Tick Tock The Clock Is Ticking

Leon Hammack
B-757 cockpit somewhere over the Pacific between LAX and HNL.

The FAA grounded me for the duration of their investigation, which took about three and a half weeks to finish. So I was released back to flight status by the FAA thereafter, around the second week in June.

I returned to the air on the last week of June. At the end of that trip I noticed that my heart was beating weirdly, irregularly, or it was doing something that I had never noticed before.

When I returned to my house in Yuma, AZ, I made a phone call to my cardiologist, Dr. John Nelson in Fresno, CA, on Friday July 2, 2010. I expressed to him the feeling that I was having in my chest. He asked me if I could be in his office Monday morning? I acknowledged that I can easily be in his office on Monday morning. The appointment was scheduled and set in stone for 8 am.

My cardiologist decided that I needed to wear a heart monitor for 48 hours so that he could see, in more detail, what the heck was going on with my heart. So at the end of the 48 hours he took the heart monitor off, reviewed that data, and got me an appointment with an electro-physiologist, Dr. Koi Le. As Dr. Le explained to me, even though he was a cardiologist, his specialty and training was in electro-physiology. He continued to explain that my cardiologist is like a plumber and he, Dr. Le, is the electrician!

To make a long story short, once. again, by the end of the week, Friday specifically, I was having a procedure known as a Cardiac Ablation. For those who may not be totally familiar with that medical procedure, you might want to check out that link and read my five part rendition of what it was like to go through that, along with the overnight hospital stay. You may find this informative and I hope entertaining!

After recovering from the Cardiac Ablation and notifying the FAA of that procedure, my airline flying career came to a grinding halt. My flying career dropped like a prom dress. The FAA, in its infinite wisdom, revoked my medical certificate rendering my aviation career finished effective July 9, 2010. Even though your FAA pilot’s license has no expiration date, it is rendered invalid when you do not have a valid medical certificate to accompany it! That is the lone catch.

One of the outcomes from the cardiac ablation was that Dr. Le got an up close and personal look at my bicuspid aortic valve. It was at that point that there was definitive proof that, in time, I will be having to have my aortic valve replaced at some date in the future. Additionally, this event signaled my cardiologist that he needed to come up a plan to monitor the degradation of my aortic valve.

For the next five years my cardiologist put me on a schedule to have echocardiograms every six months in order to keep a close look at my aortic valve. Everything seemed to flow nicely for the next five years. In June of 2015 the echocardiogram results began to show that my aortic valve and the left ventricle might possibly be beginning to show signs of stress and change. My cardiologist decided that I need to have my second angiogram so that there can be another “up close and personal” look at the ol aortic valve.

After reviewing the results of that angiogram my cardiologist said that I needed to look into securing a thoracic surgeon’s opinion on my status. With that tidbit of advice I began my homework via the internet.

Now that I was living in Yuma, AZ I decided that I need to research thoracic surgeons at Scripps in San Diego, a mere three hour drive from Yuma vs. an 8 1/2 hour drive to Fresno! I began my in depth research looking for the best thoracic surgeon available associated with the Scripps system. After much scrounging, and with a suggestion list from my cardiologist, Dr. John J. (Jeff) Tyner was my overwhelming choice.

It took about 2-3 weeks to get on Dr. Tyner’s schedule to have a consult. Prior to the office visit I had to forward most of my medical records from my cardiologist and from the doctor that performed both of my angiograms, as well as my last two echocardiograms.

Making the three hour drive to San Diego gave me ample time to ponder what was to come after the doctor visit. I had resigned myself to the fact that I was going to undergo aortic valve replacement soon after this visit. To say that I was nervous. is a gross understatement! Once I was ushered into the room awaiting my introduction to Dr. Jeff Tyner, listen to his analysis of my case, and get some of my questions answered the nerves went supersonic!

Mayday, Mayday!

When Dr. Tyner entered the room, he introduced himself, engaged me, and then went over all of my records that was at his disposal, I realized that I couldn’t have selected a more professional, a more empathetic, and top-notched thoracic surgeon than Dr. Jeff Tyner! I am beginning to feel more assured.

After reviewing all of my records and medical data, Dr. Tyner told me that open heart surgery was not indicated at this particular time. However, it is definitely in the near future. If the criteria for replacing my aortic vale was solely based on the severity of the murmur/regurgitation/leak, then he would be doing my surgery on the following day! But he said that the severity of the leak is not the sole criteria to require this surgery. He added that as long as the walls of the heart have not started to show stress, then he thinks that we can buy some more time! Whew! That took a lot off of my mind!

So back I go to Yuma with a reprieve!

For the next four years everything seemed to flow smoothly, or so I thought!

Stay tuned the saga will continue.

TIL. NEXT TIME, KEEP THE SHINY SIDE UP!

I Was Born That Way!

Cole's 5th B'Day 081
Cole and I on his 5th B’day 2007.

Just about at the time that this photo was taken of me and Cole back in 2006 is when I went to see a cardiologist about my blood pressure. During an FAA physical in the spring of 2006 it was noted by that FAA doctor that my blood pressure had begun to creep ever so slightly upward, and that this doctor had heard a murmur while listening to my heart. He advised me to go to my primary doctor and get it checked out. This also coincided with me leaving Denver and moving back to my hometown of Fresno, CA.

Once that I got moved in and established back in Fresno I sought out a cardiologist, Dr. John Nelson, who had saved my brother’s life after having a massive heart attack a few years previous to this time. So once I got into to see Dr. Nelson he began to delved into why my BP (blood pressure) was creeping up, and what was the origins of my murmur.

Through the Summer and into the Fall of 2006 my doctor set me up for several tests, one of which he wanted me to do was and angiogram. I immediately squashed that idea because I did not want that on my medical record to go with high blood pressure and I was also diagnosed as a borderline diabetic. My health appeared to be taking a tumble and I didn’t want the FAA to ground me because of these early heath warnings.

So Dr. Nelson began his best impression of Monty Hall! We bantered back and forth trying to make a deal about different types of tests he thought would be beneficial in nailing down my particular issues. After much discussion he asked me if I would agree to do a 64 Slice. He said that at that time it was a very cutting edge test. Unfortunately, he informed me that more than likely my insurance would not pay for it. I asked him what it entailed? With a name like 64 Slice it sure sounded very invasive to me and my guard was already way up!

He informed me that it was a type a CAT scan, and he thought that it may help in nailing down the origins of my heart murmur. It would enable him to see my heart with a much higher resolution. He said to be me, “if I can get you in for free will you do it”? “You will have to go to San Francisco to get this done”. Long story short, within a couple of weeks I was driving up to SF to have my 64 Slice!

After reviewing the results of the 64 Slice, Dr. Nelson noted that there appears to be an issue with my aortic valve and he had just one more suggestion. He wanted me to submit to a TEE. I asked him what the heck was a TEE? He informed me that it was a trans esophageal echogram. There was an idea that my aortic valve was bicuspid, two leaflets, versus the normal tricuspid or three leaflets. I was informed that the aortic valve lies right next to the esophagus and they (the doctors) can have a real good look to see if my aortic valve was bicuspid or not from the TEE.

After accomplishing the TEE is was proven that I have an abnormal aortic valve, bicuspid. It was something that I was born with, but took 55 years for it to rear its ugly head! At that time Dr. Nelson informed me that, in time, I would have to have my aortic valve replaced. So it was decided that my cardiologist was going to keep a close watch on my bicuspid aortic valve.

For the next four years everything seemed to remained status quo. My aortic valve regurgitation, aka murmur, remained in check and did not grow any more severe. My heart appeared to be operating perfectly normal, with that one exception of a murmur.

However, on the evening of May 16, 2010 there was an event that was going to change everything!

For those not family or close friends, and are not familiar to what happened that night, you must read the above link to understand what a traumatic event can have on your heart!

Stay tuned for Part 2!

TIL NEXT TIME, KEEP THE SHINY SIDE UP!

Time To Put On The Big Boy Panties!

Cole's 5th B'Day 081

(Cole and yours truly at his 5th birthday party circa 2007)

Again I lead with that quote from A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times”!

That phrase has such an apropos feeling and meaning to me these days. The reason why it resonates with me is because my adult life has truly been some of the best of times in my life, as well as some most trying and troubling times in my life.

How else could I describe the last forty six years, since college graduation? How could a poor boy from Fresno, CA, have such great experiences during his working career? (That is fodder for another story yet to come.)

More importantly, I am now dealing with the culmination of what has gone on for the last thirteen years. Back in 2006 I began to develop blood pressure issues, as well as discovering that I had a heart murmur. After several tests to figure out why I have a murmur, it was discovered that I have a bicuspid aortic valve that would have to replaced in due time, something that I was obviously born with back in 1951.

Well, that due time for replacement has now arrived! My cardiologist relayed that information to me back in May, before I left the heat for the cool Oregon Coast for the summer months. She told me that when I returned back home at the end of the summer it would be time to start getting prepared for this open heart surgery. So during the summer I began scouring my winter schedule to see when would be the ideal time to devote to the open heart surgery and the requisite recovery time.

I decided that I would try to schedule this surgery to happen shortly after the end of the NASCAR racing season, I run a fantasy league and also do some photography work at the West Coast venues, as well. So after mulling over the schedule and the time off between the 2020 start up, I decided that I would try to get on the schedule for a surgery around November 21st. So my surgeon worked with me and I got on the surgery schedule for the afore mentioned date. Everything was rolling right along swimmingly until I arrived at the hospital the day previous to the surgery to do the pre-op blood work, etc. After I got to the hotel that afternoon upon completion of that blood work I received a phone call from my surgeon’s office stating that the surgery was cancelled due to a perceived infection found in my blood work.

DAMN!!!!

My family was all there, checked into the hotel, and now it was not going to happen. I had plenty of time to get all prepared, to get my heart and mind ready for this monumental event in my life. I had many “talks with myself” in the four months leading up to the surgery date. And once I arrived in San Diego I had finally gotten my head right for the open heart surgery, or so I thought!

Can we say total letdown?

Thursday morning it was time to load up the car and return back to Yuma. Friday I got in to see my primary physician to review the surgeon’s blood work, get prescribed some high powered antibiotics, and get established on them ASAP in order to get back on the surgery schedule ASAP.

I have now competed the required blood work to make sure that the infection has vacated this ol body! Now the surgery is scheduled for Dec 17th.

With the new surgery date comes the emotional rollercoaster that plagued me leading up to the previous surgery date. Even though this surgery, aortic valve replacement, has become a very common surgery performed at the prestigious hospitals, it still contains risks. Those risks are stroke, heart attack, and possibly death during the surgery!

Try dealing with that thought and signing the document that you understand the risks of this surgery! That will put a huge lump in your throat and an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach!

Once again , with all the pre-op things checked off it is time to search all of of drawers thoroughly to find my “Big Boy Panties”. Then I need to run them though the washer and dryer, pull those bad boys on, and be prepared to wither the revival of the emotional rollercoaster that I know will be coming to visit me from time to tome over the next ten days! There may be more to come prior to my surgery, or the next installment may be during my long recovery period. It just depends on how creative I feel both before and after this surgery.

TIL NEXT TIME, ROGER, WILCO, OVER AND OUT!

I Have A Broken Heart, No Really!

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It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times! Isn’t that how The Tale of Two Cities begins? Well it is very apropos in my tale as well.

It was the Spring of 2006, I was 55 years old, when my life took a hard left turn, quite unexpectedly. I was taking my bi-annual FAA physical when the doctor was listening to my heart and suddenly looked up at me and asked me a question, that appeared quite out of the blue!

The doctor asked me “how long have you had this heart murmur?” I was completely stunned by his question. My eloquent retort to the doctor went something like this. “What murmur, I don’t have no stinkin’ murmur”!

The doctor then sat down beside me and explained what a heart murmur was and that, yes indeed, you do have a heart murmur. He then explained to me what to listen for through his stethoscope as he positioned that on my ears and over my heart.

I heard just exactly what he had heard! I did in fact have a murmur at 55 years old. How could that be? How could this just now show up? I have physicals yearly for twenty years, and for the last ten years a physical every six months.

In addition to the heart murmur, the doctor had detected that my blood pressure was creeping up. He suggested that I see my doctor regarding all this news. I was getting ready to move back to my hometown, Fresno, in just a few weeks so I thought that once I was all moved in I would contact a cardiologist. I decided I would make an appointment with the cardiologist that saved my older brother’s life a decade previous.

I was caught completely off guard. My first 55 years had been a cake walk.

Now, all of the sudden, “Houston we have a problem!”

After getting into to see Dr. John Nelson, he began to prescribe some medication that he thought would get my blood pressure down. Then he got down to brass tacks to try to find what the cause of my heart murmur to be. After an echocardiogram the doctor was beginning to get a feel for the culprit. Dr Nelson told me that the echo seems to point to a bicuspid aortic valve as the problem, but it wasn’t conclusive. He wanted for me to have and angiogram and that would help to flush out the answer. I had heard about that procedure and that you are awake when it is performed. My answer was “no Happy Valley, no angiogram!”

He didn’t like my response. So he sat back down and mulled over another plan. He asked me would I be interested in getting a 64-Slice? After he explained that it was non intrusive and that it was, in effect, a very strong xray, a Cat Scan type of procedure. At that time it was very leading edge. He would like to get me into this new test program in San Francisco that was cutting edge at the time and give him a better look at my aortic valve via that scan. He was pretty sure that my insurance would not cover the expense, but that he could get me enrolled for free,

I agreed that if it wasn’t going to cost me a thing, and that there was no adverse conditions or pain, I would do it.

It took several weeks to get my schedule and the facility’s schedule worked out. But, we made it work and soon I was off to downtown San Francisco for my 64-Slice.

It was a very simple, interesting, and basically a non-invasive procedure. It was like an enhanced x-ray with contrast. That was a very important piece of the puzzle to gather in order to make the proper diagnosis for me.

Having gathered the info from the 64-Slice, there was just one more test or piece of evidence required to nail down the reason for the murmur. Dr. Nelson suggested that I have a TEE (Transesophageal echocardiogram). I agreed to have that procedure at the hospital with Dr. Sandhu (you may hear more about this doctor later in this series, he was a trip)! I found out that the aortic valve lies right next to your esophagus, and this procedure allows a very up close and personal look at the aortic valve.

In a few days following the TEE Dr. Nelson concluded that I have a bicuspid aortic valve (two folds or flaps), normally the aortic valve is tricuspid or three fold or flaps. My bicuspid aortic valve is genetic. As Lady Gaga sang, “I was Born That Way”! It is genetic, in that, I received this from either my mom’s genes or my dad’s genes!

The results of the TEE gave Dr. Nelson the vital piece of knowledge to fully understand and diagnose what was to come down the road!

Now realize that this all happened in the time frame of late 2006 and the Spring of 2007.

What lies ahead for me will be eye opening and life changing!

This post will the first part of a several part series that I am in the process of writing to bring you up to date as to what is currently happening to me……… open heart surgery in the next six weeks.

TIL NEXT TIME, ROGER, WILCO, OVER AND OUT!

Zeeva Marlene Hammack

Mother's Day 022

It has been almost ten months since you answered that call from God that one day we all must answer. One would think that in that amount of time the pain of losing you would have healed somewhat. But that is not necessarily true. There is still a whole in my heart where your memory now lives. You have left a lasting impression on those that you touched, Sis.

You made your mark on our family and you made your mark with your friends and coworkers, as well! Little did you know that both the Fresno Fire Department and the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department would send representatives from their respective agencies to honor you at your celebration of life!

Today would have been your 75th birthday, September 15, 1944, and all the good memories of you, my big sister, have flooded my brain and flooded my heart this weekend. All those memories have made me laugh uncontrollably and have made me cry sorrowfully today! Your loss has been very profound.

I miss you every single day.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SIS!

Below is the video that I made for my sister’s celebration of life. It is a good reflection of her 74 years on this Earth.

A Day Trip To Carmel-By-The-Sea

Carmel-By-The-Sea
Every time that I make a trip to Fresno lately to visit with my two sons and my two grandkids, while staying with my eldest son Jason, we (Jason and I) strike off on one of his famous or infamous day trips!  This visit to Fresno was no exception to what has now become the rule.

Last Saturday we rose up early and got things together, packed up what we thought was necessary for our 2 1/2 hour drive over to Carmel-By-The-Sea for an afternoon of sightseeing.  This particular trip, Jason explained to me, would be specifically pointed towards visiting many of the art galleries that are there.

Now it is at this point that I must do some “splainin”!

First and foremost, for those that know me well know that there is not one single artistic bone located anywhere in, on, nor around the physical composition that makes up my being!  I may appreciate some art, but I am not anywhere close to being an art critique nor, an art connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination!

I may have the art or gift of gab, or as one of my dearly departed college friends, Jerry Noblett, so aptly put it back during one of our shared college classes, and I will paraphrase it for you. When he saw the A that I received for one of our essay tests in Business Law and his B, his response was something that I have never forgotten.

Jerry’s explanation was something like “Leon you are so full of BS that you just BS’ed your way into that A!  I can’t believe that we said the same thing in our essay answers, but you really greased him up with your BS!” Eureka, I think that we have a winner!

I have digressed, but I think that you get my point about my art knowledge!

Anyway, we arrived at Carmel around 10:30 am on Saturday.  By the time we found a place to park his car it was about 11 am.

As we began our stroll around Carmel-By-The-Sea our first stop was to try to find a place to eat, since breakfast was wearing very thin with both of us.  After all, it was going take a lot of calorie intact to fuel our walk around Carmel!  After a few Google searches and reading of a few menus, Jason mentioned that he knew a good little Italian restaurant, Pepe’s Little Napoli Bistro Italiano on the corner of Delores and 7th.  So we headed over to scope it out and decided this was the place for lunch.

Lunch was outstanding and very affordable for Carmel!  We each ordered up differing pizzas with an appetizer of their “World Famous” garlic bread. It all was very tasty, and I would suggest this place if you are ever in town.

When lunch  was finished we sat out on our mission of visiting as many art galleries as we could Saturday.  There was a lot of people out and about walking up and down the sidewalks of Carmel.  It couldn’t have been a more perfect afternoon, clear, sunny, and temps in the mid 60’s, HELLO!

So my tour guide, read Jason The Latent Tie Dye Hippie and All Around Edgy Dude, takes out his handy dandy cell and directs us to our first art gallery.  As we walked in and began to look around at the collection hanging on the walls of the gallery the owner/manager/curator greeted us and welcomed us into the establishment.  Within the first few sentences the question was asked, “are you an artist?”  Now this person surely must have been kidding when she asked that question!

When looking at this duo one could see an elderly gentleman, a child of the 60’s, yours truly, dressed in a pair of cargo pants, long sleeved Daytona Speedway T-Shirt and a jacket from Gold Beach, Oregon.  I must say that I was looking very nondescript, but very cool I might add, that day. I kind of blended into the nondescript, but cool, crowd!  However, standing next to me was a much younger, bearded 40-something man, who had just swapped out his Birkenstocks for a pair of hiking boots before we left his car, wearing a pair of cargo pants and a self designed and styled Tie Dye hoodie sweatshirt.

Isn’t it quite obvious who may be the artistic person and who isn’t?

So when that question was asked I would just stick my finger out and point to the bearded 40-something person with the Tie Dye hoodie accompanying me and let them know that it wasn’t me that was an artist! But to a tee, everyone of the people that we talked to in these art galleries was very friendly, courteous, and very engaging.  Many of the galleries were very interesting and entertaining for this old non-artist dude.  But there were about four or five galleries out of the thirteen that we visited Saturday that really captured my attention.

The Dr. Sues art gallery was really cool!  Charles Schultz granted a license to a gentleman that had worked with him over the years to continue with Schultz’ work.  The only stipulation was that this gentleman could not duplicate his work.  He could use all of the characters but had to use the characters differently than Shultz had done.  That gallery was cool and really brought me back to some of my youth with Linus, Lucy, Charley Brown and many, many more Shultz characters! Again, the gallery owner gave us a little history lesson on this gallery, the works that were being shown and he was very friendly, as well.

We entered another gallery that was full of paintings that were focused on the pop culture of the last 50 years.  There were many great paintings that took me back in time in this gallery.  However, there was one painting that struck me in a most unusual way.  It was kind of freaky!

As I turned the corner and entered another room in the gallery I was struck by this piece that was full of images of The Beatles.  Some likenesses from the Magical Mystery Tour album, some from the Abbey Road album and some from Sgt. Peppers.  As I gazed upon this painting, all of the sudden inside my head there was the music of George Harrison playing.  The song playing was “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”!  It was just freaky crazy, my friend!

Down the street and around the corner there were two galleries that were full of bronze sculptures.  The first gallery, The Bennet Gallery, was all the works of the twin Bennet brothers and some of their children’s work.  It was very fascinating to look at all the various pieces on display.  Again, talking to the curator/manager/owner of this gallery, and answering the repeated question as to which one of us was an artist, led to a very pleasant surprise! After talking to this lady for quite sometime, she revealed that one of the twin brothers was her late husband and that her daughter was also one of the producers of these bronze images!

Later in the afternoon we entered another gallery featuring more bronze sculptures.  The lady in charge took us around and explained many of the show pieces on display.  She fired up a video showing the artist at work with his models, etc.  She seemed very knowledgable.  And  after answering “the question of the day” once again, she and Jason connected, as he did with every single person that we talked with on Saturday.  So as the conversation led itself to the question, Jason asked her how she knew so much about the artist and his works.  She confessed that the reason that she knew so much about the artist was that it was her father!

BAM!

We actually visited 13 of the 70-plus art galleries in Carmel on Saturday.

As the sun was getting low on the horizon, our feet and legs were getting tired, this 66 year old body was starting to feel fatigued, as we were walking back to the car I peered though the glass at one last shop.  It sparked my interest and in turn I got Jason’s attention.  I said to him let’s go into just one more.  He looked at me sort of incredulously, like he couldn’t believe that I was really interested in going into another art gallery!  I repeated what I said and he concurred.

Once inside he figured out my interest.  I was busted!  It was a gallery of race cars and airplanes!  I was in my element, race cars and airplanes.  I really thought that I had died and gone to Heaven!

The quality of the paintings were unbelievable.  The attention to detail was second to none.  It was so meticulous that it appeared photographic like in detail!  I learned that this artist was an engineer by trade.  He had worked in the auto industry designing automotive stuff.  His education, training, and background definitely came through in his attention to automotive detail, as well as aviation detail!

There was a painting of Michael Schumaker in his Ferrari, Mario Andretti in Formula 5000 car, Jim Clark in the Lotus that he brought to the Indy 500 in 1963, Ayrton Senna in his McLaren, a two ship of F-14 Tomcats orbiting over the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor with the point of view from a third aircraft in the formation, as well as many more fantastic paintings too many to mention!

Once again the gallery person was eager to engage both of us in conversation.  She was eager to explain the art work, give us background about the artist and answer our questions.  Once I got my fill of this gallery it was time to find Jay’s car and head over to the beach for a few minutes before we pack up and return to the valley.

The navigator, aka My Latent Tie Dye Hippie and All Around Edgy Dude, got us over to the beach just south of Pebble Beach Gold Club to check out the Pacific Ocean, the dropping sun, and the sandy beach.  It was a beautiful ending to a really fun day in this magical Central California Coast town!

Now for the 2 1/2 hour drive back to Fresno.  Jason and I talked about many things and that made the time go by very fast.

However, once we got back to his apartment and I began to unwind, I knew it was time for this old man to hit the rack.  As I slipped into bed and was laying there waiting to fall asleep, there were many thoughts that ran through my brain.

I thought about some of the things that I did with my dad in his later years.  I thought about bringing my parents to NYC for their first time and giving them “the grand tour of NYC”, which included taking them to Broadway for a show.  I thought about the only time that my dad ever went flying with me.  There were many more thoughts and memories of my dad that flashed through my brain before I fell asleep.

Those memories are priceless and aren’t for sale!

I wonder someday, when Jason reaches my age, if he will look back on our “day trip to Carmel”, or our other day trips, or maybe his trip out to Honolulu with me flying the B-767 with the same fond memories?  I surely hope so.

TIL NEXT TIME MY FRIEND, ROGER, WILCO, OVER AND OUT!

Let Us Live My Friends, Because:

Daytona from my seat
I take no responsibility for the passage below.  I came across this recently and it impressed me and moved me enough that I thought that I would pass it along to my family and friends.

Now that I have passed the golden age of 65 years old my mortality is more pressing and evident than it was it has been in years gone by.  I have been so consumed with life that I may not have done a great such a fantastic performance of being the best person that I could be in life, that I may not have been the best parent, grandparent, brother, or spouse that I could have been, and that I may have robbed my family and friends of some valuable daylight.

I hope that this passage will speak to you the way that I spoke to me!

On The Day I Die

On the die I day a lot will happen.

A lot will change.

The world will be busy.

On the day I die, all the important appointments I made will be left unattended.

The many plans I had yet to finish will remain forever undone.

The calendar that ruled so many of my days will now be irrelevant to me.

All the material things I so chased and guarded and treasured will be left in the hands of others to care for or to discard.

The words of my critics which so burdened me will cease to sting or capture anymore. They will be unable to touch me.

The arguments I believed I’d won here will not serve me or bring me any satisfaction or solace.   

All my noisy incoming notifications and texts and calls will go unanswered. Their great urgency will be quieted.

My many nagging regrets will all be resigned to the past, where they should have always been anyway.

Every superficial worry about my body that I ever labored over; about my waistline or hairline or frown lines, will fade away.

My carefully crafted image, the one I worked so hard to shape for others here, will be left to them to finish anyway.

The sterling reputation I once struggled so greatly to maintain will be of little concern for me anymore.

All the small and large anxieties that stole sleep from me each night will be rendered powerless.

The deep and towering mysteries about life and death that so consumed my mind will finally be clarified in a way that they could never be before while I lived.

These things will certainly all be true on the day that I die.

Yet for as much as will happen on that day, one more thing that will happen.

On the day I die, the few people who really know and truly love me will grieve deeply.

They will feel a void.

They will feel cheated.

They will not feel ready.

They will feel as though a part of them has died as well.

And on that day, more than anything in the world they will want more time with me.

I know this from those I love and grieve over.

And so knowing this, while I am still alive I’ll try to remember that my time with them is finite and fleeting and so very precious—and I’ll do my best not to waste a second of it.

I’ll try not to squander a priceless moment worrying about all the other things that will happen on the day I die, because many of those things are either not my concern or beyond my sphere of influence.

Friends, those other things have an insidious way of keeping you from living even as you live; vying for your attention, competing for your affections.

They rob you of the joy of this unrepeatable, uncontainable, ever-evaporating Now with those who love you and want only to share it with you.

Don’t miss the chance to dance with them while you can.

It’s easy to waste so much daylight in the days before you die.

Don’t let your life be stolen every day by all that you’ve been led to believe matters, because on the day you die, the fact is that much of it simply won’t.

Yes, you and I will die one day.

But before that day comes: let us live.

I Missed The Dirt Setup!

me sitting on pit wall @ IMS

(sitting on the pit wall @IMS)

For the past six months I have been working on getting off the excess weight that I have accumulated in the last several years.  In addition to changing my eating habits, I have been walking.

Where I was walking this winter is within the confines of the facility where I winter.  It is much safer, no cars trying to run over you, no traffic, no distractions, etc., however it is pavement, like a road racing course.  For the month of June I was visiting my kids and grandkids in Fresno, and walking on a one mile horse race track.

One would not think there is no difference walking on asphalt, versus walking on dirt.  I, too, was one of those that thought that there was little to no differences in the surfaces. However, after a few days of walking on the dirt track I found that I was having handling problems!

On the pavement, where I was walking this winter, it was a relatively flat surface, requiring both left and right turns.  I had no built in camber, or bump stops in my suspension setup. Just an old pair of Nike cross trainers on my feet!  However here on the horse racing track, it is dirt, slightly banked, and just left turns, kinda like oval racing in NASCAR. Quickly I realized that there was a big difference on how this old man performed on the dirt!

Anyway, for the first week of walking on this dirt track, I found that as I would get to the end of either straight-away, and try to set up for the turns, I was unable to hold the low line through the turns.  As soon as I would “gas it up”, I would push up towards the fence!  I just could not figure it out! Why was I unable to hold the low line, and pushing so much through the turns?

I tried “getting out of the gas” early, rolling through the center, then “gassing it up” again as I progressed through two-thirds of the turn.  That didn’t fix the problem.  I still was “pushing” through the turns!  I tried different tennis shoes, thinking that a change in the “footprint” would be the key.  No help whatsoever!  I was was absolutely puzzled!  What can I do?

After a long self evaluation, I decided to confer with one of my good friends, David Prickett, the 2013 USAC Western States Dirt Track midget champion.  If anyone could help me with my dirt set up, it would be David!  So I loaded up in my car, drove over to his race shop, with the idea of picking his brain.

Once I got over to his shop, I began to query him on how to get through the turns on my walk.  I asked David what are the main principles, tires, suspension, etc., of how he gets his midget to handle in the turns.  I was thinking that all those principles would apply to me and my walk on the dirt horse track!  David relayed to me that the right rear tire was for sliding through the turns, while the left rear powered the car through the turn!

Why did I think of that!  That concept seemed all too simple.  I thought a bit, hmmm, surely this will work for me as well.

Now all I have to do is to adjust my body posture, and body weight, to all a little softer right leg as I go into the turn, allowing for a little slide.  All the while, concentrating on getting the left leg to power me through the turns, and up off of the turns, onto the straight-away! What a concept!

On my walk the following morning, I was very diligent with the knowledge that I had received from David.  On lap one, at the end of the straight-away, I allowed my right side to roll over just a little as I got into the turn.  I found that I was able to hold the lower line.  As I “got back into the gas”, I found that my left leg was, indeed, able to power me through the turn without pushing up to the fence!

Eureka!  Problem solved!

Needless to say that my lap times came down, and my speed went up!

So the next time you see someone walking on a dirt surface, if you notice a cloud of dust, and a person walking by in a blur, it just might be me!

TIL NEXT TIME, ROGER, WILCO, OVER, AND OUT!

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

P1060114

(Mom’s 93rd birthday, June 13, 2011)

As my alarm went off this morning, and I got dressed for my morning walk, I couldn’t understand why I felt so exhausted.  I also could not explain this tune that kept running through my head.

As I began my walk, the previous night’s restlessness began to unfold in my brain.

Even though I plug into my iPod during my walk, and I try to select some appropriate walking music, that tune was running around in my head from my night’s sleep, and it kept coming to the forefront of my thoughts.

You may recognize the song from the first line of the lyrics, and it goes like this.

“Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high.

There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby”

As I continued on my walk that tune just was relentless inside my head. After a measurement of time that I could not quantify, I finally acquiesced to the music, found that song on my iPod, and selected it.  I have two different artists’ versions, but I knew which one of the artists I wanted to listen.

Years ago I bought the DVD/CD entitled “One More Car, One More Driver”, by Eric Clapton.  Clapton does an acoustical version of this song that is really so cool!  So I scrolled through the play lists, found this version, and selected it for my listening pleasure.

As the music played it became very clear to me that this song was placed into my head because I must have been dreaming about my Mom during the night.  After all, today is June 13th, and it would have been her 95th birthday.  Additionally, it is the first time I have had to celebrate her birthday without her!

Each time the song finished playing, I would push replay again, and again, and again.  I must have listened to this song a half dozen times this morning!  I was not sure how or why I was directed to play this particular song, but I was!

When I finished my walk I returned to my RV to get cleaned up for the day. My first order of business was to make a trip to the cemetery to visit my Mother’s grave.  After arriving at my Mom’s grave, that song reappeared inside of my head.  I could not get it out of my head!

Both of parent’s graves were slightly covered in pine needles.  Not having a wisk broom in my possession, and having that song running rampant in my head, I was trying desperately to wipe off the debris from the headstones, when I heard a familiar voice.  It was my nephew, who too, was there to visit my Mom, his grandmother’s grave on her birthday.

It was at this time, with this song blaring inside my brain, and all the emotions that I was feeling deep inside, the grief, and the sadness that still lingers within, that I figured out that this song was a message from my Mom!

After concluding all my errands of the day, groceries, and a doctor’s appointment, I returned to my RV.  Once again I found this song and played it once again.  And again it reaffirmed, in my mind, that it was, indeed, a message from my Mom!

So, I have embedded the Eric Clapton video version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”.  Maybe you will go along with me in my analysis of my Wednesday night and Thursday morning!

Happy 95th Birthday Mom, I miss you very much!

Til we meet again, somewhere over the rainbow!

A Chip Off Of The Old Block?

Me and Cole

(Cole and Papa)

I have been in Fresno now for a little over a week this summer, and I have had the pleasure of getting to watch my grandson, Cole, play baseball twice for his school team.  One of those games was the final game in their really short regular season, and the other game Tuesday was a championship playoff game.  To say that ol Captain Blowdri was a proud grandfather would be a really gross understatement!

As I have written before, I get a great sense of pride watching Cole play baseball,  the game that I dearly love, the game that I played as a youngster, the game that was taught to me by both my Father, as well as my older brothers, the national past time.  I guess that you could say that baseball and the Hammack’s is kind of, like Hank Williams, Jr. sang about, you know, “a family tradition”!

I have had the opportunity to watch Cole play baseball about four or five times over the past year.  I have witnessed his progression, from an intimidated “newby”, to a young man who is developing skills and self confidence, where the game of baseball is involved.  Even though Cole is just about to finish the 5th grade, he is, in fact, ten years old and that is one year younger than most all of his contemporaries, which at this age can really make a world of difference in maturity, confidence, and performance.  I mention that because his teammates most always have had a little more experience playing Little League than Cole, at this point in their short lives.

Notwithstanding that fact, Cole has adapted very well to playing on a team of more experienced boys, and also on a team that is not coached by his dad, Jeremy.

When I am in the stands or on the sidelines watching Cole play baseball I get very nostalgic and, sometimes a little emotional.  I can’t help, nor control, the pride I feel deep inside, and the emotions that wash all over me while I am watching Cole play baseball.

While sitting in the stands watching Cole play ball, I find myself vicariously playing in the game.  It is like I am in Cole’s uniform, playing his position, and hitting for him when he steps into the batter’s box!  It is like I am experiencing all the highs and lows of the game, in real time, as he is playing it!  When Cole comes through with a base hit, I feel so boastfully proud and beam from ear to ear, and on the other hand, when he strikes out or grounds out, I can feel all of his disappointment!

Nevertheless, I will admit that I am a somewhat proud, prejudiced grandfather, when discussing my grandson’s athletic abilities!  Additionally, it gives me a great sense of satisfaction and family pride when I am able to attend any of Cole’s baseball games, and watch this young boy grow personally and athletically.  I could go on forever about this, however, I will just incorporate the following video to augment this article.

I will leave you with this video of one of my most favorite James Taylor tunes.  The message is the medium!

Peace be with you!

ROGER, WILCO, OVER, AND OUT!