My Love Knows Not Requiem

Deke, my wonderful, beautiful, precious Deke,

Your existence a blessing, my life did improve,

Countenance though eclectic, no enemy of love.

Once shy, oft-hidden, your affections a treasure,

Wisdom untried, a world alien in your view

You strode into hell, mistakes did make.

Sacrifice though oppressive, lessons to learn

Your truth must understand, love you did gain.

From your trials emerge, new strength in denial,

Refusal to admit valid love in mirror’s eye.

Tomorrow, never today, sun to rise again,

Let your heart receive blessings, love forever stay,

Accept what you’ve given, a return on your love.

Deke, my sweet Deke, let my love reach your heart,

Gather it to you, that we never again hurt,

For once in a lifetime, comes that which we need,

Love of oneself our ally for life, my beloved Deke.

Starting College at Age 70

Note: This is a revision of a piece I wrote six years ago when I started college. I have edited it and revised a little but the principles are the same.

STARTING COLLEGE AT AGE 70

22, Oct 2013

Revised 5, Sept. 2019

Early this past spring, while enjoying an evening of solitude, I got to thinking about what I should do with the rest of my life. I had considered going into senior housing or a retirement center, but the idea troubled me. I asked myself was I really that ready to give up and surrender to old age? I could say I had a mental and emotional war with my feelings, but that would be a lie. I’ve been on my own since I was fifteen, the idea of giving up my freedom now was simply too terrifying to contemplate. So what can I do with all the free time and minimal funds I have? Then I remembered the words of one of the sweetest people I know, Jina, a Korean girl who, along with her husband Bin, had rented a room from me while she was completing her Master’s Degree at Washington University here in St Louis. She said, “Papa, you go to college. I be so proud of you!”

College? I’m thinking about starting college at age seventy? Last time I was a full-time student was in 1959 when I punched my English teacher for hitting me. I left school, and he got suspended. Now, fifty-four years later I’m thinking about fulfilling my dream of going to college full time. I may be crazy but hey, why not try it? Just no coed dorms and shower rooms, I’m too modest, and I’d be too much competition for the young dudes. This could be fun!

Feeling as though I was setting out on a long trek, my first step had been deciding to pursue my dream. The next was to acquire the means to. Step one was pretty easy, step two was going to be difficult, if not impossible, or so I thought. Being retired and living on just my social security check doesn’t leave me anything extra for frills such as an education. The weak economy had wiped out what little money I had saved, and I’m not named an heir in anyone’s will. Then how does an old man with no money find the funds to go to college? If he’s smart, he looks for the same resources a young man does. In my case, it was the Financial Aid section of the St Louis Community College website where I learned about FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). FAFSA is a gateway to many different sources of educational funding for students of all ages, and it was step two for me.

Basically, there are two ways to apply for FAFSA funding. The first is meeting with a financial aid advisor at the college and the second going online to the FAFSA website to apply. They both have advantages and disadvantages – I chose the website as it was more relaxed and I could go at my own pace. It took me about thirty minutes to complete the application, and an hour later, I received an e-mail notification that I had been approved for funding and assigned a student identification number.

Did I mention I did this at about midnight on a Saturday night? You read that right, I had taken a significant step towards realizing a lifelong dream on a Saturday night. I had no idea what I wanted to study, nor did I care at that moment, I just wanted to call somebody and shout it out, I AM GOING TO COLLEGE! Not a good idea, most of my friends are in bed at ten, so I chose option two, a bourbon Manhattan and the late news.

I had to wait until June to take step three, the ACT Compass evaluation testing. (I’ll cheat a little here and do a copy-paste so the information is correct.)

“ACT Compass is an untimed, computerized test that helps your college evaluate your skills and place you into appropriate courses. ACT Compass offers tests in reading, writing, math, writing essay, and English as a Second Language (ESL). You will receive your ACT Compass test results immediately upon completion of testing, and your score report will include placement messages informing you what courses you should take and how to register.” “ACT Compass is not used like a traditional test. There is generally no “passing score.” Rather, ACT Compass scores indicate areas in which you are strong and areas in which you may need help. Thus, ACT Compass can identify problems in major subject areas before they disrupt your educational progress, giving you the opportunity to prepare more effectively for needed courses. You and your institution can use scores from ACT Compass tests to prepare a course of study that will be appropriate, relevant, and meaningful for you.”

June arrived with the late rains of April and the ACT Compass evaluation test. I was in a state of nervous excitement as I went to the Assessment office, where I signed in and got instructions on what to do. Then a lady ushered me into a computer lab (a room which has desks with computers on each) and assigned me a seat. I’m not a computer geek nor do I type well, so I was very thankful the test was not timed. It was interesting though: easy to read, thorough and not graded. Once I was comfortable with the keyboard I dug my heels in and did my best. It took a while to complete, but that didn’t bother me, I was having fun and actually learning something new. When I was done, I had to wait while the lady printed out the results for me. My high school math scores were midline, college math was almost non-existent but English comprehension, and composition were 94 and 97 respectively. That took me completely by surprise.

Step four was Student Orientation day! Then came butterflies in the belly. The first significant challenge for me in college was: what do I wear to go to school? I’ve worn uniforms or work clothes all my life. I probably have only one nice shirt and pair of pants. How could I go to school and impress everyone if I wasn’t dressed cool? Scary as it sounds, I decided to just be myself but cleaner. Arriving on time, I found the conference room without a problem and immediately decide I’m the oldest person within a hundred miles. I see bright, shiny young faces everywhere. I knew they were all staring and talking about me I remember it. Oh well, I’m a pretty impressive guy, so I joined the throng, listened to the somewhat dull introduction, received the handouts and waited in line to see a counselor. When my turn came, I was asked what courses I planned to take, and I said, huh? I hadn’t considered exactly what classes I wanted to take, I was just happy to be invited to learn. We talked about my ACT Compass scores and what they felt I should do, I said ok, let’s do it. Next thing I knew I was sitting at a computer signing up for American History, Philosophy, Honors English and Algebra. I was committed or should have been. I hadn’t been a full-time student since 1959, and I had signed up for twelve credit hours of college? I hear Jina’s beautiful voice, “I’m so proud of you Papa!” That did it, bring it on.

My next stop was for my student ID card and parking permit. This was an easy one. I just needed to prove I was me, have my picture taken and sign all sorts of papers. My official ID card was mailed to my home in about three weeks. Final stop of the day was Financial Aid. I had come prepared with copies of my online applications and related confirmations. As I handed the paperwork to a pretty young lady at the front desk, she looked at me as though I were insane. “Your paperwork is all in perfect order! I just need you to sign two forms, and you’re done. Welcome to Meramec.” Guess I got that part right.

Walking out of the office, I felt a little overcome. After so many years my dream was close to becoming reality yet something seemed to be missing. I meandered around campus for a while orientating my mind and spirit to the alien environment. I didn’t know what to expect or how I would actually feel once I started classes, I just had to know what it felt like to walk on campus. Everything was so different and yet warm and inviting. I decided to just sit under a tree to watch people and listen to the wisdom of nature. As I sat there thinking, I noticed something to my right that seemed out of place. There, under a small bush, lay a weather-worn paperback book with torn cover. I picked it up to see if it had an owner’s name in it – nothing. A student needs books to help learn (insert light bulb here)! I am now a student, I need books so that I can learn!

Step five was the college bookstore, but I didn’t have the money to buy the books I needed, or so I thought. Since it didn’t cost anything to browse the shelves for the books I would need, that’s what I did. I could always come back when I had the money. As I was browsing a clerk offered her assistance. I told her I was a new student getting orientated and was looking for the books I needed for my classes. I showed her my class schedule, and she picked out those available. When I told her I didn’t have the money to pay for them yet, she asked me if I was getting financial aid. I said yes, and she asked to see my student ID card, which I didn’t have yet. Then she asked if I had a student ID number and that I had. She entered my student number in the bookstore computer system, and much to my amazement told me I was approved for a bookstore account which meant I could get books on credit until my financial aid funds were released at the end of the fifth week of class. All I needed was my official ID card, and that wouldn’t arrive for three weeks. I was both excited and a little disappointed. I wanted a textbook. I did have enough cash on me to purchase one of the required novels. So I did just that. Head high, shoulders back and proud as a peacock I strutted out of the bookstore holding my very own requisite college book. I was finally an official student.

Finally, step six was first day of class, and I was about as nervous as the Grand Dragon of the KKK at a Martin Luther King rally: I think I would fare better though. Walking into class, I got those stares, you know, the ones that said “what’s he doing here. Is he someone’s grandpa? Maybe he’s the janitor.” Nope, sorry kiddies, I’m a student too. In class, we did self-introductions just like back in the 1950s Each student said his/her name and maybe a little about themselves. My turn comes, and what do I say? Come on Papa, do the obvious, tell them what they’re wanting to know. “I’m Dick. I’m seventy years old, and I’m realizing a lifelong dream of going to college.” Reactions ranged from applause to stunned silence and a few, “No way man, you ain’t that old.” My favorite was the “Awesome dude!” Regardless what was said, the tone I felt was one of acceptance and warm greetings and it was genuinely Awesome Dude!

Step seven, at long last, I was in college and ready to learn. Unfortunately, I was learning things about myself that threatened to compromise my education. First is hearing, I am gradually going deaf. My hearing was damaged years ago when I worked as a paramedic/emergency vehicle driver. The driver’s cab of emergency vehicles was not insulated sufficiently to mute the sound of the sirens mounted on the roof, directly over our heads. No one thought of taking precautions to protect our hearing. I developed Meniere’s disorder, a fluid imbalance in the brain which presents as tinnitus, vertigo, and progressive hearing loss. Just when I have the chance to realize my dream it may not come because I couldn’t hear and couldn’t afford hearing aids. To my good fortune, the college has helpful people, and I was steered to the Access office where they do more than their best to help disabled students. The Access staff outlined what I had to do to get help. I needed doctor’s letter stating I have an impairment and current Audiograph test results to verify the primary diagnosis. Once everything was done and approved, they provided me with an electronic amplifier to use in classes and letters to each professor instructing them to work with me. Things were going good until another issue arose. I cannot do algebra. I carefully listen to the lectures, take copious notes, do as much of the homework as I can but cannot retain the formulas long enough to pass the quizzes and exams. Back to the Access office and this time it wasn’t so easy.

Short term memory loss is pretty common to all ages but increases as you grow older, what I’m experiencing isn’t the same. With short term loss we usually remember within a short time, not now, this time it’s a total block. As my doctor told me, “You may be experiencing a cognitive impairment. We need to set up an appointment with a Neuropsychologist for a complete evaluation.” Earliest I can get is 12/10/13, just before end of semester. The Access office can only give me limited assistance until a final diagnosis is made, I’m screwed in algebra. My hopes and dreams of becoming a space explorer are gone. But I refuse to give up trying.

Am I going to stop at step seven? No, each new challenge is a chance to learn something new. I came to school to learn. I am learning at school. I will remain in school to learn for as long as the Spirits allow me to. I’m a fighter! Today, if I were asked the most important thing I’ve learned in the process of starting college at my age, I would have to say – know yourself and do not be afraid to voice your limitations. If you are considering enrolling in college, please take the time to meet with the counselors in the Access Department well in advance of the start of classes to discuss your challenges and the support available to you.

Your Smile

When first we met, you seemed so shy,

                                    Your countenance bold yet bearing meek.

What knowledge did I, curious old soul,

Hope to garner from one so young?

Day did come, you felt heart free,

                                    Your smile once frown, began to bloom,

Enchanting change forthcoming

            In well-spring of life, your voice far-flung.

Be there vast wisdom, in so endearing a smile,

                                     That even the wise, must bow,

New perceptions did flow like manna,

                                    Once your voice of youth unchained.

You awoke your dreams, cast off evil spells,

                                    Did challenge those who scorned you.

To attacks so grievous,

Defiance your blade unrestrained.

Were that man, never humble as much,

                                    Attempt your path, unaided.

Yet you, in your wisdom disproved all fault,

                                    Erasing all guilt your smile now chastens.

From deep within, your heart so pure,

                                    You brought forth passion.

 With strength of spirit, you destroyed self-denials,

                                    To answer call of love that beckons.

Defeat the call for all perfection,

                                    Accept yourself, an incredible person.

 If love you feel, withhold it not,

                                    Reap the joy of your beloved’s charms,

Your time has come, your smile shines bright,

                                    A beacon to all, let none deny,

New chapter of life commences,

                                    Receive love’s bounty with open arms.        

I Love Being Your Friend

I am your friend, I have no regret,

To stand by your side, you may always expect.

When your smile turns down,

From glimmer to frown,

And life becomes affliction.

Know in your heart,

We will never part,

Friendship is my addiction.

Though trials may stress,

Your life seem a mess,

Step back, your blessings to count.

For there in the corner,

Clad in love’s armor,

Remains one your defense to mount.

To Deke 04/10/19

You came into my life, shy and reserved,

A youth in your years,

Elder in your tears.

You walked fate’s road, struggles were many,

With strength of spirit and innocence of mind,

You faced each battle, but courage declined.

Now faced with new future, fresh tension arises,

Choices to make, decisions now worsen,

What do you do, who to trust, life so uncertain,

Alone in your thoughts, held close by concerns,

You seek perfect answers, options so varied,

Each with burden, your brain now harried.

Time for new day, bright path awaits you,

Surround self with love, you have that power,

Let all who know you, in awe now cower.

Let no material gifts, though treasure they may be,

Fill your loneliness, for their love is but one way,

Seek out open palms, arms of heart you did sway.

Reach out from your melancholy, stand tall sweet friend,

Let your objectives be dear,

Tomorrow be not today, for your vision now clear.

No Price on Humanity

Recently, I met a young person who is going through a very traumatic period of life that is quite similar to what I endured for a number of years. I do not want to embarrassed or cause any further issues so I will simply call refer to this person as DC.

While growing up, DC was subjected to a pretty rigid life in a controlled religious environs that stifled creativity and individual thinking. When my friend was able to escape the situation, DC was preyed upon by sexual predators and cast off like a used paper towel to end up living in a vehicle, rather than a home with love and caring.

One day, DC met someone who offered a place to stay in return for physical activities, none of which are important to this paper. I only mention them to set the proper tone. Desperately in need, DC agreed to the terms, a mistake soon regretted. However, not to be defeated, DC endured while establishing a community presence and finding work. All the while with the specter of home life demands weighing heavily. Predictably, those demands erupted into a very bad situation placing DC at risk for injury or worse, and once again homeless.

In the short time I have known DC, I’ve discovered a very sensitive and remarkably intelligent human being who has made some bad mistakes, none of which cannot be overcome. The problem now being an overabundance of advice confusing issues!

Yes, I said advice; DC is getting a lot of conflicting advice which is having a dramatically negative effect. It would be horrible for someone not in such a critical situation but is even worse for DC.

Who to trust?

Who to believe?

Who to turn to for help?

To the best of my knowledge, no one in DC’s group of friends has offered more than temporary assistance. It’s tragic, but true of human nature. Can I blame them? No, of course not, they think they are acting in DC’s best interests when in actuality, they are acting in their own by thinking theirs are the only answers to the problems.

This is the current state of many “humanitarian efforts” these days.

I think it great that people sympathize and are willing to help but unless they’ve walked the path, they can never empathize. To push someone such as DC to make life changing decisions at this time is almost an assault on emotions however necessary it may be. That may only be accomplished by one who has walked in DC’s shoes.

As I have done before with others I have promised DC housing, sustenance, help getting into college and whatever other things I can do to make life easier and more successful without unwelcome stipulations. DC alone must make the decision to accept or not. Whatever that decision is, I will not abandon DC as I was once abandoned by my family.

The problems being:

Who can DC trust?

Who can DC believe?

Who can DC turn to?

People who know me say Nyk, you’ve been crapped on before by people you’ve helped, why continue?

My answer is because I’m me.

I believe that if we do not try to help those in desperate need, we not only work against them, we may even be defeating ourselves. Imagine, perhaps DC might go on to create a cure for hunger or cancer; may become a great world leader or even possess the knowledge to end wars. We do not know, nor will we until we step up and believe in people like DC and keep our promises to help.

Hugs to all who need one today.

Papa Nyk

When did Women decide they are God?

As an ex-paramedic, my memory is filled with stories of human cruelty to other humans, but nothing in all those years compares to what is happening in our country today.

I’ve assisted with emergency childbirth on a number of occasions and actually assisted with a couple of Cesarean Sections in the operating room.

Of the twenty-three deliveries I’ve been involved with, two, both of which occurred in rural Minnesota, stand out as clear as if it were yesterday.

The first one involved a young married woman having her first child. She and her husband had a small farm about twelve miles from town. Now, if you are familiar with winter weather in Minnesota, you know it can change in a heartbeat and most weather forecasters, at least at the time, were not experts.

Very early one morning, we received a call for a woman in labor with special instructions from the doctor. Those instructions stated that we should attempt an on-site delivery, but should simply bring the woman to the hospital He actually stated that he was sure it was going to be a still-born. Aside from this slight detail, the only problem we faced was about thirty-seven inches of snow and winds were making drifts over the roads.

The road we had to take to get to the farm, was a county one and we needed help to get through. Luckily for us, the state had two large graders working the area and they volunteered them to go ahead of us and open the road. There was also a state highway patrol unit escorting us but still took almost three hours to go the 12 miles, and one grader in a ditch to do it.

When we arrived at the farm, a very nervous young father-to-be met us and led the way into the house where the mother (his wife) was laying in bed. Her water had broken and she was in full labor but contractions were not very frequent yet. I examined her doing the normal vitals (pulse, respiration and blood pressure) then I did the abdominal exam to see if I could determine the position of the fetus. While doing this, I was listening for fetal heart tones with a pediatric stethoscope and wouldn’t you, I heard that little ticker (fetal heart) pounding away like a jackhammer.

As we didn’t have any of the new communications devices, I had to run back out into the snow to radio what I had found to the doctor who was in the hospital.

I told the doctor I felt we had a viable fetus and that I planned not trying to deliver it at home. The ambulance was better equipped to handle a birth if we had to. The doctor was pretty negative stating he felt it would be a still-birth. Without saying it, I got the impression he didn’t think me qualified to determine, but I said we’re coming in fast and there was nothing we could do about it.

With the help of the highway patrolman and the road crew, we got momma bundled up and loaded for a fast ride to the hospital. Just before we pulled out, I checked for dilation and she was at an estimated seven centimeters, so things were starting to move.

We got her to the hospital in about thirty minutes, and about forty-five minutes later, she had a beautiful, healthy little boy. I got a hug from Momma, and a hug from Papa and, to my surprise, a well done from the doctor.

The other case was more tragic. It happened in another small town nine miles from the hospital. A call came in for an unknown issue. As was the policy then, the dispatcher notified the local constable (yep, the town was that small) who was sent to the scene.

On arrival we found the constable standing outside with an elderly woman. When asked what the emergency was, we were directed to an attic room in an old two story house where we found a young mentally challenged girl covered in blood. When we asked what happen, she simply screamed and pointed to a bloody towel on the floor.

On examination, I found a newborn fetus in respiratory distress. Immediately, I began infant CPR and told my partner to get help to take the girl out as I was going to rush the fetus to the hospital in with the constable in his squad car.

When I got outside, I grabbed the constable and ordered him to rush me, and the fetus to the hospital and to radio ahead.

“The radio doesn’t work.” was his reply.

OK, let’s get going – turn on your lights and siren this is critical!

“The siren doesn’t work.”

Get in the damn car, turn on your lights and let’s go.

After a twenty minute, scary ass drive with the constable, we made it to the hospital and, luckily, there was a doctor immediately available, but it was too late. The fetus had bled out.

The story was, the mentally challenged girl was raped by her uncle and the family decided to keep it a secret.

When the girl woke up the morning of the incident, she apparently had some cramps and her water broke. From what we could ascertain, the fetus had already started to deliver but was in a footling breech position. When the girl reached down between her legs, she took hold of the fetus’s leg (a girl) and traumatically extracted it causing severe tearing from the anus to an inch or so in front of the vagina.

There was nothing anyone could have done to save this infant. To see her lying all twisted and bloody on the gurney made me cry.

Now, when I read about how women are demanding the right to murder, yes, I call it murder, innocent fetuses, I remember that innocent child on the gurney and want to scream.

Yes, I agree that women should have the right to say what happens to their bodies, but that right should not include the right to determine who lives or dies. Once it is known that there is a life form (or more than one) growing within the woman’s womb, she is no longer making decisions only for herself. In the case of abortion, the woman is making decisions concerning the life or death of another person who, at the time, is not able to speak for his or herself. Allowing women to be judge, jury, and executioner is giving her the authority to be God over another human being.

I’m neither a Christian, Jew, Muslim or follower of any other formal religion. I’m simply a man who believes there is a power greater than any of us that allows us to think for ourselves. When we can’t, that power steps in to help. I believe that power stepped in to save one baby and allow another to pass out of this realm with only the love and compassion of those who cared for her in the end.

I believe that our court systems have gone too far with the insanity of infanticide caused by the Roe v Wade ruling. In essence, it has given women the right to play God and murder an innocent (or more) to assuage their guilt for not being responsible for their actions.

Infanticide is not the answer!