The Waiting Room – Part One

Waiting room 1

It was glare of the lights that stirred Kyle to consciousness. Emerging from the darkness, the back of his eyelids transformed from complete nothingness to a glowing florescence. The sound of disjointed voices, and shuffling chairs, emerged from utter silence.

“Where am I?”, he groggily thought.

His back and neck felt like an alligator was gnawing on them, and his butt cheeks were numb. A cold draft caressed exposed arms and legs that erupted into goosebumps, and he felt himself shiver. Stretching his body like a cat emerging from a long slumber, he discovered that, other than the back and neck, there was no other pain. The burning and often painful discomfort in his abdomen, which had become a constant companion and was a bone of contention between Kyle and his wife, was gone.

Mary was convinced something sinister was brewing inside his body, but Kyle, who worked marathon hours at the hedge fund company he established, had little time to spend on mundane things like his health. Or spending time with Mary and the kids.  The arguments increased as his weight decreased, and the sour stomach and occasional acid reflux turned into frequent cramping and occasional bloody stools.

“Odd,” Kyle thought, but not in a worrisome way. Maybe this proved that Mary’s concern was misplaced, and that he had been right all along. As his Dad was found of saying, he might not always be right, but he was never wrong.

Slowly opening his eyes, Kyle saw that he was sitting on folding white metal chair that had seen better days, and was clad in a white crew neck t-shirt, white boxers, and white crew socks, which would explain why he felt cold when he emerged from…..whatever it was. Looking at his hands, he noticed his wedding band, Oystersteel Rolex watch and the braided gold bracelet were missing. Feeling for his neck, the St. Christopher necklace he had worn ever since his Grandfather gave it to him as a confirmation gift, what also missing.

“What the hell!?”

Looking around, he saw that he was seated in the front row of a square of similar chairs that had to be fifty chairs long and one hundred rows wide, and was among a sea of squares that, like the ocean’s horizon, appeared endless.

The room was massive, bigger than any airport terminal he had seen, but there were no windows, and the predominant color was white. White walls, bare florescent lights, and white furniture. The only item that wasn’t completely white was the pattern of white and black linoleum tile squares that covered the floor, similar in pattern to a chessboard.

“Wait a minute, how did I get here?” Kyle mused. He thought long and hard, but all he could remember was storming out their twelve thousand square foot house after another pointless debate about how he could miss yet another of Amanda’s dance recitals, and speeding out of their gated compound in his Model 3 Tesla.

“This has to be a dream,” Kyle concluded, which put him at ease. This one was certainly more realistic than those he could remember, especially the nightmares, which always seemed to stand out but had a fantasy quality to them. This one seemed benign, and might turn out to be interesting, so he decided to play along rather than wake himself up, which he typically did when a dream became too terrifying.

Studying his surroundings more closely, Kyle saw similarly dressed men and woman sitting in the same seats as far as the eye could see, but nobody sat next to one another. One row of empty chairs served as a buffer between the people that were there, and three empty chairs separated each person in each row.

Seated in the front row of his particular square, he observed that a white table sat in front of each square, across from what appeared to be a long, wide hallway. Young men and women which Kyle presumed were staff, clad in white from head to toe, sat at each table, which was adorned with what looked like a large I-Pad, a pitcher of water and two tall crystal water glasses. Interestingly, the pitchers always appeared full, and the staff never seemed to run out of glasses, even though Kyle could see what had to be hundreds if not thousands of people in this room.

The staff member that sat at the table in front of Kyle’s square was currently engaged in conversation with……what should he call them? He pondered that for a moment and settled on the term inmate. “What the hell,” Kyle figured. “This is my dream so I can call them anything I want.”

Looking at the people in the room that were in his line of sight, Kyle saw men and women of every ethnicity whose ages appeared to range from teenagers to the elderly. The younger population looked unsure and scared, and the older folks looked bored. While he could not see any young children or infants, Kyle sensed they were around because he could hear their distant shouts and cries. Trying to make sense of what this place was, Kyle turned to face an older gentlemen seated two rows behind him.

“Excuse me,” he said, but before Kyle could utter another syllable, the man turned to face Kyle, placed an outstretched finger in front of his lips, shook his head from side to side, then turned to resume staring at nothing in particular. Kyle then turned to a young woman seated three seats to his left and attempted to ask the same question, but got the same result.

“This is too weird,” Kyle mumbled to no one in particular. He decided that he had enough of this foolishness, and that it was time to wake up.

Using the tricks he learned as a kid to escape the clutches of his frequent nightmares, Kyle stopped after finding himself in the same strange room with all these strange people after every attempt. His tried and true methods weren’t working.

“What the fuck,” he grumbled.

Seeing that he wasn’t going anywhere, Kyle decided to play along and followed everyone’s lead. Staring straight ahead, he noticed that three unmarked white doors dotted the walls behind each table before a burst of motion grabbed his attention. The inmate at the table directly in front of his square was suddenly having an animated conversation, waiving his arms frantically, with the staff member that was interviewing him. The staff person repeatedly pointed to doors behind them while the inmate repeatedly pointed to a stack of linens that lay underneath the table, only to result in the staff person sadly shaking his head from side to side. Kyle thought it odd that he could not hear a word of what they were saying.

After a minute or two this stalemate, the staff person reached under the table to press something. Shortly thereafter a large man, who was also dressed in white and reminded Kyle of a bouncer, arrived. Gently but firmly, he reached under the inmate’s armpits, effortlessly lifted him to his feet and half dragged him to the door on the right. Producing a white card key, he waved it in front of the door. A whoosh of air emerged, and the door slowly opened. The large man escorted the inmate, who was now crying and appeared to be pleading with him to stop, into the open door. Kyle strained to see what was behind that door. All he saw was an opaque blackness, but he felt a powerful surge of fear and despair, as if all hope had been sucked out of the room. The large man emerged alone before the door closed, nodded to the person seated at the table, and silently returned to wherever he came from.  The emotion Kyle felt vanished as soon as that door had closed.

This was getting too creepy for comfort,  so Kyle resorted to taking a small section of skin near his ribs, dug the fingernails into his flesh and pinched the flesh as hard as he could,  expecting to jerk awake in his bed. Fear began to emerge when that failed, so he desperately resorted to slapping his face. Hard. He heard the sound of the slaps echo in the vast room, but none of the other inmates seemed to notice. He gave up after a dozen or so slaps.

“What is this fucking place!?” Kyle thought, feeling  his  body shiver again, but not from the cold. “I’m so done with this shit! I’ve got to get out of here.”

He attempted to stand and start walking until he found a means of escape, only to discover he was stuck. Although he could move his arms, legs, and upper torso freely, Kyle’s ass was firmly glued onto the surface of that chair.


He obviously wasn’t going anywhere, so Kyle stopped struggling and began to ponder his next move when he noticed the staff member at the table the other inmate previously sat at was staring at him. She smiled at Kyle once their eyes met, which settled Kyle’s runaway nerves.

“Please don’t be afraid Mr. Callahan,” she said soothingly. “Nobody is going to to hurt you. Can you please come forward and have a seat?”

“I don’t think I can.”

“Yes you can. Please step forward and have a seat..”

Kyle leaned forward and was amazed to discover he could easily stand. Taking a deep breath, he started to walk towards the table, but not before making one last desperate attempt to wake himself by sliding his right hand under his boxers, and gently cupping his balls, giving them a squeeze. Instead of being greeted by the kind of pain only a man understands and waking up in his bed, he felt felt nothing, and the view did not change.

“I’m sorry Mr. Callahan, but this is not a dream. Now will you please come forward and sit down? We need to have a chat.”

What is Normal?


One of the benefits of following and reading other bloggers’ work is that you can sometimes steal an idea and run with it, which can be handy if you’re racking your brain trying to come up with a topic.

Such was the case for me this week, as it was one of those weeks where the time to sit and type was approaching, and I had bupkus for a subject. Then good ol’ Superman ended his Playing the Card piece with a question that is the title of this one. That question struck a nerve, and I instantly knew I had my topic. So thank you, Billy Mac.

“Normal” can be judged on so many levels: health, looks, intelligence (perceived or otherwise), attitude, what we do for a living, and personality, to name a few. I could throw politics into the mix, but I reserve the right to revisit that down the road because our current political climate is anything but normal. Today’s challenge is to be brief and concise, as I could rant and pontificate forever about this topic because it really annoys me.

I hate the word “normal” as it applies to people because implies that someone who isn’t has something fundamentally wrong with the them, and is less of a person.

I have Multiple Sclerosis, which obviously places me in a minority status, but I have hopes, dreams, desires and fears like everyone else. I don’t want to be treated differently, pitied, or viewed as something less of a person, and I certainly don’t want anyone to lower their opinion or expectations of me simply because I have a hitch in my giddy-up. I also don’t want people who see me for the first time to go out of their way to avoid me. Unfortunately, some of us who live with a disability help perpetuate this stereotype by playing the victim card, which I abhor, and give people a reason to avoid them because they are so annoying.

Nidan is pursuing a career in Human Services, so I have had the pleasure of learning about and meeting many people, mostly kids, who live with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Down’s Syndrome, ADHD and conditions of that nature. They are genuinely kind, unique, wonderfully quirky individuals who have an interestingly different point of view compared to us neuro-typical folks. Unfortunately, their black and white thinking often leaves them clueless when it comes to nuances and shades of grey. They are oblivious to social cues, and are often unfairly judged and shit upon by both peers and adults because they appear odd.

School districts aren’t kind to them either. Some don’t know how to teach the kids or how to assimilate them into the student body, and turn a blind eye to the constant and often vicious bullying they are subject to. And if you happen to be a kid who is clinically on the spectrum but is very high functioning and looks “normal?” Well, something must really be wrong with that kid, and they are treated accordingly.

While no school administrator would admit this, I suspect more than a few would like nothing better than for these kids disappear or be home-schooled. Either that or persuade their parents give them drugs to make them compliant zombies. It would certainly make their jobs easier.

People fear what they don’t understand, and often don’t take the time to learn about something unless it affects a loved one or family member. It is easier to remain ignorant and shun people we aren’t comfortable being around because they have problems, and could be a bad influence on our kids.

Our collective attitudes toward anyone or anything that does not fit our model of what should be has become progressively cruel, and it doesn’t help when our President sets the example by openly mocking and ridiculing someone with a disability. Perhaps this a symptom of an all-about-me society that is becoming increasingly narcissistic. Perhaps it a by-product of an evolving U-Tube culture that thrives on being sensationally controversial.

Does living with anxiety issues make you abnormal? Are you abnormal if your IQ is below average? Does being an atheist make you a warped, twisted individual? Does not being blessed with good looks, or having significant weight issues make you less of a person? I think not!

It feels like we have become increasingly intolerant and unkind towards anything different, and we gleefully put down anyone who is. It seems we have become so insecure that we have to tear others down to prop ourselves up. How sad is that?

It’s also misguided because nobody is perfect. Let’s be honest. We all have issues of some kind. Some are more visible than others, and some of us hide it better than others. But if we accept that premise, then what is normal?  Everything, or nothing?

The reality is we are all flawed to some degree, which makes us all the same. And in the final analysis, does it really matter?





Moving Daze


The temperatures are going to reach 60 today, so even though another week remains on the meteorological calendar, I am saying goodbye to winter.

It has been a relatively easy one, especially compared to last year. We’ve had only one storm where the snowfall measured a foot or more, and while there have been periods of bitterly cold weather, that was not the norm. Ice was more of a problem than snow this year, but the bottom line is we did not confront major periods where work on the new house was shut down for extended periods of time. We are in reasonably good shape on that front. The house is framed, the roof is shingled, and by month’s end the windows should be in, and the cellar floor poured.

With the days getting longer and the house completely enclosed, it is full steam ahead on getting the interior done because there shouldn’t be any weather-related delays.

For the past several months I’ve watched the house methodically rise from the ground, but I was in winter mode, where I can’t see beyond the snow and cold, and Spring feels light years away. Now that it is knocking on the door, however, the fact that this is actually happening feels more real than it ever has.

It is all very exciting, of course, now that the end is within sight. I mean, we hope to move by late spring/early summer, which is only three to four months from now. That may seem like a long time, but June/July will be here before I know it, which means I’m facing the reality of the one part of this adventure I absolutely dread: moving.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m really looking forward to the new place. I’m sure there will be some melancholy involved with leaving the home Nidan grew up in, but it will be short lived, at least for me. This is something we have wanted for a while, and have been planning in some capacity for almost a year. I’m looking forward to being settled in the home we have designed for our golden years.

But the physical act of moving?  This will be our fifth move, the last one having occurred in 2000. The first one, back in 1996, was a new adventure, but each subsequent one was greeted with less enthusiasm than the previous move because we were no longer naïve about the work this all entailed. Besides, I was a lot younger back then, and more able-bodied. This time? Well, we’re going to see how this will work with one good leg.

Unlike me, K has been thinking about the move since we broke ground, mentally planning, and stressing, over what needs to be done. She’s infinitely more aware of all the stuff we have accumulated over the years that has to be moved, thrown away or donated, and she’s a tad overwhelmed by it.

I’m not dreading the actual packing and moving part, although I reserve the right to change my mind when I’m actually doing it. But motivation is never lacking while getting prepared for, and moving, from point A to point B. Comparatively speaking, it is something you can enjoy, especially when movers are involved..

What sucks is the unpacking, and we not only have to move ourselves, but Nidan and K’s Mom, who has lived with us for almost fifteen years, and is in her eighties.

Unpacking and getting everything where you want takes a lot of trial and error, and we are moving our current household into two different living spaces. We’ll have to get her Mom and Nidan settled first, which means we will live among a multitude of boxes for a while. Our living space will be in disarray, and present a constant obstacle course for me. I  know from experience that once you are in a new place, you are worn out and want to unpack/get settled as soon as possible, but soon as possible rarely turns out to be what you hoped for going in. It is a mentally grueling ordeal, and the physical part will be harder compared to previous years. We may not feel it that much when we are doing the actual work. But when we wake up the following morning, our tight, aching muscles and sore backs will remind us that we aren’t in our forties anymore, and make us question our sanity.

I’m especially wary of the physical implications MS brings to the table. I’ve never been the kind of guy who can sit idly by while everyone else is doing the work, and this part of my DNA has become more pronounced since the MS came along. I have this need, you see, to not to give into my disability. I push myself simply to prove that I can, perhaps because it represents some half-assed rationalization that I am still in charge of my body. But I also know from experience that when I do, my leg becomes weak to the point of almost feeling dead, and all the other symptoms, particularly balance, become magnified. Quite a quandary, isn’t it?

Even after the move is completed, the ordeal won’t be over. Our current home needs to be spruced up a bit, and then we have the minor detail of selling it. Given the fact that money is going to be very tight by that time, in part because of a very nasty tax surprise we were not prepared for, we’re going to have to put more sweat equity into that endeavor than originally anticipated. Swell!

So yes, I am looking forward to seeing the house completed and living in the comfort of a new place built to accommodate my potential future needs. But the process is going to be a grind, and part of me would like nothing better than to sleep through it all, and have someone wake me up when it’s over.

I’ve already received a taste of how tedious this is going to be by helping K weed through what we have stored in the cellar. We still have to finish the cellar, comb through all the closets and contend with the garage. Ugh, the garage!  I just should just park a dumpster outside for a week and fill it to the brim when we formally tackle that stuff.

I am hoping for the best but expecting the worst. The one silver lining with this philosophy is that you’re never disappointed, and are often pleasantly surprised. Only time will tell if that is the case this time around. Rest assured you’ll hear all about how this unfolded once the deed is done.

Wish us luck.





Today is the day I start my seventh decade, but I’m not hung up on age, and don’t remember ever having been. Except of course back when I was in my teens and wanted to hit that magic age where it was officially legal to do just about anything. After all, age is nothing but a label that lets the world how long you’ve been breathing, and perhaps a measuring stick regarding how you should look or act.

Still,  it makes me think back to some of the other memorable milestones, and what I was doing or how I felt at the time.

I was a senior in college when I turned 21. My future was a vast, blank landscape, but I didn’t think any further ahead than graduation day because I was having too much fun. My priorities in life were getting good grades, getting laid, playing baseball, and finding the next party. And not necessarily in that order.

At 25, I was on my own, living in a different state, and embarking on a career.

At 30, I was married, and in the process of buying my first house, which turned out to be a colossal money pit, and a hard lesson learned.

Some milestones bother people, but I never gave them much thought, except for the day I turned 35. I don’t know what so was traumatic about that particular age. I was entrenched in what turned out to be a successful career, happily married and wasn’t financially stressed. The thing about 35 was that, for the first time, I saw myself as getting older, which was a foreign concept until then. I was nearing middle age, and that bothered me. A lot. But it was short lived.

I was living in Southern Indiana when 40 came knocking, having uprooted several years earlier from Connecticut because there weren’t any opportunities to reach the next level in my career. The fact that I was getting sick of the state for some reason I can’t remember also factored into it, and I would have bet everything I owned that I would never return.

At 40, I was a first time father of a one year old and completely smitten. Things were good, as I was happy in both my personal and professional lives. Then people started dying, most of them unexpectedly, and we moved back to Connecticut within a year.

50 was a big one, but I didn’t feel like I was a half-century old. I wasn’t upset about getting love letters from AARP, but I didn’t exactly embrace it either. Truthfully, I didn’t give it a lot of thought. I remember hearing someone say 50 is the new 30, and that felt right. I didn’t think of myself as old or being on the downhill side of life. K surprised me by having some dear friends fly in from out of state to celebrate the occasion. It was a wonderful surprise, and I had a great time. Too great, as it turned out, because I suffered acute stomach distress and upheaval due to alcohol consumption. That self-inflicted malady hasn’t occured since. Maybe wisdom does come with age.

In retrospect, the biggest development when the age of 50 came around was that MS entered my life the year before. I had a permanent limp that was just becoming noticeable. My foot was drooping, but I could still get around easily and do all the man things around the house. I didn’t need a cane yet, and I it would be another year before I experienced my first fall year. Still, the cracks in my armor were showing, and would soon become more pronounced.

I thought of 55 as the speed limit birthday, because that was the speed limit on most Connecticut highways for the longest time, but 55 meant nothing to me. It was just a number and another day, like all the others.

Now that I am 60, my thoughts are no different than in years past, other than the fact, well, I’m 60! Generously speaking, I am at the tail end of middle age, but realistically, I am well past the half-way point in life, and will soon be considered a senior citizen. How the hell did that happen so quickly?

Mentally, I don’t feel any different than when I was in my 20s and 30s, but I’m more in tune with the world around me. I’m better equipped to handle the curves life throws, and I’ve had my share of doozies. I enjoy the slower pace, and appreciate the little things. I’m content. I don’t get as hung up on the materialistic trappings of my youth, and stopped climbing the corporate ladder years ago. Of course, MS had a lot do with that.

I certainly enjoy winding down at night. I enjoy and appreciate sleep more, although K would tell you I don’t get nearly enough. She’s right about that, but when the clock hits 10, my head wants to hit the  pillow. Back in the day, the only thing I was interested in hitting when 10 rolled around was the road, because that is when the fun really started.

I find myself thinking about retirement, looking forward to an empty nest, and embracing this new stage in life. I’m looking forward to moving into the new house, where everything is on one floor, and being alone with my bride. I’m looking forward to greeting each day as a blank slate, where I’m free to do what I want. I’m looking forward to not having any time pressures or obligations. I’ve earned this, but it’s also a double-edge sword.

I understand this is going to be my last house, and that I am probably going to die there. I know that the sun is setting on the stretch of road I’m on, but hope this road is a long one, and that the view is beautiful when I reach its end. If I am fortunate to follow my parent’s path, I have another thirty plus years before I get there, which is half of the life I’ve already lived. I’m down for that.

60 is the on-ramp to this new road that I have just merged onto. It’s a scenic route with a slower speed limit, and I’m in no hurry to explore everything it has to offer. I plan on a leisurely journey, and to milk every pleasure I can. I am still middle aged, after all, but not for long.

My brother turns 70 in June, my next big milestone. When that occurs, I won’t be able to bullshit myself or anyone else. I will be old.

But it beats the alternative.




The Illusion of Control


I was watching something on television the other day. I don’t remember the name of the program, which tells you how memorable it was, but there was one segment that briefly caught my attention. Its premise concerned what we can do to exert more control in our lives, which implied that people have more control over their lives than they think.

What a crock of shit!

Seriously, what can we control? I mean, really control, as in wanting things to fall a certain way and being able to engineer the outcome we want, whenever we want.

We can’t control how other people act, what they do, or what they think of us. We can’t control events that impact our lives. We can’t control our health (I’ll explain later).  Many people have careers that choose them rather than the other way around.

I’m sure I could add to this list if I spent more time thinking about it, but my belief is the theory that we are masters of our destiny is an illusion. As I read these words I find myself asking “when have you become so cynical? That isn’t you.” My response is that I’m not being cynical, just realistic.

First of all, don’t confuse control with influence. We can certainly influence, or try to influence, all of the previously mentioned items, and sometimes we get lucky. But to consistently exert influence on events to such an extent that they turn out the way we desire? I think not.

The only thing we control in our jobs is whether to accept a job offer, and when it is time to quit and move on. We can certainly try to make ourselves indispensable by excelling at things like showing up on time, getting along with your peers, and the quality of our output.  But we can’t control layoffs, our customers, or the economy that influences many corporate decisions. We also can’t control the decisions made by the folks higher in the corporate food chain that make our work lives easier or harder.

Controlling people? Good luck with that! Hell, we can’t even control our kids. Maybe when they are younger and worship (or fear) us, but they eventually stand their ground, tune us out, and want to make decisions on their own, regardless of whether we think they are good/smart or bad/dumb. They blaze their own path, and if we are lucky, they will seek our counsel and actually consider what we have to say.

You can’t control what people think about you, or whether they like you. I’ve met people that I didn’t care for, and it wasn’t because of something they did or how they treated me. We simply didn’t mesh, through no fault of theirs. And even though I consider myself an extremely likable guy, it would be naïve to think everyone I come into contact with feels the same.

And bosses? Well, I had one boss in particular that treated me like shit for reasons unknown, and it didn’t matter how well or poorly I performed or what my immediate supervisor thought. He just took a dislike to me, and took pleasure in putting me under his thumb and tightening the screws whenever he could. I couldn’t get out of that place fast enough, but it took three years of hell before that happened. I’m sure everyone has a story or two like that.

Our health? Well, we can control what we put into our bodies, and how much sleep and exercise we get. That might give us better odds at staying healthy, but that’s about it. Look at me, for example. I’ve eaten well, never abused my body or had any addictions, have been in good shape and exercised regularly for a good part of my life. So why did I get MS, especially when there isn’t any family history?

To further illustrate, I’ve known people who didn’t smoke or drink and did all the right things, but still developed cancer or heart disease. Conversely I’ve known people who smoked like a chimney and lived to a ripe old age.

And as far as controlling the progression of my MS is concerned? Well, I’m taking all the recommended meds, vitamins and all the prescribed treatments, but is any of that really making a difference? K believes it has helped confine the progression and slow its pace, and maybe she’s correct. But the fact is that in ten short years I’ve gone from an active, able bodied guy to someone who has a hard time walking or staying upright. What are the next ten years going to look like? Is any of that going to prevent a date with the wheelchair at some point in time? I think not.

We certainly can’t control our elected representatives. The illusion of control through the ballot box exists, but in most cases the incumbent, supported by their lobbyists and sycophants, prevail. In my mind, these aren’t elections. They’re auctions.

What we do have control over is very simple. How we treat friends, family and people in general is at the top of a short list. So is deciding if we conduct our lives with honesty and integrity. We control whether we treat everyone in our orbit with kindness, empathy and genuineness. We control whether the decisions we make are based on what we believe is right, or if we take the easy, expedient path. We control whether we approach life with a glass half-full or half-empty point of view.

We all have regrets in life, but if we are true to ourselves, judgement and remorse won’t accompany them. Ultimately, the one thing we control from our attitudes and actions is how we feel about ourselves, the lives we have lived, and the people we have touched.

And isn’t that what really matters?



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