

When I returned, I grilled lunch for my partner and me, then once again, put my ankle up and iced it. My partner and I were plotting out the rest of the day when the phone rang. The caller was a daughter of one of my senior pals, Hal. I had computed and filed Hal’s tax return, so I thought perhaps his daughter was calling about that.

Instead, it was something I didn’t want to hear. Hal had a heart attack and was in the hospital. I decided to go see Hal. I drove carefully, but fortunately traffic wasn’t bad and the hospital is not that far away. I found Hal’s room. His daughter greeted me and said that Hal was sleeping. She told me that the doctor said that his heart attack was bad, and that they weren’t sure he would recover.

I went over and held his hand. I sat with Hal for several hours. Nurses would come in to check from time to time. The doctor showed up and said that there wasn’t much that could be done right now but let him rest. His condition was grave, and the doc said that he wasn’t sure that Hal would have much of a quality of life because he may have had brain damage when his heart had stopped beating.

His daughter, who lives out-of-town, told me that over the years that her father had talked a lot about me, and frequently referred to me as “his young pal.” Hal was a very interesting man to learn from. We had many long, pleasant, insightful conversations.

I remember one of those conversations was about death and dying. Hal didn’t want to have a prolonged, painful death. He had signed a Living Will. His daughter was vaguely aware of it, but did not know where his papers were. Because I had done Hal’s taxes, I knew where to find them. His daughter and I talked, and she agreed that she should go back to the house to get the papers so that the doctors would have authorization to take care of Hal the way that Hal wanted.

When his daughter returned, Hal’s condition had not changed. He was still unconscious. The Advance Medical Directives (that is what a “Living Will” is formally called) clearly explained that Hal did not want any life-prolonging measures to be taken. It specifically indicated that a feeding tube or ventilator was not to be used. His daughter understood, and brought the papers to the doctor’s attention.

The doctor discussed it with the hospital’s legal people, and they agreed that everything was in order. The ventilator was removed. Hal continued to breathe for a little while, but then he stopped… he died.

I know this is very sad, yet I also know what this situation is like. I lived with it personally when I took care of my uncle through the winter of his life until his death. I was there when my uncle died.

There was no wailing and screaming, though Hal’s daughter and I cried and held each other. But this is what Hal wanted. His death was rather quick and the anguish was minimized. Hal’s daughter thanked me for being her Dad’s friend and for helping him all these years, as well as for remembering Hal’s final wishes and enabling her to help her Dad fulfill them and die as he wished.

I was pretty much mentally wasted and exhausted by the time I got home. I just curled up with my partner and had a good cry. My partner held me close, and said what I often say,

Life is short: show those you love that you love them.

Weekly Goals

January 24 my life changed significantly when I fell and broke my leg. For eight weeks after it happened, I was stuck in a chair and was pretty much immobile. I “escaped” a few times, but for the most part, I didn’t go anywhere or do anything, and could not walk.

On March 19, the cast was removed from my leg. I thought, “oh wow! Freedom!” But my leg had “other plans.” It literally didn’t want to move. I had forgotten how to walk! I was amazed and shocked. Taking one step felt incredibly hard. And it hurt!

The next day, I began to do some exercises, and the day after that, I went swimming. Both of these activities helped me regain some flexibility in my ankle, which for eight weeks had been frozen in a 90-degree position.

I decided to make goals for each of the next several weeks, because I realized that my recovery would not be so dramatic that I would be wearing high-heeled cowboy boots and line dancing the day I got my cast off.

Week 1: (this past week) — learn to walk with a cane and navigate using Metro to return to work and back. My partner drove each day to the Metro garage. After dinner: leg up, elevated and on ice. Weekend: re-learn how to drive my four-wheeled vehicle again. Go visit my lovely aunt.

Week 2: (this week) — get to my first official physical therapy appointment and see if they can help. Drive myself to the Metro parking garage and get to work, and return safely each day. After dinner: leg up, elevated and on ice.

Week 3: (next week) — continue with physical therapy as recommended, continue to get myself to work and back, and attend one meeting in the evening after work. Still driving (only) in my four-wheeled vehicle. The Harley will just have to wait. I will TRY to wear a different pair of boots if the ankle swelling is reduced and other boots will fit.

Week 4: physical therapy, work full-time, and two evening meetings. Still using a four-wheeled vehicle. At the end of the week, return to my orthopedic doctor for an evaluation, plus a hoped-for clearance to return to riding my Harley. On the Saturday of this week, conduct my annual “Senior Safety Saturday” which is already well organized. I will not be able to run around doing repairs and installations as I had done in years past. I will sit at the registration table for the day, ensure assignments are understood, and resolve problems.

Week 5: all of the above (work, evening meetings) plus re-learning how to ride my Harley. But only on the weekend. I don’t quite think I will be ready yet to ride it to the Metro and back every day.

Week 6: lead a ride [the censors won’t let me say when or where], plus all of the above.

Weeks onward: ALL OF THE ABOVE!

Life is short: plan for the future — one step at a time.

Birthday Shout and Other Bits

Today is a friend’s birthday. I call him “AZ” on this blog and on BOL. I call him a caring and thoughtful soul. Lots of others do, too. I call him handsome, intelligent, funny, and fun — as do many others as well.

AZ is a humble man, and doesn’t like a lot of attention. So these few lines will serve sufficiently to say that I am observing this annual milestone for my buddy, I wish him well, and wish that I could be in Arizona so I could bake him a cake and give him a hug. This “e-hug” will have to do, though I sent him a small gift and a card. I know he knows how highly I think of him, so I promised him, “basta.” (This is enough–no gushing.)

In other news…

Today is FRIDAY! Woo-hoo! It’s been a heck of a long week, being my first week back at work after having my cast cut off and being cleared to go back to work. My partner has eased me into it by driving us to the Metro and home each day, which was much appreciated.

I smile a lot when I think of “Friday,” because my buddy Clay gets so very excited about Fridays. He does a “Friday Happy Dance” that I hear about and when I do, it makes me happy, too. Thanks, Clay, for always brightening my Fridays (and the rest of the week, too!)

My friend Kevin, the wise and introspective one, posted a comment on a blog post that caused me to think a great deal about the difference between religion and faith. It was in a comment to this post. What he said that hit close to my heart is that “faith is inspired by mercy” and it is faith that drives people to alleviate suffering and to help others. Yeah, he’s absolutely right once again … he hit my nail on the head. Thanks, Kevin, for your inspiring thoughts and reflections.

My twin brother, J, called yesterday and was grilling me about my recovery. He wants me to get better, but doesn’t want me to overdo it. He has been reading some things I had posted in other forums and was concerned. I assured him that with mother-hubbard St. Partner on my case, there’s no way I can “overdo it.” I am so blessed; my partner is still doing a lot of things for me that I just don’t have the energy or ability to do at this stage of my recovery, with nary a whimper, either. So rest assured, J, I am not killing myself or prolonging my recovery when I use words like, “pushing through the pain.”

I’ll close with another reflection from my friend Kevin, who said that upon reading my blog posts over time, that the sentiment in the Frank Capra movie from which I’ve quoted a lot, It’s a Wonderful Life, applies to me in real life. I have a wonderful net of family and friends with whom I am closely bonded. They actually enjoyed caring for me when I was laid up with my broken leg. My man loves me deeply, as I love him. Our home is nice, our community supportive, and our state accepting (and our State Senate finally had the cajones to pass a bill about using cell phones while driving that I had been supporting for over eight years!) All-in-all, yeah, it’s a wonderful life and I’m happy to be in it. Especially, I’m happy to be closely intertwined with all who compose my life.

Life is short: love it! Happy birthday, AZ! (Ha, you thought I said enough was enough, didn’t ‘ya!)

A Banana Should Be A Banana

I wrote a blog the other day about the GQ style police not thinking that men wearing leather pants was such a good idea, and reflected on my opinion of their homophobic and witless commentary.

A friend, Kevin, posted a reply and later that day, said this to me in an email:

It caused me to think about how much our personal images are tied into what we decide to wear. I believe that very few of us actually dress to please ourselves. We mostly seem to dress to either fit in or to represent the role we choose to play. I read an interview with RuPaul recently in which he viewed our clothing as a form of drag. As he put it, whether it’s a dress or suit, we’re all playing a role. The difficulty comes when we start to believe that role truly represents what’s inside. I hope most people come to the realization that at the end of the day, sometimes a banana is just a banana.

Kevin is right. I look around my office and see the kid in the cube down the hall wearing a suit every day. Not because he has important meetings, but because he is playing a role of trying to wear what the boss wears as he has clear aspirations in wanting to be promoted. I see all the glum-faced attorneys riding the Metro with me into and out of the city. In my off-time, I see the happy family guy in my cousin as he plays with his kids while wearing a comfy sweatshirt and jeans. I see the bad-ass bikers in my motorcycle riding club wearing their beat-up jackets, club-colors vests, boots, and chaps.

We all wear costumes of some sort. Some of us are more comfortable or accepting of certain costumes that society suggests such as suits in an office and khakis & polo shirts with sneakers when off the clock.

Some of us are not. I have already stated that in my opinion, I do not like suits & ties. That’s me. That’s not everybody. My twin brother was born in a tie, but I still love the big lug. I seem to have been born jumping into mud puddles wearing boots and jeans. I am equally comfortable in a pair of Wranglers and cowboy boots as I am in a pair of leather jeans and engineer boots. It is a matter of personal taste.

What I wear to the office conforms with the norms there. What I wear on my own time conforms with ME. Not with anyone else. Yes, I play various roles — community helper, loving nephew, roughhousing uncle, repair-guy, biker-dude, civic leader, friend, brother, partner…. Do I change what I wear based on the role I will play? Well, usually not. I mean if I have to conform to a written or unwritten dress code, such as no all-leather outfits at a funeral, I’ll do that. But I don’t fret if the animal on my shirt is from a real cow from which the shirt is made, rather than some alligator or lizard or polo player. I’m just not that kind of guy.

Life is short: be your own person. It’s much more comfortable that way!

There’s Being There and There’s Not

I was catching up on cop blogs the other day, and read a post by Officer Smith that hit close-to-home. What he was talking about is knowing that his uncle needed help, and the members of his church, who live right in the community, were wishing him well via postings to his wife on Facebook, but not really helping. That is, not providing the help that was needed. Praying for someone but not lifting a finger to go visit, run an errand, pick something up … whatever … to really help … isn’t very Christian. It’s lazy.

When I was laid up with my broken leg, I couldn’t get out and help people as I ordinarily do. That drove me crazy, because in ordinary circumstances, I was always the one out there helping others. I would get up off my butt and go do something if I knew that someone was seriously ill or injured and needed help.

I observed that in my own situation. I had lots of Facebook well-wishers, many of whom live out-of-town so I accept that social networking is a convenient way to offer support. But there were about ten of my neighbors — all who live within a mile or two of me — who frequently commented on Facebook offering platitudes, but never once asked me if I needed anything.

I have to clarify a bit — there were three Facebook friends who live nearby who did pick up the phone and call me, or email me, and offered to help. And I took them up on it! These were my friends who took me on the clandestine outings that I had mentioned in earlier posts. Or they just came at lunchtime and helped prepare lunch, or retrieve packages from my doorstep, or … whatever … they helped. Big or little, they stepped up and not only offered support, but gave it.

In summarizing this mild rant, I am saying that if you live near someone who you know has a severe injury or illness, don’t pretend to offer support by posting a comment on Facebook thinking you are being nice and you’re done with it. Get up off your friggin’ butt and go help! Make the person who was hurt or ill swallow his or her pride and accept help. (That was hard for me to do, but I realized that my request for help actually made my friends feel better, too.)

Get going … go help.

Life is short. That’s why.

Style Mag Stereotypes

I read Straightjacketed’s blog posted titled GQ: Leather Trousers Proceed With Caution the other day. In the post, SJ quoted parts of a reader’s inquiry to GQ Magazine and their resident “Style Guy’s” reply. What prompted the response was a letter from a guy who was asking GQ about its “take” on leather having a resurgence and wearing a pair of leather pants (trousers) without “scraficing the little fashion credibility I have.”

Unfortunately, the Style Guy’s reply was full of half-hearted attempts at being witty, but had many underlying descriptions of stereotypical thoughts about guys who may choose to wear leather pants (trousers, jeans, whatever you want to call them.)

Some of the statements offered by the so-called Style Guy include: I understand the appeal of leather – even if it is on a deep-down pervy level – and that whole Wild West meets The Wild One schtick. But the truth is leather trousers are, how can I put this, just a little bit gay (think chaps), and I think one runs the risk of looking more Village People than Marlon Brando.

SJ described the article as a gem of witlessness and a simple case of kneejerk homophobia. I completely agree.

Unlike SJ, I never really followed, read, or was interested in men’s style magazines. Dressing “stylishly” was always something that bothered me to my core. Why? Besides the expense, I never liked how “stylish” clothing looked on other men, or myself. I detest dress shoes. I hate ties. I abhor suits. I wouldn’t be caught dead in an overcoat. In my opinion, pants with cuffs or shirts with cufflinks look silly. Please understand: that is my opinion. My personal feeling about this manner of men’s dress has become even more strong as I have aged, rather than my becoming more conservative and accepting.

I cannot put my finger on the reasons why I feel this way. It may have to do with an ongoing rejection of conformity, since I am a child of the 60s and 70s. … though, I get my hair buzzed (primarily because I don’t like to “style” my hair. A buzz-cut is much easier to keep clean!)

My aversion to stylish dress may have to do with what I perceive to be the lifestyle choices of the men who wear such clothing. But I will not go down the road of offering stereotypes of yuppies….

And I mentioned the expense, which bothers a fiscally conservative guy like me a lot. Why pay $200 for one pair of pants and $100 for a shirt when a $40 pair of pants and $25 shirt from Lands End will look great, be wrinkle-free, and be washable at home, as well. Why pay the ongoing expense of dry cleaning?

I have looked and cannot find the letter that SJ was quoting from in the UK version of GQ. I looked on the UK GQ website, as well as the US GQ website, and all I could find was more anti-leather, stereotypical articles and comments about “style guys” thinking that men wearing anything other than a leather jacket is not fashionable or acceptable.

They are as entitled to their opinions as I am entitled to my own. I think they are wrong, short-sighted, ill-informed, as well as being homophobic and that they enjoy (as SJ says) using lazy journalistic clichés about leather. I never read their magazine, and will not begin to do so now.

I truly regret, however, that exposure to this thoughtless, witless drivel on an ongoing basis affects the thinking of the straight men of the world. Then one of them will see me wearing a pair of leather jeans, and think something badly about me, because their perception was clouded by such negativity.

My brother was a good example — he is a very stylish man. He told me that he would never wear a pair of leather pants until his wife and I talked him into trying on a pair of leather pants a couple weeks ago. Now he loves them. He has also done what I have suggested a lot on this blog: be your own guy. To heck with nay-sayin’ commentaries from ill-informed people.

Life is short: wear leather. Grrrrrrrrrrrr.

On The Road To Recovery

Here I am, in my office, back at work. I kept up with the email and the voice mail, so I really have little to catch up on. That is, until other people start to filter in (which they have, all with a cheery, “welcome back,” but an unstated, “I don’t really want to know your problems” so I am just saying that it’s good to be back and that’s it.)

My beloved St. Partner escorted me to the office today. He walked with me from the Metro, stayed right by my side through the rail system until we exited at the station in the city nearest my office. Then I began that slow, steady, but painful walk to the building where my office is located.

My Wesco combat boots provided sufficient support and comfort during my trek, though I must say that once I got settled into my office, I took off the boot from my injured ankle and put an ice pack on the ankle and leg. It hurts! But this too shall pass.

I am on the road to recovery… one step at a time.

Life is short: keep truckin’!