Wednesday, July 27, 2005

 

Flyboy

My youngest is in the USAF and will be heading back to Iraq probably before Christmas - only this time he'll be with an Army Special Operations unit. What the ...???
When he was over there the last time he got pulled onto 'special detail'. Since he was 'fortunate' enough to be on a team that made 'smart bombs' with GPS (global positioning systems) out of our old, just drop em from the sky bombs, they were loading the B-52s in England to bring us "Shock and Awe". Well, our beloved Uncle Sam then had him join a demolitions team (providing security) and recover UXO's (unexploded ordinance) from all over the place 'over there'.
The kicker is - flyboy wasn't supposed to be involved in that sort of thing when he went over to The Gulf. So, what happens when he comes home?Yup, you guessed it. The 1,000 yard stare; can't sleep at night because he can't get the pictures out of his head; two of his buddies killed on ambush that he was supposed to have been on so he's got survivor's guilt; and a host of other BS symptoms that no 22 year old should have to deal with.
So, like the true eagle he is - he rises above the storm by turning into it. He signed up for the toughest training program the armed forces has to offer. Now he's a month away from completing demolitions school then he goes off to HALO (high altitude-low opening) jump school because that's how the Army Special Ops boys get to where they have to go. And what's their precious cargo?
Yup, once again you guessed it - it's flyboy. Only this time, flyboy is their version of MacGuyver with blow em up stuff. They have to go find and disarm the Improvised Explosive Devices before they can be left on the sides of roads, driven into crowded markets or carried onto buses and/or walked into police stations.
I'm proud of my son and pissed at our Uncle Sam.

Monday, July 25, 2005

 

Tribute to My Father

This was the eulogy I gave for my dad.

A Tribute To My Father
Robert S. LeClair
(3/1/1930 – 5/16/2002)

Our father, who art in heaven
Were the last words Dad heard spoken.
When he joined our mother on Thursday
The Circle of Life no longer was broken.

Thank you all for coming
As we pay tribute, remember and share
Dad earned a place in each of our hearts,
For this man’s name is Robert S. LeClair.

He was born on March 1st in 1930
Which made him a young 72.
Most of the stories you’ll be hearing
Have elements that might just be true.

Dad got his start in Long Island, NY
As the youngest he wasn’t much fuss.
He had two older siblings to help him
His sister, Mae and a big brother, Russ.

The details of his childhood remain sketchy
As he described the neighborhood he roamed.
One thing was certain and all would agree
His love of music was learned in his home.

His father, George was a professional musician
A soft-spoken man with plenty to say.
But he would let his fingers do the talking
Having the music express the words he would play.

Grandpa was a gentleman’s gentleman.
Who went to work each day in a tux.
Dad also carried those traits inside him
But he worked with vacuums and big fire trucks.

Horoscopically, dad was a Pisces
So, it’s no wonder he was drawn to the sea.
Crabbing and Clamming in Sag Harbor
The best part is knowing it’s free.

During high school he loved to go bowling,
And even got a job setting pins by hand.
But, he yearned to get back to the water
leaving this manual labor on land.

After high school he got a job on a tugboat,
Learning all sorts of nautical knots.
Which helped him decide on his future
To focus on dashes and dots.

Dad signed up and went into the Coast Guard
His enthusiasm to learn new skills never slowed.
He trained as a Radio Operator
To send messages in Morse Code.

Dad met Mom at a Northbrook house party
and they married and moved back east.
Dad was back working on a tugboat
Which Mom didn’t care for … in the least.

Within two years they were back in Glencoe
And the first of seven children started to arrive.
In 1953, Dad joined the Fire Department
And wondered how they going to survive.

Twenty-four on and Forty-Eight off
Is the schedule firefighter’s keep.
It’s not too bad if you have another gig
Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in too deep.

So, Dad became a Renaissance Man,
trying different jobs to make extra bucks.
Lumberjack, cabbie, and lubricant sales rep
were tried before there was Electrolux.

Starting in 1961
and for the next 37 years,
Dad was “The Electrolux Man”
and he had to overcome his shyness fears.

I know this fact may come as a shock
to anyone who knows Bob LeClair.
But, before he studied Dale Carnegie’s stuff
he wouldn’t public speak on a dare.

Dad studied and practiced to overcome
the fear he felt inside.
Once he discovered the secret to life,
his inner shadow man up and died.

Dad realized early on
that mediocrity just wouldn’t do.
Why live only half a life,
when the decision is up to you?

Love your neighbor as yourself
might better describe Dad’s life.
He was a true humanitarian
trying to lift people out of their strife.

We have so many instances to call on
where Dad acted on this belief.
He sought to ease the suffering
when pain was borne with grief.

Barbershop singing was Dad’s vehicle
for spreading joy and goodwill.
There are so many stories of Dad’s kindness
that it just gives the heart a good thrill.

Operation North Pole is but one of these
that BBSing has played a major part.
By giving Christmas to families in need
and doing it from the heart.

Acting in groups to cover his tracks
Dad often would sneak away.
Then spring an unsuspecting miracle
and lift the spirits for someone’s day.

Dad was unique in a special way
he wore more than his heart on his sleeve.
When he monkeyed around with his Bud named Tyrone
Dad knew this Bud would never leave.

Tyrone could break down barriers
without ever saying a word.
It was just another way to communicate
by being seen and seldom heard.

Bob LeClair was more than unique
because he had this unending gift.
The cup of his love would fill and run over
when offered to someone needing a lift.

Dad has always been the adventurous type
just to see what’s on the other side.
The last adventure was a bit too much
and became his final ride.

Dad didn’t waste a moment,
thoughhe was courageous to the end.
He taught us more about living
and how to be a better friend.

Dad’s doc is a guy named Dragon
who lives to fight the Big C.
His staff did their best with Chemo-Fest
All the while maintaining Dad’s dignity.

There’s too many in Dad’s support chain
to try and mention and get them all.
Please know Dad’s life was greatly enriched
by your thoughts and prayers and occasional call.

Dad believed in Random Acts of Kindness
practiced on a daily basis.
If you’d like to honor Bob LeClair
become someone’s unexpected oasis.

Dad also believed that life goes on …
a Celebration in constant transition.
Life is too short. Don’t wait till tomorrow.
Live your dreams without inhibition.

The truth embodied in the saying,
“A house divided cannot stand”
Thanks for the support provided by our spouses
with their much needed, helping hand.

Just when you thought it was over,
the next time you twist and shout …
What if the Hokey Pokie
Really IS what it’s all about?

Dad’s final request is simple
and it takes place right next door.
It’s called an After-Glow Reception
with great singing, food and much more …

May 22, 2002
 

Tommy's Tribulations Part 2

I can't believe it's been four weeks since my last post. Not that I haven't been thinking about the fact that I haven't posted an update to Tommy's situation. It's just that I am an extremely undisciplined blogger. There. I've said it. Now it's time to update the story and move on.

Before I update you on Tommy's situation, I must clarify two major overstatements on my part. The first deals with the family's move to Florida. It was nothing like the picture I inadvertently painted: The family coming home from the hospital and hurriedly tossing clothes into bags on the way to the airport like they were refugees or in some kind of late night relocation exercise for the witness protection program. In fact, it was very orderly move over a period of several weeks. Secondly, if Tommy didn't have this experimental procedure, it wouldn't be the end of the world for him. I wrote with an extreme sense of urgency that, Tommy would die unless he was fast-tracked for this procedure. The reality is found somewhere on the slippery slope of his quality of life. The procedure would greatly improve his chances for experiencing an improved childhood experience.

I didn't mean to create an aura of hysteria or extreme absolutes in my initial post. I was writing with a sense of mission and license to convey the urgency and seriousness of Tommy's condition necessitating the call for prayers of support, strength and spiritual renewal for Tommy, his parents and family.

Mea culpa.

The consultation with the two specialists went great. A major factor weighing in on the consideration for a procedure of this magnitude is the patient's emotional state - their will to survive. Without a healthy spirit, the physical toll is too much of a burden. For a five year old, Tommy's got a will of supernatural elasticity and resilience.

The doctors gave Tommy a green light for doing the experimental bone marrow transplant procedure. Thank you, Lord! When Tommy left Florida, his quality of life index was about 10%. By receiving the bone marrow transplant procedure, his quality of life index can improve to 60%.

The next step is gaining full approval from the Florida Department of Medicaid to pay for the procedure - or at least 80-85% of it. Once Medicaid approves their portion, then the family can start the process to collect the remaining $80,000.00.

Tommy's still a long way from being out of the woods. At least he's received the ok from the doctors who will do the procedure. In fact, they sent their letters to Tommy's specialist in Florida for his application to Medicaid within two weeks of his consultation. If that's not a sign of good faith on their part, then I don't know what is.

In case you're wondering what the Florida Department of Medicaid will be considering when they review Tommy's case - it all comes down to dollars and sense. Without the procedure, the Florida Department of Medicaid will continue to spend about $1, 200,000.00 per year on treatments that won't improve his condition, just maintain his current course of treatment. In fact, as his health deteriorates, his medical costs will escalate.

With the procedure, Tommy's health status and the quality of his life (not too mention his family's) will improve from 10% to 60%. The costs associated with daily medications and weekly treatments will fall off dramatically as well.

Of course, I'm only providing a snapshot of this entire panoramic landscape of medical marvels and managed cash roulette.

The point is, this is a good deal for Florida taxpayers, legislators and the Florida Department of Medicaid bureaucrats - that is, those who say "The system is already overburdened and we can't afford to provide experimental bone marrow transplant procedures for anyone - let alone children.

The first year alone should provide a Return-On-Investment of 3:1.

Even Ebenezer Scrooge wouldn't pass on deal like that.

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