Remembering My Brother Ted

Seven years ago yesterday my younger brother Ted passed away. I still remember sitting in my office that morning and receiving a call from the manager of the mobile home park were my brother lived with my dad, asking me to get over to the park right away. At first I thought something had happened to my dad but she reassured me that my dad was fine but that I should get over to his home right now! The park had been having some serious issues with my brother and were actually in the process of evicting him. I remember asking her if my brother was causing some kind of problem. She was quiet for a moment then repeated that I should get over there. I suppose I should have hung up the phone and rushed over right then, but my head was reeling and my stomach churning, I needed some answers.

I again asked her what was going on but she said she felt it wasn’t her place to tell me.Well that response caused me to press her even harder. “Tell me what?” I asked nervously. “Look we’ve been working together for awhile now trying to find a way to deal with my brother’s situation, I have no problem with you telling me, please just tell me what happened?” She finally relented and told me that a body had been found behind the strip mall next to the park. One of the park security people had informed her that it was my brother. He also told her the Covina police were in route to inform my dad. I hung up and got over there as quickly as I could. I called my sister on the way and got there as the police were informing my dad. It was a hell of a day. A painfully long day.

I can’t say we were surprised, my brother had been slowly killing himself with drugs and alcohol for years. We all knew that day was coming, it was just a matter of time. And his time finally came. The years of abuse had taken their toll and his body just couldn’t take it anymore. At the time of his death he was not drunk or high on drugs, blood tests revealed that there were no drugs in his system and his alcohol level was well below the legal limit. No, his heart simply stopped.  It’s sad that it took death to bring him the peace he longed for in life, but the demons he was battling were winning and that my friends made life a living hell for him and those around him.

Rest in peace baby brother. Until we meet again…

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Throwback Thursday: In Remembrance / “Art Mason: A Friend for all Seasons”

Thinking about my good friend and mentor Art Mason who passed away in January 2013. He was an incredible individual who touched my life profoundly. He loved life and enjoyed it’s simple pleasures. I can’t help but smile when I think of him This being the anniversary month of their passing I’m compelled to share what I wrote about him.

Art Mason: A Friend for All Seasons

Everyone leaves footprints in your memory, but the ones that leave footprints in your heart are the ones you will truly remember              ~                                                                                                                                                                        Nicholas Sperling 

On Saturday morning I awoke to find a voice mail message from a colleague on my cell phone. I didn’t really think much of it and figured he was probably calling to ask where I was going to be watching the NFL play-off game that afternoon. As I waited to be connected to my message I was thinking about where we might go, Chili’s maybe or perhaps Casa Del Rey, but when I heard the message I knew I wouldn’t be going anywhere loud or crowded, in fact the further away from people I could be, the better.

artI’m not a big fan of receiving any type of bad news by way of a recorded message and would never do that to anyone, but that’s just me. The message my colleague left me was of the worse kind, he called to inform me of the death of our mutual friend, colleague and former boss, Art Mason.  Although I knew Art hadn’t been doing too well, I was shocked to hear that he had passed the previous evening. Art was one of the finest person’s I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, a true prince among men! Oh he’d be the first to say “I ain’t no saint,” but his graciousness, patience, generosity and  true caring nature said otherwise. Talk about a ‘class act.’ He was that and more! 

Few people have had as big of an influence on my life as Art as far back as high school. As a troubled teen I ended up in continuation high school for the last two months of my junior year. These days our continuation high school is a fully accredited alternative high school. The majority of students are there because they’re behind in credits. There they have the opportunity to catch up on credits and return to the regular high school for their senior year or they can stay and graduate from continuation. When I was in continuation back in 68 it was the place they sent the problem students, trouble makers and hell raisers.

Now some of you who knew me back then may actually think I belonged there, but believe me I didn’t! Compared to the future bikers, drug addicts and drop outs who attended in 68, with names like Gabby, Moose, Scratchy and Smoke, I was a good boy. But it was there in the crazy world of long hair, torn levis and white tees, countless smoke breaks, angry shouting matches and fights, that I first met Mr. Art Mason, teacher.

I’ll never forget that first morning I walked into his classroom. I remember standing in the doorway watching these 20 or so students acting like a bunch of idiots, loud, rude and brutish, and thinking to myself “what the hell have I gotten into?” I probably looked like a deer caught in the headlights.  About that time Art came walking in. He pointed me towards an empty desk then called the class to order, a feat I thought would never happen. But in a matter of a few moments the classroom settled down and gave him their attention. Sure there was still some minor talking going on but it was nothing compared to before After giving the students (all boys) an assignment to work on he came over and introduced himself to me and said quietly, “You don’t belong here, we’ll get you out of here and back to Azusa HS as quickly as possible.”  Now it was quite unusual at that time for continuation students to return to the regular high school and was the exception rather than the rule, but thanks to him and the interest he took in me I was able to earn enough credits to return to Azusa High School for my senior year.

Yeah, Art was one of the good ones. He was such an incredible man and a hell of a teacher! His genuine care and concern for his students put him a cut above the rest. He had a passion for life and helping others. He helped me so much in those troubled times. No matter what he was doing or how busy he was, he always made himself available to me and would listen patiently to me, then we’d talk and he’d offer his advice. I loved that about him.  I was just a teen who he really didn’t even know and he could have very easily shooed me away or told me to come back at a more convenient time, but he never once did that. He always took the time for me.I’m sure he was late getting home for dinner a time or two on account of me. Even in the years after I finished high school I could always rely on him when I needed a friend. His classroom door was always open to me and I used it often.

Years later when I decided to return to college he was the first person I thought of to talk to about my decision. I called Azusa Unified to find out if he was still in the district and discovered that he was at Gladstone High School. His assignment? Career Counselor. Coincidental? probably, but it certainly was timely for me. I went to see him immediately. It was as though the years had never passed. We picked up right where we had left off, (a true sign that you are friends) He gave me advice I followed it and five years later I was a teacher! Nine years after that I became a counselor at Azusa High working for him.

I’ve got to tell you, he was  absolutely the best boss I ever had. Working for him for those first three years were a Godsend. I cherish those years. I learned so much from him. He made our office a very comfortable place to work, especially with that infectious laugh of his! I can still hear it ringing through the office! He always told me that having a good sense of humor was an essential part of life. He also taught me that a good counselor knows when to bite his tongue and he was certainly right about that. He used to say that he’d bitten his tongue so often to hold back words that he’d probably die of tongue cancer someday. Yes Art taught me so much about counseling and about life. I’m forever grateful. When I used to feel overwhelmed by the job he was always quick to encourage and gave me reassurance. Funny, but he could always see a potential in me that I had difficulty seeing. 

Although we hadn’t seen each other since early August. I thought of him often and the wonderful time we had together visiting on our lunch date that summer day. I can still see us seated outside in the patio of that little Upland restaurant talking and laughing about old times, recounting your adventurous trips and cruises, we had quite a time! Even that damn oxygen bottle you had to drag around with you couldn’t keep you down. My only regret is that we could have gotten together more often and enjoyed more times like that, but sadly life simply got in the way.

Art Mason was my friend, mentor, role model, boss and sometimes even my spiritual guru. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have known him. He was unique. He set the standard for not only the type of counselor I try to be, but for person I have become. I will always be thankful to him for that.

Rest in Peace Art, you will be missed…

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“Filthy, Dirty Habits”

Habits, we all have them. Good or bad, habits are a central part of our personalities and reveal much about us. Someone once said that “habits are the shorthand of behavior” and they were absolutely right. Of course, when it comes to habits seldom do we hear about our good habits, You never hear about the man who always puts the seat down after peeing or rinses off his plate after eating, no the attention is always focused on our bad habits. Now I’m not talking about things like smoking, nail-biting or even picking your nose which are compulsive in nature, I’m referring to the learned behavioral responses that are associated with a particular situation and repeated frequently, more commonly called habits. For instance I have a habit of leaving cabinet doors open behind me. Hardly a day goes by that my wife doesn’t find a cabinet door open somewhere in the house. She is constantly pointing it out to me. I don’t know why I do it, I just do. It’s not my worst habit, but a habit non the less. So what are men’s worse habits? I’m sure wives and girlfriends could come up with quite a list of things that we do that annoy them. I recently came across an article on Yahoo news about this very subject. I’d like to share what a women’s survey found to be our ten most annoying habits. They are not in any particular order or ranking, so apparently women find them all equally annoying.   SURVEY SAYS:

EMPTY CONTAINERS …

I guess we have a nasty habit of leaving empty containers everywhere and never putting  them in the trash where they belong. No big deal.

LEAVING HAIR IN THE SINK …

Okay shaving or grooming residue in the sink or on the floor. I can see how this one can be annoying. In my own defense I do make an attempt to clean up my man mess. I can’t help it if I miss a hair or two or ten, my eyes aren’t what they used to be!

USING TEN CUPS OR GLASSES, INSTEAD OF ONE …

Come on girls, It just defies male logic to use the same glass when they can get a clean, sanitized one for each drink. Besides, using the same one would involve washing and rinsing. Hello!

SELECTIVE HEARING …

What?

NEVER PICKING UP HIS LAUNDRY …

I used to be guilty of this one. I never left my dirty laundry scattered around, but I did have this particular corner of the bathroom where my clothes would pile up. eventually my wife would get tired of seeing them there and haul them off to the laundry. Oh she moaned and groaned and complained about it, but it did no good. Then one day she just stopped doing it. The pile grew and grew until I finally began taking it to the laundry myself. I still do. On occasion I may leave a pair of socks or a tee shirt in the corner, and occasionally she will pick them up for me, but 99% of the time I take them myself. pick them up for me, but 99% of the time I take them myself.

NOT DOING HOUSEWORK …

What?

BURPING AND FARTING …

Done discreetly guys this shouldn’t be a problem. Broadcasting it is annoying. Even to other men.

ABSOLUTE HELPLESSNESS WHEN SICK …

Face it ladies, men are hopelessly helpless when it comes to being sick.  When we get sick we need and expect the same treatment and attention as a child. Yes, we’re big babies.

CHANNEL SURFING!

Sorry girls, this is not a habit. It’s a need. For some of us it’s the only control we have!

WEARING THE SAME OLD THING OVER AND OVER …

Yes, it’s true we formed attachments to some of our clothes. I have several tees that should have been thrown out long ago, but I can’t bear to let them go. I may have a couple of pair of raggedy jeans that should be tossed as well, but hey, they’re my work clothes. Come on girls is that really such a big deal? At least we don’t have a kazillion shoes! ________________________________________________________________ So there you have it. the ten habits women find most annoying. I actually would have expected worse. Some others that were on other  list are far worse and deserve an honorable mention. Things like, Being rude, TV sports zombie, stuffing dirty clothes into dresser drawers, looking at other women – particularly their boobs and butt, biting toenails, picking your nose and pulling out a booger and flicking it wherever, drinking too much, loud snoring, butt and crotch scratching, public male package adjustments, peeing on the toilet seat or floor, leaving the seat up, forgetting to flush, forgetting to wash your hands, not bathing often enough, oh I could go on and on. I’m sure your wife, girlfriend and mother can easily add to this list. Face it guys, we’re rude, crude and yes, some of us are even tattooed! It’s true, we do have some pretty disgusting habits, some guys more than others, but we are men and we can’t help ourselves, after all we’re descendants of the Neanderthal. We’ve still got a little cavemen left in us. Hey were trying girls! Maybe just not hard enough. Besides, you girls aren’t saints. Sure you tolerate our “little psychological flaws” thank you very much! But you have some flaws of your own and we tolerate yours! Some of you  do a little scratching of your own, and suffer from the wandering eye as well. And just because you sit down to pee doesn’t mean you don’t wet the seat once in awhile, especially if your in a hurry. You are also capable of  drinking too much, talking too much and once in a great while you can be a bit of a nag! Okay, I could go on and on, but I better stop there before I get myself in trouble. Suffice it to say that you girls have your fair share of bad habits as well, some equally as offensive as men’s. Excuse me, but when it comes to bad habits it looks like we all have some work to do…

Just Saying…

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