Things I Learned from R. B.

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Episode 26

I purchased an old-time gazebo for the front yard of my home on Bayshore Drive. I envisoned it as a place where time could slip away, as two or three friends perched in the gilded cage and talked about important matters of life.

After three treatments of chemotherapy, R. B. requested one of our private sessions—so I suggested we meet in that gazebo, to give us a different perspective, a surrounding of antiquity.

He sat before me with his yellow legal pad and pen in hand. His fingers seemed longer because they were free of flesh—suspended by bone.

He began the discussion by telling me that he had gone from 193 pounds before the cancer to his present weight of 118. I asked him about his chemo and he told me that the doctors were not certain how much shrinkage had occurred in the rectal tumor, but they would take X-rays next week, to gauge whether an operation could provide more Earthly time.

He was amazingly coherent and free of self-pity. Matter of fact, if I had met him the way he was that day in the gazebo, we probably would have been lifelong friends, bonded with mutual respect and devotion.

Everything went well until he brought up the subject of the meeting. He was worried about his bills.

Now, he had not expressed any such concern over the past two years, but all of a sudden, the spirit of a quite-dead father had tormented him from the grave, into fretting over credit rating and propriety.

I was incensed—not mad at R. B., but rather, angry at the human race, because for some reason, we launch out on our teen rebellion and then circle back as old people, defeated, to scrounge at the table of our parents.

Yet I saw a door.

For you see, I did not want to be there for R. B.’s last breath. I did not want to make the funeral arrangements for this man, who was so close, yet so far away.

I suggested that considering his condition, it might be time for him to go back to Rhode Island, to be closer to his family. As I heard myself explain the suggestion, I thought how rational it sounded—almost compassionate.

But R. B.’s reaction was quite different. He was astounded, hurt. He challenged me, asking why I didn’t understand that he had no relationship with his kin—the only family he had was right here and right now.

I was stunned but wanted to be careful. R. B. was a child of God. He deserved a dignified answer and an appropriate ending.

I paused, took a deep breath and replied, “I’m sorry. Of course, we want you to remain here. I just wanted to let you know that if you did feel the urge or the compulsion to return to your loved ones in Rhode Island, we would not be offended.”

His eyes, which had been filled with tears and rage, dried and softened.

We continued our talk. I soon realized that he had no intention of paying his bills. He just wanted me to know that he had a conscience for them. I suggested we take care of these responsibilities after he got on his feet, gained some weight and was on the way to healing.

We only talked about an hour-and-a-half, but he was exhausted. Matter of fact, I asked my son, Jasson, to walk with him to his car, to make sure he wouldn’t fall.

I sat alone in the gazebo as nightfall was creeping its way down our home-town street.

I didn’t know what I thought.

I didn’t know what I felt.

Fortunately for me, it was not an unusual sensation.

 

Things I Learned from R. B.

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4475)

Episode 25

Sitting in the darkness of my room, I was overwhelmed by the circumstances and terrified by my indifference.

It had been nearly six weeks since I had seen R. B.

Following the concert, he had selected a profile of long phone conversations which were more or less therapy sessions. Not therapy in the sense that I was a qualified physician who knew how to address illnesses of the mind and spirit, but rather, R. B. groping into his surroundings, trying to find someone who gave enough of a damn to listen to his ever-increasing pandemonium.

During one of those exchanges, I was able to talk him into coming over to our house for a July 4th cookout next to our pool. I wasn’t surprised when the hour arrived, and he was nowhere to be found. But about forty-five minutes into our festivities, I looked atop the long stairway that descended to our deck, and there he was, shirtless, wearing swim trunks, slowly making his way to join the party. I could see under his right arm that he had his traditional bag of Doritos to donate to the food table.

Yet, as he came closer, I was stunned. I wasn’t alone.

Gradually, everyone spying his entrance grew quiet—and only the boom of the music remained. I looked around at my family and friends and noted that they were peering at me, wondering if I had any information or knowledge on the sight before them.

For you see, R.  B. was almost unrecognizable. He was so skinny that it was difficult to look at him. The bones were protruding from his hips and chest—and his legs looked like kindling wood which would certainly break with a passing breeze.

He continued toward us, each step offering a more startling revelation. When he finally arrived, he gave little Isabella a hug (because they were great comrades from making his video). She greeted him warmly. I stood to my feet and headed his way. He held out his arms for a hug and I quickly forced myself to embrace him. I could feel every single portion of his spine. As I pulled away, I noticed that his skin had turned grey, like marble, and had a texture of soft plastic.

Somehow or another, all of us made it through the afternoon without asking questions, challenging or indicating that there was something wrong. R. B. himself seemed oblivious to the changes in his body.

He must have lost at least fifty pounds and he had never been sturdy to begin with.

Now that everyone had departed and I was alone, it was righteous that I be honest with myself and admit that my comrade was sick.

What made it difficult was that I had just rented a large house for R. B. and a lady I knew, who had three children and was constantly struggling to make rent. I had concluded that this one house could take care of both situations. R. B. could have the upstairs and the family could have the downstairs. I would pay the rent and they could take care of the utilities and food stuff.

We were in our third month of the arrangement and everything seemed to be going well. It was expensive, but it was a resolution.

Now, as I considered the ghost who had come to my house as a skeleton, I surmised that he required medical attention.

I balked. R. B. had no medical insurance, and if he was going to get a diagnosis and treatment, someone would have to pay for it.

I felt like a piece of shit to be considering what to do for this human based upon finance. So finally, I didn’t.

I called my doctor and set an appointment. R. B. reluctantly agreed to go. She tested him—but the visit was very quick.

She reported to both of us that R. B. had a disease. She said it appeared to be fourth stage rectal cancer and that immediate treatment was a necessity.

I watched R. B. as he received the news. Rather than breaking down or becoming angry, he questioned the accuracy of her determination. My doctor was not offended. She suggested that he get a second opinion.

At this point, I finally spoke up. I don’t know why it took me so long to find my voice, but it seemed appropriate. “You don’t need a second opinion, R. B.,” I said softly. “You need a second chance. Get the treatment. We’ll provide the prayers.”

My words touched his heart, and he reached over to squeeze my hand. God forgive me, but I recoiled. It was not my proudest moment.

My doctor set up an appointment for R. B. to meet with a specialist. I posed a question. I asked my doctor if the cancer could be removed through an operation.

She quietly shook her head and said, “No. We will need to see what chemotherapy can do.”

I nodded. I was a novice, but astute enough to know that when operating is not possible, it’s just not good.

We left the office together.

R. B. wanted to go out to lunch. I lied and told him I was busy. I slipped him a twenty-dollar bill, and jokingly told him to eat enough for both of us.

I don’t think he knew that I was repulsed.

At least, I hope not.

Sit Down Comedy …February 15th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Even though it was his last name, all the folks called him Baker—mainly because he owned a little shop which sold pies, cookies, cupcakes and cinnamon rolls.

Baker was a big man. That’s what his wife said. His mother said he was just chubby. But his enemies called him downright fat.

Baker did real well as a portly man, selling sweets. But one day he woke up and realized he wanted to do some self-improvement, trim his waist and certainly improve his bottom line. He lost one hundred pounds and started trying to pass along his healthy lifestyle by inserting all sorts of new ingredients into his pastries.

His profits began to match his weight loss. Nobody was coming—especially when he came up with a way to use low-calorie cricket flour, freshly ground from dried-out crickets.

One day a friend stopped in and said, “Baker, you need to do yourself a favor. Stop selling cupcakes. Everyone’s thrilled that you’ve lost weight, but the people who want to frequent your business have no desire to hear about healthy cupcakes. You don’t believe in cupcakes anymore so stop selling them.”

Likewise, Bill was a Congressman in Washington, D.C. He’d been elected four times. He was quickly becoming a professional politician who knew the ins and outs of the system. He was fully aware that the American way of governing was more about discussing the philosophy of an issue and supporting a political party than it ever did making progress. Matter of fact, Bill never passed a bill.

It’s time for us to walk up to Bill and say, “Stop being a Congressman. You’re not good at it. Get somebody else in there who still believes something can be done.”

The Reverend just got his third doctorate in theology—this one on the Greek translation of the New Testament. He has more books on his wall than the local library. He has some of the prettiest robes to wear on Sunday morning that you’ll ever see. But when Margaret came into his office, needing a word of encouragement over a difficulty she was having, the Reverend was at a loss on what to tell her. You see, the Reverend doesn’t really believe in God anymore, which means he really doesn’t believe in people that much, either.

“Reverend. Stop preaching! Sell insurance.”

Mark writes books about relationships. He thinks he’s got a best-seller because it talks about men and women—how different they are and how it’s natural for the sexes to be at war, and that through this war we still manage to come up with a way to continue the human race. You see, Mark is a chauvinist. He really thinks men are better than women, but he believes that a man’s smartest move is to pretend a woman is superior and then do whatever the hell he wants behind her back.

Mark is an asshole. Mark needs to stop writing books about men and women. They actually need to hear about the commonality between them instead of constantly being bombarded with their differences.

“Mark, maybe you could start writing for a newspaper. Or join the Reverend in the insurance game.”

Some people need to stop doing what they’re doing because they’ve stopped believing what they’re doing has any value or has potential to make things better.

Are you one of them? Are you like Baker, Bill, the Reverend and Mark?

Do the human race a favor—don’t pursue what fails to give you hope. And if you want to go on a diet, by all means stop selling cupcakes.

 

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Sit Down Comedy …February 8th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

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The Alphabet of Weight Loss

A  need for change

B  uy it

C  ry it

D  iet

E  Gads, this sucks

F  ry it

G  ain it

H  ate it

I   am looking pregnant

J   esus, take the spoon and fork!

K  ale fail

L  ose, then cruise

M unch

N  estles

O  no, here we go

P  oints

Q  ueasy

R  unning

S  lipping

T  urnover (apple)

U  are not the biggest loser

V  itamins

W eird, it is

X  tra weight hiding

Y   is my scale lying?

Zzz I need a napDonate Button

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Sit Down Comedy … November 9th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Instagrammar for Instagram

It seems appropriate to catch up the American lingo with the times instead of having it linger in the past with moldy ideas. So instead of referring to things like “Self Worth” may I give you the new Instagrammar:

1. Selfie Worth:  Taking a picture while traveling through Fort Worth

2. Selfie Motivation:  Developing a plot line to energize the shot

3. Selfie Awareness: Picking an angle where your nose doesn’t look so big

4. Selfie Destruction:  Delete, delete and again I say, DELETE

5. Selfie Less:  Not so much smiling

6. Selfie Fish:  Shooting the perfect pic near the beach

7. Selfie Deception:  Convinced you have lost weight because the snapshot only has half of your face

8. Selfie Denial:  Patiently waiting until after your grandma’s funeral before posing again

9. Selfie Realization:  Fewer pics in congested traffic around grouchy cops

10. Selfie Centered:  Finding the perfect headroom

 

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Ask Jonathots … April 7th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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There are many new weight loss supplements, procedures and surgeries. In your opinion, are they all scams? Is there any real help coming out of the medical and health field for weight loss, and what do you foresee in the future?

I have been overweight since birth–well certainly, since middle school.

So I am fully aware of the perils and purposes of weight loss.

It is similar to any endeavor of self-improvement. There is a certain order of events which must click into place to make the process work correctly.

As to your question about supplements, surgeries and procedures, we will get to that in a minute. First we have to understand the three-step process involved in self-improvement:

1. Without hating myself or making excuses, I have become dissatisfied with my situation.

In other words, occasional fits of guilt do not stimulate us to pursue wisdom, and having an excuse for why we are the way we are only makes us look anemic and stupid. When I am successful at weight loss, it is initiated because I am dissatisfied with my present situation yet feel no need for hating nor explaining myself.

2. I am prepared to honestly assess what I am willing to do and what I am not willing to do.

Even though doctors, friends and fellow-fatties may try to convict us of our need to lose weight, all of this is nothing but guilt until we have decided exactly what we’re open to.

What I’ve come up with is this: I am willing to change eating patterns that are unhealthy, eat a little bit less and not eat anything after dinner.

Right now, that’s my level of openness. I will not increase that through intimidation or self-incrimination. It’s what is available to me.

3. Establish a reward.

Human beings do not do well pursuing discipline without praise.

Reward yourself.

If you’re going to buy low-calorie food, make sure you get the kind of low-calorie food that may be a little more expensive, but is to your liking. I feel one key is to remove everything from your house that is high in calories, so if you do accidentally splurge, you’re falling off a shorter cliff.

These are the three things that have to be in place before you consider anything else. Once established, and once there is good cheer and satisfaction in your emotions about them, then you’re ready to consider other options.

Now, the ridiculous part about surgery is that you still end up having to be on a diet and eating less. It may take some immediate weight off, but that wieght is quite willing to come back quickly.

Supplements are comical because unless they are absorbed into the blood stream, most of them are eliminated through bowel movements or urine.

Honestly, the best procedure is to stick to whatever simple plan you come up with and make sure you honor it in joy.

For instance, the elimination of extra sugars from your diet will subtract about three pounds a month.

Cutting your carbs in half will cut five pounds a month from your waistline.

And, as in my case, not eating after dinner will generally shed somewhere between two to four pounds a month in itself.

If you’re in a hurry, your weight loss plan will fail.

The goal should be shedding about three or four pounds a month. It doesn’t sound like much, but at the end of a year, you’ve taken off fifty pounds–and fifty pounds is normally enough to alleviate much of your sadness and medical conditions.

I’m not a great fan of supplements, procedures and surgeries. It’s not that they’re scams–just that they are bandages which are eventually ripped away, taking with them the scab that was protecting your healing.

Look at the list of three things.

  • Are you ready to deal with them?
  • Are you ready to be honest about them instead of making promises which are unresponsive to your needs?

Remember this fact: if weight loss is based on what anybody else wants you to do, including God or your doctor, it will crumble.

So you have to decide what you want to do … and your level of commitment to achieve it.

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Ask Jonathots… August 27th, 2015

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My friend Rob is the smartest man in our workplace. He happens to be quite overweight. Recently I found myself in a discussion about who would get an upcoming promotion. I said that Rob would probably get the job, and was surprised when another man in the room said he wouldn’t because of his weight. I told the guy he was not only wrong, but also bigoted. He argued with me, and said that you can’t be bigoted against people who are overweight because it’s a condition they choose. I completely disagreed. What do you think?

It is a difficult path to negotiate when you start insisting that one group of people was born with a certain predilection, but this other group over there has made a choice instead of finding themselves genetically wired.

So to be honest with you, I prefer, for the sake of sanity and the purposes of having more personal control in my life, to choose to believe that even though there are certain features that may come with our human package, that we don’t necessarily need to use them.

Otherwise, we’re going to begin to contend that each and every weakness or strength in the human body is beyond our control and that we’re destined to become something rather than having the free will to guide our own direction.

That said, let me tell you that obesity is close to my heart. Literally.

I was born at 12 1/2 pounds, so I have a very strong case for believing that I was put together to be a fat man.

It doesn’t help me.

I don’t improve my life or increase my longevity by insisting that I’m cursed with an oddity which, as it turns out, could also be lethal.

So you have to make up your mind. Are we at the mercy of our genetics and destined to be a certain way from our birth? Or can we be born again and find a path divergent from the genetic pool?

It isn’t split down the middle, it’s one way or another.

So the truth of the matter is that since obesity is such an obvious visual impairment, the bigotry against it will never go away. Someone can be gay and not visually appear to be a part of the homosexual community.

Not true with fat.

So since human beings look on the outward appearance instead of the heart, it will be impossible to avoid the bigotry, but not impossible to dodge the people who are bigoted.

With that in mind, here’s what I suggest for your friend, Rob. Without mentioning the name of the acquaintance who said he was not going to get the promotion, ask Rob what he, himself, thinks about his chances and if they are hindered by his size.

He knows your heart; he knows you’re not bigoted.

But the question will get Rob thinking, which is what Rob needs to do.

Obesity has three terrible aspects to its pain:

  1. You can’t ever act or not look fat.
  2. There are so many stigmas put upon the fat person that whether you like it or not, they will be placed upon you.
  3. Obesity always leads to some sort of health issue, which might not have come to play without it.

So it is your job to both communicate love to Rob, but also make him aware that there’s a portion of society which is silently killing off his possibilities through its prejudice. He is strong enough to handle it–and you never know what will be a wake-up call to someone.

I do not believe we are born any particular way.

We have free will  and choice.

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