Sunday, March 4, 2012

Where I'm At

The simple truth is that I am tired of being sick. I do my best to carry on a normal life, but I am slowly losing that battle, I fear. This infernal disease is insidious. It is like a guerilla fighter. It does not attack me directly, choosing instead to snipe at me when I am weak.

I have often said that no one “fights” this sickness. I am right about that. There is nothing I can do about it, except try to live on. So far so good, but I know that I will fail. Eventually, it will get me. It is one of those situations where your best intentions, willingness to work hard, and the support of friends and family do not mean much. You just try to make it to another day, hoping it will be better. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.

I dragged out of bed this morning at 9:00 AM, already exhausted. It seems so wrong to wake up worn out, but that is how I feel most mornings. Just plain beat. I got dressed and worked on the kayak and went to the library, but that was about all I could manage for the day. I find that I have to stop and rest after doing little things, like walking to my workshop. That is infuriating for someone who, in his prime, was swimming 6 miles a day. On my worst day back then, I could always swim a mile or two, without even breathing hard. I do not think I could swim a length of the pool now. Pathetic.

So I try to do other things.

I find myself spending a lot of time reading, which is one of life’s pleasures. I never spent a lot of time reading when I was working. Now I read, not only for pleasure, but because of a love of literature. I marvel at the talent of great writers. They are artists. I have reread every novel written by Ernest Hemingway. (He killed himself, some say, because he was worn out with living with endless pain from injuries received in an aircraft accident. I can understand that.) I just finished On the Road, To Kill a Mocking bird, and The Catcher in the Rye. Simply magnificent. Each in its own way. I finally read War and Peace. Les Miserables.

Then, my Charles Dickens Week: Oliver Twist. Great Expectations. David Copperfield. Followed by John Steinbeck’s East of Eden,

Grapes of Wrath and The Pearl and everything written by Pat Conroy. These are just a few of the books I’ve read. I thought I read most of these books in high school. I do not know what my English teachers were thinking, because these books are for adults. They should not be wasted on hormonally charged teenagers.

I’ve fallen in love with playing music. Few things in life can give a person such pleasure. When I get to walk out on the stage at Oakbrook Church and play in front of 1000 people, I am still thrilled, even though I have done it a hundred times. Making music with other band members, a vocalist and back-up singers is a completely engrossing experience. Last Sunday, I played acoustic guitar instead of electric. I had a substantial part to play, backed up with two other acoustic guitarists. As we played, I turned and smiled across the stage at one of the other guitarists and the bass player. Both nodded and smiled back. Three guys who love music, playing for an appreciative audience. It does not get better than that. Period.

I am teaching a class at IVY Tech. I find such joy in teaching. My students are generally older and displaced from their jobs, so they are trying to get degrees to be more marketable. They are there to learn and it shows. My students come prepared for class and ask intelligent questions about the material. They joke and kid constantly. The class is lively and, so they tell me, entertaining.

I give my students a writing assignment every week with an assigned topic. I have had them write about their worst day, who their heroes are and their best meal, among other topics. To my astonishment, some of their writing is publishable. Much of it has broken my heart because they often write about extremely personal matters, allowing me a glimpse into their lives. It is painful sometimes to look at the class and know how hard life has treated some of them. Some have terrible loads to bear. It has made me appreciate the many advantages I have had in my life, which I have taken for granted. I have such respect for them. They are remarkable.

I hope I am healthy enough to finish the semester. Some days, I doubt I will make it. Some days, I think I might. I owe them that for what they have given to me.

It is about 3 AM as I write this. I look over at my Ducati motorcycle which shares my bedroom in the winter. (I have a very tolerant wife.) I hurt and the pain keeps me awake. I wonder if I will get to ride silver Duckie again, because that is also one of life’s little joys. I love throwing on my leathers, helmet and gloves and going for a ride which has no destination or return time. Just the sound of that magnificent, snorting motor that only Italians can build and the rush of the slipstream by my helmet gives me a thrill. Pure pleasure.

I look over at my wonderful wife, who excels at taking care of me. She is peacefully sleeping, recharging for tomorrow. She is so strong and seems to never let my sickness get her down. I do not know how she does it. I often wonder how much time together we have left. It can’t be that much longer, you would think, but it has been three years. That is a lot longer than the previously predicted 90 days . The unexpected extra time has been a gift to us both. We are still in love and have grown closer these last years. I wish we could grow old together and be that old couple who toddle along holding hands as they go for their evening walk. But that is not likely to happen.

I am not the same man I was three years ago. I have changed. I like to think I have changed for the better. I value relationships with other people as most important in this life. Spending time with my wife brightens even the worst day. I do not worry like I used to about things I thought were important. Like clients and work. Nearly all of my worries were about unimportant things. When you live with sickness and death around the corner every day, almost everything else is silly. Who cares if you get a flat tire, or the roof leaks, or the dining room needs painting? It’s just not important. My wife matters. My friends matter. My children matter. Just about everything else is superficial. I should have learned this years ago. I would have been happier.

I am going to try to make another day…and one more after that. I am not going to quit, or give up, although I am sometimes tempted to throw in the towel. I am going to ride this life down to the ground. I owe that to my family and friends. And to Dr. Moore and my nurses. All of these people have given me so much that I can never repay them. All of them do their best to encourage me and to hope for the best. I am a lucky man to have so many friends. I am indeed rich in friends. You could do a lot worse.

Mike out.


  1. Mike,

    Your words (as do those of John Donne) resonate with me.

    “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

    It's hard to know what to say, so sometimes I remain mute. I think of you and Lynne all the time now. I regret not having met either of you but I'm comforted by being able to read you both here.

    I'm so sorry you're struggling with this insidious disease. It seems unbearable, heartbreaking, wasteful and oh so wrong. I hope tomorrow will be one of the better days you can savor.


  2. Mike.. thank you for sharing your reality with us - so frank and heartfelt.. we need to hear it. Sorry we didn't connect this weekend, but soon I hope. love you both, janis

  3. Dear Mike, I read your blog quite often. I wish I could give you a hug. You are so lucky to have Lynn by your side. I cherish all our laughs & stories shared at the peru,in. courthouse. Take care my friend. You are in my prayers daily. Janet Gonsalves (Nashville, TN)

  4. "Eventually, all things merge into one, and a Ducati runs through it." -Norman Maclean (poetic license taken ;-)

  5. Hard to say this without making you uncomfortable. So be it. You are a shining example to a lot of us in so many ways. We owe you for that my brother, and frankly I am not quite sure how to repay it, except to live out what you have taught me. I would love to come soon for a visit to the shop, when you have the tome and inclination. Ron Harper 271 3567

  6. Michael as I read your post, it took me back to our childhood days and how time seemed endless back then. I am so proud of your honesty and bravery through this. We all take so much for granted in life. We rush through our lives and wonder where they went, but you through this have given us a gift. You have caused us to stop and look again at what is precious to us. Thank you Michael for being you! God Bless You! Vickie (Reed) Moreland

  7. ...Mr. Bolinger, I knew after meeting you for the first time in 1996 that you were a very professional, but kind and giving person. Thank you for sharing your journey. Words cannot express the sorrow yet happiness and excitement that I feel for you. And...What a testimony and gift you have given. God Bless You!

  8. mike, i don't know you or any of your family for i am not from here originally but a couple of your posts have "landed in my online lap" so to speak and i think everything has a meaning. that being said, i wanted to let you know that it takes a brave soul to look at disease/death in the face, like a bad nightmare, i bet you wake up and wish it were a dream only to start another day, remembering..your ability to beat this disease everyday, some days just by waking up and some days by soring too high for it to reach you. if i were to pass, let it be while teaching others marketable skills or playing beautiful music for others. i am the sort that your name wouldn't had made me admire you but you using your god-given talent to assist others all the while putting your suffering to the wayside...this touches my soul deeply . we are all going back to our beginnings of dust but you are now going to live on in the halls of the school you teach at and in the church you play in and in the souls of all that get to get a glimpse of your text, your person and your activities. i bet you have repaired a lot of wrongs for we are all human and when we feel invincible we tend to treat others less than we should. as i type you my thoughts i am watching Wayne Dyer, he is talking about how he was healed from terminal leukemia. sorry, a big part of me was born a caretaker...just want to say thank you for sharing your journey with all, i am not educated or professional but you are now in my soul and my prayers for you have taught me something we all need to to tolerate the worst of life's obstacles with not only grace but with gratitude and i thank you Mike Bolinger.I am sending thru god special blessings to you and your whole family to have many more good days than bad~ an interesting book for more peace, Dying To Be Me by Anita Moorjani

  9. Mike, just read your blog. After talking to you a few Sundays ago, I felt sad inside...I didn't want you to give up. Maybe it was just one of your 'blue' days talking. At any rate, I love hearing about what you are doing even with this war going on inside you and how you will "ride this life down to the ground." That's the Mike I love and who I know has the power of God inside him to do just that...finish the race to the end. God be with you, my friend. Sherry

  10. We all must die.
    Your perspective seems to be racing to that which is real, leaving all the junk behind.
    As a man who will face death also, I am on the sidelines watching, wishing you, Mike, peace in your journey.
    The Very Best to You!
    George Roberts