Laughin’ With The Pancreas

May 24, 2010

Every week I try to post something to help give the people that stop by my blog a little laugh.  I call the posts, “A Little Laughter.” Even when I don’t have the time or energy to publish other posts, I try to get a little video, song or story up that will bring a smile to my reader’s faces.

I have a powerful belief in the power of laughter.  To my very core I know that, when it comes to having a positive attitude and dealing with adversity, there are few things that help like humor.  Throughout the most difficult times of my life I have been a witness to the influence a moment of joy can have in determining the altitude of our attitudes and our ability to overcome.

However, just like most things, it’s easy to talk about adding humor to your life and a different thing altogether to implement laughter daily—especially in times of adversity.

I can safely say that the past weeks have tested my belief and dedication to the importance of the funny.

On May 1st, Kolette was diagnosed with Gall Stone Pancreatitis.  It has caused her to be as sick as she has ever been, put her in more pain than most can imagine, and almost taken her life.  She was in the hospital for a week and a half, four days of which were spent in the ICU.

Of all the days in the hospital, those she spent in Intensive Care were the most harrowing.  Every night I would leave her room sure that things couldn’t get any worse, only to show up the next morning to find her at a new low.  She was hardly breathing, with her blood pressure through the floor, and over 65lbs. of water collecting around her liver, kidneys, lungs and abdomen.

Watching her pain had to be the worst.   I have truly never felt more helpless in my entire life. (Kolette and I really traded places on this one.  I’m used to be the one fighting for his life, not the one standing idly by—I prefer my normal position, thank you).

When she was admitted, the doctors told her there were few conditions as painful as pancreatitis.  In fact, at one point in the ER, as Kolette asked over and over for more pain medicine, the doc said, “I could give you enough pain medicine to stop your heart and you’d still be in pain.”

On that first day, I knew that if I were going to keep a positive attitude of any kind through this ordeal, I’d have to have a regular dose of humor.  I knew that my minutes of laughter were as critical to our survival as Kolette’s milligrams of medicine.

So, in an effort to get out in front of the issue, I change the Kolette’s ringtone on my phone to the song below.  Whenever the people in her room, nurses on staff, and Kolette (when she could) used the phone to get a hold of me I’d hear the song “Pancreas” by “Weird Al” Yankovic that’s posted below.  The phone was used enough that, a number of times throughout the day, I’d get a little 20 second listen of the song.  Being a lifelong “Weird Al” fan, I felt it would do the trick—and luckily for me, I was right.

Every time I heard the song, no matter how bad the day, inevitably the ends of my mouth would curl and I’d let out a little chuckle. Instantly, things were a little better, and all at once everything that was heavy would get a little lighter.

Now, I know that everyone won’t think he song is funny.  Most will probably just think that it’s weird.  But it was perfect for me. It gave my heart the little lift that it needed and helped me have the strength to carry on, and if I was passionate about the power of humor before, that passion has only intensified now.

Kolette is home now, still in a great deal of pain, with a long road and the chance of multiple surgeries ahead.  But, as I ask for your prayers and good thoughts for her speedy and successful recovery, I also ask that if this song doesn’t make you chuckle or chortle, find something that does.  Then, when you do listen, watch, or read it, and witness as your attitude improves and the white-hot heat of that positive attitude warms your life.

For, I know that regardless of whether times are good or bad, or if things in your life are easy or hard, we all are better after a little laughter.

Jh-

Thanks Al


Go With What You Know

April 1, 2009
Jason Hall and Kolette Coleman Spring 1992

Jason Hall and Kolette Coleman Spring 1992

Seventeen years ago today my life changed. Seventeen years ago I asked Kolette to marry me. As I think about this day and what it means to me I think about what led up to that day and how decisions I made then make me the luckiest man in the world.

In 1992, as we approached mid-March Kolette and I were in two different places when it came to marriage. We spent every open waking minute together. I picked her up every morning for school and from that point to the point I dropped her off at night we are together. This togetherness brought with it an ample amount of kissing. As far as I was concerned all was well with the world. I liked seeing Kolette and loved kissing her and figured we could just stay put in our little bubble of time forever.

Kolette on the other hand had enjoyed our time dating but felt that the time for moving on to the next step had come. Both then and now Kolette has been a woman of checklists. And as far as engagement went, her pencil sharpened and she was aching to fill the empty box.

As has usually been the case she was right. Not that there is any specific timeline on how long a couple should date, or that we had dated for an excessively long period of time, but we had spoken often about how marriage was our next step.

On a side note, I think it’s interesting how this subject gets broached by most couples. It seems like generally it happens the same for everyone. First, in conversation you start saying things like, “If we were ever to get married, not that we ever would, but if we did then we would…” Then it begins to turn to “If we were ever to get married, not that we would for a long time, then we would…”

Not long after this is a part of regular conversation, the sentence seems to evolve further to something like, “When we get married, not that that wouldn’t be for a long time, but when we did, then we would…” For me, this was the sentence that seem to have the shortest lifespan. As before I knew it, we were saying just regular old, “When we get married.”

The first time we went to look at rings I was so nervous I didn’t even set one foot in the store. Kolette looked at rings with the salesman who, knowing that I was the buyer, shouted through the store so that I could hear him while I was sitting just outside the doorway.

This went on until one day I dropped Kolette off at school and she had a look on her face that broke my heart. Her eyes told the whole tale. They said, louder than any words ever could, “We are never going to get married.”

That was it. I knew I had to make a decision. I had to decide whether I was going to ask her to marry me and move forward, or simply break things off. Staying where we were at and causing her that kind of disappointment was not an option.

I packed my bag full of books written by wise men on the subject of living life well and headed to a local hotel. I checked into the hotel with the help of a bellman. The bellman took my bag, unpacked the books, helped me order dinner through room service and left. When he did, I shut the door so I couldn’t leave, and dropped the remote on the floor so TV was no longer an option. This way, it was just me, my books, my God, and my big decision.

(In case you’re wondering, my cousin who had a date that night with his future wife, agreed to come to the hotel and lay me down around one o’clock. I know there are some out there thinking that if he was locked in his hotel room how did he ever get out. My cousin also stayed the night and help me get up the following morning.)

I ate my dinner and began some deep reading and heavy prayer. Not long into the evening I called my dad to get his advice. He said he couldn’t understand what I was doing since it seemed to him I already knew the answer.

I remember thinking, “Thanks a lot, Dad!” and went back to reading and praying.

The more I read and the more I prayed the more I realized my Dad was right. I already knew the answer to my question before I even went up to the hotel. As I thought about it I knew she loved me, and I knew I loved her. But, I let doubt and nerves get in the way of that knowledge. Luckily, what my fear questioned, my heart had figured out a long time ago.

I loved her.

I called the bellman, had him bring up some dessert, open the door and hand me the remote. My decision was made and all that was left was the asking.

I returned home put together a plan and with the help of a lot of family and friends pulled off this extravagant plan. I was able to rent a place at Sundance, convince Kolette that we had a meeting with the president of the University (I had just been elected BYU’s Student Body President), get her to wear my favorite dress, get a candlelight dinner set up in the room at Sundance, and get the ring (a few weeks earlier I had actually found the courage to go into a jewelers with Ko).

On our way up the canyon, from Provo to Sundance, Kolette asked me if I had made any headway on getting the ring. She knew that there was no way I was going to be able to afford the ring we had looked at without some help. I was just a poor college student. I told her that I was going to meet about financing on the following Monday. Her face got all sad and frustrated because she knew that once I met with the people about financing it would take at least a week to get the money for the ring.

She told me that she had a conversation with her Dad earlier that day and he was beginning to wonder if I had commitment issues. What she didn’t know was a miracle happened just days before and not only had I ended up with a check for nearly the entire cost of the ring, but that the ring was waiting for her up at Sundance (I knew I wasn’t going to be able to pull the ring out of my pocket when I asked her so when they set up our candlelight dinner I had them set the ring box open on the table).

We got to Sundance and it was great. She was right with me believing the whole thing. She had taken the bait and bit hook, line, and sinker.

We opened up the door to the room and with romantic music playing in the background I led her to the table and in front of the candlelight dinner took her hand and said, “Kolette, will you marry me and make me the happiest man alive?”

She looked at me and quizzically asked, “Are you kidding?”

I remember thinking that this was not the response I expected. My mind raced and I wondered if I’d read the whole situation wrong. I thought maybe the best answer was, “Yeah! Ha Ha! Funny Right?” But, as often happens my mouth got in front of my brain and I exclaimed, “No, I’m not kidding. the ring’s right there.”

She looked at the table and saw the ring that she had missed before and said, “Yes.” Immediately after I started to breathe again and we kissed.

If I remember right, we kissed so long the food got cold. But, we were in love and none of that mattered. The next day we went to school and told all of our friends that we were engaged.

There’s not many days that aren’t good ones for asking the one you love to marry you. But, the 31st of March is one of those days. For, the day that follows is April 1st more commonly known as “April Fools’ Day.” This made it difficult to convince many of our friends that we actually were engaged. But on April 2nd everyone knew we were telling the truth in nearly three months later we were married.

It’s been the ride of a lifetime. Any happiness that has been a part of my life since that day is in some way or another a direct result of Kolette. She is the love of my life and the joy of my journey. She is my best friend and my heart is hers forever.

When I think about all the good that has come into my life because of Kolette I think about how it would have all been lost if that day in the hotel room had I decided to doubt things I knew were true. It’s like I was over thinking and under feeling–so worried I was going to make the wrong decision, I was making no decision at all. Fear that I might fail, or be wrong kept me in a holding pattern. Those emotions of anxiety and apprehension cause us to hesitate moving forward with answers we know to be right.

We have to do all the we can do to get the best information out there. We have to study and learn to gain wisdom and understanding. But there will always be more to learn and more to understand. We have to get all the knowledge we can crammed into our head, but at the end of the day that won’t be enough. Our gut has to be included in the conversation, our heart has to be given a place at the table. Along with the knowledge we gain we have to have the courage to act, the courage to trust what we know in our heart is right. There is a reason God gave us not only a head, but a heart to go with it.

There is little question that we’re at our best when we use all the tools at our disposal. When we use our heads with our hearts we gain the courage to go with what we know.

Jh-

PS To increase your blog views check out alphainventions.  It’s improved my stats, and belive it will yours too.


True Inspiration

February 3, 2009
CJH

CJH

Throughout the course of my life I have seen, experienced, and been a part of many things that have motivated me to do the undoable and inspired me to believe the unbelievable. I have found great power and direction in the common and the uncommon alike. My journey has been a truly wild ride and has given me some unique perspectives.

However, I can say without equivocation that on Tuesday, the 27th of January I had the most inspiring and motivating moment of my life. At 4:50 in the morning I watched my first child, my son Coleman, come into this world.

Never in my life have I seen anything more pure and good and right. Never have I been a part of something more spiritually powerful. Never, have I believed more strongly that anything can happen.

In the days since his birth I have relished the quiet moments when I hold him in my arms and look him in the eye. In those moments I have felt inspiration and motivation without equal. I have felt inspired to become better that I might set a proper example for him. I have felt motivated to never quit so that through me he might know the power of perseverance.

There are those who say that everything good and worth fighting for is no longer a part of this world. I’m here to tell you that at 4:50 AM on Tuesday, January 27 Coleman Jason Hall proved them wrong.

My boy inspires me.

Jh-

For more information on the birth of Coleman Jason Hall check my blog www.manontheinside.com


Big News!

January 1, 2009

Jason Embryo Banner - teal3

I’ve decided to start a new blog! For those of you who enjoy what you find here, don’t worry it will stay the same. If you like coming here and finding little stories or snippets from my life accompanied with a message, keep coming. But, the new blog will be a little different.

With fatherhood only six weeks away, I have begun to think about the unique experience that lies before me. As a quadriplegic the chance to become a father of a child genetically yours is a rare thing. In addition, as you might imagine going through this experience without being able to move your legs, your hands, and much of your arms will bring with it challenges and issues that won’t be germane to every situation.

Wanting to record my own feelings and the experiences that happen along the way, I decided to begin this new blog about my experiences as a father, a quadriplegic, and a quadriplegic father. It’ll be about my hopes and dreams, wonders and concerns, and everyday life.

If you’re interested, come check it out. You can either click on the above banner that Kolette designed, or you can simply type in www.manontheinside.com (you’ll find out why I chose this title if you click over). If you do come take a peek, leave a comment and tell me if this is something you think you’ll enjoy, or suggestions of things you’d like to read about.

Just like any new adventure I’m excited–scared out of my mind, but excited. I think sharing it with others will add a fresh, fun, and new dimension to the whole experience.

I hope you’ll join me for the ride of my life.

Jh-


Celebrate Life

November 21, 2008
November 1997

November 1997

At this very moment 11 years ago I was in the intensive care unit at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center fighting for my life. On November 21, 1997 at 10:45 in the morning I was traveling down the interstate thinking of the appointment I had at 11:00 and listening to local sports radio. It was a regular drive on a regular day.

Just then I heard what sounded like a shotgun going off in my left ear. It was my front left tire exploding. My handicap accessible van traveled across the three lanes of traffic heading southbound, went through the median, and into the oncoming traffic. The next thing I knew I was waking up to the voice of an EMT. I was obviously dazed and confused as to why I was looking up at the clear blue sky.

As I looked around I saw my van’s radio antenna. I remember thinking to myself that that was odd being that my antenna was on the passenger side of the car. There I was lying half in and half out of the passenger side of my van. Scared, frightened, and afraid that further neurological damage had been done I came in and out of consciousness while the emergency workers used the “Jaws of Life” to get me on a gurney and into the ambulance.

I was rushed to the ER where Kolette met me. I’ll never forget watching her enter the room unsure of what her response to this possibly fatal injury would be. It was then when I experienced one of the sweetest moments of my life. When Kolette first saw me her face turned white and she looked as though her knees were going to buckle. Then, in vintage Kolette style-she stood up straight and gained her bearings. She walked over to me and put her arms around me as best she could while whispering in my ear, “We’re going to be okay.” It is difficult for me to express in words what that quiet vote of confidence from the mouth of the woman I loved with all my heart meant to me.

After things were stabilized in the emergency room I was rushed off to seven hours of surgery. The weeks that followed were harrowing at best. On one of the very first days the doctors pulled my family aside and told them that if they wanted to say goodbye to me they’d better do it immediately. As my family tried to understand what my odds were really were, the doctors told them I wouldn’t live through the night.

Luckily, doctors aren’t always as smart as they think they are. I made it through that night, and through the nights that followed. My situation was serious enough however, that I was hospitalized for a full 13 months.

When I broke my neck in a diving accident at 15, I was in the hospital for three months. At that time I was convinced I could never do another day in the hospital. Thirteen months seemed an eternity.  But, the damage was that serious and extensive.

I will never forget 12 months later, November 21, 1998. I was still in the hospital and all I could think about on that day was how much my life had changed the year before. It reminded me of July 13, 1986, one year after my diving accident. As that day approached I had to make a decision. I had to decide if I would spend that day wallowing in self-pity, thinking of all the bad that happened, or if I would concentrate on the improvement I had made over the previous 12 months. I had to decide if I would put my energy and time into thinking about how I had become a quadriplegic, or if I would concentrate on the fact that I was still alive.

I chose to celebrate. On July 13, 1987 one year after my diving accident I invited all of my friends over my house and we had a party. We celebrated my “anniversary.” We celebrated life.

Following suit, on the first “anniversary” of my car accident I did the same–I celebrated. Kolette and I had some friends up to my hospital room and we had a party, being joyful about the life I still had to lead, about the gift simple existence was.

In every year that has followed, July 13 at November 21 are days that I celebrate. Every member of my family takes a moment to call me on the phone and congratulate me. Kolette and I always go out and do something special.

So today on my “anniversary” I invite you to join me. I invite you to take a moment and leave a comment telling me of something that is good in your life. I will give away one of my DVD’s to the winner (I’ll even autograph it). It will be your “anniversary” present to me.

Join me in focusing on all the pleasure you get and forgetting the pain.  Join me in realizing the blessing every minute in every day is. Join me and celebrate life.

Jh-

FYI: DVD GIVEAWAY CLOSES AT 9PM PST SUNDAY NOVEMBER 23RD


The Shirt Off Your Back

November 14, 2008
Tim Holtz at Creative Escape

Tim Holtz at Creative Escape

I recently had the honor and privilege of presenting at a program called Creative Escape. It’s a weekend program put on by the good people at Bazzill Basics and Heidi Swapp, filled with nearly 700 excited, screaming scrapbookers.

It was a wonderful weekend and a fantastic group. I loved being there with Kolette (who also was a presenter) and interacting with these women who love to give so much of themselves.

The night I was to give my talk opened with dinner. I speak at a lot of these kinds of functions and the food is usually good. But here, the people at the Wild Horse Sheraton really outdid themselves. The food was fantastic.

After dinner they were going to do a few giveaways, draw a raffle winner, and then I would be on.  Everyone was excited knowing that money raised was going to the American Cancer Society. Throughout the weekend there had been amazing stories told of surviving cancer.  Then, before the festivities began, an addition was made to the program.

Also presenting that weekend was a man named Tim Holtz. Tim is an incredibly talented designer who comes up with fantastic ideas from things you and I would disregard. He has an eye to see art in the everyday. He is extremely popular in the scrapbooking world, and someone thought that auctioning off this very popular man’s shirt to a group of women might garner some attention.

Tim agreed, and just before I went on they brought Tim up to the stage. The bidding began. Everyone thought it was pretty funny and that it might raise a few hundred dollars.

The bidding started somewhere around a hundred dollars. It quickly grew to two hundred, then five hundred and eventually one thousand dollars. It was amazing-One thousand dollars for a man’s shirt.

But the bidding didn’t stop there. Everyone in the ballroom was amazed as the bidding continued. Up and up the dollar amounts went, and with every hand that one up signifying a new bid, Tim’s jaw dropped a little more.

Then out of the back of the room a woman stood up and called out, “Six thousand dollars!” Six thousand dollars. Everyone was in shock. How could it be that such a little thing could bring such a great result.

First, there was someone willing to give. Tim was literally willing to donate the shirt off his back. Without this kind of generosity the amazing result would have never come to be.

Second, there was a wonderful cause. I believe everyone there in some form or another had a personal connection with cancer. There were a number of cancer survivors there at the event and because of that people were willing to open their checkbooks.

Third, there are people at the event willing to be participators. People willing to get involved and do something. People who had decided they would do more than just spectate, they would participate.

Every time I think about this amazing experience I think of those three pieces that put together an incredible puzzle. I think about how I can better give. I think about those “shirts off my back” that I am reluctant to give because it seems like a sacrifice that won’t bring any real result.

I think about how I can better promote the causes I come across. A cause can be anything from a neighbor’s need for a helping hand to fighting cancer. This experience always reminds me that good causes bring about good results.

Then, I think about getting involved in my life. I think about the opportunities where I can participate and I become less likely to let them pass. I may not have six thousand dollars, but I have time and talent and energy that can make just as great a difference. How grateful I am for the example of that woman who that night decided not to be a spectator.

Next time you think you have nothing to give, remember good causes, remember to participate and remember the shirt off your back.

Jh-


To Protect and Serve

November 8, 2008

protect-and-serve

Driving around town the other day trying to get some things done I passed a police officer. For some reason I took special notice of the words that were placed on each door as well as the rear bumper. They read, “To protect and serve.” I thought about all the things that the men and women of the police force do to make sure their slogan “to protect and serve” is kept.

These thoughts turned from the officers to my parents. As they did, I  marveled at the sacrifices they have made to get me to where I am today.

I remembered being 15 lying in a hospital just hours from learning that my medical diagnosis was quadriplegia, and as far as the doctors were concerned I would never walk again. On that day, like so many after it, I looked into my parents eyes and knew that if there was anything they could do to better “protect and serve” me I need only ask for it. I knew in a way most 15-year-old boys never get to know that my mom and dad would do anything in their power to keep me safe and help me to grow.

Later, as I worked in a wheelchair to find my way in a world of stairs, I also learned that often in order to truly serve, they had to let me fall. That the greatest protection they could offer was the preparation that came from no protection at all. That the finest service they could give was teaching me to serve myself.

In addition, I watched as they worked hard not only “to protect and serve” my siblings and I, but our “neighbors” as well. Just like the officers who carry that credo with them, my parents taught us that we too have a responsibility “to protect and serve” those around us. From a young age I was instructed that if I saw suffering I had a duty to help to curb it. I learned that if any of us are ever to be truly protected or served we must police each other.

Thinking of my parents, my thoughts turned to this little boy waiting to come to my home. Like the police officer, all I want to do is “to protect and serve” him,

As I think about the life he has a waiting him, the adventures that will be his, and the world that he is being born into my first nature is to protect him and keep him safe. It seems as natural and instinct as “fight or flight.” He’s not even here, and I already consider often the things that I can do to keep him out of harm’s way.

My desire to serve him is just as strong. From that day when he was all of five weeks old and I heard his heartbeat, I knew that I would do anything I could to help him. I think of him often in my dreams and as I do I try to imagine ways that I might help him reach his ultimate potential. We have not even met and yet all that I have is his. If there is anything I own in this world that might help him achieve more, do more, or become more I will gladly give it to him. My soul aches to serve him.

I hope that I am strong enough to follow the examples of my parents. I hope that I serve him well enough that I teach him I cannot protect him from everything even if I wanted to. I hope that he grows up knowing that he has a responsibility to those around him. I hope he grows up safe and secure. Safe in the knowledge that his dad loves him and secure enough in who he is that he can rise each time he falls.

What I do know is this, he is mine and I am his. I know I will do my very best “to protect and serve” him in a way that prepares him for the struggles that lie ahead of him, and will work to help him know that understanding love means loving his neighbor as himself.

Jh-

Coleman Jason Hall when he was just 5 cells old.  (He's the cute one)

Coleman Jason Hall when he was just five cells old. (He's the cute one)


A Comment You Have To See

October 23, 2008

Obviously I love all my comments, but I got one for my “Cooked Bananas” post everyone just needed to see, and, since everyone doesn’t always read the comments, I had to post it here

Lyn Meeker wrote:

So I “Took one for the team” … I had some sliced ham .. I had banana’s .. I didn’t have cheese sauce … but I took a piece of banana and wrapped the ham around it and tasted it… all I can say is .. I don’t think the cheese sauce would have helped it at all .. I don’t think it would have disguised the odd taste and most certainly not the very weird texture between the ham and banana… And heating it all up would not have improved it one bit! .. I’m so glad that you were able to convince the nurse of your need for cafeteria food! And it makes you wonder if the cooking staff were having a contest to see who could come up with the weirdest concoctions!

Talk about courage. You are awesome Lyn.  I think she deserves a shoutout from the team.  Check yes if you agree, and/or leave one of your own in the comments.


Garcia’s and Kolette’s Hand

October 21, 2008

Somewhere around the middle of March 1992 I decided that Kolette was the right one for me and I was going to ask her to marry me. I have been raised in such a way I knew before I could ask Kolette her opinion on the matter, I needed to get her fathers permission.

One afternoon in between classes at BYU, I called Gary Coleman (Kolette’s dad) and tried my best to make some small talk. Once we had reviewed everything happening with the local sports teams and there was nothing else to review, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind meeting me at a restaurant for lunch (as if he had absolutely no idea why we were getting together).

Kolette’s dad was a man of some note in our community, and someone I have a great deal of respect for. Therefore, I was at the least a little fearful and at most scared out of my shorts to have such a meeting. It wasn’t anything that he had done, he had always been genuinely kind and easy to talk to when we had spoken before. But, this was a different matter altogether and I was nervous that he might not think I measured up.

I picked a restaurant called Garcia’s.  It was about halfway between where he and I lived. I was too anxious to go one-on-one with him at his house where he would have home-field advantage, and so I tried to pick a place that was more of a neutral site. He agreed to location and now all I had to do was try to find a way to sleep until the day of the meeting arrived

Finally, the day came. I got in my handicap accessible van and made the trip to the restaurant. I’m not exactly a person known for his punctuality, but that day was no ordinary day and I was not going to be late. I arrived at the restaurant a half-hour before we were scheduled to meet. Sitting in my, van feeling like my brain could explode, I thought it would be a good idea to take my mind off the situation. Trying to do so, I used the car phone in my van to call a man interested in helping me with a writing project. This was a big project for me, and I was sure that it would take my mind off the matter at hand.

What I didn’t know, was that the man interested in helping me was also quite a talker. This was great for the first 25 minutes, but as time continued to move on my nerves came back times ten. The clock kept inching closer and closer to our meeting time and I could not get him off the phone. Eventually, the man I hoped to convince to be my father-in-law pulled up. He got out of his car, saw me still sitting in my van and began to walk over to where I was parked. Still, I could not get this man off the phone. Mr. Coleman was now standing outside my window looking at his watch. I made one more attempt at getting the man off the phone and when that didn’t work I simply hung up. I figured he’d understand.

We went into the restaurant and for reasons that I cannot explain I was scared silly, and sweating profusely.  I couldn’t do a thing to stop it. It seemed as though my nerves opened every pore in my body and released the floodgates. Even though it looked like I had just been dropped in a dunk tank at the local carnival I kept wiping my brow hoping he wouldn’t notice.

The hostess sat us at our table, gave us our menus and left.  Normally, I’m a pretty talkative person. People who know me would not describe me as someone who quietly kept to themselves. But sitting there across the table from this man I couldn’t think of a thing to say. So, I did what any normal person would do and asked him what he thought about the graphic design work on the menus.

I told him that I felt the work was incredible. Not sure where this was going, he halfheartedly agreed. I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of my mouth. I was trying to tell this man I wanted to marry his daughter and the best I could come up with was the artwork on the menus. I knew if I was going to have any real chance I had to come up with something better than that, so I began to ask him about his family.

I started with his wife and then asked about every child from oldest to youngest. Not quite ready to broach the subject of Kolette I skipped her altogether. Mr. Coleman gave me an odd look wondering if I had forgotten about the very daughter he thought we were there to talk about (although at this point I’m sure he was rethinking why we were there at all).

Finally, I knew it was time to get to the point. The look on his face told me that if I brought up the decorations on the wall I might lose the deal completely.

I mustered up every ounce of courage I could put together and said, “Mr. Coleman, I love…” And before I could even finish the sentence, a waitress came up and asked if we are ready to order. I gave her the dirtiest look I had given any one in a long time. “I was there,” I thought, “I was almost finished.” But, knowing that things were tenuous already, I placed my order.

This was something I had given a lot of thought to. Without the use of my hands I often require help when I eat at restaurants. Sometimes, if the dishes particularly large or messy I need someone to cut up the food or reposition the meal. And, because I was here trying to convince the man across the table that I could take care of his daughter I didn’t think having him reach over at the table to cut up my food would set the right tone.

When the waitress asked, I ordered a cheese quesadilla and asked her if she would have the people in the back cut it up for me. It would be hard for me to spill a cheese quesadilla, and if the waitress cut it up before she brought it out than I could eat it all by myself.

She took the order and I knew that it was now or never and I blurted out, “Mr. Coleman, I love your daughter and I’d like your permission to marry her.” It seemed like an eternity before he answered. I sat there for what I’m sure was at least two seconds, waiting for his answer.

He looked at me with his kind eyes and told me that he and his wife had been expecting this for some time. He told me that they were excited for the news and that I had his blessing. You can imagine the weight that was lifted off my shoulders. All I had to do now was make it through the rest of the meal and I can ask my girlfriend to be my fiancé.

As we talked about our future plans, and what types of things filled my hopes and dreams, the waitress brought out the food. The quesadilla had been cut exactly as I asked. She placed the plate in front of me she warned me that it might still be hot. My future father-in-law began to dig into his food and so I did the same.

I stuck my fork into one of the corner pieces and began to lift it to my mouth. As I did I realized that the waitress wasn’t lying, and that the plate was in fact hot. It was so hot that it had melted cheese in the quesadilla back together. When I went to lift the single bite to my mouth I picked up the entire plate of food.

I had done everything in my power to avoid it but now I had no other option. I had to ask Mr. Coleman to cut up my food. He agreed and as he leaned over the table to slice up my food like I was four years old I remember thinking in my head, “Sure I can take care of your daughter, but, will you purée my food?”

The meal was finally over, and I remember thinking that if I had any brains at all I would get the check and get out of there before anything else could go wrong.  The waitress brought the check and when she did Mr. Coleman offered to go Dutch and pay for his half of the meal. I told him I wouldn’t hear of it. This was my meeting, I had invited him, and an effort to show that things in my life were financially sound, I would pay.

I reached behind my wheelchair to grab the black bag that holds my wallet, and much to my dismay, it was gone. Just before I left, my roommate borrowed my black bag to grab something out of my wallet, and had forgotten to put it back. I didn’t have a penny to my name. I wondered how long it would take someone who could not move their hands to wash enough dishes to pay for our meal.

Knowing this wasn’t an option, I turned to him and explained what had happened, apologizing profusely and committing to him that if it were the last thing I ever did I would pay him back.  He agreed, and the waitress picked up his credit card with the check.  He paid the bill, and it seemed as though lunch was over. I was so excited I would’ve done a backflip if I could have.

Because I was still sweating, my mouth was parched. And so before we left, I reached out to get one last drink. I steadied the glass between my two hands, lifted up and began to salivate as the water looked so crisp, clean and refreshing. Then, just before I put the cup to my lips I lost control of the glass and spilled water all over my lap. I couldn’t have aimed worse if I tried. Sitting there, I looked as though I had just wet my pants.

We left the restaurant, and as we stood in the parking lot at about to go to our separate cars, I looked up at him and said, “It’s not too late to change your mind.”  He chuckled, and told me that everything was fine.

As I think about that day I think about the many opportunities that I had to quit, to give up, and just try again some other time. From the very beginning to the very end everything went awry. There are regular days in our regular lives they go the same way. Nothing goes right and everything goes wrong. On those days, we have the same choice that I had on that fateful day at Garcia’s asking for Kolette’s hand.

If we quit, there’s a good chance things will get easier. But at what cost? There’s little question that my day would have been easier had I left when I couldn’t get the man off the phone, started sweating, reviewed the menu, had to have my food cut up, forgot my wallet, or spilt the water. Quitting anywhere along the way would have saved me a lot of embarrassment, and a ton of discomfort. The cost however would have been unthinkable.

The years that I have been married to my wife have been the best years I have spent on the face of this earth. She makes every day brighter, every color more beautiful, and every experience more sweet. She truly is my reason for living. Giving up that day in that restaurant across from her father might have cost me Kolette.

Similarly, when we endure the difficult days that present themselves as we move through our lives when we think of giving up we have to also consider the cost.  Who knows what experiences await you through the adversities each day brings.

So move forward and remember that the rewards that await you are worth the struggle. Who knows, without Garcia’s I may never have had Kolette’s hand.

Jh-


A Little Inspiration From Hawkeye Pierce

October 10, 2008

I think I have been a fan of M*A*S*H* as long as I’m been a fan of television. Which for me, has been a long time. I’ve never really been a huge fan of the movie, but I can nearly recite every episode of the television series from memory. (This is what happens when you spend literally years of your life in the hospital.)

I have to say that of all the characters from Radar, Klinger, Trapper, and both of the Colonels, Hawkeye was always my favorite. Of all the witty things Alan Alda’s character ever said the quote that I remember the most goes as follows:

“I am continually amazed at the total frailty of the human body, and the incredible resiliency of the human spirit.”

As we go into this weekend let us all, like Hawkeye, remember that although it is true that no matter how much effort we put into strengthening our bodies they can and will be broken, if we strengthen our inner spirit he truly can be indomitable.

Jh-


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