Ishmael's Blog

August 4, 2009

Who Do You Owe?

Filed under: Who Do You Owe? — Ishmael @ 12:10 am

Who do you owe?  Sounds like a deceptively simple question, doesn’t it?  This isn’t about money, what credit card you owe or how much, your mortgage payment or anything like that.  It’s a little deeper.

In my case I actually owe my life to several people, I owe thanks to several people and apologies to a few others and I’ll even go so far as to list them here a little later.

At one point in my life we were having severe issues dealing with one of my sons, so the whole family went to see a Psychologist, not a Psychiatrist.  In the course of talking with him, he asked me if I would be willing to try an experimental program he was developing that involved hypnosis.  I have been fascinated by hypnosis since I was a kid, read all sorts of books, and even went so far when I was a teenager to buy the little coin that when you moved it the pinwheel would move.  It didn’t work very well on one of the neighbor girls, but what the hell, I had to try!   He sat me in a chair, placed a band on my head that had a light on either side that would alternate from one side to the other.  Then he put a tape on that had his voice talking and had music in the background with a strong bass beat.  He started the tape and the lights and left the room.  I don’t know why, but the combination of everything evoked what some would call a strong reaction; I ripped the arm right off of the chair!  I was furious and didn’t know why!  He came running back into the room, stopped the tape and took the band off of my head.  This wasn’t his intended result, he said if I wanted to try it again he would get a stronger chair.

In the course of our talks he asked me to list the men I could call friend.  Now, to me, a friend is more than just someone I meet once in awhile: that is an acquaintance.  A friend is someone you have had experiences with, who you can trust, and who will be there if you need them even if it is inconvenient for them.  And you would do the same.  For more on this, check out Die Another Day, but don’t go there now.  Wait.  At that time I could only list two.  He said that men have a difficult time forming strong relationships with other men, and that most of his patients couldn’t even name one.  He said not only was I lucky, I was blessed!  I thought he was nuts, and told him so.  Looking back I believe he was right.  I think women have an easier time forming relationships with other women because they have a common enemy – men, but that’s just my opinion and I haven’t shared that with my wife.  I may be crazy but I’m not stupid!  He ended up telling us that he wasn’t going to be able to solve the problem we had with our one son, all he could do was help us deal with it.

First and foremost, I owe my wife, my brother and  my children for being there when I needed them.  I met my wife when I was fifteen and we were taking skiing lessons.  She sat next to me on the bus bringing us back from ski lessons only because she was dared to do it by her friends.  See what you get when you accept a dare?  The first time I kissed her my head swam, now today, sometimes it still does.  She makes me a better man, a better person.  If it weren’t for her I probably would have been in jail like my Uncle B. I owe my wife for dragging me to a Marriage Encounter weekend even if I didn’t want to, I just went to stop her nagging me about it 🙂

I owe my brother for looking out for me and helping protect me when I was younger.  Our Dad was an alcoholic and drank between a fifth and a quart of hard liquor a day and smoked unfiltered Camel cigarettes. We could look forward to a daily beating when he got home just because we weren’t exactly little angels and probably deserved it.  I think we were why he drank so much, in point of fact, I’m pretty sure of it.  Check out Snapshots in Time later, if you haven’t already.

I owe the same people apologies: my wife, my brother and my children.  I owe my wife a major apology for making her put up with all of the crap I put her through over the years.  I owe a major apology to my brother, again, check out Snapshots in Time.  A short synopsis for here is he took a major beating for me from our Dad when Dad was drunk, but he wouldn’t tell our Dad that I was the one that did something, not him.  I’ve told him before that I was sorry it happened, and he has said to forget it, but I can’t.  I owe my children big time also.  I swore my children would never see me drunk, and they never did, but one day I realized that I treated them just as badly as my Dad treated me.  Not the physical beatings, but I don’t ever recall telling any of them I loved them when they were younger, for yelling at them for doing things a child should be able to do, and ignoring them when I shouldn’t have.  I try to make amends now by telling them all of the time that I love them. I didn’t even have the excuse that I was drunk, either, which made it all the worse for me.

Now for the others.  When I think of myself, I think of myself as one half of a whole, my wife being the better half.  I think of the people I call friend in the same way, they are halves of a whole unit.  Since this is my Blog, I’m going to list them by the men’s first name.  Two of them are no longer living, but I haven’t forgotten them, to me they are still alive.  I’m going to list them here in alphabetical order by first name only, because they are all important to me, without them I wouldn’t be here:

  • Al and Molly
  • Jerry and Jan
  • Ken and Laura
  • Lee and Selinda
  • Mike and Shirley

Because of you, I am truly blessed.

Who do you owe?
 Who makes your life blessed or cursed?


What Just Happened?

Filed under: What Just Happened? — Ishmael @ 12:09 am

Some people can remember names,  others faces,  scents, or places.  I’m not one of them.  Mostly, I can’t remember anything unless it is really important to me.  Really… it’s embarrassing at times.  I used to call my daughter my son’s name, and would call my son by my daughter’s name.  I only called my wife a different name once, I won’t ever make that mistake again!  Her name is VERY important to me!

I have a problem, you see.  I blackout and can’t remember things.  This is usually brought about by stress, and for the longest time I thought it was just me.  As I got older and talked to other people, I found that others had the same issues.  Sometimes it is a good thing, but most of the time it’s not.

The first time this happened to me was in gym class in my Sophomore year of High School.  I’m sure you remember the person in gym class who was always picked last for every game, and who was always in the middle of the slowest group of runners.  That was me, and for your sake, I hope it wasn’t you.  I hated it.  One day we were running track indoors, and then I wasn’t there.  All I remember was running so fast that when I came around the corner I could feel the joint between the floor and the wall underneath the soles of my shoes.  I remember lapping the rest of the guys twice, and then walking off of the gym floor and not even breathing hard.  I also remember Coach Watts looking at me with his mouth wide open, his stopwatch in one hand and his clipboard hanging at his side from the other.  I wish I could do it again one more time.  This was one of the good times.

The next time was a year later.  A friend of mine, Jim, and I were skipping school and driving in my 1953 Dodge station wagon.  We stopped at a stop sign, (not a light), and went to pull out.  We saw a truck and one of us made a comment it was sure a good thing we stopped.  And then I wasn’t there again.  I have these snapshots of what happens when it happens.  Like the feel of the joint under the soles of my shoes.  This time the snapshot was of my car on its side, I have Jim’s shirt collar in my hand, (he is still in his shirt), walking to the back of my car, and stepping out of the car with him in tow while the car is still moving.  Next frame I’m sitting on the side of the road and someone is asking me if I had been in the car?  I said yes, and I can remember him saying “Jesus, how did you get out?”  I remember looking at the car and not really thinking of anything, just looking at it.  We got hit by one of the big trucks that go around to gas stations and fill their tanks.  I didn’t have a scratch on me.  To this day, I don’t know what happened to the car,  I don’t know if Jim was hurt,  I don’t remember talking to my parents about it.  It’s just gone.  I know Jim survived, because he was still alive last time I saw him.  Another one of the good times.

Moving forward several years, it’s Christmas Eve.  My wife and son and I are in my 1983 Bonnevile.  This car rode great, but it was the biggest black hole for money since the Money Pit.  Four Rack and Pinions and three transmissions in 6 years.  Every year sometime around November or December, the Mass Air Flow Sensor would start going out.  It got to the point I would carry a spare in the trunk.  Now, I love my son dearly, but he didn’t fall far from the tree and is as big a smartass as I am.  We are in Christmas rush-hour traffic  and the car keeps dying.  The only way to get the car going again is to put it in neutral, restart the car, then put it back in gear.  Remember, lots of traffic all around you while you are doing this.  My son is in the back seat going “What’s the matter, Dad?  Can’t you drive?  Huh? Huh?”  Over and over and over.  This didn’t bother me, not at all, much.  I finally got the car off of the highway and into a parking lot, get ready to pull into a parking space, and got into a confrontation with another person who wouldn’t move his car to let the person coming out the space have room.  I’m gone again.  Next thing I remember, this idiot takes a swing at me, misses, and I have a hand full of his hair and I am slamming his face into the hood of someone else’s car.  I know this is someone else’s car, because I can still hear her saying, “Not on my car!”  His nose is flat and I still have a handfull of his hair in my hand.  This was not one of the good times.

Last example:  My wife and I belonged to a Country and Western dance group.  We would all get together on Friday or Saturday and go out dancing.  No big deal, right?  Most of the time yes.  Not this night.  There were four of us, my wife, two other ladies and myself and we were doing a line dance off to one side of the floor, all to ourselves.  A couple came out on the floor, (which was large and mostly empty), and came right over to where we were and starting doing an East Coast Swing.  He kept turning his partner into my wife and bumping her.  The four of us moved away.  He followed and kept doing the same thing.  My wife decided she had had enough and left the floor.  Now, you have to understand my wife, she isn’t afraid of anyone.  As she walked by the guy she called him an asshole.  I’m gone again.  I was told later that he hit her.  Snapshot one, he’s flying through the air and I can see the soles of his shoes.  Next frame, he is landing in the middle of a table full of people and they are moving away rapidly, drinks, chairs and people are going everywhere.  Next frame, I am sitting on his chest, my knees on his arms, and calmly telling him if he ever touches my wife again I will kill him. Very calmly, very clearly.  I didn’t want him to misunderstand me.  I am at my most dangerous when I am that calm.  The four of us decide to leave and go to a different club.  While we are there,  one of the guys I worked with at Kaiser,  Steve, came over and asked what was all over my shirt?  Blood?  I go to the restroom, take the shirt off, look it over, put it back on and go back outside to find Steve.  I told him I had good news and bad news.  The bad news is yes, it is blood, the good news is it’s not mine. Want to know something strange?   For him to be airborn enough for me to see the soles of his shoes, and have him hit the table from that height, I had to have hit him hard enough to break my hand. My hand didn’t hurt and I didn’t have a scratch on me again, not even on my knuckles.  I think I only hit him once, but I just don’t know.  I’m lucky I didn’t kill him, I could have easily and not have known until later.  Not one of the good times.

It has to be the adrenaline and sugar, because witnesses have told me that when I get this way, I get real fast and real strong, which isn’t normal for me.  These aren’t the only times, these are just four that are good/bad examples.

These blackout scare me to death.  I have no control over them, they are just there.  Because I have had these episodes since I was young, I have to keep a real tight reign on all my feelings, to my detriment, but I am constantly afraid of what might happen if I just let go.  I seem cold and withdrawn to a lot of people, and my wife and I are both what most people see as loners.  We’re never the ones asked to go out for lunch, coffee or a beer.  We’re never the ones asked to do anything, we are just the ones always taken for granted.  The ironic thing thing is my wife and I both feel things really deeply, we take offense and are easily hurt by what other people do, by imaginary slights. So instead of allowing ourselves to be hurt more, we withdraw first.  I tell you it’s tough to know this about yourself and still do it.

Do you forget like I do?
 When did it happen and why? 
Tell me now.

What If?

Filed under: What If? — Ishmael @ 12:08 am

Have you ever said, “I wish I could go back and undo …”  I have, many times, but you need to beware of the Law of Unintended Consequnces.

The Law of Unintended Consequences states that actions of people always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended.  If you would like to see a very good example of this, rent the movie Butterfly Effect.

You need to be aware that every decision you have made in the past , good or bad, has made you what you are today.  If you went back into the past and made your change, what would happen to the people around you, the people you have met over the years, the lives you have changed.

I should have died several times in my life, but didn’t.  When I was in high school I should have died in a car accident.  Later in San Francisco someone pulled me back just before I would have been run over by a trolley car.  I had been living in Japan for a year and looked the wrong way before stepping out into the street.  When I lived in Puerto Rico, I should have drowned but I made it back to shore just fifty feet from the tip of a point of land, and had to have my wife help me up onto the shore.  It was two miles to the next nearest point of land.  I wouldn’t have made it.

Let’s look at what would not have happened:

If I had died in the car accident or by the trolley, my daughter and son would not have been born.  All of the people their lives have touched would be the worse for me dying. 

My daughter would not have married her husband, the little girl they adopted and the children they are legal guardians for would not have a loving home and the children would not call my wife and I Grandma and Grandpa.  They would have someone who is not as caring watching over them, or they would be dead.  I know two of them would be.

My son would not be married to a woman who makes him laugh, who makes him whole, complete.  He wouldn’t even be alive.

My wife and I had thirteen foster children over the years, (when we were a lot younger).  At one point we were watching two boys, and their older brother was in another home elsewhere in town.  We had the other boy and his foster parents over to our house for dinner, and the brother and I got along really well.  They all had to go back to live with their Mom, (no Dad being around), and moved to a different state.  That Christmas my wife and I made each of the boys a Christmas present and mailed it off to them.  We made the items because we didn’t have a whole lot of cash ourselves.  I made the older boy, (his name is Billy by the way), a cassette tape of his favorite type of music.  That was the only Christmas present they got that year, from anyone.  In January of that year he called me and said he was thinking of dropping out of high school because he just couldn’t handle the situation at home.  I talked to him for a long time and convinced him that that was not a good idea, that he had managed to hold it together for this long, that his brothers needed him, and he should wait a few more months until he graduated.  He did, then he went into the Army.  He called me from New Jersey every month.  When he completed his Active Duty he went back to live with his Mom and help take care of his younger brothers.  He would come to Spokane on his duty weekends, call me and I’d go and pick him up and we’d go for a burger, or a show and talk.  He said he was going to try and find his Dad and I said that was a good thing.  I got a call from him several months later and he had found his Dad. His Dad was glad Billy had found him and was going to help him go to college, he took up Robotics at Washington State University.  That was the last we heard from him.  This is/was a good thing and it wouldn’t have happened if I had died.  I wish him well.

These are just a few of the examples of how things could change.  If you went back and changed just one thing; if you had died at any given point in your life or made a different decision, play the What If game.  What would not have happened, good or bad, to others?  You do make a difference, you would be missed.

What If you had died in an accident years ago? 
How would other’s lives have been changed?
Tell me.

Value Doesn’t Mean Money

Filed under: Value Doesn't Mean Money — Ishmael @ 12:07 am

Remember when clocks didn’t have batteries?  You would wind them up with a key and they would run, but you could ususally hear them go Tick, Tick, Tick, with maybe a Tock in there once in awhile when the spring released.  You ever get curious how they worked, take the back off and wind it up?  Did you ever wind one to tight and have the spring explode in your face? 

No matter your age, and no matter if you ever saw a clock with a spring; people can get wound to tight once in awhile just like that old clock.  Depending on where, when and what culture you were brought up in, you have values; principles that you live by, things you believe in.

Just because someone grew up in a different time, area or culture doesn’t mean that their values are wrong or any less important than yours or mine.  You aren’t going to be able to force them to change to your values if they don’t see the benefit to them, see that it is true.  Your truth doesn’t have to be their truth, and you both can still be right.

Most religions have some version of the Ten Commandments, because this isn’t just about religion, or religious beliefs, it is a code of how to get along with your neighbor and avoid conflicts.  They are guidelines. 

Now I have my own set of values, and they probably won’t be the same as yours, because you did not grow up in my environment, nor I in yours.  I say again: That doesn’t mean either of us is right or wrong.

Here are some of the things that I hold to be of value:

  • Never lie, it will come back and bite you in places that are uncomfortable
  • Never hurt someone needlessly.  Sometimes it is necessary, but not often, and do it gently
  • Make amends for things that you shouldn’t have done. If that person isn’t available anymore, help someone else that is
  • Don’t write something down that you don’t want the whole world to see, because if you do, the world will see it
  • Don’t say something about someone else that you wouldn’t say to the person directly.  It will get back to them
  • Value your family, they are stuck with you
  • Value your friends, they will not always be there
  • Tell yourself you have value, worth, you have to live with yourself and so do your friends and family

I believe that when people break their values, they get wound just a little tighter each time.  If they are forced to keep compromising those values over a period of time, they become like that clock that has a spring wound to tight; they explode in your face.  Every time I break one of these values, it comes back to bite me in one of those uncomfortable places.  I get real tired of having raw bite marks and a little voice in my head saying “I told you so.”  It’s even worse when someone else tells you the same thing .


What or who do you hold dear to you?
What makes you who you are?
What holds value for you other than money?
Tell me now.

Stranger in a Strange Land

Filed under: Stranger in a Strange Land — Ishmael @ 12:05 am

I have an older brother who has been a major influence in my life.  He is three years older than I am and taller, but he tells people I made up for it just because I was meaner.  I can’t argue, he was right.

He started me reading Science Fiction and Fantasy when I was really young.  I read better and faster than almost everyone in school probably up until the 8th grade.  I was reading novels at eight.  My heroes were Issac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Jerry Pournelle, the Three B’s, and a score of others. My brother and I would walk several miles to the libray a couple times a week and come back with an armload of books.  When we finished our stack, we start on the others.  I was born and raised in Alaska when it was still a Territory, I remember celebrating when it became a state, and I remember my brother and I reading all night on June 21st without a light on in the house just by the light from outside.  We read until dawn then went to sleep.  When I got to Junior High I read around 1200 words a minute with 90% comprehension.

Looking back, I think what I liked best about the novels was they weren’t real.  They allowed me to escape, to be someone else, to be somewhere else.  One of my favorite things to do when my oldest son was growing up was to sit in the chair with him by my side and watch the original series Battlestar Galactica.  I don’t know if he liked the show, just doing something with me, or both.

I don’t read much SciFi any more, but I did quit Direct TV when they took away the SciFi channel from me.  It comes standard with Dish Network 🙂  I also don’t need to escape anymore.  Overall I am satisfied and content with my life.  Now is the time to enjoy my wife, children and grandchildren.

I still look up into the night sky and long to be traveling among them.  Heaven help me, but if I was told I could go and I could never come back, I would kiss and hug my wife and children goodbye, and I would be gone. I would probably regret it for the rest of my life, but I would regret not going, also.

Here is a phrase for all of you who long to escape.
Ad Astra

Why did you want to escape?
Where did you want to escape from?
Who did you want to escape from?
Where did you, (do you), want to go?
Tell me now.

Snapshots in Time

Filed under: Snapshots in Time — Ishmael @ 12:04 am

The Brain and the Mind are two very different things.  You can open someone’s head up and say “Look!  There is the Brain”  Have you ever heard of anyone opening anything up and saying “Look!  There is the Mind”?  I’ve heard someone say, “I don’t mind” or “Mind you, look out for…”

The reason I bring this up is the Mind is a very strange thing.  You don’t remember things the way they actually happened normally, you remember what you want to and forget the rest.  Unless you have a photographic memory, you also don’t remember all of an event.  All you remember are Snapshots in Time, and they are not always in order of time or importance.

If you think of your memories as a series of information placed on a string, you would probably be wrong.  Think more of the string of memory being chopped up into thousands of little pieces and stuffed into a ball.  Each small piece touches another, and one piece of memory/string will remind you of another.  It is disjointed and called Stream of Conciousness Thinking.

Shutter opens.

I am in Anchorage, Alaska skating on an ice rink with skates that clamp on my shoes.  These skates had four runners each, two in front, a space, and two in back on each foot.  Stable for a child, but not real good for speed.  I remember looking up from the rink and seeing my Mom watching me from the window in the Veterans Housing Apartments. I can’t be more than two or three years old.

Shutter closes and reopens.

I’m probably six or seven, my brother is three years older, and we have been sent to bed because we did something wrong that kids always seem to do.  We are both mad about this, and I make a stupid child statement to the effect I hate our Dad, and I wish I could kill him.  Sound familiar to anyone else?  That by itself wouldn’t even warrant discussion, kids make dumb statements like that all of the time, and most of the time don’t mean it.  Here’s the problem:  Our Dad was a drunk, he was drunk when I said it, he was coming out of the bathroom just outside of our bedroom, he heard the statement.  All of these things lead up to disaster.  He storms into the room, pulls my brother off the top bunk of our bunkbeds and drags him out to the living room.  I can hear him yelling at my brother, I can hear every blow, every kick, and I can hear my brother screaming and crying and saying that he didn’t say it.  When Dad asks him “Then who did?”, my brother doesn’t say a word.  Not one word. My Mom comes in and asks me if I said it, and to my dying day I will be ashamed of saying “No”.  I was so afraid.  To this day I have a real problem with lies and liars, I wonder why?  I hate being lied to. 

Shutter closes and reopens.

I am in 1st grade at Woodland Park Elementary school.  I’m in love.  There is this really cute girl named Margo that I like.  We sit next to each other, pass notes and whisper, kid stuff.  One day after school we are waiting for our parents to pick us up, she is sitting next to me on a bench and I kiss her.  I just about fall off of the bench doing it, too.  I look up and there is her Dad coming towards us and I think he looks mad, so I run off and hide behind a barrel and he never finds me.  I mean really, what is he going to do or say to someone who is five years old and just kissed his daughter?  (By the way, I started school early).  I met her many years later in High School and she still looked good, but her attitude left a LOT to be desired.  Narrow escape there.

Shutter closes and reopens.

My brother has left me alone with my parents for several years now, because he is in the Navy.  I’m big enough, strong enough and just plain meaner than my Dad, so he leaves me alone.  I’ve met my future wife, and with her I can relax, let my guard down, and enjoy being seventeen.  My Dad is still a drunk, still comes home and hits both side of the door frame, and I still hate his guts.  I’ve asked my girlfriend if she will marry me, and she turns my world right by saying “Yes”.  I make the decision to leave Alaska and join the Navy like my big brother, and I tell her we will get married in a year when I get out of school.  My Mom has to sign the papers for me to join the Navy, because I’m still not eighteen and won’t be for almost six months.  I leave for Boot Camp in June and the night before I leave for Boot Camp, I confront my Dad.  I tell him that I am having the neighbors watch him, and if he ever touches my Mom again I will come back on Emergency Leave from the Navy and put him in the hospital.  He knows that my brother and I very seldom threaten anyone, but we have been known to warn of future upcoming events.  Dad believes me, goes out the next day, buys a pistol and says if I ever come through that door again he will shoot me.  Funny thing.  He stopped drinking, stopped smoking, came home early, never hit our Mom again – all of the things my brother and I would have loved when we were growing up.  

Shutter closes and reopens.

It’s June 6th, 1969.  I fly into Spokane from Chicago to get married.  There was another Navy guy on the plane with me, and the passengers found out we were both going to different cities and getting married the next day.  They bought us so many drinks that I was smashed when I got off of the plane.  Most excellent flight!  Best I’ve ever been on!  My future Father-In-Law is not a very trusting soul.  He locks me in the camper outside the house where they are staying.  Hmmmm.  Next morning I get up, find out Dad is there.  Oh joy unbounding!  I talk to my Mom and she tells me he isn’t drinking or smoking, and has not hit her since the day I left.  I go find my Dad and we sit and talk.  He brought the pistol with him, because he didn’t know what to expect.  Basically we made up, and over the years remaining to him, we actually became friends.  He was able to see his grandkids before he died, and I think that really pleased him.  I’m glad.

Shutter closes and reopens.

I get a phone call from our friend, Selinda, (we always called her Cindy), she tells me that her husband, Lee has died and the funeral is in a couple of days.  Now Lee is the only friend I have at the time, he and I would call each other every couple of weeks to tell the new jokes we have heard.  He was in the Navy with me in Puerto Rico, and lived just a couple of houses down on base.  The four of us would play Pinocle together, and when we were done, he would gather up his daughter Kim and they would go home.  Kim is tall enough at this point that her head is over his shoulder, and her feet are down to Lee’s knees.  We were close enough that we were in their will stating that if they died in a joint accident, we were to take care of Kim for them, she was NOT to go to any of their family members.  Are you getting the picture that we were fairly close?  So…we are living in Spokane, they are in Vancouver, WA, we leave late at night to drive to Vancouver.  We don’t see Cindy and Kim until the service starts, so they don’t know we are there, but they are just a couple of rows in front of us and keep looking around, we’re pretty sure to find us.  The service is over and we are in the line to pay our respects, Kim sees us and runs to me and cries out my name.  Suddenly I am holding an armload of teenage girl who is crying on my shoulder, and I hear someone say. “Who is that?’  I just don’t care.  This is a Snapshot that I hope I can take to my grave.

Shutter closes and reopens.

Just recently I went to the wedding of a girl I have known since she was born.  Her parents are one of the couples I talk about in Who Do You Owe?  This would be Ken and Laura.  The wedding itself wasn’t that important to me.  What was important was that I was actually wanted there, and would have been missed by both the parents and the daughter.  You see, these people have known me for over thirty years, and they still like me, even knowing me as they do.  That always surprises me that there are actually people out there who know me and will still talk to me.  It’s a matter of self-worth I guess.  I find that most people when you talk to them don’t have a good self-image of themselves.  Thankfully, sometimes you get to see yourself through other eyes.  Now, at one point Ken is talking about his daughter and his new son-in-law.  If you actually listen to him, instead of just having a drink and staring off into space, you can tell that he is extremely proud of his daughter, and rightly so.   As I listen to Ken talk about his daughter, I remember giving my daughter away at her wedding.  The man I gave her to, (and I have never claimed to own my daughter, no one owns her),  is the kind of person I would have picked for her myself.  She chose wisely.  I listen to Ken and I think to myself, this is why we are here.  This is why we put up with all of the crap in our lives, just for this one moment.  This makes the decision to go on every day the right one.

Shutter closes

Newsflash:  I have a problem with authority figures. I seek their approval and hate the fact that I do. 

What’s your Snapshot?
What were the good snapshots in your life?
What were the bad?
Tell me.

Fresh Off The Press

Filed under: Fresh off the Press — Ishmael @ 12:03 am

This is a boring page, you probably shouldn’t read it.  If you continue, don’t say you weren’t warned.

I’m almost sixty, I will be in a few months.  The most exciting thing in my life seems to be when one of my Grandkids come over.  One of them, a girl, is three.  I look at her and wish I had half her energy.  Then I think, idiot, you do have half her energy, and it is driving someone considerably larger! 

One of the boys was here a few days ago, and he is sitting on the sofa and he tells my wife and I that he is afraid.  He is afraid of a bear showing up and eating him and he is afraid that he will have to go back to his Mom and Dad, instead of my daughter and her husband.   You see, this boy is nine years old, and he and his two brothers and sister have been living with my daughter and husband for almost five years now and call them Auntie and Uncle.  About all you can do at that time is to take him in your arms and tell him that Grandma, Grandpa, Auntie and Uncle will let him know if any bears show up, and if they do we will protect him.  As far as having to go back to his Mom and Dad, how do you tell a nine year old that you will protect him from that?  So you tell him that you will always be there for him to talk to, that you will always love him, and you hold him.

I have another Grandson, Austyn, who turned thirteen in March of this year.  He is 6’2″ and still eating everything in site.  He is also Type One Diabetic, a present from my side of the family.  Sorry Austyn.  I took him to an indoor go-kart track here and he didn’t want to sign a release form.  He said, “Grandpa, you want me sign a form that says I know I might be KILLED?”  Cowboy up, son.  If you want to ride, you have to pay the ticket.

Die Another Day

Filed under: Die Another Day — Ishmael @ 12:01 am

Have you ever seen a round coin?  I bet you answered yes and thought, “What kind of fool question is this?” didn’t you?  I would be greatly surprised if you didn’t, and I would also be greatly surprised if you have ever actually seen a round coin.  You’ve seen and held a coin that is circular and has a front, a back and a side, but I doubt if you’ve ever seen one that is round from all sides like a marble.  What you have seen and held is a slice from a sphere.

The reason I ask this has to do with choices.  You can’t toss a round marble up in the air, catch it, flip it over on the back of your other hand  and say, “Heads I win, Tails I lose”.

Every day you wake up, and every day you make the decision to live; or maybe one morning you wake and decide – not.  Are you going to take a coin out and flip it?  I did.

Do you know that the suicide rate among veterans aged 24 and under is two to three times higher than the national average?  True story.  It’s not just in the United States, either.  There have been studies published in the US by the Veterans Administration, in the United Kingdom and even in Russia.

There are a lot of reasons given, some down to earth, some with fancy names like Separation Anxiety.  Here are a couple:

  • harrowing experiences in conflict zones such as Iraq or Afghanistan
  • those entering military service at a young age are already vulnerable to suicide
  • obstacles to getting a new job, particularly if they were injured in action.
  • become homeless
  • turn to alcohol or drugs or suffer mental illnesses such as depression
  • longer deployments were a contributing factor
  • personal and legal problems

 This is the one that comes closest to the truth, as it relates to me.

Leaving any job can be hard, but for people leaving the armed forces the adjustment to their new circumstances can sometimes be particularly difficult

No kidding.

I joined the Navy when I was seventeen, I was intelligent enough, (so said the Navy), that I got a really good school in Electronics, went to school at the National Security Agency and the Army Security Agency, and in eight years in the Navy I went to sea three days and that was to go fishing!  I caught one fish.  I love to fish, but am generally lousy at it, and I almost got washed overboard on one of the trips.  The only reason I didn’t was I grabbed the rail as I went under it.  The Captain of the fishing boat was more upset that the wave that almost washed me overboard went down the open hatch and got his bunk wet.  I could understand that, sea water is tough to clean out of cloth.

After I was discharged, I actually lucked out and got a job working in a reduction plant for Kaiser in Mead, WA.  Now for those of you who don’t have a firm grasp on what this means, it means I was working twenty feet off of the ground on a crane that in the Fall the temperature of the crane metal was 120 degrees.  In the Winter, the metal was down in the 70’s, but the wind coming in the window made it thirty below.  The reduction cells below you put out gas that would gag a maggot because the crane you were working on could not put the correct ratio of chemicals in it, because the crane was broken.  If you worked down below on the cells, you would take the covers off and using the crane pull out a carbon block, take a twenty pound steel bar and chip off the crust around the hole you just created.  The hole being opened exposed the molten metal which was 2000 degrees Farenheight.  No mistake, 2000 degrees.  Then you would use the overhead crane and put a 400 pound carbon block back in the hole, and go do that for two more hours.  There were open 30 gallon barrels of ice cold water every so often that you would plunge your wrists into to help cool your system back down.  One of the guys I worked with had the nickname “42 and Puke” because he would get halfway through the carbon change, at cell 42, and puke his guts out.  Then you would take a break, eat lunch, and start over again.  You needed to sweat, because then when the molten metal spit at you it would hit and just bounce off, instead of burning its way in.  I still have burn scars around my neck and my arms from where there wasn’t enough sweat.  That was the job that I was lucky to get.  It paid better, and had better benefits, than any other job in town.  My first day there I wasn’t an Electrician yet.  I actually worked on the cells for over a year before I became an Electrician.  Want to know what my first job was on my first day there?  Go down to a particular cell, remove the glove, and bring it to the foreman.  No big deal, ok, I can do that. I went down and got the glove; it still had the man’s finger in it.  You learned to be careful really quickly.  My wife worked in the Emergency Room at the largest hospital, (it was also the only hospital), on the North side of town where the plant was.  She said you could always tell the guys that came in from Kaiser, even if it was their day off, because they would sit there and tell the nurses to take someone else, they were ok, even when they were holding a bloody rag to their arm, or holding ice on a burn.  We were used to it, it was our job, it’s just what we did.  Like an abusive situation, you can get used to anything if it happens long enough.  It becomes normal.

Now you ask, what does this have to do with anything?  I’ll tell you.  I got this job because a man I was stationed with in Puerto Rico and his Dad worked there. They put in a good word for me and I was in.  To get a job there at that time, if you weren’t a relative of someone who worked there, or a real good friend, you didn’t get on.  He was trying to watch my back, help me out just because I was in the Navy with him.

 I went through all of the training and schooling, had all of this experience, and this is the best job in town?  Did I tell you? I turned down a job with IBM and Al Gore’s company, Electronic Data Systems to go to school for two more years to become a computer mainframe Systems Analyst.  I actually had one of their headhunters fly up to Spokane and interview me at the Ramada Inn.  Why would I turn down a job like that and take one in a reduction plant?  Simple, my family meant more to me than a high wage and being on the road 75-90% of the time after the school.  I figured I wouldn’t know my children and I would be divorced in five years.

I would come home from the plant and my wife said she could see me outside and I would be whistling, (poorly), and as soon as I walked in the door I would be instantly angry.  Just like throwing a switch. I lived like this for several years.

Here’s why.  When you are in the Military, you form close bonds quickly with the people you work with.  You don’t have time to waste.  You count on these people to watch your back and you watch theirs.  You become closer to them than what used to be your other family, your relatives.  You laugh together, cry together, hope together, and if you are in combat, pray you all make it out together.  I was lucky, the equipment I had to work on was huge and fixed, so I didn’t have combat duty, so I can’t really talk about that.  I would put friends and relatives on a perfectly good plane though, and when they came back it had bunches of holes in it, so I did pray a lot, and I’m not a religous person normally. 

 When you get out of the service, there is no one there to watch your back, no one there to really talk to.  You look at the civilian people walking around in blissful ignorance and think, “You fool, you don’t have a clue as to what is really happening.”  You are lonely, cut off, and afraid – plain and simple.

So, one morning I got up and flipped the coin.  It came down Tails.

 At this time Lee was still alive, but he wasn’t around to talk to when I needed him.  Ken was becoming a friend, but I couldn’t talk to him.  I didn’t want to tell my wife and upset her.  So I lived a lie, I hid what I was going through. One time Ken and I were out getting firewood .  We each had a one ton truck that would hold two and a half cord of wood.  For those of you who don’t know what a cord is, it is a stack of wood 4’x4’x8′.  Now multiply that by 2.5 and that is how much we could get on each truck.  A cord of Tamarack weighs 3,000 plus pounds depending on the pitch content, so each truck had about 7,500 pounds of wood right behind the driver.  Interesting.  One day I started to drive off the road, I actually had the right front tire off when I had the thought that Ken would have to pull me out, and what if the only thing that happened was I was paralyzed for the rest of my life?  That would be a real joke, wouldn’t it?  Also not real fair to Ken, he’s actually a pretty decent person.  Why inflict my problems on him, he had nothing to do with it.  So I managed to get the wheel back on the road, nobody the wiser.  I did have a Colt Gold Cup Model 1911 .45 caliber at the time and it started looking pretty good, but then I thought if my wife found me like that she’d be mad as hell and would kill me herself if I screwed up, besides, it would be kind of messy.  So I sold the pistol before it looked better.  Did I rationalize myself out of it; did I just chicken out; did I not really want to die?  Maybe, I really can’t tell you, because I just don’t know.

I think my wife knew, she is a very smart, very caring, and very intelligent lady.  She asked me one time why I married her, I told her it was because she was smarter than I was, and why should I have to be the one to have to talk down.  She kept after me for several months to go to a weekend getaway called Marriage Encounter.  I had enough Encounters and just didn’t want to go.  Nag Nag Nag.  I finally went just so I wouldn’t have to hear about it anymore.  It was a good weekend, it forced me to talk to my wife about specific questions, like death, religion, and pain.  It was the first time I cried over my Dad.  When the weekend was over, Lee and Cindy were there to greet us.  They had gone through the same thing.  After the weekend, my wife and I decided to talk to people after they did their weekends and were what was termed a Post Encounter Presention Team.  That’s where we met Mike and Shirley.

Looking back, was it a good thing the coin came down tails?  Maybe.  Was it a good thing that I went on the weekend when I did?  Definite yes there.  Am I glad to still be here and see my wife every day and see my Grandkids? Damn straight!

If you think you need to flip the coin, and have it come down tails, re-consider.  I don’t talk religion, politics or sexual preferences, and I don’t want to.  There is one line I firmly believe in though:


Stick around and see what happens, it could get interesting.

I think everyone at some point in their lives thinks about suicide, of voluntarily opting out.

What caused you to think about it?
What caused you to stop from doing it?
Will you try again?

August 3, 2009

About Ishmael

Filed under: About Ishmael — Ishmael @ 11:58 pm

Do you remember the two old men that used to sit in the balcony on Sesame Street and give everyone a bad time, and then snicker about it?  I have friend at work  and we are compared to those two old guys all of the time.  Our boss tells people he has to separate us because we feed off of each other.  One of us will setup a really good joke on someone, and the other will finish them off – all without any planning involved.  If you can’t go to work and have a little fun, it’s just not worth going to work! 

My wife tells people that I can be really rotten at times, but you have to admire someone who enjoys what they are doing and is really good at it.

I think it’s hereditary.  I have a distant relative who during the depression needed money, so he and a partner kidnapped a person to hold for ransom.  They didn’t have enough money to feed all three of them, so they decided to go out and rob a store for food.  Being the bright boys that they were, they both got killed. 

My Dad’s brother, sometime around the mid to late 1930’s, had this nasty habit of opening safes without permission by using a magnesium rod with air attached to it.  Fairly forward thinking at the time, less noise and didn’t blow up a lot of money.  My Dad had a car at the time,  so dear Uncle B. borrowed Dad’s car to get some beer, (it says in fine print).  He needed some cash for the beer so he stopped off at the local bank for a small withdrawal.  He took just a little longer than anticipated, the police showed up, caught him, found the car, and my Dad left New York at a high rate of speed and never stopped until he reached the Arctic Circle.  He took several pictures of the natives while there, and learned how to trap.  He didn’t go back to New York for over fifty years.  I always wondered if he actually just let Uncle B. “borrow” the car or not.  Uncle B. died in prison in upper New York.

Most of my family served time in one form or the other, Uncle B. in prison, and the rest of us in the Navy or Merchant Marines.  My Dad finally left the Arctic Circle for WWII and joined the Merchant Marines out of Alaska.  My Mom was a Navy Lt., Nurse,  in WWII and that’s where she met Dad.  My brother spent 20 plus years in the Navy and came out a Chief, (E7), and I spent eight years and came out an E6.  Both of my boys were in the Navy.

I’ve been married for 40 years to the same woman, [talk about serving time :)] have three children, several grandchildren, and four more who call my wife and I Grandma and Grandpa, so I guess that means we are. 

If I can’t say I am extremely happy with how my life turned out, I can at least say I am pleased and content.  If I died tonight, my life would have had meaning for others.  For more on that, see Snapshots in Time.

Are you happy, content, disappointed, angry with your life?
Tell me now.

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