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.