Rough Grace

My own personal comments are below. Great retelling of a great memory, Mr. Teemley.

Mitch Teemley

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It was 30 years ago today, on the Friday before Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel days of the year. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was crawling with pre-holiday misery. Planes were late and tempers were flaring. The holidays might be impending, but the holiday spirit was nowhere to be seen. And then the announcement came: Our flight to Denver had been cancelled. No reason was offered. Which meant the airline was responsible; if the airport or weather were to blame, it would be the first thing they’d say.

Cranky passengers were greeted by an even crankier Steward. Allen (my partner in the comedy act Mitch & Allen) and I knew that FAA regulations required them to put us on a competitor’s flight if they didn’t have one of their own leaving within four hours. We also knew they would not offer this unless it was demanded.

The only person who…

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Cooling Down

For the first time in a month, the air is finally pleasant at night. I cannot believe how long it has been since I have wanted to have a window open to experience the night there. The constant drone of the air conditioner is no longer a comfort. It had been like a jailer for me for so long.

My life is lived overnight. While the rest of the world is awake and moves around doing their chores, I sleep. There are times that I wish I was up during the day, but it has significant downsides for someone who is not a big social person. That isn’t entirely true, because I do like the social aspect of life in some respects, but on my own terms. In a way I guess this is a very mild form of agoraphobia. Then again, I am not qualified to make any sort of diagnosis.

The cooling also seems to come in concert with the cooling of my creativeness. Over the weekend I had written two new chapters and upon listening to them again I discovered how poorly they sounded. It was quite a shock after filling a little hubris I guess is the right word. I have never purchased an independent published book before, let alone an ebook. Odd to say probably, particularly since I will be publishing e-books in the near future. But that’s the way it is. It’s my own fault, my own work to enjoy reading a book in paperback or hardcover over and you look. That’s not to say that it might not change, but when I am dealing with an electronic device, it seems to be more comfortable to me to listen to a book on tape instead.

I threw out recently on my Facebook feed that I ought to look for a native Norwegian speaker when I decide to make my book into an audiobook. Then they could get the names with the proper pronunciation I can get a hint of the true accents of the characters that even I cannot do properly. Do you know how insane it is sometimes when you realize that as the author you cannot even truly pronounce the names correctly that you needed for your book? I’m sorry, but in my mind that is a tad nutty. If I had money, at least I could say I was eclectic.

I had not really planned what to say this blog as the Meandering probably gives away. I’ve been wondering though, what people are curious about? I get very different feedbacks from my blog posts and it seems that the statistics are working quite properly or something. I have people telling me they love the blog that have no indication of reading it but they talked to me about it. I know I went through Facebook but I have absolutely no idea how they’re reading the whole thing through Facebook. I don’t want them to be able to do that. But then again I’m so ignorant in the methodology and functionality of sharing links and things like that with blogs that I have no idea how this is supposed to work.

So I’m starting to experiment a little bit with times and days blog Publications. Seeing what time’s work better for exposure. Currently releasing new posts at midnight on Monday and Friday seem to be very good for overseas circulation. But I have not found a time that bolsters the North American time zones. I started with doing this on Mondays and Fridays, I’m starting to wonder if there are better days in which to do new information. What do you guys think? I would love to have your opinion. Go ahead and comment below.

That’s all for now. I think we will try to put up something more creative regarding my book on this coming Friday. And if any of you guys have good ideas please share them on what are good posting times and what is interesting stuff you want to hear about let me know!

 

Vacation: Achievement Unlocked

My Minnesota Adventure is now complete. I have to say that it has been both a good time and revealing time to go out and remind myself a place I called home for just about 5 years. I would had a grand time seeing old friends, and going to some of my favorite places that I used to enjoy when I lived there.

Unfortunately I was also reminded all those reasons why I fled living in a big city like that. It wasn’t that I dislike the place, no I cannot tolerate the oppressive atmosphere hopelessness and anger that pervades the areas where I was forced to live. Don’t get me wrong, the Cities are fine if you have money. Then you can live safe and content, generally avoiding most of the areas which would cause worry and fear to be touchstones of your daily life. Unfortunately I had neither money or safety when I lived there. So I was able to see personally and within touching distance how bad life can be for people who have limited means. Plus, I worked in a job that kept me in constant contact with some of the best as well as the worst Elements of Life in the Twin Cities. That unto itself is an education. How I managed to get through this time without being assaulted, robbed, or worse, yes, living there taught me there probably is worse than those two things, is amazing. I know friends thought I was a big chicken, because no one was going to assault someone who looked like me according to them. It didn’t matter. I did not come from this kind of a background. So that meant I was not willing to take the risks or assume that the behavior of the people around me that was, shall we say, less-than-stellar was acceptable or normal me Big City radar. That isn’t to say that I wasn’t able to recognize danger, or realize you always had to be aware of your surroundings, but those activities were exhausting and painful to undertake.

Another pleasing aspect was I got to revisit one of my favorite places to go when I was in the Twin Cities, The Source. It had moved, which was good because it took it to a much more convenient place as far as I was concerned right across from the HarMar Mall. For those who do not know, the HarMar is a dumpy little place with the best Barnes & Noble you could possibly want to find. With a penchant for really good events. Unfortunately the first time we went to that Barnes & Noble for old time sake, it was completely overrun with Harry Potter fans. As I have stated to many people, I will never read, nor watch anything Harry Potter.  They were holding a youth event and within 30 seconds I was over stressed. But that is when we discovered the source was directly across the street.

Unfortunately, by the time we got there, it was closed for the evening. So, the following day we went back, not only for my edification, but because my friend’s daughter had just been introduced to Magic: the Gathering. Her friends were nice and gave her a deck and which to learn to play… of all the cards they did not like or had a few extra. No, it’s not often that generosity sometimes leaves you with a bitter spike in the back of your head. These were not good cards nor a good design really.  That is being a bit unfair, for one or two of the cards were good.  But that was all. This left her completely at the whim of her friends to beat up on her when they play the game. I decided to remedy that.

Thankfully, they had a Bargain Bin. $0.20 a card and we took full advantage of it. There were a few tricks that could enhance her deck so i used the. With a few choice cards and a starter box, that all changed. I took the skills that I had earned as an old-school Magic the Gathering player from way back when and it became a frustratingly naughty little deck. I just loaded myself up with squee thinking about how her friends thinking they knew what she had would react once they dealt with a deck that was tuned to play in tournaments  when they themselves we’re not familiar with how to play in a tournament.

I must admit that was probably the highlight of my vacation, of going full-on nerd and making a teenage girl the alpha nerd of her social circle.

Of course that’s not quite true. The highlight was being able to go to my favorite “always gotta go there” restaurant for brunch on Sunday. If you ever get the chance to go to brunch at Jax Cafe in Northeast Minneapolis, do so! It’s expensive, and worth it. None of my friends who came to be there with me I never been there before. So I was given the wonderful response being able to introduce them to a real gem the restaurant scene in Minneapolis.

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All in all, I’m glad I went. The time away from work was refreshing, and it provided me with more experiences to enjoy in my memory.

We shall now engage in our regularly scheduled posting.  See you Friday.

Nature Reminds Me: I am Fragile.

Want to know a sound that is truly terrifying?  It’s not the sound unto itself that makes it bad, no.  I’ve heard the sound probably a thousand times in my life, and it often comes with an experience of dread or irritation depending on the context.  But on Saturday, that sound became truly terrifying.

I sit alone at work in a nice little shack in the dead of night.  Generally speaking, this is a quiet job, dealing with drivers and the radio and the needs of the Distribution Center from time to time, but essentially, I work alone.  I like it for that most days, but it does have a peculiar effect of enhancing the feeling of exposure.  If something goes wrong, there you sit, alone with nobody who can reach you in a short period of time, and in a crisis, five to ten minutes is not a short period of time.  Even hooked in with radio, text and phone, you are still isolated.  You feel fragile at times out there alone in the dark, even though most times that is a blessing allowing me to look inside myself in the quiet periods.

Saturday was hot and humid all day, and thankfully I got to sleep through it, and by the time I got to work, I was happy for air conditioning, and doubly thankful for it working in my shack.  I did not have many truckers to deal with so that small blessing added to my stack.  I was on alert for the weather.  The radar showed storms far to the north, but others were forming small intense pockets.

The night was a dull haze as well.  The cooling of the evening was halted at some point by atmospheric forces I could not begin to understand, and instead of obeying the normal expected pattern of the night that cooled it into dew and ground fog, the humidity and temperature began to rise to daytime heat, making for a sweltering and uncomfortable night every time I went out side.

In the distance, I started seeing the yellow cloud to cloud lightning cracking through the thunderhead, turning it into a giant celestial Chinese lantern.  I always loved that effect.  I did not expect severe weather, but seeing that level of dancing in the clouds was mesmerizing and fun to watch with no one around on this particularly slow evening.

I went back to work as the lightning faded, only to be blasted to attention again by the weather radio screaming.  I immediately opened up my web browser and saw the weather alert.  Half dollar sized hail and 60mph gusts.  Being exposed, my first thought was that my car was going to get wrecked, and all the windows on the little shack, which is almost all glass, would be blown out.  Horrible thoughts crossed my mind on how to prevent the destruction.

I prayed of course.  It was my only course of action, and God seemed to be listening.  The storm which only a little while before that was aimed directly at me veered to the north of the city and pounded the fields and forest up there.  I was relieved because this was only a precursor to what looked like a more gentle line of storms coming in maybe an hour after.

The night rolled on, uneventful save for a quick sprinkle of rain from the violent storm that missed us.  I went back to work while listening to an audiobook of “Last of the Mohicans”.  I’ve learned not to listen to things that could frighten while out there and so exposed.  I don’t need to add stress.

Horror came in another way at about 3am.

First my phone started yowling in a weather alert.  I was expecting maybe a severe thunderstorm warning.

Not a tornado warning!

Within seconds, and before I could call up the web browser again to see the text of the alert, the weather radio we are required to have went off and it read out loud what I was just discovering.  Radar indicated a tornado coming right at me.  My blood chilled.  It was unclear if the thing had touched ground, but to even see my small subsection of town listed as being under the gun was enough to add a few white hairs.

Then the keening wail of the tornado sirens began to drift to me over the stifling hot night air.  It sang its song of warning and impending destruction to me.  Not just one siren but a half dozen of them were singing in chorus.  Some shrill soloists close by brayed to me while a quartet of them drifted at slightly different pitches far in the background permeating the night air like the humidity.  It was a beautiful cacophony that drove home how exposed and fragile I was in my little shack.

Compounding the matters, I had no protective shelter that was within 3 minutes of reaching, so if I looked out the tinted windows and managed to see a funnel cloud coming at me, I was dead meat.  There was no way I could make it.  Plus, I was surrounded by semi trailers that would instantly become projectiles

I contacted them inside and they said abandon the shack and come in to the shelter.  I reminded them I could not because my duties required me to have the gate manned at all times.  Shut the gates, we’ll send you help was the response.

The 10 minutes I was out there, while the sirens finally died was unnerving.  I had no idea how fast the predicted disaster would take to get here.  Five minutes?  Fifteen?  Not at all?  By the time my supervisor drove out to be just as exposed the downpour began.  I was constantly looking over my shoulder, dreading the horror of seeing a lightning lit tornado flickering in the night.  We fought with the gates and finally got them as shut as we could get them and fled to the tornado shelter.

Thankfully, the tornado never materialized, but gave spectacularly threatening clouds dimly visible from the city lights below as they zipped this way and that.  We waited out the event and life went back to normal.  It seems very anti-climactic in some regards, but I was thankful for God’s providence and mercy on the city.  The disasters did not come about, and everyone was safe.

It was that sound that awoke a primal terror in me that stuck around.  The confirmation of my own frailty was.  During that interim, when I first heard it echoing and filling the night as we raced to close the gates which argued and protested being shut in a downpour was punctuated by looking over my shoulder for impending doom; that was the refining process making me fully conscious that this could be the day God called me home.  I have had a few of those types of incidents in my life, and they are always something you look back on and go say to yourself: “See?  This is when you were not sure whether your next breath or next minute would be your last.”  It focuses the sensibilities so sharp, you cannot deny how alive you feel afterwards, even if it is buried in the grey weights of exhaustion.

Then just like the clouds, that sensation of terror and relief recedes again beneath the normalcy of life.

Cutting My Way to Healing: Surgery

When my elbow was shattered three years ago on D-Day, the wrack and ruin of the injury was a real shocker to me.  I had never broken a bone, never had surgery, never even stayed in a hospital, save for one diagnostic thing years before… nothing serious.  Now, my surgeon tells me that I have three broken bones in my right elbow that could take up to a year to recover.  That also assumes no other complications set in and I even can return to work some day let alone regain use of my arm.

The break had torn all the soft connection tissue free.  That all had to be anchored back down and repaired.  Then the bones themselves were in 10 different pieces!  The head of the Radius and Ulna were shattered essentially into three and four pieces each.  The Humerus head had snapped just above in one big chunk making it the easiest repair.  What a way to look at it, but when your surgeon has put together elbows and wrists of men wounded in battle, I’m thinking I fared pretty well.

Throughout this time, I kept praying.  “Why, God?  What is Your purpose in all this?  I cannot see you, and know that I should be afraid, but for some reason, I am not.”  that was the strange thing.  I was scared, but I had peace.  A peace I should not have had, by human standards.  By spiritual standards, I know why.  He carried me through it all for I did not do it by my own strength or denial alone.

The day of the surgery was more of a relief on many levels.  It was going to hurt and freak me out, but at least it would be over and I would be able to heal proper and get better.  They never asked me to count down for the anesthetic knocking me out, so I volunteered anyway.  I remember distinctly saying, “Wow!  I didn’t think I’d make it past 85, but I’m still awake.”  They laughed at me, good-naturedly I hoped.  I don’t remember 84.

Then was in a hospital bed feeling like I had been out drinking all night.  Not hungover, but still buzzed and hating it.  My arm did not hurt at first, but then I moved reflexively.  Well didn’t that just tilt the pinball machine!  What went from a kinda tolerable, but miserable 7 on the pain scale to a 10.  Oh yeah, this is gonna be fun was my thought.  It wasn’t till the last week of rehab did I learn how the pain scale was supposed to be calculated.

Having to pee was embarrassing too.  You finally have to go so bad and are so gorked out of your mind you just don’t care who is watching and what you piss on.  I remember the process of  getting to the can being a disgusting an humorous operation, dragging poles and machines that went ‘ping’ behind me and finally not caring what my accuracy was, and the fact I was naked in front of three female nurses.  Oh who CARES!  My bladder is calling the shots and it says “You go NOW!” like an angry sumo wrestler.  Oh the joys of bodily functions in front of strangers.

Beyond that, mother morphine played deletion roulette with much of my memory.  I do remember lunch before being picked up being surprisingly tasty.

My father picked me up and we went to see the surgeon where I was informed of what kind of a mess I was.  A plate a bunch of plastic anchors and glue holding my tendons and ligaments together, a bunch of cartilage scooped out and a metal plate with four screws, and one for good measure through my Humerus.  Just…. really.  My surgeon cautioning me that because of my size, I could EASILY tear these things loose and be forced to suffer another surgery and some real potential problems.  So for two months, I had to live, arm locked at a 90 degree angle and praying that something horrifying did not happen, like falling in the shower (Which I did, more on that later) or worse.

Living alone, there was some concern about how I was going to handle things on my own.  Hell, I was worried too.  But, God provided a way.  I was always able to find a friend, or neighbor or family to take my clumsy butt where I needed, go shopping with me or help out.  To those people, you are saints, and I praise God for you.

But, that was the first big step in what has been a multi-year recovery.

 

Three Years On: A Personal Anniversary

Three years ago just before midnight on D-Day, my life was turned upside down in a flash.

I drove spotter truck at the time, pushing semi trailers back and forth from dock to lot and vice versa.  It was physically difficult in a way not even many truckers realize when you are doing 7-10 moves an hour.

In and out.

Up and down.

Slam, bang, bump.

I had been driving professionally in various forms for going on five years and had just earned my Class A the autumn before.  I wasn’t sure I enjoyed trucking as much as I enjoyed bus driving.  But, I needed work, and this was work that paid the bills, so I did it as best I can, but slowly was starting to dread it.  Although, there were good times too.  Working overnights, and only four nights a week, that’s not bad money, and it wasn’t like the grueling 14 hour days 5 days a week with 16 every Tuesday I had to endure running inter-modal to Chicago and back.  That was psychological torture.

No.  this was physically harder, but my mind was at peace.  I no longer felt like a criminal 24/7 whenever I drove.

It was dry out, and a clear sky.  Sure some puddles remained on the ground from the rain two nights before, but my feet were not wet.  I just saw on my computer I got a “Freebie” move.  A liveload where the driver was still there, but they put the move up inside.  So I got credit for a move, doing nothing.  I just had to go wake him up and say “Yer outta here!”

It did not happen that way.

I pulled up to his cab with the spotter and got out to knock on his door.  The spotter door slid open behind me, and I went through onto the deck.  Spotters go in and out of a sliding back door, you know.  I started going down the stairs, and then disaster came.

Now, falling off my truck was one of my worst fears as a driver.  I have seen people break ankles and knees.  I almost broke my right ankle in a rail yard thanks to a lump of rotted out concrete.  But falling was particularly worrisome, cause I’m a big guy.  So I planted my feet, and took hold of the railings to go down the stairs.  Yes, spotters have very steep stairs with two railings that bent to angle with your motion.  Three points of contact.  Yes indeed.

Suddenly, it was two points of contact.  My left foot lost its grip on the worn-smooth metal.  Its timing a split second earlier or later would have made a world of difference.  No seriously, it was that precisely timed you would swear it was planned.  It slid under the fender a little, and partially in the open wheel well.  I still had both hands on the railings.  Two points of contact left.

Then inertia proved to be a harsh mistress.

My right arm hit full extension just as my grip was at that stupid bend in the railing.  That small, insignificant spot.  I lost grip with my right hand.  My strongest arm, and began to whip around by my left arm out and away from the truck.  All 380 pounds of me, swinging out like a swing ride at a carnival.  The centrifugal force was tearing my left hand’s grip free but it felt like I was sliding down the railing faster than I was losing my grip, and thought there was a chance to control my fall.  Amazing I can remember that in the split second of the time.

Then I hit the side of the truck with a loud bang that shocked me…

…hard.

Then I bounced clear and in a freefall.  I felt like I was suspended in air by that arm for a second, but it wasn’t the case.  Gravity took over and I was falling the rest of the way, my feet were maybe only three feet off the ground, but it felt so much higher.

I remembered faintly my judo training from decades before and tried to brace to roll with it.

Then I did the same thing that nearly dislocated my shoulder as a student:  I reached for the ground.

You ever play with those pose-able leg Barbies as a kid?  You know the ones with the plastic ratchet inside them.  That was the sensation I felt from my elbow.  And pain.  A whole lot of pain and shock to that right elbow.  I had saved myself from striking my head, but my elbow payed the price.

Flopping on the pavement of the lot and let out a long howl of agony and shock.  I couldn’t help squirming around, as I fought with the shock of what had happened…

Impressively, I managed to keep my right arm glued to the pavement.  A semi drove by me and ignored me.  He looked right at me… and kept driving.  I realized I was not getting any help at that moment, and had to get it myself.

I moved my arm, or tried to.  It refused to move at first.  So I tried to curl it back to me.  I felt that horrifying Barbie doll ratcheting and knew something was pretty damn bad.  I prayed it was just a dislocated elbow.  With my arm to my chest, the throbbing came, but the pain had subsided a lot.  I was quite surprised and started thinking, well, maybe I got this after all.  But I had to report the fall.  So I tried to climb back up into the spotter and my right arm was in agony with every move.

I’m sure now it’s dislocated, but prayed that it wasn’t broken.  I called on the radio for help and told the lead driver to meet me at the office and then drove, slowly, with every bump and crease in the drop lot causing shocks of pain to rattle my head as I drove.

Filling out the report was an ordeal.  Being forced to drive myself to the hospital they chose was brutal.  The agony of waiting and then maneuvering my body around as they took X-Rays and then an MRI.  There was a hairline fracture, but the doctor would have to tell me more.  I finally was given something for the pain, but it wasn’t much.  My arm was wrapped in fiberglass and gauze.

Then the next challenge came:  Going home.  I had to drive all the way back, 35 miles to home, by myself, on pain meds.  No family or friends were available in the middle of the night.  My boss tried to claim I did not follow safety regs, which I proved false the next day.  I was swimming with grief as I drove home.  I called my parents, and my father drove over 100 miles from their campground stay to help me get back to the hospital six hours later.

The next morning the surgeon gave me the news.  It was called “The Terrible Triad”.  A break so bad that it had it’s own nickname.  My Radius and Ulna broke through the head into multiple pieces.  The Humerus snapped right above the joint.  Every tendon was snapped free, and the ligaments were torn loose.  My cartilage was shredded.  So much for the hoping against hope it was dislocated or sprained or something that in a week would be fine, or at least just sore.  I asked him if it was the worst he’d seen.  He said no.  Later on I learned that he did this sort of surgery for the US Military, and could only imagine seeing the ruined limbs he had repaired.  Mine would be a cakewalk compared to a limb jellied by an IED or shrapnel.

Surgery was scheduled for three days later.  And then would begin the entire year ordeal where I would also face a second surgery because something else would not heal in my arm, and had to suffer a partial elbow replacement.  Just before Thanksgiving.

My life fundamentally changed three years ago today.  My career as a commercial driver, gone.  My record of never breaking a bone, gone.  My belief in my ability to recover naturally from anything?  Gone.  Ability to effectively wipe my own ass, gone for months but not forever!  Talk about a true discovery of how frail and dependent we are on our dominant arm.

That event transformed my life and all things in it.

But I thank God.  To this day I am thankful.

Although I am permanently scarred and partially disabled, I know how much worse it could have been.  Had I not gone above and beyond the call of duty with safety procedures, this slip would have put me head first into the pavement from a height of about nine feet.  I would have been lucky to be only paralyzed then.  More likely I would have died outright.

Worker’s Comp covered my medical bills completely, and if I healed well enough (which never happened) I would go back to work when it was over, with no fear.

Therefore, I praise God.  He gave me peace and supplied my needs throughout this crisis.  It makes me wonder why it happened, and I suppose some day, I will be shown why it happened and what was caused by it.

I’m still a safety lecture example of why drivers use three points of contact at my job and at my driving school.  I guess that might save someone’s life some day, and that’s a good thing.

But D-Day is no longer just a memorial for Operation Overlord for me.  It is a personal D-Day where I lost my former life and health forever.

In a split second.

Just before midnight.

 

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Ugh a horrible picture.  But this was my arm for almost three weeks!