Muhammad Ali died last week. The entire world grieved. But, there are some who still call him a “draft dodger” and the “Louisville Lipp” and even worse, Cassius Clay.
It’s the last one that shows an utter lack of respect.
Ali was a polarizing person, and for some, he never won anyone over.
I am not comparing myself with Ali in any way, but in many ways, of any public person, I can relate. You can struggle with public perception, or ignore it at great risk. Most people wouldn’t do some of the things I’ve done- choose to run for political office, not just once, but many times, even after repeatedly losing, being rejected. Wear a mask in a city commission meeting to protest a planned blackout of the media when the public came to speak, yell “fuck you” at a pompous minister holding a political rally in a church when he shuts your microphone off, go back to the next political rally and get herded off the property by three police officers (yet to be written about- it happened Monday).
And few people would step into a boxing ring, and onto a global stage, to be recognized for pummeling your opponent within inches of their life. With what we now know about CTE- Chronic traumatic encephalopathy we should all wonder why boxing is still a “sport.”
Ali reached beyond boxing. He made people think. He was unique, one of a kind, and charismatic.
We like our heroes that way. But, there is a limit on how many heroes there can be. And even our imaginary “super heroes” have struggles. It’s what makes them interesting. Peter Parker and his personal struggle to fit in, Superman attempting to be Clark Kent, Batman with his secrets. Ali had his flaws, took “wrong positions” on occasion, but still, by all measure, it will be a long time before the world forgets him.
There are those of you who read this blog religiously, a few, that comment a lot, some that hate it, hate me, and would have no problem hanging me like I hang basketball nets, to shut me up. There are few people in this community who can walk up to a microphone and be hissed at, booed, or chided before they even open their mouths. For the most part, we will allow fools to be elected who do insanely stupid things- and still give them respect. For me, maybe instead of Ali, many of you think I model Rodney Dangerfield – of “I can’t get no respect” fame. Last night at the orchestrated three ring circus for public display of Dayton Public Schools superintendents (post and video to follow) I was heckled for asking an DPS administrator who has been with the district for a year, to name all 28 principals and their schools for the audience and to acknowledge their presence. Later, someone told me they disagreed with me, thinking it was an unfair “test.” I wonder how someone can be paid close to six figures, sit on the administrative cabinet in an organization that he thinks he’s fit to lead from the brink of destruction back to glory, to show that he’s made the effort to learn and know the people that he’s leading now. Others thought the question was right on the mark- but as always, only say it quietly in passing, not with a public declaration- like applause for asking the tough questions.
It’s easy to be a quiet cheerleader. It’s hard to be the only one who is willing to point out that the guy has the least experience in the field by far, and that there are internal candidates who not only have a four times more experience, but could name all of the people, and who would be the best person to promote in each building if all 28 left tomorrow.
But I’m the bad guy. Going up to ask the last candidate a question, the rabble roused and it almost wasn’t worth asking the question that I believed those very same people needed to hear- to evaluate the third candidate, Mr. Lilly White cheerleader- “We’ve had problems with violence and fights at athletic events, our community has argued about police presence at these events, what alternatives, or out of the box thinking are you going to bring to this district?” His answers were almost tone deaf, a too drunk girl with an Oakwood swimmer deaf to use a horrible timely analogy, “more or different police.” The same people who were heckling, now knew that this candidate was probably not the one they wanted, but, lord, they wouldn’t have asked that question- only I would have, for them. But I still suck.
Sucking is what life hands you. There is the old expression, when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. Right now, for those of you who are friends on Facebook, you know I’ve been dealt a truckload of lemons. I’m an only child. My parents were old when they had me. Dad is 89, mom 88. Since January, my mother has been slipping into dementia. My father, from who this acorn hasn’t fallen far from the tree, has more medical conditions than Dayton has vacant houses. If you ever wonder why I’m so adamantly against smoking– it’s because I watched my father kill himself with Player’s unfiltered cigs, three packs a day up until his first heart attack at 47- where he was given 5 years to live. He’s outlived the doctor who told him that by at least 30 years, despite him being a younger, healthy doc. And the “Carlton low tar” smokes that he switched to for the next 10 years before he finally quit. That we used to rate a cigarette as “best” for you back in the day, shows how stupid the masses can be- that we still sell them, despite being proven to have monumental health costs that are spread among all of us- is inconceivable to me, or anyone rational.
If there is one thing I’ve learned, we live in an irrational world.
I’m sure someone else famous has said that, but I’m not going to look it up. If I am to be remembered, that might be one of the statements I’d like to own.
That was a sidetrack, back to my parents. Mom has almost always managed dad’s food well, to deal with his diabetes, his COPD, and other ailments, carefully avoiding too much sodium, and managing sugar and carbs. However, with her diminished mental acuity, she started slipping- instead of sugar free chocolate pudding- Hershy’s full sugar pudding slipped onto the shelf of her pantry, instead of her low sodium stew- Dinty Moore, with half the daily sodium count was being served. His legs from the knees down became ulcerated, he started retaining water, returning the hydrocele from hell that we had “cured” last year with the potentially life ending risky hernia repair. A trip to the VA to stabilize came first- 5 days. On his return, Mom, although she’d been out to visit him daily in the hospital, and talking to him frequently on the phone, stood there and said “where have you been” as he got out of the borrowed car that I picked him up in.
Lemons hitting me like the firebombs of Dresden.
He was home for less than a week. Sunday night, she called while I was struggling with my weed wacker that was misbehaving, asking me to take him back to the hospital. I cleaned up and went across the street (knowing these days would come, long ago, I made sure my home, office and their future home were all on the same block).
He didn’t want to go to the hospital, even though he thinks the Dayton VA is better than the Cleveland Clinic. Instead, he was off to bed.
Hillary Clinton once had an ad about that call at 3am. It came at 4 am Monday, Dad had fallen, Mom called, and I rushed over. They both have the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” buttons, thanks to the Area Agency on Aging, but it’s been a struggle to get Mom to wear it- and even then, I’m not sure she’d know what it does- other than it’s a watch, that doesn’t tell time.
He was on his side, not moving, she was getting wet paper towels to put on his head, which was bleeding from what I determined was a very superficial cut. The walker was near him, this time. He’d fallen 3 times already this week, and once, the walker was at the other end of the house.
I thought about calling 911. The paramedics, the flashing lights and assessed both patients in this case. I still have vivid memories of myself at 9 years old, watching the gurney go down the stairs with my mother strapped in, unconscious from a sleeping pill overdose. She doesn’t remember if it was intentional, but, generally, when you take the whole bottle, conclusions are drawn. I didn’t want my mothers final memory of my once proud strong father being of him carried out on a stretcher. Pop got up, and slowly walkered out to the new to me car, a minivan, for the trip to the VA ER.
I never in the world thought I’d drive a minivan, but they are the ultimate old people movers.
At the VA, a nurse came out and chastised me for bringing a “trauma patient” to their ER, right in front of the said patient. He was seen immediately, CT within 20 minutes. He was their only patient that night. I later, upon returning from picking up his hearing aids (and forgetting his teeth- because, for me, those things aren’t something you think of – ears and teeth still come as part of your original equipment) I pulled her aside and asked if she’d been in nursing long? And then telling her that despite her 25+ years experience, she seems to have forgotten to not run up to a patient and say, “holy shit, your arms blown off” which was lesson one in my limited military medical training.
Dad will be in the hospital, or assisted living for at least a month, while he learns how to walk again on legs that don’t give him very good feedback on his body position. But, he too, is slipping into dementia, calling me on my cell to “come over to help him to the bathroom” or talking about watching Jeopardy, on the TiVo that’s in his imagination in the hospital hallway.
My parents have left the building. They are shells of their selves, one dimensional paintings of what used to be vibrant, engaging and bright souls. Much like Ali as he struggled with Parkinsons.
On top of this, I’m still managing the life of a 44 year old veteran, trying to align his care and his life into something manageable. There’s a story, with a video, about my visit to the Montgomery County Veterans Service Commission waiting to be written, but on the back burner, because of my lemonade business. I haven’t hung a basketball net in 2 weeks either, which makes me sad.
This post, weighing in at 1831 words so far, is too long, and too much. “I would have written something shorter, but I didn’t have time” comes to mind.
If you read this far, thank you, would you like to buy some of my lemonade?
It’s all I seem to have right now. Thank you for your patience and support.