Thanking those who are important in my life, for what they've given me. My last words.
| May 11, 2005
In the unlikely but still remotely possible, untimely and unfortunate event of my demise, I would like the following to be known by those who survive me. Almost everyone has been telling me how much safer planes are than automobiles, but I have already flown out to California when I was younger. Driving across the country is something I have always wanted to do. At least I was smart enough not to try it on a two wheeled vehicle this time. If anything happens, be consoled by the fact that I was doing something I always wanted to do. So there, does that help any?
The reason I am writing this is because I know that anything is possible. I could drop dead here at work before I even finish writing this (shhhhh... don't tell anyone I'm not working). I know I am taking a chance by driving 5,000 miles, but I drive 17,160 miles a year just to work and back (that's 330 miles per week times 52). So why shouldn't I commute less than 1/3 of that total going somewhere I want to go. No reason against it that I can think of (except that it's dangerous)! But I ask, what isn't dangerous nowadays?
Just watching the news make me realize that weird things are happening, and there are some really ruthless and sick people in this world. I just have to trust my Higher Power (okay, Jesus, if you will) that I won't run into any of them. So far, I have been extremely lucky, considering some of the circumstances I have found myself in. I won't go into details, but let's just say I am lucky to be here.
Don't worry, I'm not planning on picking up any hitchhikers. I might have done that in my younger days, even hitchhiked myself, but no way Jose is it any where resembling safe any more. Although I don't believe in guns, (they scare me), I do have some pepper spray in case of emergency. I might be hesitant to fire a gun, but I believe I could press my finger on that spray button pretty quickly if I had to.
Now, I will get to my point. People think it's ironic when people die suddenly. They say things like, "They were just planning on..." or "they were getting excited about their upcoming..." whatever. Of course nobody plans on dying, but it does happen, and most of the time it is unforeseen. The only circumstances I can think of where it is not is when someone has a terminal illness or when they are orchestrating their own suicide. Neither one of these applies to me.
So of course I was busy making plans; that's what we do every day. Nobody knows when the hour will come. It comes like a thief in the night, sneaking in quietly but rapacious and swift in execution. That's the way it was with Daddy. Had he known he was going to die so young, I get the feeling he would have had some parting words: something for us to remember him by. So that is the purpose of this letter. It is addressed to those family and friends who knew me best.
Where do I begin? I guess I will begin with family, those closest to me who have known me the longest. My purpose is to let you know something which I never bothered to or had enough courage to let you know while I was living; or maybe I just never found the right time.
I'll start with Mark, since he is my current housemate and I see him the most. Mark, I just want you to know that I appreciate everything you've done for me, most recently and in the past. I never realized how protective you were until you moved in with me on Christmas Day. I feel like I am living with someone who really cares about my well-being, so much different from the situation I had before (but I won't go into that).
I have never had a roommate like that (since Mom). Most people are only concerned about their own agendas, but you are somewhat preoccupied with my needs as well, and often go out of your way to help me. I am not used to someone checking on me to make sure I am okay, or have what I need to get through the day, but it sure is growing on me. I hope I am able to help you out sometimes, too.
I know when I go to work, I don't have to worry about anything back at home. Not like before at all. So anyway, thanks for helping me out at the home front. It sure has been a lot less stressful these past few months.
To Matt, what can I say? You have bailed me out of a financial crisis more than once, and enlisted the help of Mark and Helen, too. I owe all three of you a big thanks, for letting me stay in my house. You know how much I hate to move. I also appreciate the times you have come over and worked with Mark on my yard... it really is looking a lot better these days. I never realized how much upkeep a house needed, until I really spent some years in mine.
It's funny, the owner of the duplex in Rome, where I lived for six years, hardly did any maintenance or upkeep the whole time I was there. All I ever had to do was cut the yard. But everyone told me when I got transferred back to Atlanta, that a house is a wise investment. I hope I have not made a mistake. Hopefully, if something happens to me, someone can get a few thousand out of selling the house. I just got a statement today; I owe $148,800 and it appraised for $163,000. Hopefully it won't need much work done if you need to sell it.
While I'm on the subject, I have an accidental death insurance policy with AAA Auto Club. Their number is 1-800-222-1134 and my policy # is 177423690 8. (Club Code 014). Not trying to foreshadow anything happening, but just in case. My last will and testament is in the drawer in the dining room hutch to the right. Also, there are some Paul McCartney tickets for the September 20th show (ten in all). They are in the plastic file box on top of my speaker in my bedroom, under the file named "Credit Cards". You could sell them on e-bay (I hope). At least, that's what I plan on doing (all except my ticket, of course). You don't think I would go and do a thing like miss Mister Mac, do you? Well, if you are reading this, I am sorry to say, I probably have.
Okay, back on the subject... just some parting words to some people I care about. I always wondered what people might say if they knew they were going to be going so soon.
Helen, you're next. I really appreciate the financial help you have been generously giving me. I owe all three of you so much lately. I want to live a few years, long enough to build some equity in my house, and hopefully pay you guys back when I sell it. That is my plan. Another one of my wishes is that I would have enough courage to fly over to Naples one day to visit you. Most of the other times I have flown have been exciting, except maybe a few moments on landing or takeoff when I was a little nervous. I guess the brain doesn't know much difference between exciting and nervous anyway, just like it doesn't know the difference between endorphins (natural painkillers) and alcohol or drugs.
That brings up another subject. I don't think I have ever told you, Helen, that I am sorry you had to see some of the worst drinking I ever did, when I lived with you back in 1982 and 1983. I can't really make any excuses for my behavior, other than to say, I always tried to drink like I saw other people drinking, but it sometimes got out of control. All I can say is that now I am trying to stay sober the best that I know how, one day at a time. (And life is pretty good, when I do that).
So thanks for putting up with me during that time. I only regret that we haven't spent much time together over the years, as duty has called you to faraway places. I really had a lot of fun visiting you in Bermuda. That was when I decided maybe I could have a job with Uncle Sam as well. I just want to say, that I am proud of you for sticking with it for more than twenty four years. I know that wasn't easy. I have stuck with this job now for almost seventeen, and it hasn't always been a picnic, but I took the advice of people when I started who said, "Don't quit - that job is a career!" But careers sure can be a long time in the making.
Next on my list is Rick. I feel like we don't really know each other that well... most of what I know about you the last few years was what I heard through Mom. I know that she was proud of you for all your accomplishments, and I know it must have really taken a lot of work and sacrifice on your part to get where you are. I respect you for that much. There is one thing I regret, though. I regret that we didn't get to know each other very well. I feel like you might have cut me some slack, once in a while, instead of criticizing me so harshly. I know I have made a lot of mistakes in my life, but who hasn't? I have never gained anything from you telling me about how overweight I am, or pointing out various other things that you feel are wrong with me. I only wish you could have pointed out one or two things I did right. But you weren't around to see any of that.
I don't blame you, either. I will take at least fifty percent of the blame for our relationship being what it is. In a way, I have always been afraid of you. You have been like an authority figure to me, instead of like a brother. I always considered you my brother growing up, and I still do. I only regret that I do not understand some of your motives. Maybe that is why I am making this trip. I want to find out some answers. Perhaps there are things I do not know about you. Maybe we can reach some kind of understanding, because after all, we are both adults now. I really do love you and care about you.
So that takes care of all the currently living members of my immediate family. Next on my list will be my very best friend, Lori, the only one whom I am sending this to. I share most everything with you - my hopes and dreams, my fears and dislikes, and you love me anyway. You know my faults and the mistakes I've made over the years, but you seem to accept me the way I am, leaving me to make choices on what I should change. You give the best feedback, sometimes disguised as advice, which helps me get through the day. Sometimes you just listen, and let me vent, about things in this world that I don't quite agree with.
I don't know how much more anyone could ask of a friend. I wish you success in the years ahead - financially, romantically, and any way you desire. You certainly deserve it - you are a true gem of a person.
Becky, you have been there for me also, throughout the years. The only difference is we don't talk every day, but that's okay. You have offered me words of encouragement on more than one occasion, and also listened to me when I just had to vent. I am looking forward to my trip out to Cali to see you again. It has been over six years since I last saw you the day of my surgery. Thanks for being there that day and all the other days to support me.
I guess the person who has heard some of my innermost feelings and knows me inside and out would be Dr. James Patrick Ware. We have been meeting for close to five years, now. You are not only an excellent listener, but also someone who puts two and two together very well, and comes up with solutions I never thought of. (Although sometimes you seem to vocalize exactly what's on my mind). Thank you for not having me committed (LOL). I always look forward to my appointments with you (except that one day I was physically "sick").
It's too bad everyone doesn't have someone like you, whom they can talk to. You helped me discover and uncover feelings which I had pretty much buried inside me for years. Life is too short to go around feeling miserable, or trying to not feel anything. I've discovered that when I go ahead and feel my "bad" feelings, it leaves room for me to experience the "good" feelings, as well. You have taught me to ask What am I feeling rather than Why. And that has helped me to uncover the truth. Like the Lord once said, "The truth shall set you free."
Free to experience all that this world has to offer - free to play and be spontaneous like a child learning to live - free to feel what lies within and be honest with myself. Who was it that said, "To thine own self, be true." Man, does that make a lot of sense.
Now I will include another friend, Kris. Back when I had cancer in 1999, that chance meeting with you at Chik-Fil-A, was just what the doctor ordered. I had just moved back here and didn't have many friends. I'll never forget those messages you left on my cell phone which I would call and check while I was laying in the hospital, recovering from surgery and radiation, and bored out of my mind.
And the reminiscing we've done concerning the "old times". I hope you find success in your future endeavors, and I really hope one day you make peace with your past, and with your ex. It is my opinion you will be a lot happier when you do. You are blessed with two wonderful boys, and I'm sure they mean the world to you. Look to the future, not the past. (I need to take my own advice).
While I'm on the subject of my hospital stay, I would just like to thank a few people who came to see me while I was there. Jim Mundy, I'll never forget the comfort you gave my by just being there (and it was funny when I woke up and you were gone). I appreciate you letting me fall asleep! And Ella Layton, you have been there for me in a non-judgemental way, as a sponsor and a friend. And Steve Riddell, you helped me laugh. And Pat Fawbush, I really appreciate you being there. And Marjorie, too (I don't know your last name). You really have a lot of experience and wisdom to share. And Debbie Elrod, how could I forget you? We had some laughs together, didn't we? (All these folks' numbers are in my cell phone).
I started out this morning thinking about the "things" I would miss about this world, if I had to leave. But it is really the people, whom I would miss the most.
Oh yeah, Wes Sprunger... how could I ever forget you? I have really enjoyed our discussions, mostly over the phone, about this and that and life in general. You really have a unique way of looking at things, in a positive way. And I know you really do live what you "preach". We have talked about life and death before, and you say to enjoy every moment, because we never will know when it will end. ("And that is the beauty of it"), you would say. Thanks for being truthful and encouraging, and just for being you. You have been instrumental in me coming up with this idea to write this.
Next on my list falls into the category of neither people nor things. Big Cat! It's funny how animals can hold a special place in our hearts, partly because they cannot speak. But they can communicate through nonverbal ways, and we feel their "love". I am going to miss hearing you purr and rolling over on your back like a roly-poly so I can rub your tummy. Although you couldn't "speak" to me, you had several different meows where I would get the general gist of your moods - one for urgency, one for "feed me, I'm out of food" and another I believe was just for, "Hey, what's up?" Yes, you are truly something to look forward to coming home to. Thanks for just being there, Big Cat. (And Miss Kitty, too. It's too bad you were a little scared of me. I know you could be pretty affectionate, too, whenever you were "caught"!
Just in case they don't have these "things", where I am going to, I would just like to list some of my favorite things about this world. Maybe it will remind someone else to enjoy them while they are here, too. So here goes:
¨ Key West sunsets, sunsets over the ocean, sunsets disappearing behind the mountains, sunsets in my backyard, even sunsets looking out of the dingy window at work!
¨ The breeze blowing through the trees, the wind in my face when I'm riding a motorcycle, the swoosh of the air upon descending the tracks on a roller coaster, the air stream that blows over you as you ride a boat upon the water. Perhaps, where we're going, we will be able to fly like the birds, and experience the air currents under our wings.
¨ Road trips. I always enjoy going somewhere I've never been, or taking a different route I've never seen. I feel like Lewis and Clark, exploring new places and faces, discovering the different quirks that each location has.
¨ I like finding my way around with a map. It's a challenge to see what's on the way between the two lines on a piece of paper. You can't tell what's on a map until you get out and drive the route. You can't see the trees and the sky and the sunset until you're actually out in it, amongst nature.
¨ Strawberries, my favorite fruit. There's something about them, maybe because I was allergic when I was little and couldn't eat them. They taste so good to me, whether they are fresh, or frozen, or even overripe. Another reason why I'm going to Watsonville (home of the delicious Driscoll strawberries!)
¨ Concerts. I always have enjoyed hearing live music, whether it's Paul McCartney, Confederate Railroad, James Taylor, the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Jethro Tull, Styx, Foreigner, Bob Seger, REO Speedwagon, Aerosmith, or even Metallica. (Okay, maybe I couldn't get "into" that one), but I did enjoy the company I was with. The only group I regret not getting to see perform live is The Beatles. Now, that was surely one hell of a show. But at least we have recordings to listen to (and watch).
¨ Movies. Some of my favorite movies are: Pay it Forward, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Jungle Book, Tequila Sunrise, At First Sight, The Saint, Office Space. I also like true stories and biographies; comedies, too. I used to really enjoy the Saturday Night Live episodes in the 70's and 80's.
¨ Baseball. No other sport intrigues me as much. Maybe it's because I grew up playing softball, and I am fortunate enough to know what it feels like to hit a home run, much less a grand slam. It is truly a thrill. I think playing softball for the six or seven years that I did, taught me a lot of things, like teamwork, and respecting others' efforts. I really had a lot of fun those years.
¨ I used to enjoy physical exercise, like riding my bike and swimming. It is my intent, if I live much longer, to get back into reasonable shape where I can enjoy some activities again. Being overweight, everything is a struggle. I hereby resolve to start riding my exercise bike more, when I get back from California. I really plan on making it back. I'm just writing this "just in case".
¨ Something else I enjoy - animals! I love to hear the birds singing in the morning (sometimes I hear them when I get up momentarily in the wee hours, around 4 a.m.). Just visit your local animal jail (the zoo) and observe their quiet nature. Animals are beautiful.
¨ Flowers. I'm not much into gardening, but if I was I would plant lots of blue flowers everywhere. Blue is my favorite color, but I also enjoy roses and many other colors of flowers that I don't know the name of.
¨ Weather.com message boards. I really enjoy interacting with people I've never met but have come to know by their many postings on this site. I have let them get to know me a little, too. We have much in common!
¨ That reminds me of someone else I should thank, actually two people in my life recently. The first one is David Stephens - the flower man. I really enjoyed going to those two lectures you invited me to, where you work at the Kistner Center in Snellville. It was kind of a stretch for me, but it never hurts to broaden one's horizons. Also, you did a great job in trimming my bushes in the front yard - they were growing up against the house (not good).
¨ And Phil Stegall, I really appreciate your putting in the cat door and the screen door additions to my house. My roommate had me convinced that he was the only one who knew how to do stuff like that, but now I know different.
These are just some of the things that made me happy while I was visiting this planet. When I think back on all my experiences, I believe I could have lived more "in the moment"... not worrying about what might happen or when I would finally be out of debt. I could have stopped and "smelled the roses" along the way more often. I could have told the people in my life how much I appreciate them, without sounding overly sentimental. I could have shown them my thankfulness, instead of just saying it.
All in all, it has been a great ride. I really do think I got my money's worth this trip. I just have to wonder - can I ride it again? Or where does the next ride take me? I guess we'll all find out, one fine day. Until then, enjoy yourself, and have "a day".
¨ Last, (but not least) I would like to thank all the friends I have met here on Writing.com, for all your kind words of encouragement and helpful criticism. I hope my demise is not soon, but a long time from now, so that I will have time to come here often and get to know writers like me more. I feel like I can bare my soul, here... a place I can call "home".
I guess that is about all I have to say (for now). I'm taking a tape recorder on my trip so I can capture my thoughts as I drive across the country. You never know when and where inspiration might come. Until then... the road beckons.
Over. (And out).