“Carve out your heart for keeps in an old oak tree”

I wish I was going to start a blog about the Rockies and baseball in general. There seems to be plenty going on and I’d be lying if I said I knew much about any of it. Steroids, trades, dreams of the post season seem to reach my ear or eye but don’t resonate much further at this moment in life. So, unfortunately I won’t be writing about baseball, but I did promise to write about myself when I started this thing and baseball related or not, it’s something I’ll keep to.

My blogging dropped off for the last two weeks or so for a number of reasons and I wish I could tell you it is going to pick up with some regularity, but I can’t say that and so this post is both an explanation and an expectation of sorts to maybe save some people time in looking for me.

Recently, my family was given some devastating news that has changed my outlook on a number of things. One day I get a text from my father saying there has been some bad news and maybe I should stop in to lend support. My mother was in tears and before long I heard that my aunt had been diagnosed with cancer. They had no further information that day and driving away I hoped for a localized cancer that could be removed and treated and my 61-year-old aunt would have another 20 years to live.

One of the worst things in life for me is a mother crying. Watching mine walk in from the hospital and hearing the diagnosis days later that her sister had less than a year to live stopped me in my tracks. Suddenly things like baseball didn’t seem so important. Tracking down a score or hoping the home team wouldn’t trade away a player faded. A favorite movie of mine came to mind and the lead actor says why are you crying for Mickey Mantle? Mickey Mantle don’t care about you. There’s a truth behind that and my own worries of baseball or bills or a job seemed minor and insignificant.

Here I was faced with the idea of talking with someone who had just been given a death sentence and trying to act normal. What was normal?

I’ve known a great amount of tragedy in my life and throughout I’ve been mostly able to remain solid and strong for those around me in need. Often times I didn’t ask who was going to help me because I was too busy helping them. It wasn’t weird for me to make the funeral plans for my brother-in-law who had killed himself and my sister sat in a hypnotic state in the hospital bed. It had to be done and this guy needed answers, so I answered. So what if I was 19? It had to be done. My first action that night was to immediately go to the store and buy the biggest teddy bear I could find for my orphaned 6-year-old niece and 4-year-old nephew.

I didn’t think twice to come to my brother’s aid and drive him to a friend after he had been shattered after hydroplaning and killing a teenager in the other car. I didn’t waiver for a second in the words I spoke and with the greatest conviction I could muster, explained that terrible things happen for no reason.

But, here I was trying to figure out how to console my mother and her sister and give them some semblance of hope without being fake or unreal. I don’t fully support western medicine and I have seen miracles happen with my own eyes, so there was a part of me that wanted to find the most mundane statistic or hope. I wanted to lighten the mood and be the smart-***** I can be so good at. I wanted to fill the room with laughter and hope. I meant what I said in stating that attitude is everything. I found a survival rate for this particular cancer at 2% for five years. I jokingly said, you should make it 3% just to p iss the doctor off. My aunt laughed and said she planned on it.

Now, I’m not writing this post to say poor me or my life has ended too, because it hasn’t. On the other hand I want to do even more now than in the past. Tim McGraw’s song  “Live like you were dying,” has always been a favorite of mine. I have been Rocky Mountain climbing standing on the peaks of formidable 14,000′ beasts. I plan to go sky diving and seek out a bull named foo-man choo. I watched eagles soar and so many other great adventures. But I was still stunned in realizing there probably won’t be another August to remember with my aunt.

When I was a freshman in college it was a hard place at first. Meeting all new people and leaving my best friends behind was tough. I was alone. I’ll never forget taking my laundry into the room and putting it into the washer and sitting down to the old wooden table that sat just as lonely under the fluorescent lights. Just then I looked down and saw lyrics from a favorite but obscure song I loved. I wondered who wrote them and how they must love the song like I did. I ran my fingers over the carved out lyrics and didn’t feel so alone. Somebody else knew them and sat in this exact chair and wrote them. Somebody out there was like me.

I’m posting this because as much I would like to stay private and not say anything, I wonder if there is someone going through something so similar as me. Maybe they felt alone like I did in that laundry room years ago. Maybe they just happen to stumble across this blog and feel there is someone just like them.

I’d like to say I’ll be into baseball soon and my writing will be all things Rockies, but that could very well end up being a lie and I don’t want to lie. If I find my interest growing, this will be my first stop.

I thought a lot about writing and soon as things aren’t so emotionally rich I’m going to ask my aunt if I can interview and write her story. Sit down every week and learn something new and pass it on through my writing. Maybe that will satisfy some urge in me to make a difference in this situation.  Everybody has a story and I can get this one before it’s lost. The last chapter is writing itself but that doesn’t mean the ending is set in stone.

So sorry if you don’t get the Rocky Mountain fill like you were used to, but I want to make sure my priorities are in the right direction before that choice is no longer mine.  I do love dropping by blogs and reading a good story or two when I have the chance so don’t count on me being forever gone. I do notice the great adventures from amazing bloggers in San Diego and or intellectuals with awesome mustaches in Chicago or friends who have seen the better side of cancer in Boston. You all are always with me and whenever I catch a score and it’s your team I think of the Cliff’s and Jen’s and Jeremy’s or Kaity’s and Kylie’s and Emily’s and so many more.

In the mean time don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. Stop laughing : ) I can hear you…

8 Comments

Tom – hugs and prayers to your Aunt, your family and you. Life can really suck sometimes and yet – we have to keep on going and doing things that when we look back we can’t even imagine how we did them. When my mom died seven 1/2 years ago – it was sudden and there was no chance to say good bye. It was like being on autopilot. My oldest was a first grader then – ANGRY at me (“you said Nana only fell!”), a dad “going through the motions” and me? Trying NOT to kill the saleswoman at the store; I was buying a sweater to bury my mom in and NO I DID NOT WANT A GIFT RECEIPT!!! And Tim McGraw’s song needs to be the mantra for all of us. Maybe then we would all remember what the really important things are. Tom – I’ll think about you and your family often and I’ll smile when I read about how your Rockies are doing (they split with the Mets yesterday!) and when I find myself being weighed down by too many unimportant issues I’ll remember you and Tim and I’ll try to “Live Like I was Dying”

Take care of yourself and if you need us – Your blogger family is here for you! :-)

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Wow…I’m really sorry, Tom. These things are totally unpreventable, and they’re very hard to deal with. My mother’s mother got Alzheimer’s maybe eight years ago, and she quickly descended into an extremely unresponsive state. She died a few months ago, and for my mother it was like losing her twice. It was really horrible, and even though my grandmother hadn’t been herself since before I can remember, the finality of the situation really crushed my mother. It’ll probably be similar to that with you, only you’ll have some time with your aunt. So savor all that time left, because it’ll be gone before long.
http://imbringingdiamondback.mlblogs.com

Tommy – Freshmen year of college, I cried myself to sleep in the beginning because I was like, “I am so alone.” I’ve thought about you a lot lately and was going to send you a message to see how you were doing, I’m sorry I didn’t. Keep your smart*** attitude, they say laughter is the best medicine, and you always had me smiling at games> ;^) There’s no doubt in my mind, you’ll treasure the remaining time you have with your aunt. People always ponder the question what they would do if they knew they only had so much time to live, and I guess that Tim McGraw song says it perfectly.
Emily
http://deconstructingthoughts.mlblogs.com/

Tom, I’m so sorry for your news. I know what your family must be going through, as I dealt with the same thing with my stepdad eight years ago. He was diagnosed with kidney cancer in November of 2001 and passed away in October of 2002. The Rockies will always be here for you to blog about, so spend as much time as you can with your aunt. And keep that smartass attitude. I’ve laughed so many times reading your blogs, so it can only be better in person. And in a time of relative sadness, laughter always helps. But don’t forget to break down if you need to. Holding it in makes it harder, and you’re only human. You have so many people in your life who will be there for you. I hope everything goes well for you, your aunt, and your family. You know I’m always around, so if there’s anything I can do for you from Chicago, don’t hesitate to ask. I mean, you have, like, 5000 ways to contact me. :)
Jen
http://ajroxmywhitesox.mlblogs.com

hey man, my trip to Denver was outstanding. it is beautiful out there and i had a gret time. i was so impressed by the stadium, fans and team. i ate dinner at the buckhorn Exchange one night. besides being so impressive it was one of the best meals i have ever eaten. Buffalo and Elk really fills you up!

http://pittpeas.mlblogs.com

I can’t believe I didn’t see this until today. Shame on me for not checking my RSS reader.
I’m so sad for you and your family. I’ll definitely be praying for your aunt.
I hate being reminded, as I’m sure we all do, that real life exists beyond Coors, or Minute Maid, or Fenway. And it sucks that things happen that bring us back. But like you said, terrible things happen for no reason. Make the best of the time you have left and we’ll be here waiting when you need us.
I can’t wait to read the interview :)
♥ Kylie — http://kylie.mlblogs.com

Tom,
Never heard the TIm song “Live Like I was Dying” but I ‘ve heard the title and after having family and close friends pass away including my dad four years ago, I try to live by that motto. I am sorry but it does not get easier as the illness progresses. Treasure the time you have with her and may God grant you, your family and your aunt the strenght and faith to go thru this dificult time.
Emma
http://crzblue.mlblogs.com/

Tom,
I am honored to know you.
That was a masterpiece you just penned, and I want you to know, if I can do anything…just ask.
Pain,suffering and discomfort can be mind numbing and sometimes totally disable your senses and timing even in normal activities.
This blog was firmly entrenched into the reality that surrounds this dastardly disease.
Just know that out thoughts and prayers will be directed towards you and your family right now to bring some serenity to the situation.
Just like when our favorite players go down with injuries, we always hope for the best, and expect miracles. I pray for the same for your Aunt.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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