Tuesdays with Morrie was a popular book. I think I read a few chapters, then was sidetracked, so I never did get through it. I did have a short stint, where I joked with my wife and my father-in-law that I was going to work on the sequel… Wednesdays with Fred.
I was attempting to get Fred to walk, not far, but regularly. We were going to walk around Hobgood park’s walking path at least one time around, if not twice, until we could eventually go thrice. Well, we never got up to two. And we only actually made it out a handful of times. So not only did the distance stall out as an infant, so did my new book.
Fred, as many of you have heard, is fighting for his life right now. Well, the reality is, he has fought for his life numerous times over the last five years. Mostly, all related to hospital stays. But right now, the cancer that started as prostate (one of the primary cancers in our country), has spread to his bone, and has grown into many sites it seems, based on the last biopsy.
His bone marrow is not functioning, and his immune system is not in line with what needs to be done. All this to say, for the last several weeks he has been in the hospital, and for the last week he has been on life support in the form of the ventilator. I find myself sad quite often. But, not because of where he is right now… I have been well prepared for this by this history, and my experience with patients fighting cancers. No, I am sad right now because of not spending more time on “Wednesdays… with Fred”.
When my daughter lost her hamster two weeks ago (lost, as in “the poor guy died”); we held a memorial service for him… Nibbles. When we went around saying a few words about the reserved rodent, my daughter Ansley, began to speak very serious about all the things she loved about Nibbles. Then she turned from her discussion about his favorable traits, and turned against herself pointing out the not so favorable ones…
“I know I didn’t take care of him as well as I could have, and I wish I could have done more for him, and maybe he would be here now if I had”. Sad. The moment was nothing other than sad. Well, perhaps it was also mature. As a 9-yr. old, I believe she has a maturity that most do not.
But doesn’t that ring true? As soon as we say goodbye, we find ourselves thinking about what else we could have done. For “Papa” as we call him, I wish I would have spent more time on Wednesdays… working towards a long term goal with him. But we were interrupted. He didn’t feel up to it a few times, then it turned into me being busy. We enjoyed the short discussions, which mostly centered around God at a time that he was inspecting that world. I enjoyed the knowledge that I was able to gain from him and his experience, and he enjoyed the perspective I shared on God. Cautious, he was surely cautious as we discussed these things, but we were baptized together. We had a bond beyond the 30 years that I dated/married his daughter.
Fred’s life is a crazy story. From foster homes to being on the road grabbing cargo bay doors on moving trains to jump state lines… all as a kid. Married to the love of his life as a teenager, and 50 years of marriage plus years later, if I had to surmise on anything that finally caught up to him, I would have to say it was the smoking. A Man in Full. That’s how I look at Fred.
The humble beginnings made him more excited to use the success he had discovered for living in the moment, vs. putting it off for the future. The man has an impressive career for a kid on his own practically by the time he was 10. An executive for a few hundred million dollar company… after selling them his own vinegar company… this was an accomplished guy. I joked with my wife’s siblings the other day “he was Don Johnson in a linen suit the day he met me… and he brushed me off like I was just another boy trying to find his daughters affection…”; but the second time he met me… that’s when I let him see the intense optimism that drives me. And we became friends.
30 years. He was younger than I am now, when I met him.
If I ever were to take the time to write Wednesday’s with Fred… it would be about a man who overcame incredible odds. Incredible odds that said… this kid won’t get married, or if he does, it won’t last; he won’t make it out of laborer jobs, no hope of that; he won’t get out of his home town ever, he’ll be stuck here (instead he moved across the country as he climbed the ladder that let him step off the top rung into corporate ownership); he won’t ever recover to normal after that accident, or after that heart issue, or that aneurysm, or that cancer.
Honestly, it was like he had nine lives in some ways. I remember when I ran his BIA a number of years ago. I told him, “in spite of your best efforts, your underlying cells are incredibly healthy, and you will survive many trials that others would not according to the research on phase angle… but you still need to change your lifestyle!” I think he took it as “great, I can keep going like this”.
The cancer is what is ultimately at work here now. That or radiation treatment of the cancer… who knows. But the outcome is bone marrow that isn’t working, and a lack of blood cells across the board. Lung function is weak, and now after five days on a ventilator, we are trying to get him off. With no way of knowing if he can survive without out, or if he can… for how long. Still, we are bent on helping him get off of this so that there is at least some moments where communication can be a two way street. So that if he is leaving to be with his father in short time, that the time leading up to it, gives him a chance to smile. Or squeeze a hand while looking into his daughters’ eyes. So right now, if you read this in late December of 2016… you are asked to put your head down and pray. Pray that there is a last moment of conversation before he moves on. That there is a last chance for peace in the hearts of all of the Galyeans one last time.
Fred has suffered much pain in the last three years. I am so happy that he is going to be with God. But I am so sad for us, especially as we walk these streets of memory. I know so many people do this all the time, and I have done it before, but none before this have been so important to me or my wife. I love you Fred, and I will miss you forever. Say hi to my unborn twins when you get there. Love Eric