Back-timing Toward “The Big-One!”

I cannot possibly recount the number of times I have laughed at Redd Foxx as he played the role of Fred Sanford clutching his chest and stumbling around the room while looking upwards and saying to his already deceased wife Elizabeth,

“It’s the Big-One. I’m comin’ to join you Honey.”

‘click pic’ “Havin’ the Big-One!”

I’m sure that someone somewhere has counted the number of times that Fred Sanford was Havin’ the Big-One which created so much laughter. But, in reality? The Big-One is anything but a laughing matter.

You might have noticed the header at the start of this writing which has the word(s) back-timing in it. It’s a funny thing to me. Almost my whole adult/employed life has been spent back-timing toward something. In my first career as a radio disc-jockey I was always back-timing to the Top of the Hour or to the Start of the National News Broadcast or maybe a “Live” remote broadcast from an advertiser. Perhaps I had to count up the number of minutes and seconds the commercial breaks would occupy so that I could select the properly timed song that would conclude just as the “Live” feed began from the Associated Press Radio. The challenge of working “on-air” in radio or television is usually a self-imposed desire for perfection in this world of back-timing . For example: When working at KCLV in Clovis, New Mexico and KQTY in Borger, Texas the “Live” National News Radio Feed would begin at (54) minutes and (30) seconds into whatever hour it was. So, if the time was precisely 3:31pm, the back-timing required (23) minutes and (30) seconds of music or advertising or talking or most usually a combination of all three. And when the (54) minutes and (30) seconds arrived on the studio clock, which was calibrated down to the second, the National News Broadcast began. Not one second prior-to or one second after the (30) seconds past. It was that knowledge which permitted you the opportunity of using all your prowess of professional back-timing into either (a) Timing which had you sounding like a sloppy and non-caring d-j about the quality of precision or of the content timing that went out to your listening audience or… (b) Sounding like a disc-jockey that ran a “tight” board which was noted internally by the other on-air staff and the Station Manager and the Sales Manager. As far as the general public was concerned? They would not notice precision, only the moments when music was still playing while the National Newscaster had already begun talking or the “dead-air” that reverberated into the void of nothingness which just might provide that listener the moment to think of changing the channel.”Dead-Air” was/is the ultimate enemy while sloppy air was simply… sloppy. And my personality fit perfectly for this type of back-timing world of precision. I prided myself on trying to be the very best of all disc-jockeys at the station and in the city where I was employed. But, there were plenty of times I was Mr. Sloppy and Mr. Dead Air. But, both would kill my soul. I still carry the need for precision with me to this day.

Back-timing in my next career, working as an electrical estimator, was just as critical as radio. But, since the back-timing requirements might be weeks and days and hours away, I still always felt the pressure of each passing second as I prepared the Bids that would have to be ready and phoned into the General Contractors prior-to the Bid Cut-Off Time. Usually that was 2:00pm. But the timing of the Bid really did not matter to me as I had been accustomed to timing down to the second and this job only required that, for the most part, I was back-timing to a certain minute. That’s (60) whole seconds in which the permission for sloppy timing could be overcome. Pretty much an eternity of child’s-play I would say. Probably did say that a time or two in arrogance I’m sure. And, as I think back on it, I’m sure everyone was most overly impressed with my Bidding back-timing capabilities. NOT!! However, I do recall Bob Davis, the owner of the electrical contracting company, telling me one time early on as an employee of his: “If you ever miss a Bid-Time considered yourself ‘Fired’.” And while he did not say “Your Fired” in the manner as has been stated in the past by our current President, the message was very clear: Back-timing was still very much in-play in my life!

Some of you will find these next few words pretty funny considering…

There is nothing I dislike more than ‘being-late’. It really does not matter what the occasion. And with that being said, what it really means is: “I like to be there early because it’s only then I feel like I am… ON-TIME!”

Okay, years of marriage and children and the general delays of life which are not expected have indeed softened me in regard to the indwelling need for precise timeliness. However, it does not mean that part of my nature has taken a permanent vacation.

Growing up as a child with Rheumatoid Arthritis will have a great impact on your perspective of the important things in life I suppose. And, since I was always the last one off the bus or to arrive at the band-hall or cafeteria, I had no options but to accept that being-late was unavoidable. At one point while in Junior-High School the band director told the class, while I was not yet there, that they were late once I arrived at the band-hall. So, the kids would run past me on the open areas between the junior-high building and the band-hall which in reality was a great distance to me. Sometimes some would tell me to “Slow-down or they would be in trouble.” I had no idea what they meant by that until my sister, who was in the same class as I was, told me about what the band director had said. It then made perfect sense why those classmates wanted me to “slow-down”. But, when I found out that the band director had actually said that to the entire class? Well, I tried even harder to crutch my way more quickly to the band class. It probably never caused anyone to be late. It did cause me to be more determined to try and be on-time. It was a silly thing he did I suppose. However, I do still recall it as though he had said it yesterday. The “who” of his name really does not matter. I expect he would not do such a thing anymore. Well, I hope he would not anyway.

Tuesday April 4th @ 6:35pm (Time Remaining: 64 hours  26 minutes)

While I was not aware of it at that very moment, another edition of back-timing had begun. Only this time being late would mean the end of ever worrying about back-timing again.

I was just sitting there in my chair watching TV while Karen was fixin’ dinner. Hot dogs and chili! But, as the Wheel of Fortune spun around, the area of my chest where I supposed my heart resides began to hurt. It was a little different than the chest pains I have been accustomed to having over the past (40) or so years. The consequences of a life with arthritis can often find you hurting in unique ways than might resemble some other type affliction, like a heart attack for example. And in the past I have had countless chest pains that are easily remedied by me rubbing the muscles that are over the rib cage directly over my heart. It’s a semi-common thing to arthritic lifers. So, when this particular pain began I rubbed my chest in the standard way but… it did not seem to be working.

The pain intensified for about two or three minutes and then went away as quickly as it had come. But, it was not a pain that I dismissed, I just went into attentive mode and went and ate dinner.

Just as we were getting ready to leave the living room and head for bed it started again. I thought maybe it was heartburn from the hot dogs and chili so, I asked Karen (my wife) for one of her pills she sometimes takes for stomach issues. When I explained how the pain seemed to also be in my left arm she commented “You know, that’s sounds like the description of a heart attack.” I made a mental note of what she said. Once I was in bed the pain persisted for only a few minutes then again it was gone. However, just a bit of concern began to slip into my thoughts.

Wednesday April 5th @ 3:37am (Time Remaining: 55 hours  24 minutes)

I awoke with my hand on my chest. The pain was returning as I sat up on the side of the bed. It felt as though someone was deep inside my chest with a squirt gun shooting liquid fire onto the back of my heart. As the pain intensified it began moving toward the front of my heart. At least that was how it felt. Although I massaged that area of my chest vigorously the pain would not lessen. Then after a couple minutes it was over. Never any issues with breathing or stomach sickness or sweats or anything symptomatic of a heart attack except for the pain. But, pain is second nature to me… well, probably more first nature, but I noted it once again. I got up to visit the bathroom and went back to bed with all seemingly okay. The balance of the day (Wednesday) and evening was without any issues whatsoever. And after having had a terrible night sleeping on Tuesday, Wednesday night was one of the best sleep nights I have enjoyed in quiet some time. All seemed right with the world until…

Thursday April 6th @ 6:44am (Time Remaining: 28 hours  17 minutes)

Although I had slept very well that night, I awoke with the little man shooting the liquid-fire on the backside of my heart again. That’s how Thursday morning began. I got out of bed and in the short time it took to get to the bathroom the pain subsided and I had an uneventful Thursday. Well, uneventful as far as that little squirt-gun man was concerned. I slept well Thursday night from about 10:30pm to 3:29am Friday morning.

Friday April 7th @ 3:30am (Time Remaining: 7 hours  31 minutes)

Here we go again. I looked at the clock as I sat up on the side of the bed. Exactly 3:30. Way to early for this ol’ boy to even ponder getting up and meeting the day. However, the little man behind my heart had upgraded his weapon of choice it seemed. It felt as though he had now decided to use a fire-hose of liquid fire to saturate my entire heart. As I sat on the side of the bed, the waves of intensity would build and build to the point I thought: “I should wake Karen up and tell her this is happening.” But, just when I would decide that I was going to wake her up the entire pain would abate. There would be about a seven to ten minute rest or break and then it would start up again. This went on for a couple hours. Finally, it seemed to have concluded it’s extreme forceful nature and I was able to take my morning meds and get back into the bed. I fell asleep and woke up around 7:54am. I felt tired but the pain was once again vanquished and I went through the normal coffee and orange juice and watch the news routine with Karen just like any other day. After I showered and shaved I was planning on stopping into the office building I own for a while then making a trip into Lubbock to get a new watch band. But, I had already planned an additional stop for the day.

So as not to alarm Karen with the unexpected plans of the day, I told her that I had something serious I needed to let her know and that I did not want her to worry: “Because I was going into the local Medical Clinic” here in Slaton to check out those chest pains. I also mentioned that first I was planning on running to the edge of town where the Burrito Man resides. She advised skipping the burrito and just going straight to the Clinic. So we compromised. I went and got the burrito, went into my office, made a call to the Clinic at 10:14am to see if my personal friend who works as a PA there at the Clinic was in. He was not scheduled to be in until 3:00pm. So, I decided that I would go to the Clinic at 3:00pm and then go on to Lubbock. All of this would occur, of course, well after the eating of that all-important burrito.

Friday April 7th @ 10:36am (Time Remaining: 0 hours and 25 minutes)

I had just taken the foil wrapped burrito out of the brown bag and laid it on my desk when I received a call from my cousin Jan who lives in the DFW area. It was now 10:36am. We swapped birthday wishes as we had both had a birthday since we last spoke about ten days earlier. About (11) minutes into the conversation I mentioned to Jan that I hated to have to let her go but “my chest was hurting and I thought I would run over to the Clinic to get checked out”. She dismissed me immediately and I thought… “Maybe I just need to eat something.” 

My burrito was still very warm on my desk in front of me. So, I unwrapped the burrito and took a bite. I quickly decided that the burrito WAS NOT the answer to my hurting chest dilemma so, I began the process of closing up the office while making sure that if I did not come back into the office I would make sure that it was properly closed. I just wrapped up the burrito and left it on my desk.

Only (1) Bite? “Oh The Humanity!!”


Friday @ 10:55am (Time of Life Remaining: 0 hours and 6 minutes)

Remember how way back at the start of this writing I went into a very detailed effort to describe how I had basically spent a lifetime as an adult back-timing to a very specific time. Well, once that time came and went, the opportunity to recapture it was gone. Never again are you given the chance to correct this specific missed back-timing effort.

Although I did not know this at the time I sat down in my car to travel to the Clinic which is only 3-blocks away, I literally only had (6) minutes of Life Remaining inside me. That would be explained to me some (30) hours later when the Heart Doctor came to my hospital room to tell me exactly what had transpired with my heart. He made it very clear that “Once the heart attack begins”, the kind I was to have in only a couple more minutes on that Friday morning, “the person has only 5-minutes to receive proper medication to keep the heart from completely dying”. This information was finally told me almost (10) hours after the Saturday morning surgery that had taken place. More on this discussion in a moment because right now it’s time for:

“Hello Mr. Heart Attack!”

I sat in the car on that Friday morning while taking note of the time. It was 10:55am. I sat in the car for about 30-seconds while still parked at my office. I was making sure I felt confident enough to drive to the Clinic without passing-out. I took two very deep breaths and concluded that, even if I had to hold my breath for the entire way, I was clear headed enough to at least get from my office to the Clinic. And as I started the car, the pain in my chest began to intensify and rapidly radiate forward into the front of my chest and down my left arm and into my right jaw. The heart attack had begun. I drove to the Clinic in less than 1-minute.

As I parked at the Clinic I noticed the were hardly any vehicles around which is highly unusual. So, I turned the ignition off and began the process of to decide if I wanted to wait until this horrendous wave of pain passed or, if I should go ahead and just will-myself into the Clinic. I decided to get out and go inside. It was 10:57am. I had approximately 4-minutes of Life remaining. My heart was beginning the process of dying.

When I got inside the door I recall being bent way over while grasping my chest. The pain was terrific and I felt as though I just wanted to fall down. BUT, THAT IS NOT AN OPTION FOR ME! So, with all I had in me I walked toward the Registration area where I could see two large humans, one male and one female, standing at the window and totally blocking my view of the Receptionist. As I stood behind the Red-Line marked out on the floor for the HIPAA laws, I noticed there was only One Person sitting in the entire lobby waiting area. It was a small middle-aged Mexican woman. She was sitting in a chair about fifteen feet from where I stood. She was facing my direction. At this point it is all I can do to not just fall to the floor which is really what I wanted to do. While I was still bent way down I turned my head ever so slightly toward the sitting lady and said in just above what sounded like a whisper “Help me please?”

The sitting lady jumped out of her chair and hurried to the Receptionist window. While pushing the two large people aside she began speaking in Spanish to the Receptionist. Within seven to ten seconds there were four people standing by me and walking me to a chair. As I sat down the PA in charge handed me a Nitroglycerin tablet to put under my tongue and a 325mg aspirin to chew up and swallow with just a little sip of water.

I calculated the heart-attack time it took for me to get into my car at the office and then arrive the Clinic and then taking the required heart-attack meds. I fugured this all happened in a 3-minute span of time. That would have still left me two more minutes of Life remaining before the things of the heart would have concluded themselves. And, obviously, that meant it would have concluded me.

In what seemed like less than one minute after taking the nitro and aspirin the heart pain subsided. I was astounded. I concluded at that point that I must not have had a heart-attack because I never fell to the floor or passed out. I found out later that, based upon the magnitude of the heart attack, I should have done both. However, it seems that the Lord said… “Not Today.”

Following a quick EKG in the Clinic the EMS personnel walked into the room where I was sitting. They had the stretcher up and ready and waiting for me to lie down on it. That all happened rather quickly. As they rolled me out of the Clinic I asked the PA “How the EKG looked?”.

I was immediately loaded into ambulance and then the fun part began. A NEEDLE with which the idea was to start an active IV. However, as Howard Cosell used to say… “But NO!”. They made one-stab at it and decided to let the E.R. folks do that at the hospital (“Thank You Lord!!!”) While in the ambulance and waiting to leave, following the failed IV attempt, I called Karen to let her know: “I am in the ambulance and headed to the E.R. but everything is okay. You do not need to hurry beyond the point of driving safely.” That morning Karen had been delivering to the Meals on Wheels folks. She had already received a call from the Clinic to her cell phone so, she already know what was happening when I called her from inside the ambulance.

As we left Slaton bound for the Lubbock hospital the process of the liquid-fire began to be released onto my heart. I mentioned it to the ambulance EMS man and was swiftly given a much larger nitro pill compared to the one I received at the Clinic. Within a few moments the pain again was gone.

It’s a strange thing to me. It seems like all my life I have heard that if you think there is anything wrong with your heart then you get an EKG and things will be decided from that point. Well, my EKG was PERFECT at the Clinic and in the Ambulance and also at the Hospital Emergency Room. According to the three and then more EKG tests that were performed I never showed any signs of having had a heart attack. However, the blood work done at the hospital revealed off the chart enzyme levels that indicated I had experienced a massive heart attack. This was confusing to everyone in the E.R. including the Doctors because, as they explained it to me, when they see those enzyme levels on an incoming patient the individuals are unable to speak and most have usually completely passed out. I concluded that the Last Five-Minutes must be rough on some folks. 😉

After a day of tests, and waiting and waiting, the Doctor comes in to inform me that I have had a “mild” heart attack. That was the information I was left with until almost (24) hours later which happened to be about (10) hours after the surgery that would happen the following morning, Saturday. Them telling me it was mild was their way of keeping me/us from getting too upset I suppose. They did not want any more heart events over the night which would require immediate surgery rather than the planned 7:30am schedule that was upcoming.

The next morning, Saturday April 8, 2017 @ 4:10am the lights came on and the activity began. Yes, at 4:10 in the MORNING. Blood work and EKG and then someone has the gall to ask:

“Are you ready to take your shower this morning Mr. Branscum?”

Okay, I begged. It got me about (20) more minutes to sleep, which did not happen. But, at least I figured the surgery would be first-up on the schedule. I was right. At 7:10am I was carted off to the Operating Room and promptly at 7:30 the Heart Surgeon began the process of fixin’ me up. It was all done within 15 minutes. I was back in my room of the early morning shower by 8:15am. Wow! That was quick. The surgeon said “We put a stent in.” And that’s that. Well, until about 5:20pm that Saturday afternoon.

I was still just laying in bed and waiting for the (10) hours to pass so I could move my leg which had been jabbed in the groin area during surgery. Almost (10) hours stationary in bed since the surgery. Well, stationary for the most part. I forgot a few times and the male nurse popped in and made sure I understood the need to keep the leg straight/flat and still. Ugh.

Finally, it was time for the whole truth to be revealed. Saturday, April 7th @ 5:20pm the doctor walks into my room. He started talking to me as he was walking to my bed. (Karen was in the lobby on the phone so I was intent on listening to every word he said. She would want/need to know all this as well.)

“I want you to know that you are one lucky man. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you are not quick on your feet. You dodged The Bullet.”

“What does that mean???” I was a bit rattled by those opening remarks and so I thought… Let’s let the ol’ doc try that opening again because that sounded like something serious had happened.

They call the heart attack I had “The Widow-maker”. That LAD (Left Anterior Descending) main artery was 99% blocked. (I told Karen “It just was not your time yet.”) The doctor went on to explain in great detail exactly what had transpired. This is when he let me know that when having this type heart attack a person has (5) minutes to seek treatment or the consequences are most usually dire.

An angiogram and then the angioplasty and finally a stent. I am back in great working order. The rest of the heart appears to be in very good working order. That’s nice to know.

So, again I had back-timed down to very latest possible moment. A 99% blockage. I saved that 1% so that I could stay on my feet while walking into the Clinic. Besides, there’s no sense in being greedy and taking the whole 100%. That would just be plumb silly!

Yes, some things will be modified. I have already received two letters from the Morton Salt Company expressing there sincere wishes for my hasty recovery. Additionally, Long John Silvers called to personally say they would be reducing the back-log of fried-crunchies since I would not be in as often. As for KFC? Well, I suppose I can survive on One Fried Chicken Skin instead of my usual Two or Three.

I have already decided that I need to re-calibrate my back-timing method. Me thinks it needs to permit a bit more time. Not everything in life has to be Back-Timed down to the Last Minute or Second. I say that knowing I will probably still do everything mostly the same when it comes to my medical events. After all, just knowing that a needle will be involved should always buy me at least two or three more days to consider the matter.

Seriously, and for just a moment: To all of you who prayed for my successful surgery I say: “Thank you so very much. I really do feel it outweighed the effects of my most active stupidity.”

If time permits, I will visit with those folks who sent so many kind regards during that weekend event. I just hope to not need ALL those prayers the next time. But, to be totally honest…

My Vote Is For “NO NEXT TIME!”

glenn / GLB358



Filed under Personal Stories

GOING HOME! (Updated)

IT WAS FORTY (Two) YEARS AGO! (Originally Posted 11.25.2014)

As I remember, the day was a warm one. Warm, of course, being relative to this time of year in Dallas, Texas. And, having been advised only the day before, I was apprehensive and fretful as to the “hows” of the exact details as to how this would all go down. Wednesday, 11.24.1974 (Thanksgiving eve), into my hospital room walked two people who I knew well, but they were not my parents.

Time is a funny thing. It mostly will fuzzify your recollections of actual events. Especially when those events, at the time, are something that impress you as being overwhelming. At the moment when you are undergoing the overwhelming event, a certain oddity consumes you. You mentally scramble to keep up with all the information that is being presented, whether in words or actions. Additionally, there are the mental gymnastics of trying to anticipate every next small detail which can tie the brain in knots. Of curse the actual unfolding of the complete event will find you missing out on several of the various steps as to the “how” of everything which actually occurs. But, the bigger picture always remains and the details get filled-in as best you remember. Well, perhaps as best as you can create in the re-telling of it. So, for this writing effort today, the specific memories of that day remain most clearly distinct inside my mind and inside my heart. Even now, all these Forty (Two)-Years later.

The two folks that walked into my room were the age of my parents. They also happened to be the parents of a classmate of mine named Kim. Kim would pass away far too young while in her early forties after having been ravaged in the latter parts of her life by a leukemia typed disease that found her getting bone marrow transplants in efforts to save her still young life. I still recall vividly the day when a large assembly gathered in a small church in an even smaller Texas town on a hot summer day. I will forever remember the very last time I witnessed Kim’s parents standing over her casket at the front of that little church following the funeral services. Honestly, that was probably the saddest scene I have ever witnessed and I sincerely still pray I never have to watch that scene play-out again. However, this story recommences with those two folks walking into my hospital room at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children. It was Wendell and LaVelle Clayton. I was surprised that they were the ones there and yet, I felt secure in knowing that these kind people from my home town area were ever so graciously attending to every little detail of the nurses instructions while fully assuring me that I was really the one they were there to listen to and make feel comfortable in the unusual, for me at the time, events that were continuing to unfold.

I was sixteen years old. I was less than sixty-days removed from having had two separate eight-hour surgeries that had totally replaced both hips that had been destroyed by a youth-filled life of aggressive rheumatoid arthritis. Nine years of active destruction at this point in my life. I was only five feet and two inches tall and weighed in the range of eighty pounds. Yeah, skin and bones and prosthesis. Those prosthetic replacements probably added more weight to my frame than what had been removed. But, there I was. Unable to walk… yet. However, I could stand with the aid of specially modified crutches and shoes which were designed to permit my balance to remain on my forearms while permitting my weight-bearing joints some small relief of pressure and pain which was mostly due to the inactivity of the previous six months and the atrophy that is a natural course of physical failures. RA is kinda special that way.

The trip in the vehicle lasted only a brief while. And Wendell would say Wendellish things like “That’s as funny as a barbed wire commode”. Actually, that’s pretty funny to picture. But, that was mostly his nature. (I recently presented Wendell’s eulogy for the family. It was just a couple months ago in 2016.)

LaVelle was kindly answering and reassuring me regarding any questions I had about mostly trivial things I was apprehensive about. And before I realized it, we were there. There was: The DFW Airport. I was going to be flying home.

Now, I was not a complete novice at this flying thing. My Dad had only three and a half months earlier come down to that hospital and taken me home by way of my first ever plane flight. We flew out of the then brand new DFW Airport. That excursion home was designed to lift my spirits and create a window of time for some surgical tools to be provided to the Scottish Rite Hospital where I was having the surgical procedures performed. You see, the first attempt at surgery to replace the first hip was aborted after several hours of unsuccessful efforts at intubation. They simply could not get into the airway to my lungs because of my inability to bend my head far enough back for that hose to slide in. The process that failed did accomplish one thing though. It had severely cut out chunks of skin from inside my mouth and left me with a very, very sore mouth. But, such was the effort toward a hoped for success. When I had flown home with Dad, my first flight ever, I knew that I still had not accomplished anything toward again ever standing or walking or… living. But unknown to me at the time, the hospital had consulted with some medical professionals in England and they had created this new “corn cob” typed apparatus that could be inserted into my windpipe. It was that little invention that would allow the not-so-flexible airway hose to be properly inserted into my lungs while I slept during the necessary surgical hip replacements surgeries that were awaiting. After having remained out on the farm for about ten days the journey in the car back to that hospital in Dallas was again made. Then it was surgery on the (right hip) and only a few weeks later, surgery on the (left hip). Then waiting while healing and rehab and learning to again stand and going though the process of taking a very few steps with those extremely modified crutches.

Okay, back to this date all those forty (two) years ago. My destiny of flight would find me returning home while having two new hips and a hopeful view toward the future. Well, slowly hopeful is probably more the truth.

“If you see someone named Jack just be sure you don’t yell out… Hi Jack!. Another Wedellism provided as we sat awaiting time to board the plane in Dallas bound for Lubbock. I again thought that was something funny and I held to that for future reference, along with that barbed-wire commode thing.

I was the first one loaded onto the plane. They used this little bitty chair on rollers that was just wide enough to sit on while being just narrow enough to roll down the aisle of the plane. I was painstakingly seated along with Wendell and LaVelle.  Once we were seated Wendell said, “Lavelle. You better take your medicine.” Then he turned to me and said, “Sometimes she pukes on these flights.” Well, I quietly freaked out that maybe I was not far enough away from LaVelle in case any projected-spillage occurred. Yeah, I can perhaps be a bit OCD, whatever that is supposed to mean. But, no puke and no spillage and the plane landed safely in Lubbock. There awaiting our arrival was my Mom and my Dad and my two Sisters, Dawn and Wendy. And the trek to the farm from Lubbock, some seventy-plus miles away, had begun. And as Mom drove, I again lay in the back portion of that Ford LTD station wagon. The very same car that about five months earlier had taken me down to the hospital in the heat of that (1974) summer. And, as Dad picked at my sisters, Dawn (15) and Wendy (14) talked and argued and leaned over the seat to say things to me in the back until I blurted out “Ya’ll sure do talk loud. Do you have to talk so loud?”. And then Mom chimed in, “Yes. Softer would be nice.” But, we were from the farm and that old expression which asks if you were “raised in a barn?” aptly applied to all five of us, for the most part. The volume became again a way of life and the slow and methodical efforts of regaining my strength and abilities, that most everyone takes for granted, were in some part eventually accomplished.

We arrived at our farm home that day, Wednesday. My little bedroom had been fully decorated by some of the kids from church and school. I later learned that the eldest daughter of Wendell and LaVelle, Lisa, had actually done most all the work. That is something I hope to never forget. I went to bed that Wednesday night still fully dependent on others to survive. But, the very next day would be Thanksgiving Day. It would be the first time we hosted our families on Thanksgiving Day at our own home out on the farm. Most usually we had two separate gatherings. Around noon in town, Earth, with my Mother’s family and then later that evening just down the road from our farmhouse which was my Dad’s folks home. But, on Thursday, November 28th, 1974, I sat in my new over sized wheelchair and ate lunch with my family and then watched as the Dallas Cowboys, who were for the first time in ages going to miss the Playoffs, replace an injured quarterback named Roger Staubach with a kid who had played at a little college in Abilene, Texas and, the QB who would become known for his efforts of this one game. He was: The Mad Bomber! Clint Longley.

The picture was very clear on our still black and white television. But, my family and my friends and all the rest of the world was once again closer to being in “full and living” color. Yep, some things are very well-remembered.

memories at farm

It was Forty (Two) Thanksgiving Years Ago. I still consider myself to be most blessed among men. A blessing which could never be earned but rather, a blessing that is given by those who know the way of sharing Love.

Today I will be attending the Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game against the Washington Redskins. It will be loud and exciting and eventually committed the annuls of more Thanksgiving memories. But, for all of what may happen on this notable date of American history, I shall forever remember first and foremost that Thanksgiving Day all those years ago of 1974. And, I will again be Thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving To Each and Everyone Of You!

GLB says… LATER!


Filed under AT&T STADIUM EVENTS, Current Events, Dallas Cowboys, Personal Stories, Sports (Misc)



Right up front I will tell you to just skip this posting if you are hard of heart, soul, mind or spirit. It’s not intended for you if any of those words apply to you. Seriously.

And now I write.

Few things, no, make that very few things can cause me to cry. In fact, I could probably list every occasion when tears have actually flowed over the past (30) years of my life. The death of my granddad in December of 1984. That event reconstructed a lot of my thinking going forward and I am not saying that it has always been for the best. Just different. Then there was a hot summer day in July of 2000. I was attending a funeral for a high school classmate that had passed away. I was helping the church singing group. I had been to see her in the hospital a couple months earlier and, while the prognosis was hopeful the realities were bleak. She and her family had (have) always been “extra” kind to me in special ways. Especially in my youth. I did really well through the entire funeral until… it ended. After everyone had exited the auditorium, except for our singing group, it happened. I watched as her Mom and Dad stepped forward from the pew in that little west Texas church to view their child for that final time. Seeing that crushed my heart, my mind, my soul and my spirit. And well…

I remember back in the early 1990’s when I was up against the feeling I have right now. Although I was not directly addressed by the person that I would later publicly pray for in that metroplex church before we left the building that evening, when the announcement was made that this little girl had been afflicted… I was left with no options as again my entire being was engaged in the consequences of what those words that had just been publicly spoken meant for that little girl. At the end of services I went forward to say a little something before leading the prayer. While there is probably not anything I said that night that is still remembered by anyone all these years later, I still remember praying these words before that church family.

“Please Lord, let the disease be anything else for this girl. Just please, not this.”

I always like to arrive super early to the games that we attend in the suite at AT&T Stadium. Gives me time to tape little pieces of paper with the names of attendees on their designated seats. Then I can grab my binoculars and sit down to see what Uncle Jerry Jones is up to. Usually about forty-five minutes before kick-off he will make his way to the field to greet and mostly… be greeted. But by game time the stadium fills and the suite fills and the start of the game is enjoyed.

Their group arrived a little bit late. I think they may have gotten detained at dinner before heading out to the stadium. But, I expect there was another reason they were slow getting from the parking lot and then finally all the way up to the suite. Here is where that crushing feeling comes into my life again.

I was distracted as the entire group entered in phases. I most always like to greet everyone when they arrive and then show them where the seats are with their names on them. And as I was busy doing this I did not notice her immediately upon entrance. I was saying “hello” to her father-in-law at the time she and her mother-in-law found their seats. The two seats right in front of mine. I will say right here… sometimes it is just too odd as to the way things are worked out. This is another of those oddities, at least for me it was.

When I sat down I greeted both women sitting directly below me. The mother-in-law on the left and by the steps of the aisle and the younger woman to her right and up against the glass partitioned wall that separates one suite from another. It was about midway through the first quarter that I saw the younger lady start turning around in her chair to face me as she sat with her legs under her on the seat. I thought that a bit strange. Then she spoke. While these may not be her exact words, they are the exact meaning. “I have RA.” She spoke rather softly and continued to say… “I’m scared.” I sat my binoculars on the little stand beside my chair and leaned forward to better hear her. By now I can see the range of thoughts and emotions in her eyes that I could identify with so very, very well. “You have RA, right?” she asked,  I’m not sure who had told her but she obviously knew because that’s not something you just throw out on speculation.

I responded “Yes. How long have you had it?” At this point I am seeing the puffiness of her hands as she reached back and answered “A year now and I’m afraid and scared. I am in such pain and I’m perplexed and fearful.”

“How old are you now?” Typically I would never ask a female that question. While I may not be the wisest of the turnips that fell off the truck last week, I do have a bit of moxy from time to time. Probably just a bit though. I thought I understood her to say she was “thirty-three”.

This process went on a few times up until the halftime of the game. She would sit there a bit and then work her way into the sitting backward position and start asking questions while making statements all at the same time. She is, as she said, “Lost”.

I have been defined in many ways throughout my life. Mostly my adult life I should say in referencing these following words. “Over the top.” “Arrogant.” “Prideful.” “Stuck up.” “Smart aleck.” I particularly like that last one. Makes me think that “those who think they know so much should just be quiet and let those like me speak!”. Oh well, the nature of a man will shine through I suppose. I like to think of it as… humor.

There is a word that I sincerely hope accompanies me when my name is brought up after I am no longer around. Not that folks might have ever really seen it in me, but maybe they will have just known it. “Understanding.”

Those seats in front of me were occupied by others in the second half of the game. I watched as she struggled to get up and down and walk and move and… smile. She managed to smile throughout the entire evening. Perhaps I really “understand” that part better than anything.

There are many things I would love to say to her family. I am sure my wife would be way better equipped to say the “right things” as compared to what my words might be as she has now been living with me for over (32) years. But I expect the opportunity will never really present itself. And, as I am not one to overtly thrust myself into another persons life without being invited, well… I don’t think anyone ever asks another to “overtly” enter their life, I would  hope that she and her immediate and then also her extended family avail themselves of the knowledge that would be so very helpful to this young woman as she struggles through so many kinds of hell that trying to define them all would be another hell in and of itself. You see, it will be the family and close friends that determine how her hell goes. And, no matter how powerfully assistive anyone in her life may become the simple fact remains: She will be alone with her thoughts and fears and pain. For these parts of the fight are locked away in regions of the heart, soul, mind and spirit that can only be reached and then touched by the Creator Himself. Period.

In less than two years I will be fifty-seven years old. My RA life will be fifty years old. While I will have battled the RA war for longer than this young woman has been alive, she will catch-up with my “understanding” very quickly. There is nothing joyful about that. Often there will be no words that suffice to help.

There are still very few things that can cause me to cry. May God Bless Her… Family.

GLB says… LATER!  (Originally Written 11.19.2013)


Filed under Personal Stories