The Long Road... #2014reboot

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Saturday, December 31, 2011

#381: Peeking Around the Bend


What's around the bend in Pennsyltucky?
In a way, it's a pity that we celebrate New Year's Eve by getting drunk. This is such a great day to be awake; to be mindful. 2011 was full of things worth remembering for me. And next year is so rich with possibilities.
In some ways, 2011 was a hard year, but even through the pain, we were blessed. We lost a lot of people we love, particularly our beloved brother Doug who fought cancer with such courage and faithfulness. Near the end of his battle, he spoke the words that just may go on my tombstone. He was lying in the hospital when he was told of a friend who had given his heart to Jesus in church that morning, Doug wept and whispered, "It's all going to be worth it." And so it is.

We lost our house, after a long game of chicken with Wells Fargo. The experience was sometimes painful, more often, it was just a pain, but we were blessed to have the support of our friend Donna, a realtor and a saint, (yes, it is possible.) I also have to thank Judge Scorsone who stood between us and the bank's lawyers long enough for us to complete the short sale of the property. And most important of all, our brothers and sisters, Bob, Bobbie, and Paul, who helped us to find a new "place for our stuff." We lost a house, but thanks to them, we were able to keep our home intact.

Me and my little licensed head-shrinker.
After delaying her studies for almost a year, while she was busy keeping me alive, Mrs. P finally got the chance to prepare for her LCSW, the credential that would make her a fully licensed clinical social worker. She lost weekends and nights of sleep with her head in the books. We even took DVDs with us on road trips so she could study in the car. Mrs P loves her kids and their families, and spends hours writing reports, assessments, and care plans for them. She drives hundreds of miles some weeks to visit them. All that study had to be crammed into the few cracks remaining in her regular schedule. And when the moment of truth came, she aced her exam. She's got a new title, and a new sheepskin for the wall. We have to get her new letter paper, but it's worth it.

Taz is as close to a lap dog as we're likely to get.
Our family grew in 2011. Maggie and Kizzie love our new house. They have thier own suite of rooms that we call "Cat Land." They are free to roam, lounge, and eat without canine harassment. Jake, our 10 pound puppy, turned in to a full grown Golden this year. He's a big boy now, but he can still break my heart with those brown eyes. Clare came to us from a family that should never have taken her in the first place. She runs her big brother ragged, and they frighten the neighbor children with their fierce wrangling, but we have high hopes that as she continues to grow, she may eventually develop a brain. Taz came just after Thanksgiving. He is a Blue Heeler, the smallest of our pack, but the toughest. Taz likes to yell when Jake and Clare are wrestling. We aren't sure if he's telling them to stop, or urging them to kill one another. We do know that he is sweet natured and the most athletic of all of us. He taught Clare to jump the baby gate into the Cat Land, so now we have two gates stacked on top of one another. And of course, there's Brady. He isn't our dog, but he's an honorary member of the pack. He's a thirteen-year-old Golden who spends most of time sleeping, or barking hoarsely for reasons we can never really make out. He grew up being treated like an actual dog, but in his retirement, God sent the Pennsy family to spoil him. We do our best.

With Erin. 30 years and still a beauty.
We traveled to Pennsylvania twice this fall. It was my first time home since I got sick, and I didn't realize how much I missed the forests and hills of Western PA. My 30th college reunion was full of joy and tears with old friends Jeff, Joellen, Marcia, and Erin. So was my first, live Steeler game for which I am ever grateful to my old high school classmate, Skip. He gave me a day I will never forget, and can never repay. I got to taste Mum's cooking again, to sleep in Gramma's house, to hold my sisters in my arms, and to run the dirt roads we used to walk when I was a child.

2011 was the year the doc told me I didn't have cancer any more. I resolved to live the life we had all fought so hard to save. I croaked and strangled pretty girls in No Way to Treat a Lady, my first musical in years. Played a melancholy old queen in the world premier of Stephen Metcalf's The Happy Hour. Returned to my beloved Actors' Guild in Glengarry Glen Ross, and End Days. And I got to play in the park again, with a turn as William, Lord Hastings in Richard III. I got my first gig as an acting teacher at our community college, which I loved. I'll act again in the spring, right after the marathon.

Jake and the Fat Man.
Oh yeah, that. The Fat Man is running the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 6. The reality of it hasn't quite set in, yet. I'm not sure it will until somewhere around mile 18 of the race. This time last year, I walked a mile and felt like I had won a gold medal. I ran a 3K in March, a couple of 5Ks in the Spring, then my first 10K on July 4. I got it into my head that I could finish a half-marathon, and in October, Mrs P cheered as I crossed the finish line. While I trained for that race, people contributed over $3500 to One for the Five, a project to honor fallen cancer fighters, and to raise money for the Markey Cancer Foundation. Soon, I'll be launching two more projects, one to help Actors' Guild, and one to help fund LIVESTRONG at the YMCA.

I never went to the YMCA when I was growing up. I was a Boy Scout. When I heard about a program at the Y to help cancer survivors improve their fitness, I jumped at it. I was expecting a free gym membership for three months. I got much more. The Y gave me what it has given so many people over the years: a place to exercise; a chance to meet friends; a way to discover a sense of purpose and value. I can say without shame or sentiment that I love the people I have met at  the Y. Love them so much that when my program was over, I went to the boss and asked for a job. For the first time in my life, I'm actually a little disappointed when I wake up and realize I have the day off.

What's next? I'm going to start studying to become a trainer at the Y. I'm going to run another half, and my first full marathon. I'll be playing in a production of Camus' Calligula this June. Mrs P and I are finally going to get rid of all the extra stuff we've been storing in boxes since we moved from Brooklyn. And of course, I'll be fighting any and all impulses to adopt any more animals. (On a related note, we'll be replacing the carpet in the den, as soon as Clare gives us the go-ahead.)

With some of the LS@theY team for the Reindeer Ramble.
So, in all sobriety I can say I'm the happiest Pennsy I've ever been. I love my wife more than ever. I have work that excites me. I have passion that makes me look forward to ten miles of asphalt on a chilly Bluegrass morning. I can't stop thanking God for giving me this second (or third? or fourth? or umpteenth?) chance to live.

2011? It was a very good year. 2012? Gonna be even better. Let's love it together, huh?

Peace,
Pennsy

1 comment:

  1. Another great post, Pennsy! Yeah, 2012 is going to be awesome. Let's get it started. :-)

    ReplyDelete

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