Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Short-Sighted Self Pity

You have problems and issues. I have problems and issues; no one is immune from them, but don't allow yourself to magnify whatever ails you into being an uncontrollable, insurmountable challenge.

Right now, somewhere in this country, a person is eating out of a dumpster.

Someone is drawing their last breath.

Someone, seeing no other path, is taking their own life.

Someone is laying in bed, unable to arise on their own and asking God for the millionth time, "WHY?"

Someone is halfway across the globe, desperately trying to get home with no means to do so.

Someone is totally alone and doesn't want to be.

Someone is grieving the loss of a spouse, child, sibling or parent.

Someone is sleeping in their own filth inside a makeshift shelter under a bridge.

Someone is trying to drown their sorrows in alcohol.

Someone is sitting in a hospital room, watching their child struggle to live through the night.

Someone is being beaten and robbed.

Someone's child is being abused.

Someone is injecting what will be their last dose of heroin.

Someone is discovering they have a terminal illness.

Someone is losing their job.

Someone is in excruciating, unbearable pain, unable to afford medication.

Someone won't see another sunrise.

This list is endless; the point of it? Stop wallowing in self-pity because, somewhere, someone is much worse off than you.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Bad News Sells...Especially If It Involves Police

Imagine, if you will, that you're  driving home after a long day finishing concrete in ninety-degree heat. Traffic is a little heavy on the interstate, you're tired, hot and sweaty, maybe not paying as much attention to your driving as you should. The cool air blasting from the A/C vent feels luxurious as you uncap a bottle of water and take a good, long drink, distracting you just enough that you don't see the car in front of you stop abruptly.

Your full-size pickup truck slams into the back of the car ahead, badly injuring a nine-year-old child in the back seat.

That's a terrible scenario, on any scale, one that would forever changes many lives. But let the story play out a little further...

You're not drunk, under the influence of drugs or driving recklessly. Law enforcement shows up and completes the crash investigation, a driver in a car next to you witnessed the accident and you taking a drink of water. "He wasn't speeding", that witness said in her statement. "He just didn't see the car in front of him stop quickly enough." You're cited for ACDA (assured clear distance ahead) and released to your wife, who drives you home.

Headlines the next day: 'CONCRETE FINISHER INJURES NINE YEAR OLD'. Different versions of the story run for several days.

News at the top of the hour on the radio: "A concrete finisher yesterday caused a severe accident on the interstate which badly injured a child..."

Social media explodes with the news, embellished repeatedly as its passed along; the 'letters to the editor' section of the local paper prints no less than seven entries, all condemning you as the current version of  Adolph Hitler.

All that's ridiculous, right?

Let's change the occupation from 'concrete finisher' to 'police officer'.

Suddenly it all makes sense, doesn't it? A cop almost killed that child. He of all people should know to pay more attention to his driving! He probably WAS speeding because he knew he wouldn't get cited if he was know how those cops all stick together and cover up for each other! HE SHOULD BE FIRED AND LOCKED UP! People distance themselves from the police officer. Neighbors stop being so friendly. Worse, his kids are taunted at school because of what their father did.

As absurd as all that sounds, that happens daily across America.

It's something they don't tell you about in the police academy, this 'living under the public microscope', at least not when I went through it. I sure hope these young people who think they want to be cops are aware of it now, especially in a world where everyone literally has a video camera with them at all times, in the form of their cell phones.

I'll be the first to confirm that there are those officers who aren't law-abiding and have no business wearing a badge; convictions of three local cops in recent years, each resulting in prison sentences, are proof of that and they deserved all the negative attention they brought upon themselves.

I can't stand a dirty cop.

What happens, though, is that their brothers and sisters in blue suffer, too. They had nothing at all to do with the crimes their co-worker committed, but because of the actions of those few mopes the entire police department is dirty in the public's eyes. Keyboard warriors, living in Mom and Dad's basement, pound out vile slime and spew it across the internet, condemning everyone who wears a badge.

Police officers are human beings. They have emotions, too, and aren't immune from the same problems everyone else might have. They make mistakes and bad decisions.

I made mistakes. I was dragged through the mud of  a bad decision in the media, too...and I deserved it. I owned up, took departmental discipline and didn't complain because I had it coming. The worst part of the entire ordeal was the disparagement I brought on the department and my family.

There'd have been no mention of it if I'd have been a concrete finisher, though.

Coppers today need to realize how closely they're watched, not only by the media but by the people they serve and protect. As a police friend of mine in Lexington once put it, they need to conduct themselves as if a judge and jury were in the cruiser with them.

Because, relatively speaking, they are.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Before Civil Courts And Insurance Companies

Stacy was off half the day yesterday, so she started cleaning the closet out in the back bedroom. I was working on a story on my laptop in the living room when she comes in, holds out a dark blue pair of pants and asks if I want to keep them.

It was a pair of my old uniform pants from Mansfield PD.

I took them from her, looking them over as memories came flooding back. I'd had a blackjack pocket sewn into the right leg, just back of the outside seam and low enough that it was easy to get to. The outside material was worn and a little faded from where the leather-encased, lead-filled business end of the attention-getter used to ride, a tool I used for door-knocking more than anything.

Back in the day, just about all the folks I worked with carried some variation of the blackjack, sap, convoy or whatever else those personal defense weapons went by; their use most times meant a trip to the ER for their target before going to book-in.

With the advent of kinder, gentler policing and newer, 'better' tools such as the PR 24 side-handle baton, OC spray and tasers, the throwback from my early days on the job fell by the wayside.

"Too much liability", the decision-makers had said; law enforcement techniques were becoming fodder for lawsuit-happy defense attorneys across the nation, resulting in sweeping policy changes that affected virtually every police agency, large and small.

Civil suits and municipal insurance providers now dictate how a policeman does his/her job.

...and I hate that. I thank God that I worked when police officers could actually do their jobs.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Anniversary Of A Second Chance At Life

Three years ago today, right at this very moment, I was in the fight of my life.

I had small cell renal carcinoma, a tumor the size of a quarter was growing in my left kidney; had it not been discovered, quite by accident, I wouldn't be here today. This type of cancer doesn't manifest itself until it's spread to the liver and lungs and, by then, it's usually too late.

I'd had a routine chest x-ray, which just happened to catch the upper portion of my kidneys and the doctors noticed a mass in my left kidney. Believing it to be a cyst, which is common, my personal physician suggested I have an MRI...just to be sure it wasn't something more serious.

It was.

She'd told me, on our next appointment, that it would have killed me eventually and that I was lucky. She also said I'd lose the kidney, but that hundreds of thousands of folks are living normal, everyday lives with only one kidney. Doc Becker asked if I'd like to be referred to a local kidney specialist or go elsewhere.

We went to Columbus. For reasons I won't go into, I'll never have another serious surgical procedure performed in this area.

We chose Central Ohio Urology, a group of thirty physicians in Columbus who specialize in all things related to the renal system. Dr. Brad Pewitt was who we saw on that initial consultation, a 50-ish, balding man who spoke in monotone but made it clear he knew what he was doing.

After reviewing the x-ray and MRI film and reports, Dr. Pewitt had some good news...sort of. "You won't be losing the entire kidney. The tumor is confined in the upper portion and, provided there's no evidence of it having spread, we'll be able to remove that portion of your kidney during a robotic procedure which will leave you with three small incisions in your abdomen. You'll heal much quicker because we won't have to make a large incision and cut through abdominal muscle."

I had to wait 45 days for surgery day, a time frame during which I didn't sleep much, knowing there was a killer growing inside me.

Stacy and I stayed at a hotel near the hospital the night before surgery; I had to be at Mount Carmel East in Columbus at 0600. That night I slept a little better, knowing the issue would be resolved the next morning.

Surgery prep was almost robotic itself; the nurses and staff were very efficient in getting me ready to go under the scalpel. They shaved my lower chest and stomach, dousing it thoroughly with the red, sticky antiseptic that every hospital in the world seems to use. An IV was started and they gave me some sort of sedation to keep me calm, the nurse administering it laughing as I joked with she and my wife. The sedative, I thought, made everything I said hilariously funny.

The time came to go into surgery; Stacy kissed me and said she'd see me in a little while as she held my hand. I didn't want to let go.

Three-and-a-half hours later, hearing first and then seeing through hazy eyes, I drifted in/out and then back into consciousness. My left side just below the ribcage throbbed, burning a little, too. A nurse worked beside my bed, checking vitals on a large monitor and inspecting the IV insertion site. She told me I was in a recovery room but would be going to intensive care shortly. I was still loopy enough that those words didn't alarm me.

Drifting in and out, seeing fluorescent ceiling lights pass by and feeling the sensation of moving - stopping - moving, I cannot say I knew exactly when I was wheeled into the ward. Time didn't exist, just the floating feeling, the snatches of sentences heard, but not quite understood, from nursing staff. That aching, burning pain getting just a little more intense by the minute, I finally regained some semblance of my senses when I heard my wife's voice, her face appearing above mine like the angel she is.

She was crying.

"I thought I was going to lose you", she said, voice cracking. That is a memory I will take to my grave, Stacy extremely distraught at my brush with death. I don't ever want to be the reason my wife cries.

She kissed my forehead and explained that something had gone wrong during the procedure, wrong enough that a nurse had sought her out to tell her I was bleeding profusely internally but that doctors were working to get it stopped.

I later discovered that, during the robotic procedure, an artery had been cut; Dr. Pewitt and assisting surgeons then had to make a ten-inch incision just below the ribcage to get to the artery. They gave me six pints of blood during that incident, which is why they'd placed me in intensive care; they wanted to make sure I didn't start bleeding again. Apparently I'd almost bled to death in surgery.

Three days later I was moved to a step-down ward; five days after that I was released from the hospital. Three check ups later, there's no sign of cancer anywhere. I didn't even have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatments because, by the grace of almighty God, the tumor had been fully-encapsulated inside the kidney.

Though I may be sixty-one, I consider this day the third anniversary of my second-chance life, a chance that thousands every day don't get. I look back on those three years that have passed, noting all the events and happy times I would have missed, and am ever thankful for this life I have, this gift God has given me. To Him goes the eternal glory.

It can end in the blink of an eye, at any moment. I will never take my life for granted. Ever.

Neither should you.

Saturday, June 16, 2018


Father's Day. Call your Dad, go see him and give him a big hug as you tell him you love him. One day you won't be able to do any of it.

I lost my Dad over four years ago. I wish I could still do those things.

Dad was a blue-collar man's man. I remember him, at times, working two jobs to provide for our family. Most of his working life was spent at Ontario's General Motors plant, at a time before they paid big hourly wages. I worked eighteen months at Stone Container Corporation making cardboard boxes and sheets, hating every minute being inside a factory. It gave me a much greater respect for what Dad did for us, spending over thirty years inside a factory; I imagine he hated it, too, but he was doing what he had to do in order to raise a family.

So many memories come flooding back, not only on Father's Day but every day.When I was in kindergarten we lived on Lexington Avenue, two doors south of what was then Cesar's Shell station; it's now a Valero. I ripped my hand open trying to climb up onto the garage roof back then, running into the house screaming. Mom and Dad wrapped my hand in a towel, loaded me into the station wagon and we took a wild, horn-blaring ride to Mansfield General Hospital. Being too young to understand it was a serious but non-life threatening, I clearly remember pleading, "Daddy, don't let me die! Don't let me die!"

Hearing those words had to have ripped his heart out. Being a father, I understand the impact those words must have had.

I remember Dad pitching to my sister Joyce and I in the back yard with a wiffle ball. One of us would be Mickey Mantle and the other Roger Maris. Dad was a Yankee fan, only because the Indians were terrible. He took me to see the Indians in old Cleveland Municipal Stadium several times while I was growing up and he is the reason I love baseball so much. I'll forever hear him saying "those dang Indians!" when they'd lose yet again.

I remember Dad driving us cross-country to see the Grand Canyon and sleeping along the road, all five of us, in the station wagon. I also remember staying in the Vagabond Motel outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico and swimming in the pool there...with Dad's help. That same trip, we were eating in a restaurant, me sitting next to a big window in a booth. I spotted a dead fly on the window sill and pointed it out to Dad; his reply was "Sshhh, son...everybody else will want one, too."

That was Dad's sense of humor.

I remember Dad taking me to see Dr. Shamess my freshman year of high school; Doc fixed my shoulder after the third dislocation and it had been time to get the stitches removed. Apparently Doc had waited a bit too long to take them out, because skin had grown over several of them. I laid on the exam table as the surgeon worked to remove them, blood trickling down the shoulder and onto the paper covering the table.

Dad almost passed out.

My Dad was a strict disciplinarian and I'm glad he was; it kept me out of trouble in my teen years. He also pastored a church in Galion for several years, which meant church Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night, every week without fail...unless I was sick.

He was also a man who could fix just about anything. One winter, the blower motor in the furnace went out in the middle of the night; he fixed it using the motor out of Mom's old washer, which he'd had the foresight to remove before hauling it off to the junk yard.

There's several years' worth of anecdotal stories I could write about my Dad, a man I loved and admired deeply and who instilled in me my conservative values and love of history, but there's not enough time to tell them all.

I miss my Dad.

                                            My Dad, Clarence Clark, in the early 1960s

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Good Vs Evil

From the dawn of time, when Cain killed his brother, Abel with a rock, evil has existed in the world. A single rock killed one boy, whose brother became mankind's very first murderer.

Millions and millions have followed in Cain's footsteps throughout the millennia, right up to present day on this Earth; there's no sign evil will ever slow down.

So how do we combat evil, which takes on a plethora of forms? How can we stem the tsunami waves of despicable acts committed by mankind on mankind, flooding across our nation and other continents?

By doing good. Good takes on a variety of identities, too. It may be in the form of mowing your elderly neighbor's lawn, by volunteering at a homeless shelter or cleaning up your neighborhood after a violent storm rolls through the area..

You've heard the term 'mob mentality'? Good will towards your fellow man can be infectious, too. I think the phrase is 'pay it forward'; in other words, when someone does something good for you, you in turn do something positive for someone else. Doing that, whether you're receiving or giving, evokes good feelings, makes you feel positive. You can make a difference. Even something so simple as a kind or reassuring word to a total stranger in obvious need is a step in the right direction.

Evil, however, will always be with us; it's why we have police officers, fire fighters, trauma center nurses and doctors and social workers. Those are the first that come to mind but there are many other groups whose sole aim is to give assistance in times of crisis.

We each have our own inner battle with evil, things we struggle with daily that those around us can't see or even comprehend. It brings to mind an old Native American proverb that goes like this:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” 
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day's True Meaning

For much of America, Memorial Day means an extra day off from their work week. It means the end of the school year and the official start of summer. It means cook-outs, picnics and trips to the beach and, for some, visits to the grave sites of lost loved ones, where they’ll lay wreaths or plant flowers in their memory.

The reality of this day, which became an official national holiday in 1971, is that we honor those who have lost their lives in military service to our country. Started shortly after the conclusion of the Civil War, it was formerly known as ‘Decoration Day’, a time when our nation’s patriot heroes were remembered by placing wreaths, flags and flowers at their resting places. It is to be a solemn, somber occasion during which this nation reflects on the sacrifices made by those who have kept us free. We are to honor America’s military combatants who paid the ultimate price, in all wars and conflicts, by shedding their blood so that we, today, can live free of the shackles of those who would enslave us and trample our Constitution.

We honor those who fell freeing us from British colonialism in places such as Bunker Hill, Boston and Valley Forge; from the North versus South Civil War, which was anything but civil, in places like Charleston, Fredericksburg, Manassas, Gettysburg and Antietam.

We honor those who sacrificed their lives during the Great War, often referred to as the ‘War to End All Wars’, at Belleau Wood, Chateau-Thierry and Cantigny; the Second World War in the hell that was Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Normandy and Bastogne.

We honor the brave men who fought in Korea, killed during combat action at Inchon, the Imjin River, the frozen Chosin Reservoir and Pork Chop Hill; those who died in the steamy jungles of Viet Nam in places such as Pleiku, Ia Drang, the A Shau Valley and Khe Sanh.

We honor those who have fought and died in America’s ongoing War on Terror in the heat and grit at Anbar Province, Fallujah, Mosul and Basra in Iraq, and Tora Bora, Kamdesh, Wanat and the Helmand and Kandahar Provinces in Afghanistan.

We honor men and women who gave their lives amidst the artillery barrages, the bayonet charges, withering automatic weapons fire, aircraft crashes; in the dark, flaming, smoke-filled compartments of torpedoed ships, inside the oven-like personnel carriers hit by rocket-propelled grenades or buried improvised explosive devices, in the trenches, fox holes and bunkers in every war the United States has fought, hot steel raining down from enemy bombers or shards of shrapnel from air burst artillery rounds.

We honor those who died protecting this nation; whether the conflict was deemed  just or unjust by the American public matters not. These patriot heroes answered the call to arms, protected us from all enemies foreign or domestic, in our own nation and on foreign shores. They left behind their wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, loved ones who will forever remember the souls laid bare upon the altar of freedom.

Much as the State of Israel pauses as one on Holocaust Remembrance Day to recall the millions of Jews whose lives were stilled by the Nazis during World War Two, we also MUST pause to honor those who gave their lives in defense of our United States of America.

God rest the souls of all our patriot heroes this, and every, Memorial Day.