Thursday, December 17, 2009

Merry Christmas, Rhonda.....

One day, "when the dust has finally settled and the air has quickly cleared..." (you really gotta be a Buffett oldtimer to appreciate that line) I'll lavish expensive gifts upon you and we'll have Christmases that would make Currier and Ives blush with envy. For now, Christmas will be a matter of the heart and an opportunity to spend some downtime together. I'll cook you some shrimp etouffee Christmas Eve and we'll get up Christmas morning and I'll cook you breakfast and we'll enjoy our first Christmas morning at home...although we've been in this home for 12 years now. For now, please accept these thoughts as presents from me to you:
No one..and I mean NO ONE would've hung with me through the last few years of bad health, bad self-esteem, limited ventures into public and general sadness all brought on by massive amounts of excessive weight. I lived as a recluse and forced you to do so as well. Anyone else would've bolted and left me to flounder in my misery. You stayed, you fought, you pushed and you made bad days good and good days perfect. I'll never be able to repay that.
We dated for a long time before I let you see the little crash-pad I called home. It was everything you'd think a habitat for a single man and a black Labrador Retriever would be. But it didn't scare you off...not even when you saw, oh, two or three weeks worth of beer cans stacked in my shower. I'll never, ever forget the look on your face when you came out of the bathroom and said " have empty beer cans in your shower..." You accepted my explanation that, at the time, I worked in a hot and dirty environment and every afternoon had a shower and cold Bud Light before I did anything else. Beer cans in the shower would've scared off many women...not you.
No matter how old we get, I swear there's still going to be that little girl living in your face. Every time you and your dimples huddle over a bowl of cereal on the love seat I see a little girl eating cereal and watching her Saturday morning cartoons. "Forever young" indeed. Folks think your dad robbed a cradle because your mom looks so young. I know that's going to be us one day, 'cause I'm already looking a lot older than you (not exactly the affect I was shooting for when I lost all this weight..but it has made me look my age, I think.)
If I live to be a hundred I'll never forget a boat ride we took off of Tybee Island to watch dolphins play. After a half hour or so and a hundred dolphins chasing our boat I looked over and you had tears rolling down your face. I said "Oh my God! What's wrong??" And you said "they're so just makes me cry." If I didn't know it before, I knew then I'd done very well.
I tell folks all the time "I married a Baptist Georgia fan and turned her into a Methodist Tech fan." The fact that you realized that was a transition that would make our life easier is just more proof of how perfect you are. I ain't quite conservative enough to be a Baptist and there's NOTHING in this world that could have me wearing red and black. I'm just glad we don't have to buy one of those stupid tags for our cars that says " a house divided" and has a "GT" on one half a "G" on the other....or a picture of John Wesley on one side and Charles Stanley on the other.
I'm eternally grateful that one of the lasting memories I'll have of my mother is the way her face lit up every time you walked into a room. Even after Alzheimer's began to rob her of mind and personality she never, ever wanted to hear me being anything less than adoring to you. How many times did we hear her say "TIMOTHY!" and wag her finger in my face when I started giving you a hard time about something. She knew I'd done well and, even in the last days of her life, didn't want me to blow it. The fact that she called you one of her "girls" (the same designation afforded my sisters) told us you were hers.
I really do think the hard part's over. Improved health and attitude really has me thinking we can conquer anything. I truthfully don't know what I'd do without you or how I'd be spending this Christmas without you...probably taking a hot shower and adding to my shower stall beer can collection...

Monday, December 14, 2009

I don't like Paula Deen....

or Dean..or however you spell her name. There. I said it. I don't like her!
First off, take a man and give him a cooking show and let him make as many sexual innuendos as Paula does and he'd be an outcast. Perv. Disgusting. How many times have I heard her say "When Miiiiiiiiichael tastes this he's gonna wanna spank me..." I mean the mental image alone.... She also chews with her mouth open and talks with her mouth full. I'm a native southerner and have lived in this part of the world all my life. I was raised by some very old-school southern folks. Yet I've never, ever heard anyone use the word "y'all" as much as she does. I think it's for effect so that all those folks watching her will giggle and say "Wow, they really do say 'y'all' a all the time." Worst of all, she and those pretty boy sons are bunch of (gulp) Georgia fans. But here's the biggest reason I don't like her....I'm insanely jealous of her.
Meager roots (planted in the same red clay as mine) have led to her super stardom. She's become an empire and she has a cool house with a wrap-around front porch that is within a stone's throw of some really good fishing. Admittedly, you gotta admire it. For now, though, I choose to be jealous.
The problem is that I've had a thousand dreams. And there's one common element to most of them - they all ended with me achieving some level of notoriety. Younger days I wanted to be a rock star. Getting old (and wanting to save a few brain cells for later in life) I decided I could settle for writing songs that people bought and recorded and soon I'd start hearing songs I've written on the radio. And, if I may say so, there's lots of things I hear on the radio that make me think "Hell, I write better than that!" I want to write screenplays. I want to write books that someone else turns into screenplays. I'm desperate to see characters that have lived only in my brain come alive.
Bottom-line I want to do something so well that folks recognize my name, if not my face. And, I want the financial success that comes with that level of recognition. Not because I want to build Graceland for me and my bride to live in. Not because I want expensive cars and a private jet. Truth be told, were I a zillionaire, I'd probably still be driving around in a pickup truck and fishing and playing lots of golf (I'd probably be doing that fishing off a damn big boat...but that's the only indulgence that comes to mind.) I just want that sense of.....accomplishment.
The youngest of four children and the only male child. From the time I entered this world there was a mother or a father or a sister to do for me. Even now, a grown man, I have in-laws that have entrusted me to take care of their only child and yet I'm still relying on them for too many things to mention. The occasion still often presents itself when a sister comes to the rescue in many ways. I want the day to come when folks rely on ME for something. I want folks to say "heard of Tim Freeman? He's my (brother, brother-in-law, husband, son-in-law, friend) and we're so proud of him! He takes such good care of us!"
Most of all, I want my wife to peacefully fall asleep at night without having to first figure out how in the world we're going to rob Peter to pay Paul and make ends meet for yet another month. I want to see my wife not tired and not worried. I want to see her enjoying life, not drown proofing. I want her to have a nice BMW to drive to lunch because (truth be told) she likes to drive really fast.
I missed a lot of opportunities to make my parents proud. Now, my wife's parents have made me their own and I've got a second chance to make parents proud. And to make sure my father-in-law sees his lifelong dream of visiting the Ferrari factory in Italy. I might buy him a Ferrari!
The weight was a built-in excuse for none of this to happen. The weight's now gone. Now if none of that happens it's because I really am a doofus. And if dreams come true and things happen that I want to happen...........I probably still won't like Paula Deen. That whole eating with her mouth open thing.....

Thursday, December 3, 2009

46 Years

So 46 years ago today I entered this world at Georgia Baptist Hospital down on Boulevard. It's called Atlanta Medical Center now. My wife was born there also, a couple of years later. Was there any other hospital in Atlanta birthing babies in the mid 60's? Anyway, here I sit contemplating a number. 46. FORTY-SIX. If you're talking dollars, 46 ain't a lot. If you're talking years it's much more complicated to figure out the relative size of the number 46.
I actually went out and Googled "46 YEARS." I found a thousand stories about the fact that this past November was the 46th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. I learned that Aldous Huxley ("Brave New World") died on the same day Kennedy was killed. Interesting trivia to spew during happy hour or over dinner but not really earth-shattering.
I found a story about two sisters in Garfield, Iowa who have owned a family eatery at the corner of Hwy. 69 and 170th Street for 46 YEARS. Their grilled pork tenderloin was voted Iowa's best back in 2004. I came away from that thinking "there's 170 streets in Garfield, Iowa?"
I found a website called "" where you can enter your crisis du jour and find people with whom you share these similar life experiences. Like you can type in "soccer mom who is losing sleep deciding between prime rib or fish for Christmas dinner party with other soccer moms" and you'll instantly be connected with folks fighting these same demons. So I entered "46 years old" and was told no one had started that conversation. Of course they haven't...who in the hell wants to be reminded that they're 46 YEARS old?
A guy in Germany got released from prison back in October after spending 46 YEARS in prison for (wait for it....) stealing bicycles. 46 YEARS? Really? For stealing bikes? If I'm burning 46 years of my life in the can I'm robbing some liquor stores and getting a headline: "The perpetrator takes no cash, making off only with as many half gallons of Tangueray gin as he can carry and demanding that someone fill his pockets with jars of at 11."
So, not much to be found of interest in them internets when searching 46 YEARS. So I did another search on December 3, 1963. Found that Terri Schiavo was also born on that day (God rest her soul.) Damon Berryhill (former major league catcher) shares my birthday.
Of most interest to me was a list of WABC's all-american survey for the week of December 3, 1963. Coming in at number 28 (and I'm not making this up) was "Girls Grow Up Faster Than Boys" by The Cookies. Uh, did Gloria Steinem have a singing career before Ms.? Coming in at 43 was "Frosty The Snowman" by The Ronettes. It gains instant inclusion into my cool song list because it made a cameo in "Goodfellas." You know the rules - if you've made an appearance in "Goodfellas, " "The Sopranos, " or "The Godfather" you're cool enough to ice tea.
Ok, so that was a lot of useless information. I'm the king of it. I guess I'm left here grateful for the 46 years I've had and hopeful that there's many more adventures yet to come. The changes over the last year in my health have certainly given me hope to think that there are many positives on the horizon. Prior to my surgery, I really had no such hope. In fact, one of the many things that got me started on pursuing weight loss surgery was a conversation I had with my cardiologist. He looked me right in the eye about three years ago and said "I'm not using scare tactics...I'm going to tell you this because I care and you're a nice guy...but at this size, you'll never see 50." Think about my old size I'd be four years away from pushing up daisies. I'd leave behind the best, most beautiful bride a man can ever hope for, three sisters and their husbands who still take care of me and in-laws who treat me like their own. Not to mention a host of nieces and nephews who I love like they're my own children.
I've outlived some of my favorite people. My cousin Alan never had to contemplate growing old. Neither did my friend Elizabeth, one of the sweetest souls ever to grace the planet. My mom had a baby boy a year or so before she had me. When he was born he only left the hospital to be taken to the cemetery and laid to rest. Mother once told me "I'm not sure why he didn't live but if he had we may not have had you. So I'm not sure why you're here but you need to figure it out." So I guess I really should be ashamed of myself for bitching about being 46 years old...and figure it out.

"Yesterdays are over my shoulder,
so I can't look back for too long.
There's just too much to see, waiting in front of me,
and I know that I just can't go wrong..."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I guess the days leading up to December are as good a time as any to quote Dickens. The last year truly has been "the best of times and the worst of times." For all the hurt there's been equal amounts of good. No longer defined by my weight I now can enjoy the good and deal better with the hurt. But, before Christmas there's Thanksgiving. And with much respect to that great American sportswriter Furman Bisher (and with much trepidation about cliche overdose) here's some things for which I'm grateful:
I see a cute child and I can pinch a cheek and make it giggle without worrying that the child's going to tell me that I'm fat. During the "fat days" I was constantly called out and humiliated by the honest, hurtful words of children. They're brutally honest but, sadly, seem to have not quite as many manners as we did when we were kids (Oh dear GOD, I can't believe I just said that...pretty soon I'll be starting sentences with "In my day....")
I'm thankful that I can now wear Georgia Tech clothes proudly (after buying them off a rack and not from the "God, you're huge!" catalog.)
I'm thankful that I followed Mother around the kitchen all those years and I can now walk in my own kitchen and cook some of her dressing for tomorrow's festivities. She was a good teacher. I'm also glad that there's a bite of her raisin pie in my future. My sister does a good job of recreating that slice of heaven (I told you...cliche overdose.) Speaking of heaven, if I get there I'll know it because it'll smell just like Mother's kitchen the day before Thanksgiving.
I'm thankful for the opportunity to look at a dog seemingly asleep in the sun on the patio...but seeing her nose twitching a thousand miles an hour I know she's smelling everything in the neighborhood.
I'm thankful to be at an age where I can appreciate really simple a good cup of coffee.
I'm thankful for friends who I don't talk to near enough,,,but know that if I needed them they'd be a phone call away.
I'm thankful that so many of my clothes can fit into my chest of drawers. My old clothes took up a lot of room!
I'm thankful that I'm never too old to be three women's little brother.
I'm thankful for in-laws that treat me like their son...and appreciate the doses of "Methodist cough syrup" I bring into their Southern Baptist household.
Most of all, I'm thankful that she doesn't think it's a chore to be married to a knucklehead like me. I'm grateful to God that her's is the first face I see every morning.......

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I know and have known lots of veterans. Whether a veteran saw combat or not makes him no less a hero in my mind. If you put on the uniform you had your posterior on the line for my freedom. Ask a bunch of families in Fort Worth if you have to be "over there" to earn our respect. But on this Veterans Day I'm remembering one of these veterans in particular.
I worked with Jesse for a couple of years when I was in the hardware/building materials business. Jesse was a retired textile engineer who worked in our store just to have something to do. He grew up in North Carolina and went to North Carolina State University. He was the only employee in our hardware store above the age of 30. The rest of us were all single kids who drug into work most mornings in various states of recoveries from our night before. We were truly just working for beer money and didn't much care about anything important. At first Jesse was just the "old guy." But then we came to a know a treasure of a man that made all of us laugh with some of the most outlandish stories you'd ever heard. I have no idea what percentage of the stories he told us were true. I could tell he loved watching our minds work while he was telling his stories, knowing we were trying to separate fact from fiction. Most of his stories illustrated quite well that, at one time in his life, he was like us - a young idiot full of piss and vinegar looking for the next good time. That court jester demeanor left, though, when he would tell us about his war experiences. The smile would leave his face because it was important for him that us "young folks" knew just how a high a price had been paid for the freedom to live our lives of fun and debauchery. Not just by him but by thousands like him.
He was a Marine who fought in the pacific in the second World War. Somewhere in the midst of his deployment he was captured by the Japanese and spent several years in a POW camp. He was the ranking officer. As an officer it was his duty to escape as often as possible. The logic being that the more soldiers the Japanese had out looking for him the fewer they had in the field fighting. I asked him one time how he would escape from a heavily fortified camp. It was the only time I saw him struggle for words. "Uh,,,,'d watch the guards for a week or two, figure out which one was probably the weakest and then pick the right time to disengage him..." I asked him what "disengage" meant exactly. He said "well, what do you think it means?" I could tell he didn't want to provide details. He would later tell me that the lingering hurt from the war (other than the physical scars he brought home) was knowing he'd had to "disengage" some guys who were just like him - a long way from home and fearing for their life.
On the occasion of his last escape he was captured quite quickly. Apparently it was, at that time, hard for a 6'2" Caucasian to go unnoticed in the Philippines. He was captured and taken back to prison camp. The colonel that ran the camp was furious at Jesse's continued defiance and decided to make an example. See, he had on previous occasions taken a hammer and flattened Jesse's thumbs to try and make him fearful of escaping hadn't worked. So this time he stood Jesse up in front of the other prisoners (who were Jesse's subordinates) and told him that he was going to show them how much respect Jesse had for the Japanese colonel. He ordered Jesse to take two steps back and salute the colonel. Jesse took two steps back. But he didn't salute. He gave the colonel the finger. There was, obviously, much rage. The colonel took a rifle and raised the butt and smashed in the left side of Jesse's face. Literally crushed his face. They then threw Jesse in one of those "hot boxes" you've seen in World War II movies. They left him there to die.
Jesse always said the time he spent in that hot box was the hardest part of the war. Not because it was hot. Not because he was always awakened at night by maggots and cockroaches feeding on his crushed and infected face. Not because he was starving to death and dehydrated beyond belief. But because he knew he was going to lie there and die in the middle of that jungle and his mother and his sister would never know what happened to him. Realizing their hurt was more than he could bear. He eventually found himself begging God to just let him die.
Obviously, he didn't die. It was fortunate for him that his camp was liberated in the midst of his torture. He was free and went stateside to be treated for his massive face wounds. They were unable to save his eye and he lived the rest of his life with a glass eye in that socket. And he knew that "eye stuff" freaked me out. So he'd leave his glass eye on the counter where I'd find it. He'd put it in my coffee cup. He'd say "hear hold this" and, without looking, I'd hold out my hand and he'd place his eye in it. Typical Jesse that the one thing that was the evidence of the hell he'd lived in became such a source of humor for him (at my expense.) I told him once he was a hero. He shook his head. "Nope" he said, "The heroes didn't come home...."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

You know what feels really good???

I get an e-mail at least twice a month from Casual Male. Casual Male sells clothes for big and tall men. Today I e-mailed them and asked me to take them off their list. I no longer fit in their clothes...........because they're ALL too BIG. While fighting a bad cold and enduring a really crappy work week, that was a real shot in the arm.
Along those same lines, I had another zen moment when putting together a Christmas list for our annual family gathering. I put an Eddie Bauer gift card on my wish list...BECAUSE I CAN WALK RIGHT INTO AN EDDIE BAUER STORE AND BUY SOMETHING OFF THE DAMN RACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I think I'm getting over the cold symptoms as we speak...I'm going out on the patio and take off my shirt and flex and shout to the heavens "RAIN RULES!!!!" (that's only funny to a few of you)

"The days they pass so quickly now..."

Good Grief...2010. That sounds like Buck Rogers type stuff. We've got to be getting close to putting on our little jet packs and flying to work and eating meals in little capsules, don't we?
Barney Fife didn't like change. Remember his disgust with the post office for putting in a stamp machine? Meant you had to deal with a machine instead of a person. Andy asked him if he'd written a letter to complain. Barney said "NO, because I wouldn't buy a stamp out of that machine to put on the envelope!" I'm with him...change worries me. It's not that I'm afraid of new stuff..I like new stuff. I like new additions to families. I like meeting new people. I like new "things." Christmas came early to our house, see. Our television died and the world's greatest father-in-law bought us a new 42" HD flatscreen. I gotta say, it's living up to the billing. New things don't scare me - I just wish that the advent of new didn't have to coincide with the disappearance of old.
YouTube - I spend as much time on YouTube as I do on many other websites. You know what I'm hunting on most of my favorite searches? Retro-commercials. Oh man, I like the old commercials. There were some classics. I've long been joking with folks that Christmas lost its luster for me when they quit showing that Norelco commercial on television where Santa rides down that hill on the Norelco razor. Well you can bring the luster back to the holidays because that commercial lives on YouTube!
I'm going to sound like quite the old fart today, but there are commercials today that embarrass me even if I'm sitting all alone watching them. There are products that we need and we know how to find them when we need them. You don't have to show us REALLY detailed ads telling us about them. So, not only did Norelco Santa disappear he got replaced by a Christmas male enhancement product commercial where the central character dresses up like Santa and has a long line of ladies waiting to sit in his lap because he took this "enhancing" medication. "The gift that keeps on giving..." they tell us. I just don't need that.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Harry and Eunice (and the day I ate brains)

He said "I don't give a damn about money,
I've lived without it for years."
Hot biscuits and sourwood honey,
I wonder if he ever shed a tear..."

I wrote that line in a song long time ago. I was probably 13 or 14 years old. I wrote it after a visit to my Uncle Ralph and Aunt Nell's house. They lived in Dawson County, Georgia. They moved there in 1973 or so, way before Ga. 400 ran all the way to Dahlonega and turned everything in its path into a suburb.
For a city boy like me, a trip to their house was an adventure. They lived in a house on top of a hill that sat in the middle of 10 undeveloped acres. For this little boy, it was better than any amusement park. I drove tractors. I worked in gardens. I played with yard dogs that were scarred up from fights with beavers and raccoons. I went to work with Uncle Ralph and my cousin Alan and worked HARD, just so I could spend as much time as possible with them. At the end of most days we either pulled fish out of or went for a swim in Lake Lanier (or both.) Then I'd lay in bed at night and listen to what I was sure were strange critters romping around in the dark...but they were probably the aforementioned yard dogs. Best of all, I met a cast of characters that lived a much different life than the one I was accustomed to. Not one of them was more interesting, though, than Harry - the subject of that line I just quoted for you.
Harry and his bride Eunice lived down a dirt road that seemingly went to nowhere until it ended in their yard. They had no indoor plumbing. They butchered or grew everything they ate..very little came from the grocery store. They had a television but I don't remember it really picking up many stations. It didn't keep Harry from staring at it and giving animated commentary - especially when a politician was running his/her mouth about something. To my knowledge Harry couldn't read a word - but that didn't keep him from telling you about all the articles he'd read in the paper about all the stupid politicians in the world. He told me one story about the time he'd accidentally cut off a cow's tongue while the cow was licking some honeysuckle...all because Harry was on the other side of the shrub and thought that long tongue was a snake. I worried much about the cow with no tongue until Uncle Ralph warned that I needed to take Harry's stories with a huge grain of salt. Whew! A cow with no tongue is a hell of an image to have floating around in a boy's head. I was relieved to find out it was fiction (GOOD fiction, but fiction none the less...)
One morning I was awakened at daylight by Aunt Nell. "Come on...we're going over to Harry & Eunice's to kill hogs." do WHAT to hogs? And why do they need our help to kill these animals? Little did I know that when one says "killing hogs" it's actually just one hog that meets its demise. And people go to help because transforming this animal into food is a lot of work and takes all day.
Fortunately Wilbur had met his demise by the time we arrived (that wasn't really the animal's name....but I'm a Charlotte's Web fan from way back.) All my young eyes witnessed was a deceased animal having its hair scalded off...which was image enough. And smell enough. Good Lord, it stunk. I was repulsed but didn't want anyone to know it. These were strong folks and I didn't want 'em laughing at the city boy throwing up his toes at the smell of burning pig hair. In fact, I did everything they asked me of that day. I carried one whole side of this animal up the hill to the house after it'd been sawed in half. "Dang Nell...your nephew's awful strong for a city boy!" I cut up pounds of fat into little pieces so that Eunice would have just the right ratio of fat to meat to make the best sausage I ever put in my mouth. I then ground that sausage using an old - timey grinder with a crank handle until I thought my arm would fall off.
The meal Eunice cooked that evening was more than ample reward for all the hard work. Fried pork tenderloins and and biscuits that were better than any others on planet earth (probably because they included substantial amounts of very fresh lard.) And a MOUNTAIN of scrambled eggs. Remember the eggs.
Aunt Nell and I got home exhausted and full. Uncle Ralph had not joined us for the hog killing adventures..he'd had to work all day. He asked Aunt Nell how I'd done. She said "you would've been right proud...he worked hard." My chest swelled...the city boy had done good. Uncle Ralph said "How'd you like those brains and eggs Tim?" "Uh..........I didn't eat any brains..." He chuckled. I ran to the porch where Aunt Nell was having a cigarette. I wanted confirmation on the brains issue because Uncle Ralph was known to spin some creative fiction himself. "Yep, that big platter of eggs wasn't just eggs...I figured you didn't know what you were eating, but you were enjoying them so I let it be." I squealed "I ATE THREE HELPINGS OF BRAINS!" Uncle Ralph laughed for twenty minutes "Good God boy! You got more brains in your stomach than you got in your head!!"
When I was a kid, I felt sorry for Harry and Eunice because I thought they lived such a hard life. Now I'm grown I think they may have been on to something. A house in the middle of the north Georgia woods and living a life that revolves around farm and family seems most preferable to rush hours, deadlines, mortgages and "resource actions" (a very comfortable word for layoffs.) Since I've lost all this weight, I feel an inclination to transform everything about my existence. My bride's pretty adventurous and is as fed up with the drudgery of adulthood as I am. She'd probably be okay with the notion of selling our abode in a subdivision and moving to the middle of nowhere and living off the land...she might insist on indoor plumbing, however.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

'Tis the season(s).......

Last year, I THINK I documented here how much I enjoyed Christmas for a change. I really did have a new lease on life and was enjoying all the positive changes weight loss had brought me. Hell, I became a regular Burl Ives having much "holly jollyness." One evening a couple of weeks before Christmas we (me and my bride) went to Starbucks, stocked up on coffee and drove around and looked at decorations. We took a Friday afternoon off and drove to our old stomping grounds (Stone Mountain, where we both grew up) and looked at the park all decorated up for the holidays. We shopped. We went to cantatas. We did Christmas.
Fast forward to now. It's just now November and there's already talk of Christmas plans, Christmas shows, Christmas gifts and some decorations are starting to pop up in stores and malls. Sadly, I just ain't feeling it. And it's not just Christmas...I'm not much looking forward to Thanksgiving, either. Why? Because I'm having trouble moving on from losing the woman that raised me.
I'm a 46 year-old grown man, for God's sake. I lost someone I loved. Grown folks grieve and move on. I reckon I'm not grown yet (like we didn't already know that!) But I'm not looking forward to cooking the Thanksgiving turkey and dressing she taught me to make. I'm not looking forward to family holiday time when she won't be there (remember my 'empty chair' discussion in my last blog.) I can't stand the thought of getting up Christmas morning and NOT going to the assisted living facility and picking her up for Christmas breakfast. I'm inclined to hibernate and ignore the day...kind of like I did back on Mother's Day.
Again, to go back to the point of my last blog, I think too much, I feel too much and I go backwards too much. She'd have a stern word for me if she knew I was having such a hard time leaving her behind. "Don't you worry about take care of my sweet Rhonda and you take care of yourself. Pouting ain't doing you any good..." I can literally hear her voice uttering that admonition. I'll try Mama...I ain't making any promises, though.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I think I think too much.........

I don't know if it's got anything to do with having a mind that's more creative than analytical, more romantic than practical. But, for whatever reason, I never take anything on its own merit...everything has to be a story, a drama or an illustration. Nothing exists on a base-level...everything has to run deep in my warped mind. I think I think too much! Anyway, so was the situation yesterday as my family gathered to celebrate a birthday. On the surface, a gathering of family. A little food, a little birthday cake, a little laughter and an opportunity to make Christmas plans.
But in the abyss that is my mind (where lives the stupidity that works hard to make somethings out of all the nothings) I kept coming back to the notion that yesterday was a dramatic representation of the (cliche warning!) circle of life that has spun itself in our face yet again. For the first time (other than at her funeral) our family gathered without our matriarch. Though it's been many years since she was cognizant enough to enjoy our time together she still seemed content to be in the same room with all her children and grandchildren at these events. Yesterday, the chair she always occupied seemed awfully empty, even when someone was sitting in it. That is until I noticed that folks started taking turns sitting in that chair to hold and snuggle with the newest member of this small army. Passing my great nephew Hank to one another and sitting with him in the chair that Mother always occupied was a fitting picture, I thought. My heart's been awfully empty since Mother died. But that chair seemed nice and full, holding the beginnings of the next generation of this family.
See, I told you - I can't just enjoy a sunday afternoon with family....I have to go and make it Normal Rockwell meets The Waltons meets All My Children. Still, somewhere Erfy was smiling 'cause one of her babies now has a baby.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Saturday, October 17th........

The nurse that lives in my house (who I'm happy to be married to) wasn't real thrilled at my insistence that I attend the Georgia Tech/Virginia Tech game this past Saturday. I even pulled the "It's Daddy's birthday....if he was here he'd WANT me to be honoring his memory watching his Jackets play ball..." card on her. My bride's a smart cookie - she pulled out the "yes, but if your Mother was here she'd say that you've just gotten out of the hospital and you need to be at home resting" card. It was a stalemate. Finally, she said I could go if I promised that there would be no tailgating, no bourbon, no excess walking (had to take the golf cart from parking to stadium instead of enjoying my traditional pre-game stroll through campus.) At first I thought "no tailgating? No bourbon? What's the point?" But then I realized that the game is what's important and promised to abide by these conditions.
I started the day attending the men's prayer breakfast at the First Baptist Church of Buford. No, I haven't converted (relax John Wesley...I'm still a card-carrying Methodist.) I took it as an opportunity to spend quality time with the man who now plays the role of my father very well. I wasn't awake enough until after the second cup of coffee at that breakfast to remember that it was my biological father's birthday. I looked across the table at my father-in-law and knew that, were he able, Sam Freeman would shake Charles Fowler's hand and tell him how grateful he was for the job he's done taking care of me, teaching me and talking college ball with me....and then he'd step outside for a quick chew of Redman and start getting anxious about what time we were heading down to North Avenue. (You think I get to ballgames early? You never went with my father. For noon games it was sometimes just starting to get light out when we got downtown.)
So what had been a pretty crappy week took a really good turn that Saturday morning. I'd spent most of the week making everyone around me miserable because I was miserable. I'm a bad patient, I'll admit it. But any lingering symptoms disappeared sitting in the cold that night watching my boys embarrass the fourth ranked team in the country. When the clock said 00:00 I kissed my bride, I told my dad happy birthday and I thanked God that I'd gotten out of that hospital in time to see this. I wanted badly to call my father-in-law and tell him that my attendance at the prayer breakfast had surely brought about the divine intervention that my boys needed to pull this off...but we'd already heard that his beloved Auburn Tigers had gotten thumped by a bad Kentucky team..probably not the time for me to call gushing about my team.
I then wished I had one good belt of Kentucky's finest because it was really cold and I could've used some anti-freeze.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

To quote Flock of Seagulls....

I RAN. That's commonplace stuff for most, but I ran. Uphill. In extreme heat. A little over a week after I'd had my gall bladder extracted through this massive hole in my abdomen (that's going to leave a lovely scar.) I ran.
The details - 5 of us were in Tallahassee to watch Georgia Tech play (and beat) Florida State. If you're looking for nice, crisp football weather, don't look for it in Tallahassee. The highs everyday we were there were in the mid 90's. Humidity was officially 1 zillion percent. Because of the aforementioned hole in my abdomen still healing I was unable to get into the hotel pool. Hot weather really doesn't bother me...I'm just not used to it in October. Anyway, once at the stadium I found that all the cracks I've heard calling Doak Campbell Stadium an erector set are founded in truth. We had to walk about 9 miles of ramps to get to the ozone layer where our seats were located. My niece was walking well ahead of the adults. My sister - her mommy - reminds her to stay close to us. I say that I'll go up and walk with her. I found myself making a game out of this all of a sudden...and RUNNING up these ramps. "Uncle Tim's chasing meeeeeeeeee!!" were sweet words to hear. I was tired, but not dead. I was sweating, but not leaving puddles everywhere I went. My legs felt "exercised"...not on fire. I've said it a thousand times - it's the little, everyday things that show me how much my life has changed more than it is huge, heavens opening and angels singing moments. These days, on my worst days, I'm still having fun.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Gift Horse Needs A Breath Mint....

'cause I'm looking him square in the mouth!
How is it possible that, after the journey of this past year, I still go through the motions some days? How is it possible that I'm not in a jubilant mood every single minute of every single day? I was George Bailey standing on that bridge and I screamed out to the Almighty asking for a second chance at life..and I've gotten it. Dear God, how many times have I used that tired cliche/image since I started this blog? But since I have gone down this road again, let's peel back some layers on old George.
His problem wasn't just frustration. His problem was an inability to see the big picture. He saw friends that had gone on to a life of luxury that made his own life seem void of accomplishment and success. He didn't see that by saving his little brother from that cold-ass creek he'd also saved the lives of "every man on that ship." I too am quite short-sighted in measuring where my life has taken me, what I have and what I've accomplished. I only see things started and not finished. Dreams born and dreams dying on the vine. Like many, I've jumped on board with these networking sites (Facebook etc...) and have caught up with some of my favorite people in the world. Folks whose roots are buried in the same ground as mine. Rather than relishing the opportunity to catch up with them, I often find that I'm constantly measuring my life against theirs. One high school/boy scout friend is a real-life "Maverick" flying F-14's in Japan. When someone says "I'm flying F-14's in Japan..what are you doing these days?" how do you answer?? "Uh, I cut the grass then shook up a martini and went to sleep in a patio chair." I need to learn to measure my life against, well, my life and not others'.
A year after my surgery and the woman I love the most continues to be my rock. The other night over dinner, I told her that I'm having a really hard time ridding myself of the regret over the many YEARS that I've just pissed away. She got rather adamant..."you didn't piss those years away! Those years brought you to THIS point and made you the person you are. You've taken a little bit away from every one of those different experiences and they've made you a very interesting person. You've got a second thankful for it and decide what you want to do with it." She reminds me that all of the stories and songs and plays that I want to write would NOT be possible had I not done a bit of wandering. All of those people and places I've encountered over the years have given me a treasure chest of characters and situations. She further reminded me that a lot of the folks I measure myself against might be really, really bored with where they are and can only wish they had been given the blank page I've been handed. Like the old cliche about the kids playing ball in the street. If you hit a ball and it rolls down the sewer drain then it's a "do-over." I've been given a "do-over."
So why am I ignoring the proverbial gift-horse and most days telling him to go play in his own yard? I think it's my old arch-enemy FEAR. So I've been given a "do-over." What if I screw it up? Rocky to Adrian on that beach in Rocky III - "and if I lose?" (you're now laughing because I quoted a Rocky movie...can't help it. I am, after all, a guy.) No matter what stars have aligned for me in the past I was always able to rest on one excuse for not chasing them down - my weight. That excuse is now gone and if we don't move forward there's no one to blame but me. THAT'S SCARY! The first step is going to be the hardest one to take.

"So Clarence where are you now?
The script's been changed somehow.
It feels like the whole world,
is standing on that bridge."
(ok, I admit it..I wrote that. A song called "Clarence." )

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I know she's perfect...

I know she's perfect because the night before we got married God threw a rainbow across the sky after a hellish spring storm. Except we didn't get married in the spring. We got married in February. Symbolism much?
I know she's perfect because, when we were on our honeymoon in Charleston, Jimmy Buffett just happened to be doing a concert at the North Charleston Coliseum. Buffett don't just to show up to play for just anybody's honeymoon...he knew I'd done well.
I know she's perfect because she gets tears in her eyes watching animals play - whether it's dolphins off Tybee Island or a dog in the backyard. There's a rare soul living behind that pretty face.
I know she's perfect because she knows EXACTLY how many drops of vermouth to put in my martini (and, given a choice she knows I'd rather have a jalapeno stuffed olive than just a plain one.)
I know she's perfect because when it's college football season she walks in the door after work on Monday and says "Who's the Thursday night game this week????"
I know she's perfect because she does funky dances in the kitchen whenever I play Mother's Finest or Rush in the living room.
I know she's perfect because if she could be anywhere in the world she'd be sitting on a beach somewhere with 1 bucket of boiled shrimp and 1 bucket of cold Coronas (Ok, so the Coronas are for me..she'd have something with a lot of fruit and an umbrella.)
I know she's perfect because, when we had a chance to view my Mother at the funeral home she whispered to her "Don't worry about anything Erfy...I'm always going to take good care of Tim."

...and she does.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mama, baseball and dogs........

So I happen to see a guy wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Skip Caray on it and on the front it says "Hello Again Everybody...." On the back it simply says "So Long Everybody" I thought "I've GOT to have one of those t-shirts..." (To somehow tie this back into the point of this blog - my weight loss surgery - I'll say that it's awfully nice to be able to find and wear cool t-shirts again..I love me some t-shirts, but it's hard to find a good one in size giant.) I did a Google search on "Skip Caray t-shirt." I still haven't found the t-shirt but I did find this article from one of my favorite sportswriters Jack Wilkinson. He wrote for the Journal/Constitution for 20-something years and has written four books on Georgia Tech sports (which makes him a good guy in Tim's world.) He mentions having the t-shirt I'm looking for (and still haven't found) and, as usual, tells a good story about his relationship with Skip and how much he misses him.

The first thing I noticed about the article was the name of the website - "Like The Dew." It'll take anyone raised in these parts back to a time when one of the Atlanta papers (can't remember which...the Journal?) "covered Dixie like the dew..." So that was a good memory and prompted to me to bookmark this site for future reading. But what really caught my eye was the fact that Skip was buried with the ashes of several of his dogs. I'll put ego and macho aside momentarily to tell you that my eyes immediately filled with tears. Back in the spring two of my favorite souls on this planet were buried together when we had Mother's funeral. The day of her funeral we slipped the canister holding Buzz's ashes in her casket with her. It was a 'full-circle' moment of the umpteenth degree.
Buzz was a BIG, black Labrador Retriever. I'll probably always have dogs. I've seldom found one that I didn't love and that didn't love me. But no matter how much I love another one, there was only one Buzz. He was the Babe Ruth of dogs. He had the overwhelming desire to love and be loved that all Labs have. But there was a different edge to him - it was his world and we just lived in it...and he knew it! No conversation slipped by without his notice. He'd sit in a room full of people and turn his head back and forth listening to everything everyone said. He loved us all but it was obvious that he worshipped Mother. The intuitive sixth sense that all dogs seem to have let him know that she was the matriarch of the family. If he was in a mood to be hard-headed about something, Mama was the only one who could put the fear of God in him. A slam of her cane on the hardwood floors in her house coupled with a sharp "BUZZ!! WHAT ARE YOU UP TO??" could send this 130 pound bear of a dog into a fetal position.
In 2003, I turned 40 one week and Buzz died the next week. Honest to God, people sent sympathy cards. Everyone knew that he wasn't just a dog he was family. Mother was already in the early stages of Alzheimer's so she was initially spared the sadness the rest of us felt. But one Sunday afternoon not long after he died we took her to lunch. At some point she heard me mention Maggie (the yellow lab who had the unenviable position of replacing Buzz.) When she asked who Maggie was, I said "that's the dog that lives with Rhonda and me." She said firmly "BUZZ IS YOUR DOG." Uh-oh.... I went ahead and told her the truth. This woman who no longer had sense of time nor place suddenly had her eyes fill with tears while she gritted her teeth. She whispered "you should've told me." Looking back it was probably the last time I had the honor being scolded by my mother. The only blessing to her condition was that a moment later she had forgotten.
Mama loved to listen to Skip call a game. The fact that he was so good at what he did probably got him a free pass with her. Generally speaking, she had little tolerance for folks that were prone to make off-color jokes, speak rudely or were "bad to drink." But, because he could make her passion come alive on a radio or television he got that free pass. She liked him and she liked his father. They were - in her words - "baseball people." So when I read that Skip had been buried with some of his favorite dogs those aforementioned tears showed up. Mama would be the proud that she and Skip had something in common. The commonalities probably end there...Mama was never rude and never bad to drink.
Now I've got to get back to hunting down that t-shirt......

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

365 days

I started to begin this post by alluding to the fact that it's been one year since my life changed. But it would be better stated to say that it's been one year since my life BEGAN to change. Every single day there's something new that blows my mind as to how different the day to day stuff has become for me.
I park wherever I want to wherever I go. I used to have to strategically plan parking at any public lot. There had to be room enough for me to get out of my truck (meaning a car couldn't be parked on the driver's side) and I had to be close enough to the door so that my heart wouldn't explode while walking into wherever I was going.
This sounds silly - but when walking from the parking deck to my office used to be five or 10 minutes of sheer panic. "Folks are watching the fat guy walking and sweating" (even if in February.) "Folks are walking up behind the fat guy and walking around him because he's too slow...we're winners and he's a loser!!" I would stop and act like I was reading the headlines on the newspaper at the machine posted by the stairs. I was actually getting up enough breath to take another twenty or thirty steps. I now make a mad dash from truck to desk because I can. I park as far as away as possible and dash. If I hear anyone walking behind me I walk faster, certain that whoever is putting down the footsteps I'm hearing is one of the goobers that used to pass me and make me feel like crap about myself. (No, I'm not THAT stupid...I know the folks that passed me were just going about their day and weren't giving me a second thought...that's just how my mind worked in those days.)
I've actually been the recipient of some direct flirtations. One night at the ballpark a young lady asked me for my phone number. I figure she'd just turned her back on some vows and escaped from the convent and hadn't seen a man in years. I might've lost a substantial amount of weight but Brad Pitt I ain't. Anyway, I assured this poor soul that I was very happily married. I told my bride the whole story and she was torn between being wanting to strangle the guilty party or thank her for boosting my ego. I told her she had no worries...there was a time in my life when I thought drunk girls were pretty cool. Now I just think they're a pain in the butt.
I now walk into stores and try on things at random. Even things I would never wear, I try them on. Do you know how good it felt to walk through a big & tall store a few weeks ago and have a hard time finding stuff because everything was too big?
Along with the good has been some bad. Mother's gone. Aunt Jean's gone. But I really do believe that the fact that my life is once again my own makes the hurts a bit easier to manage. I can't imagine what it would've been like to have still been miserable and hating myself while I watched the woman that raised me slip away. I really do think it's something I wouldn't have recovered from. Now I can live the life she gave me and can make her proud while doing it. I think she'd be most pleased that I've spent more time this summer at baseball games than I have in the last ten years combined (literally.) Going to baseball games and getting paid for it???? She'd be most pleased.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"I came, I saw, I kicked it's........."

In the continuing evolution of the new universe in which I live, I actually made good on a promise to try something new and exciting. Understand, in my past life (The "Old Tim" is the phrase I use frequently) "new and exciting" meant blue-cheese stuffed olives in my martinis as opposed to jalapeno-stuffed olives. So to actually ride the chairlift thingy I mentioned in my last blog was quite a step up. But I did it. I wouldn't say I conquered my fear of heights, but I did conquer my fear of stepping up and doing something a bit out of my comfort zone. For that I'm proud.
Truth be told, the chairlift wasn't all that scary. Once you make it across the street, actually going up the mountain you're not really that high off the ground. The mountain is going vertical at basically the same angle at which you're going vertical. There were times that I actually lifted up my feet for fear they'd drag the tops of bushes and small trees going up the mountain. So anyway, that was no problem. My bride and I shared a moment of victory when we got back to street level. She was proud of me and I live for moments when I can make her proud...there's been way too few of them since we got married in 1997. This accomplishment now safely in my resume I then got cocky...
There's this place there called "Ober Gatlinburg." It's at the top of the biggest mountain overlooking Gatlinburg. I mean it's up up there that there was (in July) a bit of snow on the very top that hadn't melted. They have this huge skylift thing that goes to the top. The cars hold over a hundred you can see it's the graduate course in cable-vehicle college. After attempting it, it's clear that I should stick to the remedial courses. I feared for my life. I stared at the floor and said bad words. I made deals with God. Those who are reading this and have had the (dis)pleasure of flying with me know what I'm talking about. But the point is, I tried it. The door is now open...though I must admit that further explorations will involve strange new worlds much closer to the ground.
Here's a video some brave soul (who didn't stare at the floor and said bad words) took of the skylift ride to Ober Gatlinburg. Notice that when it goes over the huge towers that accelerate everyone screams. That's because it not only accelerates you but swings the damn thing back and forth.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Big Medicine" and a year out from surgery...

Wow! For the first time since my surgery, I saw a new episode of Big Medicine last night. If you haven't seen it it's a documentary type show about a father-son surgical team that perform gastric bypasses for morbidly obese patients in Houston, Texas. I used to watch it with much fear and trepidation. It showed way too clearly how many obstacles one must overcome even to get approved for that surgery. So watching it beforehand wasn't fun.
I really never believed that I was going to have gastric bypass surgery until I was lying on a table and felt anesthesia being pumped into my mouth and nostrils. I remember waking up in the recovery room (seemingly seconds later) and still wondering if it'd really happened. Honest to God, I woke up with this fear that "I'm waking up too soon...something's happened and they weren't able to do it..." The first nurse I saw that came by and called me "sleepyhead" got her arm grabbed. "What's wrong?" she looked concerned...I must've had a deer in headlights look in my eyes. I mumbled something about "Done?" and she laughed. "Oh yes,,,you're done. You did great." Then I wanted to know if they'd had to do it open or were they able to do it laproscopically. Again, all I could get to come out of my mouth was "Open?" She had no clue what I was asking until she realized I was feeling of my belly for staples. Thankfully, there were none and I knew that I was done and it'd been as minimally invasive as Dr. Richard had promised. I'd lost a substantial amount of weight on my own before surgery to make laproscopic possible. But there was still the possibility of my liver being enlarged and me being closed back up and having to wait. I had a thousand scenarios playing out in my head...none of which came true.
So can you tell that watching that show last night put me in a most retrospective mood about this past year? I really can't believe it's been a year. I've lost 184 pounds in the last year, making my grand total lost right at 264 pounds. Life, in general, has improved in so many ways they're too numerous to mention. We lost Aunt Jean but the family grew with the birth of Henry Alexander ("Great Uncle Tim" has a nice ring to it....) The biggest hurt of all, of course, is that we lost Mother. But I've gotten my life back and she'd be pleased.
Now, if they had a surgery that could remove one's propensity to live in fear and make excuses I'd be all set. With excess weight no longer holding me back from chasing the things I've always wanted to accomplish, I'm forced to face the fact that I'm my own biggest enemy now. Dr Richard told me this was just a tool and "the rest" was up to me. I wonder if he ever gets tired of being right?
I'm on vacation next week. Our annual journey to my in-law's place in "The Redneck Poconos" (a.k.a. Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge.) They've got this skylift thingy that looks kind of like a ski lift. It'll take you up the side of the mountain there in Gatlinburg. My fear of heights is well-documented. But with God as my witness I'm riding that skylift next week. I no longer exceed any weight limits they have on the thing. Years past, I was unable to physically fit into the little lift chair. Now those excuses are gone. Picture Lt. Dan (in "Forrest Gump")hanging off that crow's nest, yelling at The Almighty. That's gonna be me next week. "YOU CALL THIS A MOUNTAIN??!!!!" I have no idea where this overwhelming urge to ride that thing comes from or exactly what it signifies. Maybe I'm knocking down fear one phobia at a time. I'll let you know how it turns out. In the meantime, keep an eye on the news...I might be so juiced from riding that lift that I run out into those Tennessee woods and wrestle a bear (put your money on the bear..still....)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sam Ralph and Uncle Ralph

Happy Father's Day Dad. I can't fathom that I've lived more years without you now than I did with you. Back in March, when your bride left here to join you wherever you are, I felt like my transition into an old guy was complete. With both of you gone I really felt like I had no roots in the ground. If all that you taught us about life after death is really true, then I would imagine there was quite a reunion.
Speaking of brides, I found the best. She often wonders whether or not you'd like her. I assure her that you would but she probably wouldn't know it. I always found you to be the guy who intimidated people just by walking in a room. Whenever you called my name I got scared. I'm not sure why - you never laid a hand on me. I never wanted to find out what the first time would be like so I generally kept myself out of trouble. Often is the occasion when I wish I could get people off my back just by giving them a glare. I wish you'd had time to teach that to me before you left. Since I've lost so much weight your daughters say I look like you. I have more hair than you did,,,but not much. My face does resemble yours, I reckon. If I could just learn that stare...
Happy Father's Day Uncle Ralph. I thought about you yesterday when I poured a cup of coffee and wandered around in my little garden for a while, just staring at stuff growing. When I was a kid I remember wondering what joy you found in drinking coffee and walking around outside when there was air-conditioning and color t.v. in the house. But now I sit for hours on my patio staring at my yard wondering what to dig up or plant next. Some days, I work two jobs. I think I learned to find joy in work from spending so many hot days on summer vacations tearing out sheetrock and puling weeds out of a garden with you. IBM and the Gwinnett Braves send along their appreciation for my work ethic. I had you longer than I had my own dad and you filled the hole quite nicely. Maybe we helped each other...I think maybe I filled a hole for you when you lost your youngest child, the one who woke up every morning wanting to follow your every footstep. I sure went to bed tired a lot of nights from trying to follow them myself.
I hope you'd both be pleased with the man I've become. The men that raised me were cut out of the Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Teddy Roosevelt mold. So how did I get cut out of that Ernest Hemingway, Jimmy Buffett, Barney Fife mold? I'd be much happier sipping on a gin and tonic and pulling large fish out of the ocean while thinking of new songs to write than I would changing the world and being strong for others. Most men lament the loss of one father on Father's Day. I remember two. You'd both be pleased, though, that I'm still under the care of a man very much cut from that same mold. My father-in-law is military like the both of you were. He loves his country and his family and pretty much has zero tolerance for foolishness. Because of my time with the two of you, I feel as though I knew him before I met him. College football means as much to him as it did to us Dad. He calls me son and he's a father to me in every sense of the word. I've told him that the men that raised me would both be pleased with the job he's doing now (if it's possible to still be 'raising' a 45 year old man...but I think it is.) "The Greatest Generation" indeed. Y'all set the bar way too high.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"did you hear the one about...."

In the continuing sage of "Tim's Strange New World" here goes another chapter. Twice in the last couple of weeks I had someone making a joke about obese folks in my presence. Keep in mind, both of these folks were pointing out obese folks and making jokes about me. Did you hear me - they were telling these jokes TO ME. Not about ME. They were assuming I'd join in the laugh they were getting out of someone else's appearance. My reaction was two-fold - an admitted sense of relief knowing that someone feels comfortable making a crack about another human being's size in my presence without fear of offending me because I'm no longer eligible to be the butt of those jokes. But I also felt sad, awkward and not sure how to react. My first inclination was to say "you know, last summer I WAS that person you're laughing at..." I felt the need to jump up on my soap box, start preaching and declare the person a hateful sinner in need of redemption! There's power in the blood! But then I realized I'd just embarrass the joke-teller and make them feel awkward. I guess it's like telling a Polish joke to a person not knowing they're Polish.
See, the folks I've met this summer working Braves' games only know me at this size. A few of them know I've had gastric-bypass surgery but most only know me as the guy they see running up and down stadium stairs every night, standing out in the heat and not having cardiac episodes of any kind. I'm just another "somebody at work." It's an odd feeling. I relish being treated as "normal", but also want people to be more sensitive to the kind of ridicule and judgement I used to endure every time I left the house. I also tend to want people to be aware of what I'm accomplished...and yes, I realize this is most self-serving. But I really feel like this is (by far) my greatest accomplishment in life. I want people to know what I've accomplished, not so they'll heap praise upon me, but so they'll be aware that I'm enjoying every minute of this new existence.
Back to the 'fat jokes.' Maybe I'm doing a disservice to folks still fighting this battle (and make no mistake, I have a food addiction...I'll be fighting this battle for the rest of my life...I'm talking about folks who are obese and their lives very negatively impacted by their weight.) Maybe I should be their voice and their advocate. But 'crusaders' get on my last nerve. Even folks who are out pushing causes I agree with get on my nerves. And I really don't think it's my job to police adults' behavior. So here I silently sit, wondering if I'm being selfish. Why can't we all just get along? Group hug!

Friday, June 5, 2009

"WTH" moments in the life of me.

**I listen to the music channels on my digital cable box when I'm working from home. They take off the bluegrass channel and add something called "Romances." (and there's a "Classic Hip-Hop" channel. There's "classic" hip-hop? WTH?)
**I'm thinking that DSM thingy they talked about in Psychology classes needs to add a new disorder. "FearOfPullingTheTriggeritis" should be added. I know. I suffer from it. I no longer have the excuse of morbid obesity keeping me from starting things I've been longing to accomplish since childhood. I want to start a novel so bad I can taste it. Caught up on my IBM work, I sat down at the computer this morning to do an outline of the characters. I figure I know the backdrop against which I want to set this story so all I need to is to sit down, come up with characters to be thrown into the mix and let the story evolve (the short version of what Stephen King says he does in his "On Writing" memoirs.) With God as my witness, when I sat here, my chest started getting tight, my breaths got shorter and I go outside to prune some tomato plants. I was - once again - scared to jump off that high-dive. I can see the tomato plants bearing fruit so I'm not afraid of those. But if what I start my life-long ambition and IT dies on the vine? I'm afraid then I'd become the old guy that sits around in pants that don't fit and hair growing out of his ears saying "You know...I COULD'VE been a great writer..." (along those lines, I can't believe I just went down the "make an analogy comparing my aspirations to vegetation dying on the vine" road. Look up cheesy in the dictionary and it probably has my picture....WTH?)
**This is odd...but everyone already knows I'm odd so I'll just say it - I find myself trying to remember what it was like to be as large as I was. I sit in my truck and say "I used to have the steering wheel HERE and kept the seat pushed back to HERE." When I'm in the office and I feel space on either side of me in my desk chair I think "I used to hang over these arms and now there's space HERE." I've given tons of clothes to Goodwill. I almost wish I'd kept some of them so that I could put them on and feel how big I used to be. But the therapist I saw before surgery said to discard stuff as soon as it was too big....the though process being that there'd always be the temptation to forgive any future weight gain because I still had the clothes to swing it. Living that way was a nightmare...why do I want to revisit it in any way? WTH?
**I feel better now.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

20 minutes

In 20 short minutes I did all the weedeating, edging and grass-cutting in the backyard. Just last summer I did one half of the yard....rested an hour.....did the other half. Now I knock it out in 20 minutes on an 80-something degree day, didn't work up much of a sweat and got back to my IBM work. Unbelievable.
This feat comes at an interesting time. One night this week I was down in the mouth about something and my bride says " YOU'RE the ONLY one who isn't celebrating the drastic changes in your life! Everyone else that knows you is amazed at how - in just a few short months - you've become a different person! Please celebrate it with the rest of us!!!!!!!!" Dammit....I hate it when she's right. It's just that I'm so good at bemoaning my shortcomings rather than celebrating my accomplishments. I'm the Michael Jordan of self-deprecation. And in this one area (my weight) where there's been a literal lifetime of disappointments, starts and stops, setbacks and general sadness it's hard to actually believe what I'm seeing. They told me before hand that, after this surgery, my body would change quicker than my mind. How right they were.
I've mentioned many times the "I'm in a house that's on fire" feeling I live with now. After being virtually DEAD for so many years I feel like every single day is an opportunity to make up for lost time. If I don't cram as much into a day as I can possibly can, I've wasted it. When Rhonda gets home from work I immediately give her the run-down: "I watered the grass, cut the backyard, filled the bird feeders, washed a load of clothes, did the dishes, got out three planning sheets (IBM work) pulled weeds out of the tomato plants..." I feel restless most of the time. Once again, she proves to be the voice of reason "I'm grateful you feel so much better and can do more things...but there's still just 24 hours in a day and getting some rest isn't a sin." I'm doing my best to also keep her parents yard up to snuff (and they've got a LOT of yard.) Every time she talks to her parents they express how worried they are about me. Nothing new...I'm sure the poor health I was in worried everyone who knew me. Now they're worried for a completely different reason - they think I've taken on too much this summer. Two jobs and two yards. My mind's first reaction is to be offended. "They think I can't do it." Obviously, like I said, they're just worried about me. But I don't want people worrying about me anymore. That went on for long enough. I now YEARN for folks' approval and want to be a help rather than a hindrance. To go out into public with me was a hindrance for too many years. "Too much walking?" "A place for Tim to sit?" "Will there be kids there who will laugh at Tim and hurt his feelings?" Now I want people to enjoy being around me. So, yeah...I put a little more pressure on every minute and every outing and consequently every person around me.
I think the preceding is what's known as a 'rant.' Forgive me...apparently there were some things in my mind that I needed to get out.

Friday, May 22, 2009


The ushering gig continues. In fact it looks to be a permanent move. Thank you God. With the aforementioned deity as my witness, I dropped three pounds last night and I only worked 7 innings (slim crowds mean some ushers go home early.)
In the third inning last night, some folks began crowding the guests in wheelchairs that were sitting in the handicapped portion of my section. I asked them to back up and not hover over the folks in the wheelchairs. One of the folks in a wheelchair thanked me. He said "It's good to have somebody up here watching out for us. OBVIOUSLY nobody's going to try and get through you!" I must admit, I stuck my chest out a bit and my head swelled just a little. Nice trip back to the old days when folks thought of me as the big, strong guy and I got the call whenever it was time to move something heavy or someone was causing trouble. Honesty compels me to admit that (if I can quote James Joyce) "...he spoke roughly in order to belie his air of gentility..." I was always more bartender than bouncer...but nobody needed to know that and I used my size as an advantage many times back in my young, heathen days. For too long, though, I went from being that guy to being the unhealthy, sick guy. I felt like a million bucks being the big, strong guy for someone again.
Ran across a picture of me when I was in my early 20's. Showed it to my sister. Melinda says "'re that small again..." I started to laugh it off but then realized she's probably right. I can probably wear the shorts I was wearing in that picture...well, if they weren't horribly short and would make me look like I was on a Village People reunion tour. It also wouldn't hurt my feelings to have as much hair as I had in that picture (on my head, I mean..not in my ears or eyebrows, the two places where I now easily grown hair.) It was much more of a compliment to me than, say, the picture she sent me of a guy sporting a mullet leaning up against a truck. She reminded me that I used to sport a mean mullet myself. Uh, yeah, but it looked REALLY good on me..right? Somebody? Anybody?
Now where else can you go and enjoy a discussion on James Joyce AND mullets? They call that being well-rounded (or full of useless information...or full of something....I'm odd I tell ya')

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

51 Steps (and other stuff)

So I was DESPERATE for the fine folks at Gwinnett Stadium to give me the opportunity to usher. Guest Relations is fine, but I wanted to usher. Last Friday fate stepped in and cut me a break. One of the ushers on the third base line had to step aside for medical reasons and I quickly volunteered. I had a blast of a weekend. Good baseball (Durham - Gwinnett split a 4 game series.) I met some cool people (one of our local musicians included) and made it on television once. Best of all, it served as another huge indicator as to how drastically different my life has become. In the middle of every inning, ushers have to walk down the steps from concourse level to field level to guard the gate to the field (truth be told, if someone stepped down there with a weapon I'd allow them to steal home...literally.) I counted them - there are 51 steps one way. That's 102 total each inning (yes, I used a calculator to confirm that.) Not only do I do it once an inning I do it anytime there's a stoppage in play (pitching change, argument etc..etc...) I woke up Saturday morning and realized that if I stepped out of bed and couldn't move I wasn't going to be able to usher. No worries. I jumped out of bed and there was no soreness, no resemblance between my knees and a bowl of Rice Krispies. I felt fine. So fine, in fact, that I headed over to my in-laws house to cut their grass all day. Ran home, showered, changed (put on my important looking green polo shirt) and went back to the stadium and did it again. I couldn't have done 102 steps in a week a year ago without having some type of seizure. Now I'm running around like a kid. Here's the kicker - I lost 4 more pounds just over the weekend (that's a total of 244 pounds gone.) I'm going on television with the 'WEAR A GREEN POLO SHIRT AND RUN STADIUM STAIRS WORKOUT!' infomercial. Finally, I've found my destiny. Perhaps I'll couple my workout dvd with a free pack of SHAMWOWS for a once-in-a-lifetime offer.
Mother's Day came and went without any significant breakdowns. I usually try to call my sisters (who are all moms) and wish them happy Mother's Day. I didn't this year. I went to the ballpark while my bride went to church with her mom. Basically I tried to ignore the day. Once there it dawned on me that a baseball game is the one place where it's IMPOSSIBLE to not think about Winifred Freeman. We took her to a hundred ballgames on a hundred Mother's Days. I remember my friends always thinking that was weird but there was no better gift for her than to put her in the old Fulton County Stadium to watch her Braves (no matter how bad they were at the time.)
In storybook fashion, a guest (the Braves ask that we NOT call them "customers" or "fans" but "GUESTS") brought his 78 year old Mother with severe mobility limitations to the game. They sat in the handicapped portion of the section I was working. I introduced myself, got them some scorecards and put a folding chair he could sit in next to her wheelchair. He said "Thanks much for all your help, Tim. She's 78 and loves baseball..can you imagine that?" I'm thinking "yeah, I can." I thought it was some cruel joke that they ended up next to me. But it ended up being a visit back to a lot of special days and I was happy for this total stranger that he was having the privilege of spending that day with his mother. And she had the time of her life. It left me feeling kind of satisfied and happy rather than depressed. The romantic in me spent the ride home thinking (hoping) that somewhere, on the other side, Erfy was watching Lou Gherig try to hit Warren Spahn's breaking ball in a heavenly pick-up game. My own "Field of Dreams" I reckon...
And the GUEST with the 78-year-old mom gave me a $5 tip.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Indulge me while I play martyr....

but I'll be damn glad when Mother's Day is over.
That is all.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Random stuff...

I wish I liked yogurt as much as those women on the Yoplait commercials. Their facial expressions look like they're getting their feet rubbed by George Clooney while the "Queer Eye" guys are out giving their husbands a makeover.
I'd finally gotten over my fear of watching the news (because the economic news always convinced me that the end was near.) Now swine flu has me worried about the demise of the human species. So I'm back to not watching news. Thank God for Cheers reruns...of course now I want a beer. Can't win for losing.
My body has changed but my mind still thinks fat. Had a bratty kid at the ballpark the other day giving me the business. I thought "yeah, pick on the fat guy you little tapperhead." Then I realized he was giving me the business because he was a bratty little kid. I have had several instances of folks staring my way while working my new, second job. Invariably my mind goes back to the hurt and embarrassment. But then I realized that I'm standing in a prominent spot with a green polo shirt on that says "STAFF" and some very important-looking credentials hanging around my neck, giving me the appearance that I know what's going on - and they just want to know where section 108 is located. Or where they can buy a funnel cake - I can't think of anything nastier, greasier or sweeter than a funnel cake. Every single night at least one fan comes up to me and says "I just saw someone with a funnel cake. Where can I buy one???" And the other night I saw a kid put ketchup on one...oh dear God..I'd rather kiss Rosie O'Donnell on the mouth.
Speaking of the ballpark, do you know how good stadium food smells? Everyday when I get to work the air is all grilled onions, hot dogs and barbecue. I'm quite convinced - based on prior experience with many stadiums and the food therein - that's it not as a good as it smells. But still, if they could bottle that smell I'd buy my bride some for her to spritz on her wrists. Yummers.
Speaking AGAIN of the ballpark (yes, there's been a lot of baseball in my life so far this spring) I'm going to be at a ballgame as a fan - not an employee - this weekend. Braves-Astros Sunday afternoon. I'm going to plant my newly narrowed butt into a seat wearing the Chipper Jones jersey Rhonda bought for me (OFF A RACK somewhere) and enjoy being a normal human being. She's promised me for several years that as soon as I was able she was taking me to a baseball game. There's an old poem (the title of which escapes me) that has a line drawing a comparison between the author's frustration to a "...a wounded eagle, staring at the sky..." In MUCH less dramatic fashion that was me watching baseball on television. I envied those watching in person, their ability to fit into the seats and the stamina to do the considerable walking. Now that I've rid myself of about 240 pounds you might see me doing the "OH MY GOD I'M ON T.V. AND THE COOLEST PERSON ALIVE!!!!!!" wave while watching the Braves.
I can't really recommend the Special K cereal with little chocolate chips in it. For someone that's eaten bland and no desserts for over a year it leaves me feeling like I ate a brownie the size of a Volkswagen for breakfast (or a funnel cake with ketchup on it.)

Friday, April 24, 2009

"Strange days indeed...."

So less than a month (by just two days) after Mother died her sister has now died. In almost identical fashion. Battling other health issues she fell and broke her hip and her demise was jump-started. What in the world is happening here? Is the old thing about "happens in three's" really true? If so, what's next? Dear God, this is just other-wordly (if that's a word?)
Aunt Jean lived her life exactly as she wanted to, no spouse, no children and very few worries - other than the next good book she was going to read and what opera was coming on the radio that week. When I was a child and growing up in a house that resembled Grand Central Station most of the time I used to think that was an awfully lonely existence. But in my adult years I respect the fact that she carved out a life for herself that was exactly how she wanted wasn't loneliness so much as solitude. Spending most of the time stepping and fetching for others to make a dime I respect someone who built their life on their own terms like that. I hope to do the same someday.
Finally, it was one of the last acts of Aunt Jean's life to make sure that I got my life back. She was one of a number of people who supported me in having my gastric-bypass surgery. I'm determined now, more than ever, to make sure this whole process is a success and that my family and friends who have supported me through all of this won't be disappointed. And I promise that at some point down the road this blog will go back to detailing successes and very positive things. For the last month and a half, though, these have been very strange days.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"....a rudderless child..."

Some reflections after the fact - she's been gone almost two weeks and a couple of things have come to light:
Losing a parent hurts..that's obvious. But when you've lost both your parents your own mortality rears its ugly head and slaps you in the face. Prior to all of this I was 45 years old. Now she's gone and it's "HOLY CRAP!!!!!! I'M 45 YEARS OLD!!!!!!!!!!"
The funeral was the easy part. After the perpetual motion that's involved in making arrangements and getting a preacher and cleaning out her room and her clothes etc..etc... the weeks after are sort of numbing...the 'uncalm after the storm" if you will The realization of what's happened hits you and it hurts like hell. And that's when you feel like (as the master, Mr. Buffett puts it) "a rudderless child." I love my wife. I love our home and our life together. But I feel, suddenly, like I've got no more roots in the ground. Someone who's been through this please tell me this is all normal.
Food is definitely my addiction. As much ribbing as I take because of my fondness for a cold, dry martini (and the ribbing is warranted...I AM quite fond of them) this episode has proven that food is my drug of choice. After so many months of not wanting to eat I'm suddenly craving things I haven't THOUGHT of eating in forever, wanting to use food to ease the pain a bit. I've had a couple of "I'm gonna eat whatever the hell I wanna eat" days. Fortunately I haven't given in. But feeling those temptations again has certainly proven that gin's not my drug of is. And I guess the hard times are when I'm going to fight it hard.
I'm enjoying the early days of this baseball season more than I have any season in years. No one on this planet loved the sport of baseball more than Mother. For the last couple of years I watched little of it because it made me too sad. Knowing that Alzheimer's robbed her of the ability to enjoy what she loved kept me from wanting to watch it. If she couldn't I shouldn't. But my bride has now convinced me that she wouldn't want me to not watch baseball. In fact I should use the opportunity to see a game as a chance to revisit all the good times I had watching baseball with her. My bride..pretty AND smart.
Gotta go...Brian McCann just hit another monster shot. Mother would say he's "seeing pumpkins right now."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Winifred Pearl

I woke up this morning before daylight and heard the bluebirds defending their new roost in the house on our back fence. Sounded like the chickadees were trying to horn in and being quite the pests. I lay there a while longer and felt the cold nose of a Labrador Retriever on my hand. Seconds later my sweet bride was scratching my back and asking me if I was ok. Funny, I was sure that today had been cancelled here on planet earth. I'll draw upon perhaps the oldest cliche of all and declare that life will go just has a hole in it now.
As she was taking her last breaths yesterday afternoon I told my Mother we would miss her. I told her I'd think about her everyday. I told her she'd still be here every Thanksgiving when I cooked the turkey and dressing she'd taught me to make. I told her she'd still be there every Christmas when I made a plate of her potato candy. Most of all I promised her I'd never again let the Atlanta Braves make the first or last out at home or irritated her terribly when a baserunner let his ego write a check his legs couldn't cash.
When I was a young child - I don't know, maybe 7 or 8 years old - I had a terrible case of pneumonia. Ended up in Crawford Long Hospital for several days. The night before I was admitted to the hospital I remember running a high fever and shivering while Mother held me in her arms. She was singing that "Sunshine" song. "You are my sunshine, my only make me happy when skies are gray. You'll never know dear, how much I love you,,please don't take my sunshine away..." Over the last week, on one of the nights I spent at the hospital with her, she was restless, moaning, agitated and in pain. It was about 3:30 in the morning and I felt like the two of us were alone in the world. So I grabbed her hand and returned the favor and sang her that "Sunshine" song. I thanked God Almighty that the song still has magical powers to calm the sick and nervous. She gave my hand a squeeze and went to sleep, finally. I realized, once again, that life comes full circle. She was now the baby and I was now the adult.
She'd be pleased with my breakfast this morning - a bowl of grits and a cup of strong coffee...two of the finer things in life she taught me to appreciate. She'd be glad that I got out of bed in the first place and allowed our world to keep turning. It's still turning,,,it's just a lot emptier now.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Here's your profile....

NOW FIT IN IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is going to be hard to put into words. But I'll try. The changes this surgery has brought to me physically - increased stamina, fewer aches and pains, my lifelong bout with asthma almost becoming non-existent - were to be expected. What is surprising, however, is the increased amount of introspection this profound change in my body has caused. Before my surgery it was easy (for me) to define who I was - I was the fat guy. Nothing else about me mattered and being "the fat guy" trumped anything and everything else about me. I let it define who I was even though I can now see that's wrong. That said, now that the weight is going, going and hopefully and ultimately gone, the focus becomes who I am if I'm not "the fat guy." And I've done a lot of thinking along those lines.
I've expressed here before how much I love music, songs and songwriters. Ok, so surely the type of music I listen to can help define me. Alas, it's no help at all. The cd player in my truck holds six cd's. At one point you could go from Roy Acuff to Miles Davis without missing a beat. Can there be two more opposite ends of the spectrum than Miles Davis and Roy Acuff? Let's get even more basic than that - "Pick-up truck" and "Miles Davis" don't belong in the same sentence. I'm odd, I tell ya..........
I've also mentioned in this blog how I generally try to avoid politics. As my father once told me, "don't discuss religion or politics with people - there's no right or wrong answers and folks just get mad." But, for the sake of our discussion, perhaps my political leanings could give me an idea of who I am. Again, no help at all. I'm not a liberal. I'm not a conservative. I'm somewhere in between. I sure don't claim any party affiliation...I have a general mistrust of all politicians from either side of the aisle. I've grown profoundly sick in these last few months of individuals who assume they know where I stand politically based on my age, ethnicity, etc... I actually had a work-acquaintance riding to lunch with me last week who was bemoaning the skills (or lack thereof) of a coworker...he raked her efficiency over the coals and ended his summation with "and you KNOW she voted for can just tell it......" Of course he thought he was safe insulting this person who he thought HAD voted for Obama because surely a forty-five year old, caucasian, southern male like myself had not. I let it drop and didn't let him know how I voted either way...but his presumptuousness peeved me. But I digress...
I'm a beer and chicken wings while watching a ballgame kind of a guy. But I'm also a write poetry and watching babies laugh makes me cry kind of a guy. I like watching NASCAR but I religiously keep up with who's doing what on All My Children. On my nightstand you'll find Eric Clapton's biography followed closely by Robin Roberts "...Rules To Live By..." I'm ODD I tell ya.....
I was raised by some men that, in my mind's eye - were MEN in every sense of the word. Even now my father-in-law (who I couldn't love anymore if he was my biological father) fits this role well. Men are men, by God and they have answers and strength and wisdom and courage. Chronologically I'm forty-five but still feel as bumbling as a seventeen-year-old senior at Stone Mountain High School trying hard to figure out what in the hell to do with his life. I know that if I peeled away layers I'd see the frailties and insecurities of these men that plague us all. But still I use them as a measuring stick of who I should be...and it's an ideal that I'll never live up to, given the pedestal on which I've propped them. So we're back to me just needing to be "me." Great.....
Dear God...if a mental health professional reads this I'm going to be admitted for observation.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Silly stuff......

I can no longer pass a chair without sitting down. Not because I'm tired, but because I can now sit in any chair I darn well please. Prior to weight-loss, I had to have a team of engineers review each possible sitting apparatus for structural soundness and to make sure it would support my considerable girth. Now I see a chair, I sit in it. With God as my witness, last week in Bass Pro Shops I sat in a chair that I'm pretty sure was part of some display. But I had to sit in it because it was "THEYAH." (lame reference to JFK's reasons to go to the moon...nevermind......)
Occasionally, when walking, I stop to bend over and re-tie my shoe. No other reason than because I CAN. Similarly, I sometimes bend over and just grab my toes and stretch my hamstrings and calves...just for the hell of it.
When in the office, I now park on the far side of the parking deck and walk the LONG sidewalk that goes around the perimeter of the parking deck because I CAN. That habit may change when it's 125 degrees outside...but for now, it's much fun.
This past weekend I went with my bride to lunch to meet an old friend from her youth. Not very long ago I would've stayed sequestered in the house, not wanting anyone to see what she'd married. And I would've missed the opportunity to meet a fascinating individual whose friendship is important to Rhonda and therefore important to me. Similar situation this weekend...she has a reunion to attend and spouses are invited. Again, not long ago I would've been riding the recliner watching "Redneck Wedding" while she went alone. Now it's Monday and I'm picking out what to wear.
Gotta go,,,time to sneak in the neighbor's backyard and try out their new patio chairs....