Iron Balls. A holiday blog.

I admire drummers who can swing a beat. They’re onto
something. Life should not plod or march. It should swing. It should speed up and slow down.

Carson City, at the base of the Sierra mountain range and near to a mile high, has peaks to the west that jut majestically over four thousand feet above the valley floor.

Lake Tahoe at some sixteen hundred feet deep and a surface elevation of sixty two hundred hundred feet seems barely contained by the monoliths to the left.

The wind blows every day. Carson City whistles all the goddamn time.

He left home at thirteen. Sixth grade education from a
one room school house. Hunted deer with a twelve
guage loaded with slugs instead of shot. He rode the
rails and stole produce from the fields along the way
to survive.

Lied about his age to work for the Forest Service.
After that, the mines, with an epileptic partner and explosives. I believe it was during this time he married my mother.

His father played semi-pro baseball and cards. Never
took a drink or smoke of anything. He died at age
eighty nine from colon cancer.

Killed an elk a mere few years before he died and drug it out
of the woods by himself. Probably sent me the teeth.
He sent me a lot of teeth from animals he killed, typically in
an envelope inside a shirtbox of fairly salty peanut
butter cookies baked by Grandma Douglass. I think she died at a hundred and one.

His son, my Dad, has been in the hospital for too long
now. He is seventy five years old.

A few days back, I sat in the dim light of the night’s
middle in a hospital and looked at him. I spent the
night with him. It was hard. Highways of tubes
everywhere, draining and feeding. I fed him ice chips
every half hour or so.

He pooped and farted that night, which was brilliant, yet
his hands shook as he gripped the door jam to the bathroom.

The thing is, long after his body has ceased to be
tough, his mind still very much is. He is fearless.

Vessel and carcass to be durable again soon enough.

First day I walked into his room in the
cardiac wing, I clocked a tube sucking putrid green
lungbutter and what looked like shaving cream, from
his nose and into a jar mounted and hanging from a

A trio of beeping machines were connected to him and
mounted on a chrome tree with wheels. There was a sensor on his right hand he referred to as ET.

On the same tree were bags of protein, glucose and

He didn’t look too good at all. The color of
snow and ashes.

He was himself though. Blowing kisses and flirting
with the nurses. They all adored him because he was
such a good patient.

My Old Man is a motherfuckin class act.

A few months back my mother arrived at the conclusion
that it was time for my father to have a colonoscopy.
Last one was about twelve years ago.

Turns out he had close to a ten inch tumor in his
small intestine. A big ass mass. When Mom
said over twenty five centimeters, my heart sank.

It had to come out no matter what.

It was the biopsy that loomed.

They could only access the front of what I imagined in
my minds eye to be a malformed and hairless rodent.

Benign. So far so good.

Still, the doctors told us, these types of rodents
always turned malignant and it had to come out.
Otherwise, it would metastasize and the world would tilt.

The first surgery, a laparoscopy, went routinely. They took the bald rodent and lymph nodes.

Routine. No big deal.

Subsequent biopsy was negative. Thanks be to the powers that be.

A few days and things began to turn. No appetite.
Not passing anything, even gas. Pain. A few more
days, keep feeding him said the surgeon. We all agreed. A
decision we would all come to regret.

Because his stomach’s cargo had no other road to
travel, he began to vomit violently. Bring him they
said. A second far more invasive surgery they said.

My sister, rockstar that she is, spent nights with my
father and worked during the day. She runs marathons
you know. I’m pretty sure she could kick my ass.

My sister’s husband, a man I respect, admire and
adore, lost his mother just suddenly enough to be
cruel, barely two months ago.

Yet he came.

My father’s best friend besides his bride of fifty two years, a man who once bit another man’s finger off
in a fight, is a man named Pat. He fretted over my old man like a stoic woman.

His other best friend is a three legged dog he inherited from his oldest grandson. Her name is Billy Jean.

The only thing he fears is anything at all happening
to someone he loves. This shit happening to him now
is Fisher Price. He’s merely waiting it out.

I’ve witnessed his bravery before. All of five foot
six, he’d go after the biggest fucker in the room and
then kick his ass. He’d already lost an eye in a
barfight before I was even born. A concrete
foreman and somewhat of a legend in his local labor

A legend because he’d out work you, out drink
you, maybe kick the shit out of you and then be a
perfect gentleman to your wife.

Both eyes were black for my sister’s wedding photos.

That brand of bravery was foolish, compared to
what I see now.

I am so very grateful for how tough he is. Two
surgeries in the space of a few weeks. The second of
them elaborately invasive. We’re talking opened wide
up and disembowled. Crazy amounts of pain.

He smiles and tells you about the turd he just

I am in awe of this man’s courage and life force.

We talked politics in the dark hours before dawn. We
talked about how the better a candidate is, the less
chance he has.

We laughed about how special it was for a father and
son to share the moment of his first post surgical

My mother. Everyday she tells me, makes an Italian
soda. In a tall glass with an elbow straw, she mixes
ice, sugar free cherry syrup, club soda and Mocha Mix.

I tried it. It was quite good. Tonight I poured a
healthy amount of grenadine in to a diet Pepsi. It’s

Today was his first full day home. I literally slept
all day.

Can’t go down Endmunds or up Nye. Viking is
completely out of the question and so is Lompa. I’m
gonna need to stop in somewhere. Have a nap. See
what’s up. I’m no longer from around here.

Small chunk of a nightmare. Sorry.

I drove the first half. Through the high country
beginning with Topaz Lake, past Mono Lake and over the
Sierras down into Bishop. After that, The Fish drove
and I was able to gawk at the southern end of the
Sierra Mountain Range as it conducted it’s daily
finale with the impossible jaggedness of Mt. Whitney
as the sun sank behind.

I came home to a Christmas Tree where there hadn’t
been one. To a clean house where there had been a
disgusting one. To gifts wrapped in shiny paper. Oh

Sort of an epilogue:

He’s pooping. All systems are go. Sat at the kitchen counter today and watched a little TV. Tam, Todd and the kids came as well as cousins Derek and Marlow. They had Christmas.

The canine tripod named Billy Jean is back. My father’s favorite underdog has returned.

Sometimes I feel like my life will walk away from me
if I let it.

Drinks for my friends.

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