Here I am, again!
Some know what’s going on with me but most don’t, so I’ll try to catch up on my going-on’s of late.
I was recently staying at a half-way house(called ARC) and left there on Monday. I am back living in my storage unit and please don’t worry, because it is all well. It’s actually much better than the half-way house. I will be writing about my experience there, soon but I want to catch up on where I am now to get the writing juices flowing, again.
I left the ARC house and had a troublesome lump, under the corner of my mouth. It wasn’t much at first but soon started looking like a pimple on steroids.
It grew quickly and soon my entire left jaw was affected. It was very painful!
I went to the clinic on Monday and they couldn’t see me until the next morning at 8:30.
The next morning it was even bigger and more painful. I hurried to the doctor, all the time expecting an alien to burst forth, through my flesh.
I spent about an hour there and learned that I have an MRSA infection.
I was blaming the ARC house as the likely source and it may have been, but I have since learned that it can be transferred from animals, beach sand and can even live in salty ocean water for 2 days!
I was given some anti-biotics and have been taking them, without fail.
This morning I woke up and it was even worse. I had to put off a job interview and the lady was very understanding about it and rescheduled me for Monday. “Don’t you dare come in here with a staph infection.” she said.
I went to the beach to comb the shores for sharks teeth. It was a long ride and I could only stay for half an hour, I was feeling so poorly.
I found no teeth.
I was recently interviewed by a Minister from Virginia. She had recorded the whole conversation to put on her radio show and use in her Ministry. I recieved a message on my phone from her that she just uploaded it, to her website and sent me the link. I listened to it, through my phone as I pedaled along. I thought it odd not to be squeamish about hearing my own voice, as I always had been, especially considering what I was talking about. Some of it was my dark past.
I cut through the Greenway woods and only saw one alligator. I didn’t even feel good enough to take his picture.
Back at the storage unit, the battery on my phone died with 20 minutes left of my interview.
I read some of The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. Great book.
I kept popping ibuprofen but it seemed to have lost it’s affect.
I checked some online advertisements for a mountain bike and saw no new ones. My taxes are due, soon and I planned on spending about $300 for a good, used one. I’ve been checking every day for the right one and have found nothing close to what I need. I knew however, that God would lead me to the right one, at the perfect time.
Several cars and trucks drove by and each time, I try to pretend that I’m doing some kind of work in my little cubicle. I’m really only doing this to fool myself, because the full size mattress on the floor, is a dead giveaway that I am living there.
Another vehicle came by and stopped 2 bay doors away. I had never seen anyone in that one. I stood in the doorway and pretended to be busy with something.
Two men got out and the older, grey haired one said “Hi.”
The younger, muscle-bound one looked like his father but said nothing. They both looked very depressed.
I could hear them moving stuff into the hatchback for about fifteen minutes.
The older man walked over, near me and asked “Do you know anyone who could use a couple of twin mattresses?
“No but I can probably find someone to use them soon.”
“Well it doesn’t matter, I’m going to leave this unit open and you can just take them if you want to.”
“Thank you.” I said.
I had a sudden thought and it was out, before I thought how out of place it sounded.
“If you know anyone that has a descent mountain bike for sale, I’m searching for one and about to get my taxes. The one I have is heavy and really bothering my knees.”
“Well, I do have one actually. I don’t know much about it or if it’s what you’re looking for, it’s my son’s.
“Do you know if it’s aluminum?” I hopefully asked.
“I have no idea. I can bring it by and you can see if it’s something you’re interested in.
He walked over to the other man and they talked with low voices as I pretended to get back to my pretend project, in the cubicle.
The son got into the car and the older gentleman came over and asked “Will you be here in an hour, I’ll come back and show you the bike?”
“Yes, I’ll be here. I’m about to charge my phone.”
“Okay, see you in an hour.” he said and left with the same depressed cloud they had arrived with.
I walked near the office and plugged my phone in. The kind people knew that I have been living there and had come to love me. Often asking me if I need anything.
I tried to stay busy. I ate. I felt horrible and tired. I wanted to nap but the man was coming back with the bike. I suddenly wished I hadn’t asked about the bike. I thought for sure that it was just another Huffy or some other inferior brand. I reminded myself: “You just never know, Jeff. It could be a real winner.”
About ten minutes before the hour was up, I finally succumbed to the sleepy headache and lay on my mattress, thinking I wouldn’t sleep and hear the car coming, in time.
Within ten minutes I heard a car coming and jumped up, in time to not be caught lying down. It was the same car and it stopped, just past my roll-down door.
He got out alone, this time and that depression cloud fogged out, with him.
I briefly wondered if our paths crossed, not because I was to get something from him, but maybe he needed something.
He went immediately to the hatchback and opened it as he said “I don’t know if this is what your looking for but here it is.”
I stood in disbelief. There before me was a sweet Cannondale. It was aluminum and just what I was looking for, in every sense!
I was speechless and maybe he thought I disapproved.
“Wow! It’s a nice Cannondale.” I finally got some words out.
“It is. I don’t know what it’s worth to you.” he said as he took it out and handed it to me.
“I don’t know what it’s worth, either but I’m sure at least $200.”
“No.” he said. “I don’t think it’s worth that much.”
I was sure it was. The Rock shox alone are $300 new.
“It belonged to my son.” He said.
“The man that was here with you, earlier?”
“No, that was my oldest son. This belonged to my youngest son. He’s in jail and about to go to prison, for murder.” He was now crying and choked to get the words out. He actually said attempted murder but I didn’t hear it right and found out later.
I won’t attempt to go word by word of our conversation. Some things are just between 2 people and should stay that way.
He invited me to his church on Sunday. They were having a big breakfast, there.
I told him I would be there and that I would bring the money, if I have it by then.
He gave me a slip of paper with his name and number on it.
He said again that he didn’t know what it was worth. “Just try it out and you can give me whatever you want to.”
“Sir, I can’t thank you enough for this and although we just met I want you to know that I love you and I’ll be praying for your son and your family. I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”
He started crying again, as he got into his car. Not the tears of a depressed man. The depression cloud was lifted. They were the cleansing tears of a man who shared his misery with a friend and was better because of it. We were both better and in tears.
I’ve heard it often said that when you are in a dark place, to do something for someone else. He certainly did just that.
I found a pay stub in the vacant locker and with the name on it, I was able to track down the details of what happened, finally realizing that it was not a murder but nearly so. The link to the article is below.
Posted by Jeff Maxim at 9:04 PM No comments:
Location: Fernandina Beach, FL 32034, USA
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
I slept until 7:30 this morning and woke up to steady rain. I wasn’t too eager to do my running around in it, so I hit snooze and laid back down, just to be tormented by a mosquito. I killed him and several others after, as though they were waiting in line, for me.
I thrashed around with them until 8:30 and finally sat up. I made a cold instant coffee and realized how long it had been since this had been my morning ritual.
I had hidden my Large pack the day before, among the short palm trees that covered the area and halfway through my hobo latte, realized that it was still there, having forgotten to bring it under the protection of the tarp when I returned to camp. I retrieved it and was relieved to find it fairly waterproof, though I was glad it was mostly full of just damp clothes.
Yesterday I went to the Church of Christ where I had volunteered a few years ago and they gave me a couple bags of food, to get me by.
The lady who greeted me said “I remember you!” The other handful of workers there were new and unfamiliar to me but very nice.
Her name is Patricia and she told me if I came back today, they would have a tent for me!
I asked her about another old friend, who had worked there, as I had heard rumors that he wasn’t doing so well.
She affirmed my fears by telling me he was at a convalescent home and that they thought he was in his last days. She gave me the address and told me I should go see him.
His name is Mike Patrick, although he was known as “Fireman Mike.”
Mike was previously a Fireman and a landscaper, now retired.
When I met him back 3 and a half years ago, he worked at the Church of Christ and seemed to do everything there but preach.
He took care of most of the daily activities even to the point of sleeping overnight there.
So one day I was working with him and we were trimming the trees and the hedges that surrounded the large grounds.
He was working off the ladders and doing everything quite nimbly, so when he climbed down the ladder and asked me if the hedge was straight, commenting that he was blind in one eye, I took him as being sarcastic.
We worked further and he made another such comment about his eye.
I had to ask him “Are you really blind in one eye?”
He has a rough Tennessee accent and he answered “Yip, I really ay-im.”
I felt kind of awkward for a moment and I think he could see it.
“Well, I don’t like to tell too many people, it bothers me to think about it but when I was a Firefighter, I was on my way to work one day and down in the valley below, I could see a lot of smoke rising and it was black smoke, so I knew there was no water being put on it, otherwise it would be white smoke.”
“So I rushed down there, found where it was coming from and saw a house on fire, with no other fireman there. I was the only one and I didn’t have any of my equipment, because I was heading to work, so I got out, people were screaming and I asked a hysterical black lady if there was anyone left inside and she shrieked “There’s a little girl in the upstairs bedroom!””
“I ran inside and made it up the stairs, checked bedrooms and found this girl in her bed unconscious, so I wrapped her in a blanket, threw her over my shoulder and started on my way out.”
“Now the smoke was getting to me bad and I was getting confused but I found the stairs, made it down them and took a right, when I should have taken a left. I was lost. I was now in a garage with fire all around and starting to go unconscious, myself.”
Through the smoke I could see some light, so I headed for that and it turned out to be a storm door and when I got to it, I kicked it out for all I was worth. Well there was a propane tank, in the garage and just as I kicked that door out it exploded, hitting me in the right side and threw me outdoors onto the lawn, with the girl.”
I could see the pain coming into his eyes as he cut the story a little short, with “I lost my right eye and lung.”
“Oh, God!” was my awkward response.
The silence became heavy but I had to ask him “Forgive me for asking but did the girl live?”
“Oh, yeah. She growed up fine. I used to visit her occasionally.” This seemed to bring him some well deserved, prideful joy.
“I met a Hero today.” I said.
He looked at me with those steely eyes and said “I ain’t no #%@&ing Hero. I was just doing my job.”
“Well maybe, but you’re a Hero, to me.”
So today, in the rain, I finally found myself peddling through the side streets, with my laptop and gear in my small backpack and wearing my raincoat over it all so I looked like a hunchback, lurching over the handlebars, heading for the church to get the tent and volunteer to help them again.
It suddenly occurred to me that it was only a few blocks out of the way to stop by and see “Fireman Mike” but I fought the urge because the church would only be open until noon and I was hoping to squeeze a shower in, also. I figured maybe it would stop raining by the time I was heading back and I could see him without getting his room all wet.
I locked my bike up and went in. There were quite a few people there, mostly older. Some helping, some getting helped. A scattering of women. Men sitting at tables with their backpacks. A man hobbling around with a cane and a frail little man in a walker/wheelchair combo. I finished talking to one lady and I heard an old familiar voice. It sounded a bit like Mike. I didn’t see him, though. I walked in the direction I thought it came from and another white haired lady tried to help me.
I had tunnel vision for the voice I had heard and just brushed her off with: “No thank you, Ma’am, I’m being waited on.”
I heard the voice again and it lasted longer, this time. It was coming from the little man in the walker/stroller combo.
I saw my Hero! The once lanky spry man was now bent over and sitting down in his pedestal. He was hard to recognize. I got close to him.
“Fireman Mike! You may not remember me but I sure remember you.”
He still had that vinegar and it came out when he said “Well git down here, so I kin see ya’!”
I moved so I was in view of his left eye.
“Of course I remember ya! The guy from Maine.”
“Yes! Jeff.” I reminded him.
“That’s it, it’s Jeff!” he remembered.
The last day that I had seen Mike, I was drunk. I had slid back down the alcohole and he had been trying to talk some sense into me for a couple of weeks, watching me go down the slippery slope.
Florida had offered me a plane ticket back to Maine. They wanted to get rid of me. I hadn’t even asked for it. I was in such bad shape. I had brain damage from a mugging and I was now an insane drunk. I took the plane ticket and spent my last night on the island, sleeping on the church couch, with Mike on the other couch. A lady was going to pick me up in the morning, drive me to the airport and make sure I got onto the plane.
In the morning, I got ready. I found a 4-LOCO I had stashed somewhere and drank it, behind the church. I was as ready as I could be.
With the last few minutes left, Mike was still trying to talk sense into me. “You know,” he said “You gotta think about what’s more important to you. Your boy, or that alcohol.”
That was my last drink, for a while. I made it 11 months and four days. I had a slip and now I have 19 months of sobriety. It just gets better and better, and so do I.
So I spent quite a bit of time with my Hero, today. They finally came and took him back to the home.
That man deserves much more of a tribute than I can give him, or anyone else. His honors and awards are hung all over the walls of the church. More of a man than most could even hope to be. That’s what a Hero means to me. Not someone who sees a princess waving a hankerchief out a window and says “I’ll save you, here I come!” with all the fanfare. It’s someone that sees someone in danger and runs. There’s no thinking about the danger, no thought of reward or applause.
It’s one human caring as much for another as he does for himself, like God tells us to.
It’s a human being: “Just doing my job!”
We can all learn a lot from “Fireman Mike.” I sure do.