Episode 018 - Too Old For This

Earlier this month, I told a story at the Austin Public Library’s live storytelling event. This whole project is having the desired effect of making me more comfortable with public speaking, and storytelling themes are a fun way to have a built-in writing prompt. I highly recommend it as a creative outlet!

We have two more episodes almost complete. As always, please rate and review us in iTunes, and if you have a story you’d like to share with us or you’d like to be interviewed about a transformative experience in you life, let us know! i’m at rod@rodhaden.com.

Our theme song is “Start Again” by Monk Turner + Fascinoma.

Here’s the transcript:

So I am definitely way too old for this. Deep in a dark cave, with my heart pounding, and my lungs burning, and my limbs weak and shaky, I know, with absolute certainty, that I am going to have a heart attack at the age of 42 and die. And the rangers will have to come and fetch my body. And my son is going to be traumatized for life and have nightmares about dark, narrow spaces. And children who will never know my name will whisper stories about me over campfires: The Ghost of Enchanted Rock!

And actually, I didn’t die in that hole, so don’t be scared. It’s October, and Halloween is coming, but this is not actually a ghost story.

When my son was born, I became a stay-at-home dad. I quit my job, and I spent all my time with him. We went everywhere together. We did everything together. But as he started to get older and went from a baby to a toddler to a preschooler to an elementary school kid, I got more and more depressed. He went to school, and I didn’t know how to get back into the workforce. I didn’t know how to represent that time on a resume. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. So because I didn’t know what to do with myself, I did nothing. I would drop him off at school, and I would go home and go back to bed. And I drank heavily, every day.And my marriage that wasn’t exactly rock solid to begin with, started picking up speed on its downhill race towards divorce.

So when my son was 7, and I found myself with him on top of Enchanted Rock, I was not in great shape spiritually, emotionally, and definitely not physically. I can tell you, it is a long, steep walk up that rock when you’re 50 pounds overweight and you have not exactly been keeping up with the cardio. So I was already spent when he noticed a little wooden sign that says, “Cave Entrance.” So I thought, “Well, let’s go check it out,” but it wasn’t like a cave. It was a hole in the ground, about two feet wide. And I thought, “Well, that can’t be it.” But a group of about 10 or 15 high school age kids came by. They were with a church group, and they started disappearing into the hole, one by one.

And my son said, “Dad! Dad! Can we go in the cave too, Dad? Can we go?” And I thought, “Oh, shit.” I had been a Boy Scout, so I had a flashlight with me, you know, “Be Prepared,” so I couldn’t use that excuse, but I started thinking, “What if I lose him down there? What if he slips and falls and breaks a bone? Or what if I do? His mother was already pretty annoyed with me at this point, and if I lost her son or brought him back in several pieces, it was not going to be good for the marriage.

But I had never discouraged him from trying new things and finding out what he was capable of, and I didn’t want him to grow up terrified of the world and all the many ways that it could hurt him. So I said, “Sure, buddy. Let’s go.” And we went down into that hole after those kids.

And he wanted to be the one to hold the flashlight, so I put the wrist strap on his wrist, and he was just bursting with pride and excitement. And I was the best dad in the whole world.

And then he scrambled off like a monkey, going after those older kids that were surging through that cave, and I was left in the dark. And I couldn’t see where to put my hands or my feet, and I was not the best dad in the world. I was just the biggest idiot.

But I managed to reel him back in with my voice. He came back, and he shined the light for me, and we worked our way through together. There was a lot of climbing and sliding and crawling. It was a very narrow, slippery space. And he kept calling out, “Hey guys! Wait up!” to those older kids. He is an only child, and he’s very sociable, and he very much wanted to be on their team. So I tried. I tried to go faster. But my heart was pounding in my ears, and I was drenched in a cold sweat, and that’s when I knew, I was not going to make it out of that hole. We were too far from the entrance to go back, I had no idea how far it was to an exit, and I did not have very much more left in me.

But at that moment, we heard one of the high school kids say, “Hey look, a light!” Thank God! And we came around the corner, and sure enough, there’s a gap in the rocks, and the sunshine is shining through, and all those kids have kind of bottlenecked at the exit, waiting their turn to climb out. So my son got to catch up with the kids at the back of the line and chat, and reminisce over the gave and go over every inch and remember every nook and cranny, and I heard him say, “Yeah, that wasn’t so hard.”

So no, I was not too old for this. But I was too far down a dark, deep hole of my own. And I started to climb back out. And within a couple of months, I quit drinking. I got back on track with the exercise. And within about half a year, I had accepted that my marriage was over, and I got a job and an apartment, and I started living again.

So my son, now he’s 11. When we go back to Enchanted Rock, which we do a couple times a year now, he encourages the people that we find there that are almost too scared to try. They stand on the edge of that hole, and they look down, doubting themselves, and it’s almost like he’s talking to that other version of me when he tells them, “It’s not that scary! You can do it. Come on, we’ll do it together. I’ll show you!” And he does.

Episode 004 - The Quiet Man

Rod Haden

I hope you're all having a wonderful holiday season! I certainly am. Time is flying and my days are packed. This week we have a conversation with my father, Rudy Haden, a man who has fascinated me ever since I was a wee lad. He's that special kind of quiet that invites others to project onto him whatever they want him to be. Getting him to open up about his past, present, and future, and what he thinks and feels about all 3 was a very special treat for me. I've known the man for 45 years and heard some stories when we talked that I have never heard before. He is my role model for what it means to be a man, a father, and husband, and though we are very different from each other, I couldn't have asked for a better teacher. Thanks, Dad!

Transcript:

I don’t move around very good. I’m in pain quite a bit. It comes and goes. It comes and goes. Some days it’s worse; some days it’s not. It doesn’t seem to depend on how much exercise I get. Some days it’s painful to exercise; sometimes it’s not.

I sit and try to meditate, and it does nothing for me, but when I’m really quiet, or when I’m just totally listening to music, it’s like somebody plants knowledge into my head. I know and I understand things, which I had no idea before. So my meditation is basically checking out and listening to music.

Early on in our marriage, I was in an apprenticeship program, tool and die maker. I had to really concentrate at work. And it’s not easy for me to relate to other people, but I really worked on the journeymen. I would constantly hang around them, and ask them questions, and ask them the best way to do stuff, and I got in as I guess a favorite pupil with about 3 or 4 of them.

So that when I’d come home, I was exhausted, and I would lay down on the floor and play a Beethoven record or something with earphones on, and Robbie would get so pissed off at me because she was making dinner and taking care of the kids, and I was checked out. She didn’t understand that that’s the way I did my meditation.

I’ve been in and out of a lot of churches. My parents were married in a… I can’t think of the religion right now. Reverend Grace. I remember the name of the preacher that married them, and that was there. The guy wore a collar, but he wasn’t a Catholic. But he was deaf. He ministered to the deaf people. He was deaf himself.

He was in the deaf community, and in the basement of his church is where they held all the deaf fraternity meetings.It was based on the Masons. Only it was all deaf men. It was called the Frat. That was what my mom and dad called it. The Frat. We’re going to the Frat. When they went to Frat, the women all sat outside in the waiting room. The kids played on the floor. And when the big meeting was over, they’d throw the doors open, and everybody would go in and have a big social event.

And then my mother’s side of the family was deep into the Reform Christian Church, and I went to a lot of Bible schools and Sunday schools and stuff in that until I was about 3rd or 4th grade. And then I felt like I needed to get hooked up with different churches, so I went to a Methodist church, I went to a holy roller church with a friend, and I went to a couple of Catholic services. As a teen. None of that stuff stuck with me. 

Just because there was so much religion on my mother’s side of the family, I don’t know, I just felt like I was supposed to do it. In order to be accepted by them, I should have a church, but I never could find one. And I came away from it having no respect for organized religion because the main thing they wanted, no matter what it was, they wanted money up front. Seemed like everything was driven by the collection plate. If you were a big donor, you got a lot of attention. If you weren’t, you didn’t get much. And that’s what really turned me off. 

My dad was born on the farm in Kansas, and he was sent to the Kansas State Home for the Deaf and Blind. My dad was born deaf, they think because in the early days when they had the traveling doctors going around the frontier and the farms and stuff, my grandmother evidently had a lot of morning sickness, and the doctor prescribed quinine. Well, later on they found that quinine did stuff to the unborn child. 

My mom came over on the boat from Holland witH her mother. And my mother, we don’t know if she was born that way, or it was some kind of sickness or something that she got in Holland or on the boat or what, but ever since she was a baby, she was deaf. Then my mother was, because she was deaf mute, she was sent off to the school in Colorado Springs.

The strange thing is that the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind insisted that deaf people learn to lip read and speak, and so my mother was pretty good at lip reading and speaking. And they were discouraged from using sign language, so if you compare the deaf people now that use sign language to the old people that use sign language, now it’s all really broad and all over the place, and the older people, their signs are all close in and secretive about it, where now they’re just flamboyant about it. Their signs are all over the place. 

And my dad, the Kansas School for the Deaf and Blind weren’t that way. They were teaching them to do stuff and sign language and be able to be self-sufficient. 

See, in my dad’s side of the family, all the people learned sign language, the hearing and the non-hearing. So I had no idea whether they were hearing, any memory of whether they were hearing or not. On my mom’s side of the family, I had one uncle that learned the deaf sign language, learned the deaf alphabet, and he could do that. He was the only one that made any effort to sign to my mother. All her other brothers and sisters didn’t because she had been sent to school, and they were told that she was to learn to lip read, and so they would talk to her. But the thing of it is, it’s really easy to ignore somebody like that, because all you do is turn away. Turn around, they can’t see your signs. They can’t read your lips. So, whenever there was an argument or something, it was easy just to walk away from that.

My dad’s family had a big get-together once every summer. They came from all over the place. They were Kansas, Nebraska, western Colorado, and they’d have these big, long picnics on the weekend, and there were aunts and uncles and cousins. I didn’t even know all the cousins I had. But I never just seemed to fit in.

He worked in a factory. He started out in a printing shop, a paper cutter. Cutting stuff for the print shop. Then ended up in Shwayder Bros./Samsonite, cutting stuff for the suitcases and plastic tops of card tables and chairs. And my mom worked there on the assembly line putting stuff together. And my Uncle Jim and Aunt Julia also worked in the same factory. Shwayder Bros. hired a lot of, I guess what they called the handicapped people. 

Clarence, he was a rancher. He raised horses, and at one time he had a riding stable up on Lookout Mountain just above Denver. And they had 2 boys, and the youngest one, John, he had a pinto pony named Ruben. And they taught me how to ride. And I could put the bridle on Ruben, lead him over to the fence, they had a rail fence, and I’d climb up the rail fence and get on him. And I was, what, 5 years old.

John would go off hunting. He’d go out, he had a rifle, and he’d go out shooting magpies. I had no idea what magpies were. I was determined I was going to follow him one day and see where he was going, and I’d see these cow patties in various places, you know. So I thought cow patties were magpies, and cousin John shot them. I couldn’t have been 4 or 5 years old. And then he, one time he put his rifle in, we had a, there was a kind of a mud room entrance to the farmhouse, and he left his rifle leaned up against the thing, and he had a thing in the chamber, and I went up there and was messing with it, and I inadvertently pulled the trigger. And it shot a hole in the roof. My Uncle Clarence was really pissed off at John for doing that.

My bed was in this big room where the radio was. There was no TV in those days. It was during the war. World War II. I remember there was a big old tree in the backyard. When I wanted to get away, I’d just climb up in that tree and sit up there all by myself. Could see the whole neighborhood. 

I don’t remember when I realized that there was a hearing world and a deaf world. You never knew. I mean, you could talk to some people, and you had to sign to some people, and some people were talking and signing, and you know, there was no distinguishment. And a lot of the deaf people could read lips. I don’t know when I realized that. I suppose it happened to me some time in high school when, you know how high school gets. How clannish and cliquish it is, and some kids are favored by the teachers, and some aren’t. I realized I was different. During high school, I was really aware of it because people would kind of shy away from me. If I tried to be friendly with somebody, they wouldn’t necessarily because I was a child of dummies. That’s what deaf people were called in those days. They were deaf and dumb. The deaf and dumb part came from deaf and dumb, couldn’t speak. But the dummy part carried on as not being intelligent.

And then in high school, I don’t ever, in junior high or any of those, I don’t ever remember having a parent-teacher conversation. Nobody ever, none of my teachers ever contacted my parents, even when I wouldn’t do my homework or my grades were down. There was nothing. They just passed me along. And in high school, I signed up to take a Spanish class, and I was discouraged. I should take English. I was going to sign up to take some math classes, and I was discouraged. I was to take a general math class where the big thing was to learn how to write a check and keep a bank account and pay your taxes. There was none of that geometry stuff. I didn’t get hooked on that stuff until my senior year in high school. I finally got into an algebra class. 

And I hated high school. I just didn’t fit. Didn’t know how to talk to girls. I had no experience with girls. When friends come over, it was really awkward. If somebody came home with me, it was really, really awkward because of my parents. My parents would try to be friendly with them, but they didn’t know how to deal with it. And so they just dealt with me away from my house.

I really got big into leatherwork because I had an Industrial Arts teacher, Mr. Landon was… he taught Print Shop, Leather Shop, and Woodworking. And I took all those courses. Originally I thought I was going to be an Industrial Arts teacher, then I thought about getting a degree to be able to become a forest ranger, but there was no way. I couldn’t figure out how in the hell I was going to go to college to do that. Although it was a lot easier to go to college in those days than it is now. The costs weren’t so damn much. 

 And I was really into skiing, through the Boy Scouts. Some of us in the neighborhood learned to ski. It was scary in the beginning until I learned to parallel ski. Once I got out of the snowplow thing. I got fairly good at parallel. I never was Olympic quality, but I could do alright. I just loved the freedom. Just felt free. Riding up to the top of the mountain and letting go. And then after I got out of the Navy, I really went into it for a couple of years. In fact, that’s how I met Ruth, my first wife. We met through a friend, and she was really impressed with my skiing. I took her skiing every weekend. She was really into that. And then somehow we ended up getting married.

I really got into skiing, and it was a really good friend that we skied with a lot. And he said he was going to join the Navy. At that time when you turned 18, you were eligible for the draft, so I turned 18 in 1955, and that was right between the Korean War and the Vietnam War, that period. His argument was, “If we join the Navy before we turn 18, we get out on our 21st birthday. Plus the Navy will send us to school.” He laid it out, you know, that we were going to end up getting drafted for 2 years anyway, and there was this opportunity, and I felt, “Yeah, this is a good idea.” It wasn’t all that analytical, it was it felt right. And so I did it. So we joined the Navy. We took tests and everything, and both of us qualified as machinists.

Yeah, I was out in ‘58. I rejoined in ‘61. I was out for 3 years.

I remember going and applying for this one job, and the guy interviewed me and said, “No, you’re too young. You couldn’t do all that.” And then that was the end of the interview. He didn’t believe me. And at the same time, I was going to night school, it was late ‘50s and early ‘60s recession. And you’d work for 3 months, and you’d get laid off. And you’d work for 3 months and get laid off. 

And then when I had such a hard time with all the on again, off again jobs, and I don’t know how I found out the Navy came up with a need for my particular skill. When I got out the first time, I was a second class petty officer, and they… I found out that I could go back in as a second class petty officer, got assigned to a ship in San Diego. We started, originally it was all those old diesel boats, and we worked on those all the time. And then the nuclear subs started to come in. Some of us were cleared to work on the nuclear subs.

So then I was going to make a career out of it. And I just remember getting a call, the piping over the com. And I just remember, “Petty Officer First Class Haden, report to the quarterdeck!” And I thought, “Oh crap! What have I done now?” I go up there, and a guy hands me, you know, he served me with separation papers, and I opened them up and looked at them, and it was, you know, legal language about… I showed the officer, and I said, “I don’t know what to do about this.” And he said, “Well, the first thing you ought to do is get a hold of the chaplain.” 

I knew things weren’t really good with us, but I didn’t think they were that bad. It was a real slap in the face getting served. I was just dumbfounded. “I don’t know what to do now? What?” I had to ask some officer who was probably a lieutenant junior grade or something and was probably 23 years old or something, you know, “What do I do now?”

So I made an appointment with the chaplain and talked to him, and then he got her and me into counseling. And it broke down and went to divorce. It was really traumatic. I had no idea what to do. I was at a loss. And that chaplain gave me options what to do. “Well, you can just not contest it and let her have the kids and stay in the Navy.” And I thought, “Crap, I’ve seen too many of those guys. I ain’t going to be one of them. I want a relationship with my children.” He just gave me all these different options to think about. If it’s something physical, like a computer or a computer program or a piece of machinery or a car or building or something like that, I’m very analytical. But when it comes to feelings and interactions with people, I’m more intuitive. One of my big things that I’ve known over the years is that when a door opens, you look to see whether you want to go through that door or not, whether it feels right or not, and that’s pretty much the way I’ve gone. From being a piecemeal machinist to a maintenance machinist to a tool and die maker to a numerical control programmer to a software developer, and that’s where I was until I retired. But all of those were, a door opened and I went through. There was no analytical thing about it. Did it feel right? Yeah, that felt like it was a good thing to do. 

And then when the divorce happened, I had already... You know, I was committed for another 4 years. And the padre, the chaplain, said, “You know, you could file for custody. If you get custody, you could get an honorable discharge for hardship.” And I just felt like, “Am I good enough to be a father to those kids?” And I just had the feeling, “Yeah, you can do this, but it ain’t going to happen anyway, but what the hell. Go for it.” And I’ll be damned if it didn’t happen. And I thought, “Oh crap. Now what do I do?” At that time, Harold had just gotten a divorce, and he was a single father with 2 kids. He had this big house. And he said, “You could come live with me, and we’ll help each other out.” And so we did. 

And it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. But at the time, more than resistant to it, I was confused by it, scared of it. What am I going to do now? What am I going to do with the kids that I love so much? I had heard so many terrible things about split families, you know, kids bouncing back and forth and back and forth, loyalties, mothers saying bad things about the father and the father saying bad things about the mother, that at one point I thought that if I ever have to get divorced, then I’ll just let go of the kids, not be in their life. Well that was dumb-headed. I realize that now. Just so many things happened there that I had no clue. I had no idea what I was doing. Just taking it a day at a time.

And then when I got out of the Navy the second time, because I worked on nuclear submarines, I had a top, not a Top Secret, but a Secret clearance, so when I came out, I went to Rocky Flats, which was the big nuclear plant. They made triggers for the atomic bomb. And I applied there, and they said, “Well, it’s probably going to take about 6 months to get your clearance through the FBI.” 3 weeks later, I got a call says, “You’re hired.” 

I was a maintenance machinist. We just went around fixing pumps and stuff, generators. And they opened up an apprenticeship, and I was close to 40 years old. The cutoff date was 40. And I took the test, I went into the interviews and took all the tests and everything they gave us, and there were 2 of us that were picked for the apprenticeship, and I went into that. So I went into the tool and die shop, and that’s where they made all the tooling and everything for the equipment, the nuclear stuff. It was all classified stuff.

Well, when I got… finished my apprenticeship, I became a journeyman, and I worked nights. But during that time, they brought in a milling machine that was numerically controlled, and all those old journeymen, they had no clue about that thing, so I really jumped on that, and I learned all about how to manually program it. And so whenever they wanted to put something on there, why, I was assigned to do it. They had other numerically controlled machines all through the plant. Well, there was an opening there for a programmer, and I applied for it and got it. And in the meantime, during that time I had taken some nighttime college courses on FORTRAN and drafting programs through The University of Colorado.

You know, you get out of marriage and everything, and all you’ve got is work and little kids, and you just figure you need something else. That dating thing was not analytical. That was totally gut. I kept seeing it in the paper and throwing it away, seeing it in the paper and throwing it away. And I read it and thought, “Aw, what the hell. I’ll try it.” And I was ready to give up on that because I had 2 or 3 bad dates. I remember going and walking down the steps into her garden level apartment. And opening that door, and thought, “OK, this is a good one.” And we went out, and the rest is history.

It was such a whirlwind. We were going to get married at 6 months or something. I didn’t think it was right to get married right away. The divorce wouldn’t even be final until March. So then we thought, “OK, in the summer. No, let’s get married in June. How about Spring Break?” And I thought, “My God, this is soon!” But I’ve been following her lead for years. I just know that it sure as hell worked out. Here we are, almost 50 years later. 

When Mom and I met, she was determined that she had found me and that I was the guy, and she was going to marry me, and I had just 2 years ago gotten out of a marriage. I didn’t even know who the hell I was. I had 2 little kids, was living with my brother in his basement, and your Mom was determined we were going to get married, and she was going to have 2 kids. And then we got married, and she was determined she was going to have her own kid. And then she had her own kid, and then she determined that she wanted another one. In those days, it was all the hippie thing, you know. You replenish yourself. So I’d already, I was the husband and a wife, and we had a boy and a girl, so when I got married again, I said, “OK. One more, for Robbie.” But then she was Empty Arm Syndrome or something, and she was determined she was going to have you. And so we had you. Best thing in the world.

After I worked at Rocky Flats for 7 years, I got laid off because they were cutting back, cutting back on nuclear bombs and everything. So they had to cut back on the staff, and they ended up closing Rocky Flats because it was so contaminated. For a long time, I had to go in and be monitored by medical once a year because I was exposed to americium and some other chemicals I don’t remember. I’d go in, and they’d take blood. I was exposed, but I was never contaminated, so I was alright. 

I knew that if I was just a piecemeal machinist, I’d be doing that 3 months on, 3 months off thing for the rest of my life and never getting out of debt. And so I just followed the path. I knew that I had, because the layoff from Rocky Flats, the Bomb Factory, I was back in that mode of working in small shops for short periods of time. And I knew that I was going to get into numerical control. I wanted to. But my goal was the eastern boundary of Colorado, anything west, and the southern boundary of Colorado, anything north. And all I kept getting was this crap in Texas! And they kept offering to bring us down here for a weekend, for a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and put us up. And I thought, “Well, what the hell. It’s an opportunity to get out and spend the weekend on somebody else’s dime.” And I came down here, and I was interested. They were interested in me.

Because I worked so hard at it. I spent a lot of time self-educating. The computer has been the best damn thing in my life. Although I got a lot of enjoyment out of my kids. Just enjoying watching you do things and try things and being assistant coach for your soccer team and watching Rik at swim meets. I was a timer and a stroke judge, and I also shot the gun. Starter. It was either sit in that stupid tent, or else go out and participate. Mom just really enjoyed sitting there, and I enjoyed watching how the thing worked and keeping track of Rik’s times.

Yeah. I got involved in Scouts because of you. They fill out those papers, and I’d very carefully fill them out so that I didn’t raise any flags to where they’d want me to do something, and then when you guys went into Webelos, I said, “OK, I can do it for a year,” and the next thing I knew, I was a Scoutmaster. I seemed to get all the misfits. We had some strange kids in our troop. 

One of my favorite memories is that Ford Escort you had, when I taught you how to put new brakes on it. We went through one wheel together, and then I showed you how to do it, and then I said, “OK, you’re on your own now.” And then watched you do it on your own. It was big. 

Ruth was a very outgoing person. Early on, her dad was a senior forest ranger, and it entailed being lots of parties and groups and cocktail parties. And it’s pretty much the same with Mom now, Robbie. I’m just also-ran. I just tag along. We go into groups, and she’s willing to talk to anybody, and I have a hard, hard time. Especially with people I don’t know. I can open up like to you. I can have a conversation with you, or I can have a conversation with Rik. You get into a group of people like Rik’s New Years or Christmas when he has people over, I have a hard time talking to those people. Some of them I can talk to because I know them, but I can’t talk very long. I don’t know what to say. My brain just does not work that way. I’m very very shy. I had a hard time in my jobs too. I just never really fit into those kind of groups.

But the thing of it is, my brother Harold went through the same experience, and he didn’t have any trouble. My cousin Jimmy and my cousin Elaine. Man, Elaine was really into it. I mean, she could talk sign language with the fastest of them. And I couldn’t. I could tell that people automatically slowed down when they talked to me, and I would say, “What?” a lot, and they would spell it out, and then I would understand what the sign was. But deaf people don’t like to spell things out. And so, it was easy for me to check out because if you’re not looking at somebody and reading their signs, you’re not conversing with them. So you’re looking over here. They’re signing, and you’re not paying attention. And it’s a cop out, and I realize it now, 70 years later.

If I had nothing in common with, I’m at a loss. Walk up, you know, Robbie can talk to store clerks and have conversations, and I don’t know what the hell to say other than, “Have a good day.” I don’t know how to deal with those kinds of situations.

My mom was good at it. And my dad too, just talking to people. My dad carried a little pad of paper and a pencil in his shirt pocket, and he had no qualms at whipping that sucker out and writing, talking to people. And my mom would talk to them and try to read their lips. Biggest problem she had was that once people learned that she was reading their lips, they would exaggerate everything, and she couldn’t understand it.

Best thing I ever did was get hooked up with your mom. She’s given me so much love and stability. We still have our rough edges. Mostly it’s me not talking to her enough. That’s because she’s lost all her friends in Dallas. It’s become more important to her to be more interactive with me. I have to cope with it. One of the things is, this iPhone here, I couldn’t live without it. See that? 10:30? This one here. 10:30. It’s my alarm clock. It means “Get up and talk.” When I get up out of bed, it’s time to get up out of bed, because I slept in as long as she will tolerate, and I have to talk. Sometimes I just go on down the hall, saying, “I’m walking, and I’m talking. I’m walking, and I’m talking.” And then we’ll get in a conversation, but sometimes it doesn’t work out. This one here says, “Get up for PT” which is physical therapy, “and talk, and have a happy face.” Because she’s convinced that those girls will work harder with me if I have a happy face with them. The therapists. So that’s how I’m learning to cope with that stuff.

Big thing that we have is that she’s the balloon, and I hold onto her string. I keep her grounded. But every now and then, I have to kind of float with her. To keep me in the world. Not let me crawl in a hole. To give me love.  And it works. It works for us.

In Richardson after the stroke, I was pretty much isolated, just me and Robbie and my therapists, and the therapy ran out. Robbie over the years before that had been talking about someday we need to move to Austin to be with our kids and grandkids, you know. And then when I was in in-house rehab, I just realized that maybe that’s what we ought to do. And then it was a whirlwind.

I had nothing more there. She had all her friends and her contacts and her woo woo stuff was all up in that whole area up there. When we came down here, she had a, she’s still having a rough time, but she had a really rough time in the beginning, mostly with the driving thing. Over the years, I’ve had to map things out for her. And I still do that. I map out where she wants to go. I’m really proud of her, because she’s got to where she’s really moving around a lot.

Big events in my week are physical therapy, and now that’s about to stop and I have to do it on my own. I have to force myself to do it. It’s too easy to blow off. Mom will say, “Let’s go to lunch,” and I blow the rest of the afternoon off, which means I don’t do the exercises I should. I’ve got to do it, got to get myself on a regimen. You know the old saying, “Use it or lose it?” With me it’s really true. If I don’t do it, I’ll lose it. My walking is worse than it was 6 months ago. Although I try. I just don’t seem to be able to get the rhythm good enough, fast enough. And Robbie’s really patient with me. She just walks along at a slow crawl, either behind me or by my side.

She does a lot for me. She’s walking a narrow line about doing stuff for me and not doing stuff for me. She has to decide what I really need her to do and what I can do on my own. I try to do my own laundry, but she’s pretty much grabbed a hold of that. When she hears me kicking the bucket down the hall, she runs out and grabs it and does it, but she leaves the shirts and pants for me to hang up, which I can do. I can fold the other stuff, too, but she has a need to do something. So it’s a fine line on what she wants to do and what she wants me to do.

I’ve had a couple of times since I stroked. I thought my family would be better off without me, but then I realized that’s not true. Robbie would not be better off without me, even though she has to do so much of the physical part of it. I still keep track of the finances and when things need to be paid, the mortgage and utilities, and I give her moral support. I keep reminding her that she needs friends, and she needs to make them. She’s found a couple of lady friends that she really likes that she has coffee with on Wednesdays but I really wish she could find a clan. I just have to keep reminding her that she needs to look and not give up on it. So I can’t give up. I still got to hold that string.

The biggest thing is that she got all her talking and communication with all those people she had up north, and now she depends on me to do it, and it’s difficult for me. I try hard to do it, but it doesn’t satisfy her needs. People project onto me that I’m stuck up and antisocial. It’s not true. I just don’t know how to be social. It sounds like a cop out, you don’t know how. Of course you should know how. I read all kinds of books on how to do it. I can’t do it.

I don’t know if I can pinpoint things. It’s just a path. Some of it’s rocky and some of it’s grassy and easy going, and some of it’s a struggle to climb up, but I’m just on this path. Hadens are resilient. I don’t know whether it’s in genes or whatever the hell it is. It’s there. My next goal is make it to 85. Try to talk to my wife whenever I can. Enjoy my kids and grandchildren. I’m satisfied with my life.

 I don’t know how you’ll make sense out of any of that.