Saturday, June 26, 2010

My heart is heavy

This is an example of the work Bernie did. What a man of talent, what a loss.

6/26/10 Saturday
My heart is heavy this morning. Thursday I got a call from Suzie. She told me she heard that my friend, Bernie, had died, but didn’t know any details. We were in Odessa finishing taking down the barn so I called Cherie, asking her to go online and check. Sure enough he died and unfortunately the funeral was the same day I got the call. He had died on Sunday. If I’d known I could have been there for the funeral. This being so far from what used to be home, from where I lived most my life, from where the boys I raised live, from where the only friends I’ve had live, or lived, is hard. I just don’t have the resources to jet back and forth and thus have lost touch with so many. That plus the estrangements caused during the last year I was there before the wreck that put me in a coma contributed to that distance. That last year was rough. I had an undiagnosed stroke, at least one traumatic brain injury, fell into deep depression, was going through a miserable divorce, and had resorted to heavy drinking and drug use to hide the pain.

Bernie was a glass artist who’s shop was in the same building across from my businesses. He was a fellow Vietnam veteran and a good friend. I have had few friends in life, at least the good ones you got close to and shared life with. Bernie was one of them. We talked daily and helped each other out all the time. Anytime I needed something he could help with Bernie was there and anytime Bernie asked for help I did my best for him as well.

What a surprise all this was. I didn’t even know he was sick. Just got off the phone with his dad a few minutes ago. Had to call the funeral home to get the number after dialing several people from the phone book that had the same last name. It seems that Bernie had had surgery for cancer in September and they suspect it came back, though they don’t know for sure as there was no autopsy. He had been feeling bad and was found dead in his house. I am heartbroken. This distance is so hard at times. Life is hard in Toledo these days and when River East shut the building down and kicked the tenants out nine years ago it caused great difficulty for a good man. There were some who helped him set up his studio at another location, provided by another friend. When Cherie and I visited Toledo a couple of years ago we made a concerted effort to find Bernie and visit him. Bernie was the commander of the East side VFW post for some time, though that duty weighed heavy on him because of their serious financial difficulties. But he had heart and continued on despite that, working to lead the post in positive directions.
Some of the pieces that Bernie had laying around his shop. I took these pictures back when he was still in the building I'd had my businesses in. There was no questioning he had talent.

Bernie’s dad asked if I ever visited Toledo, and when I said I did when time and money allowed he invited me to come by and spend some time with them. He asked me to visit three times during the conversation. I so want to. I would go there today if I could. I’d like to go to the VFW post and have a beer in his memory, share with the fellow veterans who gather there and learn more about my friend. Bernie wasn’t a drinker but we would sometimes go and have a couple of beers and share about life. He enjoyed trying a variety of rare beers as I did. One that he turned me on to is called Anchor Steam, which I think is made in San Francisco and is quite hard to find. And I would like to sit with his dad for a while too. There are still so many gaps in my memory that I work to fill in but much of it has been restored in the nine years since I woke from the coma.
Goodbye my old friend. I miss you already. How I had looked forward to seeing you again next time I visited Toledo.

Bernie lived a spartan life, as many combat veterans of the Vietnam war still do. He didn't smoke tobacco and was a vegetarian, and never drank to excess. He was the last person I expected to get sick and die for he was careful about his health. However he made lots of stained glass, which involved copious amounts of solder, which contains lead and other unhealthy stuff.

Meantime, back on the farm, we got most of the barn down. I could quite finish because one of the guys I had helping is on a monitor from the parole department and was required to be back at the halfway house by 7:30. If he wasn’t back on time he gets sent back to prison. So almost all of it is down and I think that’s it for the job. I’ll email the lady later and let her know. It has already cost me more than the material was worth and to make another trip for the small amount left just isn’t wise.

It was a sad day for her. She drove up asking if we had seen her dog and I told her we hadn’t and had only been there ten minutes. It was a beautiful huge brown dog that just licked you to death when it saw you. She found it dead on the highway. We dug a grave for it where we were tearing down the barn. Tanna cried, it was the dog she was most attached to. I so wanted to give her a hug but didn’t. Don’t know them hardly at all and I’m uncomfortable with that. But I know how it feels as we have lost a few pets out here next to the highway so my heart went out to her.

Kairos was having their reunion event at the prison today but I didn’t go. Had been planning on going but just don’t feel up to it. I feel bad already. Just got a letter from one of the guys there. I haven’t written any of them yet and need to. There’s a responsibility that comes with getting involved with a ministry and I haven’t been keeping up with it.

I cut down a tree for someone yesterday. That allowed me to provide some more work for Sam from the halfway house. He keeps suggesting I ask Clayton to have the guys come work on my farm as part of their community service but I doubt I will. I have a hard time asking anyone for anything and am unsure of what he thinks of me anyway. Just don’t get friendly vibes from the guy, though being able to interpret stuff like that is a problem with me and a common issue with TBI’s

Speaking of TBI, there’s a program that just aired on PBS that I had Cherie watch with me. With the new high speed internet we can watch these things now on our computers. It’s really impactful and deeply touching reporting on the severe traumatic brain injuries two soldiers endured in the Middle East war. Actually there are three soldiers shown on the show. My brain injury was also classified as severe so this really highlights just how miraculous my recovery has been. Here’s the link Please go check it out. You will see just how bad of a shape I was in at one time. I am blessed and grateful for the life I have, however hard that may be at times. I am also blessed and grateful for Cherie, who took on a lot when she agreed to marry me again. Folks, I am a walking miracle. There are those who never bothered to learn of this, who judged based on appearance without caring to know why I acted how I did, and I feel bad for them. They must stand before God and answer to Him, just as we all will. God’s hand is on our lives, and we desire to share His goodness where we can, where we are allowed to. With that comes blessings.

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