Sunday, October 28, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

Suffice it to say that all is not well in the Razorback Nation.  The Hogs are winless in LR for the first time in memory.  Granted, they only grace Central Arkansas with their presence twice a year now. 

But zip is zip. And one of their losses was to noted power University of Louisiana-Monroe. 

My friend Richard places the blame squarely on me since the common denominator, in his opinion, is my presence at both games.  This is despite the fact that Richard Pence and I have been attending games together for 20 years or so with a high degree of success.  That and the fact that he was there as well for both losses.  So maybe its him.

But the fact of the matter is that the 2012 edition of the Arkansas Razorbacks is, to understate the case, just not very good.  Indeed, I cannot recall any other team winding up being this bad after a ranking in the Top Ten.  Maybe there was one.  But I don't recall it.  And I have a pretty good memory for such extraneous matters. 

As for me, the blame for this disaster is obvious and it ain't on John L. Smith hapless though he may be.  The fact of the matter is that, although it should seem obvious that these guys were seriously overrated, the reason this season is shaping up to be a historic cluster lies solely at the feet of Bobby Petrino.  How can a team function under an "interim" coach?  And an interim coach with massive debt problems at that?  What a disaster on any level you care to consider.

Still, although I have no particular use for Ole Miss and was sorry to see them pull out a last second victory as the clock wore down, I have to admit that they were the better team.  The Razorbacks were disorganized on offense, one of the alleged strengths of the team.  Tyler Wilson should have been intercepted at least 4 times.  He got flagged for intentional grounding twice.  And the defense, though improved, gave up chunks of yardage at completely inopportune moments.  That they managed to damn near pull off a victory despite shooting themselves in the foot on a systematic and continuous basis all day might be cause for some solace in the heart and minds of the Razorback faithful.  But probably not much.

Me?  I don't much care.  I enjoy going "out with the crowd" to mix my sporting metaphors.  It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood and there was nothing that appealed to me more than walking down Van Buren to the old stadium.  It has been a really hectic week.  2 days in Thibodaux, 1 day flying back, catching up at work, birthday stuff and shooting pictures Thursday night made for a crazy week.  Going down to watch the Hogs play felt "normal" to me. 

I needed some normal.  And it is on the way.  Got some writing and music reviews coming up.  The Econ teacher at St. Mary's wants me to come back to talk to the classes.  Life is good.  Just need to chill a bit.  Still got a lot of stuff in my head about last week I need to process.  But process it I will do.  And hopefully next Sunday's entry will be infinitely more interesting than today's is.

Anyway, I don't see the Hogs winning another game this season although it would be just like LSU to gag it away when they meet up in Fayetteville the day after Thanksgiving.  The Tigers are capable of that kind of bad ju-ju. 

A man can hope can't he? 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Perpetual Light

I knew it when I heard it at 5:30 Friday morning.  Nothing good ever comes by text at that hour of the morning.  I put on my glasses and fumbled for the phone.  Message from Cindy. 

"Our Angel is in Heaven."

Alicia Weimer passed away at around 4 AM.  I spoke with Ronnie before I left for work that day.  He allowed as how everybody was doing "pretty good."  After all, she had suffered greatly the last couple of weeks.  Nobody wants that for a loved one.  Better that they go on in peace rather than to exist in pain. 

She was diagnosed with the myeloma last September.  I met them on November 6th.  I had it in my head that it was sometime in October.  During one of our last conversations, Alicia wanted me to find out the exact date.  It was important to her.  I recalled that I had met them at the hospital on my way to shooting the Unity Walk for Just Communities of Arkansas.  I called ny friend Kerri who organizes the damn thing.  She confirmed it.

November 6.  We almost made it a year. 

It is hard to comprehend.  A little over a month ago we were out for dinner on Ronnie's birthday.  She had put on some makeup.  She was energized and happy.

Now this.  And so fast.  I had hoped to see her again before she passed.  But as my friend Susan said, Alicia and I had said our goodbyes that night at UAMS. 

There is that.

Tomorrow I fly to New Orleans and then head over to Thibodaux where I will pay tribute to a brave little lady who taught me a lot at a time in my life when I needed a teacher.

During our last conversation that night at UAMS, I reminded her of how we ended our first meeting, the one where all she and Ronnie knew was that some guy from Tulane named Paul was coming by.

She had taken my hands and said, "God has sent you here."

"I prefer a simpler explanation," was my response.

"You don't understand," she replied. "I need to see the hand of God in everything now."

Alicia nodded her head at the recollection of our first meeting.

"I still need to see the hand of God in everything," she said. "Even now."

It is my hope that Alicia is now face to face with the God that sustained her both in Little Rock and at the hour of her death. 

May perpetual light shine upon her. 

No MSF tomorrow. 

Talk amongst yourselves. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Vox Populi: Standing In Line At The DMV With The Newspaper Columnist

NC: " So, have you found work?"

Me: "Huh?"

NC: " Are you working?"

Me: " Yeah.  A little bit."

NC: " Like going to an office somewhere and doing stuff?"

Me: "Yes, actually I am."

NC: "Well. just wondered. It would seem weird for you not to be doing anything."

Me:  " No really.  I'm doing stuff." 

I like NC.  We're both from Mabelvale.  We have a common bond.

He gets his tags.  I get called over to get my pic made for my Driver's License.

NC: " You always got that IPad with you?"

Me: " Nope.  For example, I don't take it to church.  But I don't go to church much amymore."

NC: " So this is working out for you."

Me: " Absolutely."

He turned and walked away.

NC: " Later, brother..."

Yes I have "found work." But I don't need work.

And as I told one of my little lawyer friends who pulled me over yesterday at CLE to express his amazement that I am no longer doing what I used to do:

" I am lucky beyond measure," I said. " And I do not take my good fortune for granted." 

I am the luckiest man on this planet.  I do not take it for granted or as my due. 

But me and NC?  We did pretty good for a couple of boys from Mabelvale. 

I will brag about that. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

The literary world will once again shed a silent tear as this space goes dark today.  I have another project that I need to finish.  It allegedly will pay money. 

Talk amongst yourselves. 

Sunday, October 07, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

"Can you come over the hospital?" Ronnie said.  " We just got some terrible news." 

Alicia had been admitted to University Hospital after complaining of fever and pain in her bones that had descended upon her the day before.  Initially, it was thought that the chemo she had been given to combat the myeloma was causing the pain.  The fever, well, they didn't really know where that was coming from.  Thus began the scans and blood work that resulted in the call from the hospital a week from last Saturday. 

I had been dreading this moment from the day I met Ronnie and Alicia Weimer on that beautiful Fall day last year.  Although she went into partial remission on at least two occasions, cancer is awfully scary stuff despite being treated for it at one of best places in the world for treatment of multiple myeloma. 

Since starting the chemo last November she had been through a sinus infection that hospitalized her back home in Thibodaux.  She developed a weird rash all over her body.  She got pneumonia.  She still had a trace of that in her lungs when they returned to Little Rock last month.  Still, she seemed to be doing fairly well on this trip.  3 weeks ago we celebrated Ronnie's birthday at Cafe Laredo with some of their other Little Rock friends.  But a week or so ago back in the RV park where they like to stay she woke up  with severe pain in her back and ribs. 

I don't know much about cancer.  But I had a bad feeling about this bone pain stuff.

Alicia was sitting up in her bed when I got there.  I put my arm around their daughter Cindy.  Ronnie came over and shook my hand.

"Go sit over there," he said, pointing to the spot he had vacated. " You need to talk with my sweetie."  He left the room. 

I stood over her bad and took both her hands. 

"What's going on?" I asked.

"Please sit down."

I sat down by her bed.  She took my hand.  Cindy, the daughter,  covered her mouth and left the room.

"We got some tough news tonight.  Although they can't say for sure until some of the other scans come in, they believe that the myeloma is everywhere in my system now."

"Oh God," I said. "I am so sorry."  I couldn't think of anything else to say.  How inadequate. 

"I need you to help me make some decisions."

"Me?  I'm just a lawyer.  You need to talk to your family."

"I will.  But you're a good listener.  You're good at helping people with problems.  And at this point, you're family."

"OK.  I'll do my best."

She looked over my shoulder out the window.  Over across Markham where the church steeples peek through the trees of Pulaski Heights.  She always did like looking at the trees.  Much different look than back home in Thibodaux.  After a bit she returned her eyes to mine. 

" They can try another type of chemo.  But it's pretty toxic and I would have to do it here.  Maybe it would buy me a little more time.  Maybe I would die in Little Rock.  It's pretty clear that this thing is going to do me in.  I want to spend as much time with my family as I can while I still feel pretty good.  If they can't fix me at UAMS I can't be fixed.  And I don't want to die in Little Rock.  What do you think, Paul?"

I was struck by her serenity.  I was in the presence of the holy.  It took me awhile to find my voice.

"If they can't fix you here you can't be fixed.  If I were you I would go see those grandbabies."

She rolled over and looked at the ceiling.  Silently, she nodded her head.  Ronnie came back in.  I got up. He took my seat.

I took her hand as I walked by her bed.

"I will see you again," I said.  "And not ..." I pointed to Heaven. Not that I am much of a candidate for entry there.  But she grasped my larger geographical metaphor.

"Good," she said.  "I love you."

"I love you too."

As I left I noticed she and Ronnie were holding hands.  Just as they have since they were young sweethearts. 

The test results confirmed the doctor's preliminary guess.  There is a mass on her pelvis.  It is "active and growing."  The fluid they drained from around her lungs is full of myeloma.  There is no use.  It's time for Alicia to go home. 

I visited with everybody the day before they left.  By then her 3 sons had arrived to help her make her decision.  I allowed as how Alicia must have felt good about going home.

"It's bittersweet," she said. " We came to like Little Rock.  It's such a beautiful place.  So different from home. We made new friends.  Everybody has been so good to us.  Here at UAMS.  The Methodists and the Baptists came to see us.  It's bittersweet."

Ronnie announced that he and the boys were heading back to Maumelle to boil shrimp and drink beer.  This seemed like a perfectly Louisiana thing to do under the circumstances.  He gave me a hug before he left.

"I'm going to miss you, my buddy," he said, with tears in his eyes.

"I'm going to miss you too."  And with that he left.

Alicia and Cindy were staring at each other.

"What?" I said.

"Ronnie Weimer does not hug men," Alicia said.

" I'll be damned," I said. "I'm honored.  I guess."

It's cool.  What happens in Little Rock stays in Little Rock.  

Cindy will keep me posted.  I hope to see her Mom again before things get really bad.  As they will.  And I hope that I am granted just a small measure of the strength and courage possessed by Alicia Weimer when my time is at hand. 

I miss my Louisiana friends already but  I thank God for the privilege of this past year.

And that holy conversation by Alicia's bed that Saturday night.

But like the lady said.  It's bittersweet.