I grew up dreaming just like any other kid. Often, I would be wide awake and seclude myself in an empty room free from the banter spewing from my brother Craig’s mouth (he liked to talk non-stop about the Chicago Cubs or Bears or Bulls or Transformers or Comic Books..etc..etc). I had my moments of vocal release but Craig always liked to dominate the conversation in the room. He is the Great Debater, better spoken than written but I digress.
I am not much for debating. I see both sides to most viewpoints. I have walked in many unique pairs of shoes, so to speak. More often than not, I listen intriguingly and come to a stopping point where I realize the “Great Invoker” of said debate has walked in merely a couple pairs of shoes their entire life thus rendering a very personal and possibly self involved/promoting perspective and opinion. Would you listen to a man or woman speak about financial struggles, knowing for a fact they’ve had most of their finances taken care of by their family since birth? Would you vote for a President who didn’t learn how to wipe their own ass until they were a teenager? Would you vote for a Governor just because he or she is attractive and or trendy? Would you take the advice of a loved one without analysis, just because you love them?
This is where siblings such as Craig and myself differ from so many people we know, from so many people out there in the limelight literally getting paid to blow smoke up our asses with skewed rhetoric. Craig likes to dominate the conversation with spoken word. I choose to dominate the conversation by listening. What I have learned over the years is although he and I are different in many ways, we are alike in many more. This is what makes us brothers, not by just blood but by bond through camaraderie, familiarity.
Everyone has a story. We shouldn’t judge others or compare ourselves. We shouldn’t envy the lives of others. But these things are difficult to overcome as life goes on because it seems to be ingrained in our souls, to persevere and achieve, accomplish. To listen to the rhetoric of a teenager, perhaps and “write off” their feelings as if the feelings aren’t legitimate due to their lack of life experience. The same applies to us “adults”. I use the term “adults” loosely because we all know a few who never grew up. When I refer to “adults” in the most literal sense, I am talking about a person who has really lived and tried new things, struggled, become a “good” parent (the term “good” is of course ambiguous and subjective). The kind of “adult” who has found as much failure as success. The type of “adult” who in spite of their support network, whether it be family or friends, has pursued risky plunges into the depths of anxiety and fear…bewilderment transposed by a single step forward and at times, backwards. We can’t always control the direction and more often than not, the fork in the road has a valley and the grade is steep. Successful “people” walk through that valley and climb back on top hopefully better prepared than before. Many others stay in the valley and fester in their own despair. Craig and I have always chosen to climb back up and try again…and again.
I’ve lived at over twenty different addresses in my 43 years. I’ve had over thirty jobs. I’ve owned 30 vehicles. I’ve been accused of having bi-polar disorder by more people than I currently call “my close friends”. Some think my life has been crazy and disruptive. Others think “he cray cray but he does what he wants and continues to move forward”. In June of 2018 I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Esophageal Cancer and told I was going to live three years, maybe less, maybe more. My personal “fork in the road” presented me with a challenge I had never faced. The valley abruptly appeared, the downhill grade was steep and I was more frightened than I’ve ever been. Even more frightened than the time Craig was flying home from Fort Gordon in 1993 after he finished his communications training in the Army. Yes, I was very scared my outspoken, opinionated brother wasn’t going to make it back to Iowa. I was ready for him to dominate the conversation again.
I still have dreams. They don’t go away because of a life threatening disease or opinion. Dreams aren’t manifested from capability, physical energy or what we literally see on the horizon. Dreams come from within and so many of us never want to stop chasing them. I screwed up a lot of relationships over the years. I am guilty. It wasn’t always just me. It wasn’t always a girlfriend, wife or employer…neighbor, family member. But with each incident and whether or not I was the majority stockholder of said “screw up”, the thing I faced each time was that steep grade valley. And each time, I climbed up the other side and persevered. Sometimes it took days or weeks. Other times it took years. Each time made me stronger.
In spite of our differences, Craig and I have grown closer in the past few years and we are both very thankful. In spite of the”bi-polar” chaos of my past, Angie sees through the self induced damage and knows I am a survivor who works very hard to achieve goals. I don’t always choose the most intelligent path but I do often begin again and learn from my mistakes. This is what makes the world go ’round. This is what makes me who I am. This is why Angie and I’s love for each other is unstoppable.
Stage 4 Esophageal Cancer hasn’t changed all of my dreams. It has strengthened my love for my family and Angie. It has enriched my life in a way never before imaginable because I finally see what is truly important. Not material things. Not judgement from others. Not who dominates the conversation. Not the valleys. What is truly important is that you find yourself in a position where people care about you and they want to help. I never knew how many people cared. I never asked or assumed. I have always taken the fork in the road based on self interest and although selfish at times, much of the time I did so knowing it benefited those close to me. My chaotic life and choices led me here and although I have days where I want to give up, because of my experiences I always know I will climb back up and be presented with the next challenge and I will once again survive.