Archive for August, 2009

Donald Duck doctrine…

August 30, 2009


Originally uploaded by jayfherron

The title of this journal is true-and it is about the life of a man who shares the details of his life from all aspects,not just the scene of an attack and rape,because there is so much more involved-life goes on,as they say. For some,smooth as a peach-and others?

A few years ago in Brunswick Georgia a little six year old boy was taken from the swings in a playground. He ended up in the mobile home of the parents of a 32 year old man and his pal that he had met in a correctional institution-they shared confines together. The mother and father of this man helped as he and his friend continually abused the boy. He died what from must have been the most horrid moments in his six year old life. They dumped him in a ditch in a black trash bag for a coffin.

The same terrible end of life came to a 12 year old girl in north central Florida. The sick blank that took her buried her alive once his time with her was over. They found dirt in her lungs which showed she was still breathing when the sick blank shoveled dirt on her. The news reports lauded how active she was in the church. I suppose many took consolation from that.

I know all across the country there are other cases which are as horrendous-but these two will stick in my mind for a long time.

I would like to think there was a point when these small hearts lost conciseness of this world and what was happening-and was already with God,and only a carcase was being abused…and a soul was already at peace. But it is hard to believe that when over and over you hear of these crimes against children.

It isn’t just that! When I was 16 years old I watched as my baby brother tumbled underneath a Chrysler New Yorker. He lived only a short while that day-he might have been already gone,and we were just watching the body die. Unless you’ve seen it you cannot imagine what it is like watching someone suffer like that. That too will remain in my memory forever.

I want to use the morbid to ponder what I have difficulty comprehending.

It has been four weeks today that the trips to Shands Hospital began. You sure do never get to plan which route your highway is going to go. I never thought in my life I would learn the lifestyle of hospital-I did not know I could sit in a building for that long. I do understand the karma behind it and it is almost like fasting,except you are confining your time into one general area-only. And this how it compares-instead of fasting from foods,you fasting from one usual routine of activity and living  in exchange for one that takes you in a door and you sit for hours. You are fasting from the outdoors and sky.

There are spaces. Going to the cafeteria or for a cup of coffee. The walk from one end of the hospital to other must be a half mile walk. Easily one could walk that despite my accuracy,you see a whole lot no matter how long the walk is.

There is a smoking area at the entrance near one of the coffee stands. It amazes me the countless patients mingled with staff in scrubs and lab coats-many patients with the metal tower that hooks on to the fluids used to salvage someones life. All out there smoking. And then you go in and pass the coffee stand and turn left and pass the area where often you kids 3 or 8 or 12 in some sort of complicated wheel chair-or with no hair from chemotherapy.

It does something to you seeing all of this. Like fasting is supposed to be-the moments bring you towards a spiritual plane of thought. This past month of sitting everyday with the newest creatures on earth-52 of them, we were told yesterday. From where we sit you can count 11 in just one row,not including ours-which seems to have 10. All of them pre mature and tiny tiny.

My mind goes from millions of places to millions of places during these days. You sit on the bench and sip coffee watching the smokers through the glass-and then you sit upstairs in a small confined area and look through the glass at this tiny baby fighting for its life and then you think about what is in between.

Yesterday one of the woman from a church was waiting to go in to visit-she commented about the blessings and again my mind wondered about all of this. Who’s blessings? I told her to be sure to look around as she walked towards where our space is and to count and to pay attention to how many are alone (no family-but being gently and wonderfully treated by nurses). And where are the blessings for them?

You have to know there must be a better life than this! It can’t be this stupid and so screwed up…and that being all there is. Despite all of the ugliness and misery there must be rest and peace-I believe there truly is a God,and we can’t see God sometimes because of the muck in our lives. You can’t look up into the sky with out knowing it.

It can’t be all about sinfulness and evil….otherwise,why are these children being punished so?

for whom the blessing rolls

August 26, 2009


Originally uploaded by jayfherron

As those who know my art also know I am not an artist who sits at an easel and has a view of what I am going to paint. At least,not a natural backdrop such as trees or flowers. My paintings usually begin with the canvas being treated with several swaths of color just swiped on and then over a period I look at them and the picture and the story unfolds.

I had no interest in what I was beginning to paint in this piece-nothing felt right.

Art is a way for me to vent. I somehow express energies that are disturbing me and never really realize the images until later when I return to look at what I had done the night before.

I actually did not like this painting-it was stupid and was making no sense-until the first time I saw my new grandson,Jared.

Jared has spent the first four weeks of his life in a plexiglass box. He has had two surgeries on his stomach-up until this past week he has had tubes and wires attached to him-one tube in his nose another in his mouth and one embedded in his tiny little tummy. There was an IV in his head-and one in his wrist. In the beginning the only way to touch him was through the portholes in the sides of his plexiglass box.

Much of that-the hoses and tubing-is whittling away. He is gaining strength and now the family can hold the little guy-only the few remaining wires are in the way. He is getting better-but there is going to be a long road ahead. We might become so familiar  with Shands Hospital over the coming years that security will say hello using our first names! (as of this morning-a new IV has been replaced in his head)

When I saw this little child the first time all pumped by machines and binging noises from the monitor’s and computers my heart broke for him-and as I prayed for him I scanned the room around us and listened to the constant binking noises from all of the other babies…way back in the distant corner in a private room lay another tiny baby. That one had so many machines hooked to it and various pumps…and just only days old,and prayed for them too..

That first night I went home. I do my best thinking in the cab of a truck-I sat in mine and wept. In between times of the flow of tears I would walk around the house and out to the studio-one tour made me stop in front of this painting and it stunned me to see what I had done. I see these hands coming out of holes-holding on. I see the face with the mouth open-and the colored stairs going into it. I see the three flights of stairs…Jared is on the third floor. The painting became easier after that-and each morning recently has begun with working to finish it.

Jared has “graduated” – to quote the nurses in the new unit. He is gaining weight and as mentioned-the tubes are gone. As I sit there in the rocker by his plexiglass box I can see a larger span of the unit than from when he was across the hall in the critical care section. I cannot see all of the area-but enough to count up to 25 other plexiglass boxes. To arrive at Jared’s plexiglass box one passes 6 others-you can’t help but notice the stitches and gadgetry attached to each. They are tiny…they are small enough to resemble a plucked broiler hen in the meat department of the grocery store. The one little girl next to him cries constantly-signs are taped to its little space saying to be so quiet-they are trying to settle the poor thing. Not just one day…everyday.

Missing are other parents. Not every infant-but most of them. The nurses comment on how they notice the difference between the tiny things that are loved and held by family-and those that are not. Thankfully little Jared is knowing we love him. The nurses comment as how sometimes no one comes to see the baby until the time has come to take it home. We come everyday to whisper-we want you home.

It is a new picture to see. Normal birth children are tiny-but seeing these ‘pree-mies’ is an indescribable experience. They are so tiny it is almost hard to imagine they are living beings-but they are so precious to see and the little sounds they make are unlike what a usual baby makes,their cries are almost like the sound of birds singing,the voices are so small.

I cannot comprehend all of this. The experience of being in the midst of this everyday strikes places in my heart that would rather not be disturbed. I have bad memories of tragic times with children-my brother and my sister both dying as children. My cousin had a daughter born with the same circumstance as many of these preemies-he has told me many times of the grief of her short life,she is buried next to my brother and sister. A few months ago a newborn baby was found in a cardboard box laying next to the highway in Marion County Florida-the fire ants had located the baby before anyone else did. It just kills me inside to think of that poor little thing-not even given a chance and such rudeness is already in its little life.

It is like I said the other day-we have pets at home and we cuddle them and keep care of them just like we would little children. I come home from any journey away from the house-but once in the driveway,my little ones come out as happy and carefree as can be. Up until a few weeks ago I never would have thought of them in this way-I have driven past Shands Hospital for years and never gave one thought about what was up on the third floor.

I hear the word ‘blessing’ a lot lately. This is a blessing-and that will be a blessing. I do believe there are spiritual blessings-but mainly believe they come over a great period of time. Things in this ‘blessing’ are yet to be revealed-I believe there are going to be many lessons first before there are going to be blessings.

There are too many…way too many plexiglass boxes with tiny new early born babies-too many babies with stitches in their guts,not days old and having had surgery,to me-is not much of a blessing. Knowing that many of these babies-including ours,are going to require further surgery to repair holes in their tiny hearts….too many babies in the ICU with no mothers or family standing by everyday with love and hope.

I think there will be many lessons first.

Sweetie and Max

August 17, 2009

Sweetie and Max

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

More of things that make you go “hmmmm”!
I returned home yesterday greeted as always by the pair in this photograph. Like two little kids they come out to the truck every time with out missing an arrival-the two happiest critters in the world.

Yesterday marked the two weeks of my newest grandsons early arrival. I was able to hold him. The smile of comfort came across his face-despite the tubes and wires coming from his tiny nose. A truer smile you have never seen-he snuggled into the spot as if he instinctively knows it is a safe haven.

As I sat there all surround us is somewhere near twenty other babies-all various sizes,all too small and too early to be facing this world. As I sat there-in my peripheral vision I can see a room off to its own privacy. An infant in there is far worse off than the little boy I am holding,there are so many tubes and pumps and gadgets supporting that little life in there. In my hearing range I listen as the nursing staff preps a space for another special child-they are flying it in from two hours away near Tallahassee. This child is not breathing on its own-a special team is setting up to attend it.

I drive home after this days sitting. I’m tired because of my own health issues-and a trip each day into the city is taking its toll on me-the stress of all that is going on. Up my driveway I come-out the door comes the two spoiled critters that call this place home,and generously permit me to stay with them. Funny little creatures-these two. Of course you have to take a moment to thank them-sitting on the steps as the climb about your lap,one chasing the other off-and the other responding to pester you to get that spot back.

I look at them both and it causes me deep thought to ponder why is it that the wing of the hospital has so many tiny pre-mature children…why are there so many who have not even lived a full few days and already their little bodies have seen surgery and have been kept from the warmth of being held-as a baby should. Why is it these two playful pups have such a great life-and in hospital there are so many that have yet to know the feel of a mothers breast?

Shands Hospital is no small affair-it is not a tiny country hospital. Two sections are 11 floors each-and the surrounding wings are huge enough that they are practically independent buildings. There is a section reserved for every Space Shuttle launch-in case anything was to happen during take off,who knows what they could do? The section our little guy is in houses just about every aspect of children’s diseases and injury. This past two weeks I have seen enough that it made me weep last night-and I belly ache about my own woe’s.

Shands Hospital is connected to the Veterans Administration Hospital by a tunnel-some say the tunnel is one half a mile long. I use the tunnel frequently. It empties into the basement of the VA and the main artery out to the parking lot opens to a covered smoking area. The minute the automatic door swings open you can smell the stink. I walk past men and woman sitting all around-many in wheel chairs or electric mobility chairs,sometimes some take the risk with oxygen tubes in their nose-still smoking. It so weird to look at it in real life-I’ve used the analogy millions of times about the cigerette gaggers at the VA and the preemie unit at Shands-never knowing I would really experience the full impact of what I was always saying. How ludicrous it was to see the smoking veterans coming from being treated with extension of life-a quality of life in a wheel chair,unable to walk due to emphysema,still smoking. Across the highway lay these tiny creatures-clinging to life. You should see my grandsons tiny hand as it grasps the draining tube that comes from his nose-as if it is natural to him-as it must be,it is all he has known in this short life.

So I sit and pet and coo over my two tiny pups. I sit and look at them and wonder-why is it they are having such wonderful lives and are so obviously happy-those tails wagging,and all that cheer? It seems so unfair-so twisted out of reality…so really really odd to me.

Anniversery….40 years

August 11, 2009

me wanting to be a sailor-with my brother Frank
Originally uploaded by jayfherron


As a boy-the boy in the photograph,many of my days were spent playing Captain of my ship.

Our father had built this unusual set of bunk beds in my bedroom-they weren’t typical of what you would think bunk beds look like. They were kind of an offset situation,one bed going in one direction,the other in the opposite at a right angle. That one combined a window-that window looked out on our West Virginia yard that was an incline that would scare any trucker to death. It was perfect for a boy who wanted to play ‘ship’, I could sit up in the top bunk and open that window and lean out as if I was piloting a huge destroyer out the channel.

My older brother had joined the Navy. He had come home from boot camp-he gave me the sailors hat. Our father had been a petty officer in the Navy and our mother sewed the patches on my jersey. I was so proud of my new gear.

You can see the age difference between my brother and I. After his leave from boots was over he headed off for his duty station. I returned to Captain my ship-most likely with more vigor than ever with my sailors cap and stripes.

High school wasn’t so good for me. We had come from West Virginia via a short life in Tuckahoe Virginia to live in the suburbs of Washington DC. My clothing remain the same as in West Virginia-converted from hand me downs from my cousin who had to be six foot tall. I was the only kid in the world that had pockets that dropped to my knees-my lunch money change was an arms length to reach. This stood out in the crowd of country club suburbanites who came from families that color coded these kids cars to match the new clothes they wore to school.

I hated that time. I had a part time job after school and saved enough to buy a shirt like the ones they wore-one kid smeared a blueberry pie on it the first day I wore it-another pulled the hanger loop on the back of the shirt. It ripped. In boot camp there was no color coded cars to come with the clothes-everything was uniform.

I went into boot camp 40 years ago this past Friday. We arrived in Camp Moffitt at 0200 in the morning. At 0400 I woke to some man screaming and yelling that my mother did not live here and this was not her house-and he damned sure wasn’t going to let us sleep in. At this point I determined that what ever this guy said to do-I was going to do it. He had my attention the first minute we met. And he kept our attention for the following nine weeks-he was our drill instructor, known as the DI.

That Saturday morning we ‘marched’ around the camp to be given haircuts and get uniforms. It was official.

The following day at 0410 as we headed towards the mess hall for breakfast-newspaper boys stood outside hawking papers. For the next nine weeks we would only be allowed a Sunday paper. That mornings paper had the headline above Jimi Hendrix photo-WOODSTOCK. I remember thinking-why was I here this week….I idolized Jimi Hendrix.

They didn’t give you much of a chance to mull over current events in boot camp. You owned the paper for about an hour until they passed the trash drum and of to marching somewhere we’d go. It was beautiful to see the company’s of men marching. We wore white leggings that covered our boots-they made it look like birds in flight.

I was asked during the fifth week if I had any relatives that I’d like to be stationed with. My brother had been long  in his Navy life by then and thinking it would be great to reunite,I asked for being stationed with him.

It is really funny how parts of us never grow up. I still reach back at those days in the bunk bed-my big ship heading out the channel,me hanging out the window watching to be sure the coast is clear. My mobile home is long enough to make it a challenge to steer clear-I sometimes feel like making the chugging noises of the engines,but usually don’t.

I wonder what it might have been. Once I boarded the USS Vulcan AR-5 my eighteen your old soul felt like it was already in heaven-I could not believe I was going to be living on this ship.

It was all so perfect-except my brother.

I was given some exams the first few days aboard. It was a process they had to determine what were capable of doing. One of the tests showed an aptitudefor something in the Navy’s interest and I was offered a chance to advance quicker than usual-I was offered some college time in exchange for my time,which would have been 10 years (if I remember well enough) and I would be made an Ensign-or what ever the bottom of the officer chain was.

I was thrilled-but my brother saw to it quickly that I was destroyed. He mocked the offer saying it was bull shit-and made every effort to keep me thinking that.

I know,looking back at it now,my brother was jealous-him having 8 or 9 years in and all he did was run the ships laundry and I show up and fresh from boots they offer me this program.

40 years is a long time ago. I met somebody once that said they went to Woodstock and the only thing they remember was Jimi Hendrix played early in the morning on the last day and he didn’t care because it was miserable from the earlier rain-and mud and being hungry.

I remember more. I remember how cool every inch of it was….back in Camp Moffitt there was a tunnel we frequently marched through and there was full time order to sing ‘Anchors Away’-the echos of our voices and the tromping of our feet measuring cadence sent chills up my spine. Everywhere we went we went as equal and uniform as the other man. There were no high school cliques-there were no social class divisions,we all were the same. I remember the walk from our barracks to the mess hall-we were allowed to do it every morning as long as we walked in pairs,just about the only time we did not march. It was always 0410 and the lights would burn through the fog and it was such an interesting feeling knowing that in each barracks we passed the same thing was going on as in the barracks we just left.

40 years! It always seem like just yesterday!

things that happen-and you wonder why

August 9, 2009

shands hospital

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

Somewhere in life there began a phrase that said something like…”things that make you go hmmm”!

I don’t know where that came from-I don’t even know how I am going to write tonight. I am tired-I am stressed-and I usually do not write at night,mornings are when my thoughts are fresh. But-for a while,my mornings are taking a different direction.

In the photograph I had no idea back in the 1980’s that when I drove the tractor trailer that delivered the steel beams that actually shown in this would mean much to me. Many years later-while visiting the VA Hospital across the highway,I took this photograph. I had no idea that I’d be using it like I am tonight.

I never realized-or more less thought about it,that these beams form an atrium at the children’s section of Shands Hospital,the teaching hospital at the University of Florida. I never even knew these beams and glass connect the floors in a rather unique way-and never knew that you could see the atrium from up on the third floor. I never knew any of this would mean anything much to me-other than I will probably die with out too many of my family knowing I helped build this section of the hospital. I never knew that one day I be spending many-many days looking out these windows.

My children,my son and his wife,delivered a four pound little boy this week. He was almost six weeks before his time. He looks like a small roast with bread-sticks for arms and legs. His feet are about the size of my thumb. His hands a bit smaller than the diameter of a quarter. He was born with complications-and not even one day on the earth,he is needing surgery-and once that was completed,he was moved to Shands-being born in a second hospital. He is in this Plexiglas box-two tubes coming from his face,one from his mouth and another from his nose. Tiny little EKG patches with tiny wires come off of his body. He is as hooked up as many old veteran at the VA across the highway.

My son brought his wife home-she too is recuperating from her surgery,and the baby boy is alone but surrounded by ten or maybe more other little boys and girls like him and a truly sweet nursing staff. I can’t stand it that he is alone-so I have taken the days to sit with him.

My first day they brought in a little one-even smaller than him. I wear sunglasses all the time-night or day…so they might of thought I was napping,or just didn’t know I could hear them saying…”the mother is in detox”. The baby was gone this morning-and I know he was not moved on to the advanced level of ICU for the stronger babies.

Last night I received a call from my sons wife. Our little boy is not only entering this world with internal complications,he also has Down Syndrome.

This morning I spent my third day sitting with this little guy. The only way to touch him is to put your hands through these two port-holes. I figure that he needs touch. His little fingers close on my index finger-I am hopeful he can feel the love.

It is interesting to me. I am a 58 year old depressed human male. I suffer anxiety-and am tormented when ever I am in a large building. I recently my own self went through a detox…mine from a prescribed medicine,but the thought runs through my mind as my eyes take in the surroundings. These teeny tiny babies-fresh from the womb,yet too early and too fragile and so small-and pure. And then there is this world-and the way life is,and how it goes…how a mother of one of these could abuse drugs while trying to grow a newborn baby inside of her? How could I have done the same-or just about the same? I was once a baby-and that keeps tracking in my mind as why? Why does this happen? Why can God not change it around-take the ones of us who did so wrong to our bodies…and let these little things have a chance,a better chance!

And dang if it didn’t take just our little one to bring me into this place. The nursing staff are genuine and welcoming…they gave me a chair,and I have sat there for eight hours each day looking and praying and meditating on this scene around me. Oh woe is me that I woe is me!

Maybe this little guy and I are going to heal together. He damned sure got me started in something-I am not sure yet where it is going to go. It’s funny how God uses things…it’s funny,yet so sad-but yes,God is using this little creature in my heart.


depression and XANAX and depression and XANAX and depression and…

August 2, 2009

right turn
Originally uploaded by jayfherron


Last week I wrote about the problem I have been having with cleaning my system of the anti-anxiety medicine known as ‘alprazolam’-which is a swift name for XANAX.

I had requested the medicine to help me fly across country and the Pacific Ocean to visit my son in Hawaii.

I needed something to help settle my nerves and ease the anxiety-I am phobic in public places and needed something to keep me calm during the 14 hours across-and what turned out to be 40 hours on my return trip.

I got hooked. I did not realize it at first-but truth is,I got hooked.

I managed to turn a 30 day supply into 60,this by splitting the pills in two.

I returned to Florida and eventually ran out of the first supply. I went a while with out them-and got severely sick,not knowing it was withdrawal’s.

Over the weeks I got to thinking about the pills-they did have a calming effect. To be honest-after drinking a couple of beers they even made me feel euphoric. Iasked for another prescription of them. This time I recieved two 30 day supplies-divided in two-that made 120 days.

I did not know I had swiftly become attached to the little oval pills. Okay-attached is a polite way to say addicted-the feeling they gave me was the deception!

I began doing things that were harmful to my body-and would eventually turn harmful to my family. I was sure to turn up dead somewhere…and I doubt if the position my death would be in would be one I’d want anybody to remember me by. This medicine was making me more ill than I am-it provoked a part of me that I have wrestled with to kill from my life instead.

I know what addiction is. I lived through it in a number of ways-I still have a mindset to do a strong drug. Sometimes heroin crosses my mind. Gladly I can say-I have no idea where to get any…and gladly,while sober,I can catch those whims and put them to rest. I know what addiction is.

The last few weeks have been miserable. I said in my last writing that cocaine was not even slightly as hard to kick as this prescription drug has been. My body has reeled from the first weeks pain-the following weeks pain and nausea and the following weeks pain of not being calm and instead being on edge all the time. It seems like a black cloud has grown over my head-destined to follow me from now on. I cannot stay upright-and want to hide in the safety of my bed and covers. I am having a hard time keeping my breath-the stress has caused me to breath heavy as if I have just climbed a mountain trail.

I guess clinically-anxiety and depression are two sorts of illness. I know the difference between the two-as far as how they make me feel. The anxiety is combined with the voices of Zim that constantly nag at me-“you don’t want to go in there” or “I would’nt do that if I were you”! There is a tension that follows-my body is a jumble of nerves when ever I enter a crowded building.

Depression is physically painful. My shoulders and arms feel it first-the stiffness and aches and a headache. I feel that this morning…along with anxiety. Double jeoperdy! The pain can also drag you to bed-the fear from it pulls the blankets up further.

I want to get out of here and walk. My mind feels more at ease whenever I do something physical-it seems the excersize does something to push the blood around to places it normally misses. My mind says that is healthier than taking a drug….my body seems to be the anchor. I cannot get up to take the first step.

I wish things could just go away! The peace of thinking about a time or place where there is nothing but laying back and looking at the sky and the quiet of silence to get in your way. That peace is on my mind all the time.

But-it is not there….it is always something in this life that continues to cause urgent fears and constant trauma’s. They just seem to linger,don’t they?

As the time goes longer away from the morning I dumped the XANAX I am feeling more and more normal-unusual to think of an over anxious depression prone individual as feeling normal. But,there is a normal. I have been waking again before dawn. I have been enjoying the clearness of the early morning,feeling the chill of  dawn-the quiet of the darkness and the eventual sound of the mornings first bird sounds,all a part of my favorite time of day. I started loosing this pleasure by sleeping to all parts of the morning-soundly,and all because of the medicine. That was a small part of why I dumped it. The large part is what it was making me do! It deadened my motivation-and seemed to erase my spirit,although I tried to fake it around those who know me,and even perhaps to myself. That is what drugs do to you-they make you feel dead.

I feel like an old wound up watch-too wound up and the gears and springs  are locked! I am hopeful this is a short term sensation that will eventually go away. I doubt it will be completely gone-but at least as less than it is this morning,and has been the last few days. I think this is more of the drug leaving my system.

It amazes me-it has always amazed me…we who self medicate-those of us who have trusted people with names like ‘Spook’ or ‘Stank’ to provide us with a 90 dollar bag with unknown compounds called something exotic! We have never hesitated to put the contents on a mirror or in a glass tube or in a dirty needle and in our systems….and the ‘normal’ world of people trust the pharmacy! And those drugs are just as bad!!

Which is better?