by Jim Dineen
The memories are so very clear. We had just put the final touches; the last giant cubes of marble and concrete were setting in. It didn't matter that they were really big rocks and chunks of dirt and mud on the walls. What a magnificent structure! No Indians, no Cavalry, no Kings Men and no Attila the Hun could storm these walls. My friends and I had built this magnificent fort to withstand any assault from our imaginary enemies. It never occurred to us that this fortress, this pillar of strength, could crumble at any moment. It had taken us days to build but they were wonderful days.
The sun was blistering hot. July days in southern Ohio would get that way. The Great Miami River sparkled in the distance as we slaved and struggled to build this edifice to engineering. Of course we didn't know that's what we were building but that's what my memory of those days has etched in my dreams. We had built something that nobody else had ever built and we'd defend it to the last man; or 8 year old boy. Life was so exciting back then and this fort represented all that was good.
And then the rains came. Two days of torrential rain and the river kept rising and the insurmountable, the un-breachable fort was gone, carried away in the deluge. Dreams were destroyed that week in 1953; but they would appear again. We just didn't realize it at the time. It didn't cross our minds that we were actually learning one of the basics of an adventuresome life. Nothing lasts forever.
It's interesting how memories and dreams sustain us as we grow older. Life often becomes what we want it to be based on those dreams of long ago. Sadly, we too often forget to live those dreams and we forget that anything is possible in a dream.
I've always been a bit of a dreamer so those memories of long ago have stayed with me as if they happened yesterday. That doesn't mean it hasn't rained on my forts just a few times. Those memories have helped me rebuild many forts and continue to do so today. Forts, although they get bigger, stronger and harder to rebuild as we get older, but they don't disappear. They just take more work. I've learned over these many years that those rebuilt forts have led to the greatest lessons I've ever experienced. These are the lessons that make life worthwhile, more challenging and satisfying than almost all of the other lessons combined. I like to describe them as just one of many rebirths.
My youngest daughter had just gotten married a few weeks prior to me visiting the doctor in May of 1998. This wasn't a comfortable visit but it was one where I pretty much knew what the outcome would be. As a runner and avid weight lifter I knew right away the signs of a hernia and thus my visit to the doctor. Little did I know that this visit would change my life and it would never be the same.
Over the next couple of weeks I was told that my kidneys were down to about 25% functioning and I soon required emergency surgery on my hernia. I was forced to delay the original hernia surgery due to the kidney issue. The prognosis I was given set the stage for life altering events that would take me in a direction I had never dreamed. The lessons I would learn would change me in ways that were unimaginable before that day. I would never be the same. My fort was being destroyed by torrents of bad news. My internal fortress was washed away, seemingly never to be found again.
Thus was my introduction to one of the most life altering moments in my fifty plus years and the beginning of a journey that continues even today. It's strange how these forts we build in our lives can crumble overnight. We think we can withstand anything and then the unexpected storm happens and the walls come tumbling down. What we do at that point creates the defining moments in our lives. Who we are and what we are made of screams out at us to make a statement and be heard. Whether we do or not attests to our makeup and sets the stage for making those dreams come true or letting them wash away with the turmoil.
For me it wasn't traumatic or even frightening. It was more like a slap across the face when I wasn't quite ready. Have you ever had a slap like that? A slap that hits you square in the face when you least expected it. It usually happens when we aren't looking with the painfully delivered message that life was changing forever. I had kidney disease and I actually lost my breath. My fort had failed to keep out the enemy. My walls crumbled and the invaders were close at hand. I was facing hand to hand combat and I didn't even have a weapon; or did I?
That was June of 1998 and I had just come through a pretty stressful few months. I lost my mother, mother-in-law and brother-in-law all between the first week in October, 1997 and Christmas. My youngest daughter had just gotten married in May, 1998 and I had just completed one of the most lucrative consulting assignments I'd had since starting my business in 1992. To say my life was turned upside down was an understatement. I almost didn't know what to deal with first, my grief over losing my loved ones, my joy over my daughter's marriage, my elation that my business had finally taken off or the crash of a life altering illness. It was a lot to deal with but, as I look back, I realize that this 8 month period of time would define my life from that point forward.
I now know why we say, everything happens for a reason. I now truly understand my purpose in life. Kidney disease pushed me over the hump and forced me to see more clearly what I needed to do and that it was not as difficult or confusing as I had always made it. What I finally found was the direction I'd searched for most of my life and that direction was forward. All the trials and tribulations, all the struggles and setbacks, all the losses and seeming failures in life as well as the victories and happy times were simply a part of life. My fort could be rebuilt just like that one many years earlier. Why hadn't I seen it before?
We all have our forts destroyed at some time in our lives. Many of those forts aren't all that big or strong. Some, like mine, don't fall so easily. But, when they do, we need a plan to rebuild. We need to think clearly and rationally and believe in our hearts that it was just a structure. It had a foundation and walls and rooms that were pieces of a life well lived but it didn't have to have a roof. It didn't have to have a ceiling that stopped us. When we realize this, we're on our way to success.
So how do we rebuild those forts? We keep our wits and think things through.
I read one time where it's never too late to become what we might have been. Don't let your life get in the way of your life. It's just not all that complicated.
About the Author
Jim Dineen is an author, speaker and writer who has experienced dialysis and transplant and all of its ensuing complications in a not so complicated way. His first book, "Life's Just Not That Complicated" very concisely looks at life's challenges and asks, if it's really as difficult as we make it. He can be contacted through his web site at www.eagledreamer.com or email@example.com.
Faith and Move Forward
They tell me all the time "sometimes when things pass you by, it's because there is something better waiting for you in the wings, You need to have faith and move forward", so that's what I did. I had faith and I moved forward.
Glass of Milk
The good deed you do today may benefit you or someone you love at the least expected time. If you never see the deed again, at least you will have made the world a better place - And, after all, isn't that what life is all about?
The Prince of
The heroes of the Bible were screw ups too. Imagine if you will a television announcer making the introductions of the great Bible heroes.
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