Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Golden Gate Bridge Has Become A Target

The Golden Gate Bridge is a national treasure. It has also become the most used place in the United States for people to end their lives! There is a large controversy brewing about installing a net on both sides to stop people from jumping to their deaths. 

I found it interesting why some people did not want the net up because they thought it took away from the appearance of the bridge. As if that is a reason to stop people from jumping! Sometimes, I really do not understand people. I guess everyone has their own opinion, but is that a real reason to try and stop using the bridge to kill yourself?
According to this article in the New York Times, there were a record forty-six suicides in 2013 from people jumping off the bridge! You may read the article by clicking here or click on this URL: 

The issue of mental health is discussed in the article and needs to be discussed more on a local, state and national level. When we hear of another school, mall or business place shooting, the issue is brought up about the shooter, but is quickly dropped as the twenty-four hour news cycle moves on to another topic. The problem is people with metal health issues do not lose those issues in that twenty-four hour cycle.

Across the country, we are seeing funding being cut for programming, mental health clinics are being closed, often times insurance policies do not cover mental health issues, and the stigmatization of mental health problems is still rampant in our society.

As soldiers are been coming back oftentimes after multiple tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan, we see a preponderance of PTSD and other mental health issues related to their time not only in their active duty serving overseas, but in the way they are being treated by the Veterans Administration. The numbers of veterans and suicides and/or attempts is far above the national average. In fact, it is at an epidemic rate.

According to the Veterans Affairs Department, it is not just the active-duty military who face this problem. The report states at least twenty-two veterans commit suicide each day! This adds up to more than two thousand veterans killing themselves so far this year alone. 

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control, in 2011, (the most recent year they have the data on) suicide ranks tenth amongst death in the United States. That percentage goes up even higher when one considers only teenagers. I have not even addressed that issue yet.

Several years ago, after visiting a school one day, a young student asked if she could talk to me. We went in to a classroom and she told me she had tried to kill her self twenty-seven times! As she was telling me this, she rolled up the sleeves on her arms and there were a number of scars on each forearm, one right after another.

I asked her why she was doing it. She told me, "God was telling her to kill herself."

I asked her if she really wanted to die? She said, "No." She also told me no one paid any attention to her and that was a way of getting attention.

When I asked her if she really didn't want to die and God was telling her she needed to, I said, "What would happen if you really did commit suicide?" You should have seen the look on her face! That thought and never really crossed her mind. She was just looking for attention!

Several years ago, I read a report that stated teenagers try to kill themselves fifty-five times every hour. Every day they succeed eighteen times. Which begs the question, "If you try to kill yourself and do not accomplish your stated goal, is that a successful or unsuccessful suicide attempt?" I have often contemplated that question and had many conversations about it.

I do not know what those numbers are today because every site I researched lumps the group into the 15-24 age group. I looked at several sites and did a number of different queries in doing the research for this post. The numbers are staggering no matter how you look at it! Feel free to do your own Google research for just about any phrase concerning suicide and you will be amazed at how many people, the age groups, the reasoning, the success rates, the recidivism, trying to understand and watch for characteristics of someone who is considering suicide you will find.

The more time I spend doing this post, the more depressing it gets. I started out at the Golden Gate Bridge and found myself digging deeper and deeper into a very complicated subject. I believe it is time to quit.

If you read the article from the New York Times on the Golden Gate Bridge, you saw this photograph. When I first lived in Berkeley and again in San Bruno, I had occasion to drive over the bridge a number of times and it is breathtaking. I could also see it from the dining room when I lived in Cowell Residence Program and watch the fog roll in over the bay and Alcatraz Island. That was fun for an eighteen-year-old in the middle of winter fresh from Minnesota.

A friend of mine gave me a photograph of the bridge from a similar angle and I had it hanging in my house. I like the bridge so much and I like this picture; so, I am going to post it here:

Click on it to make it larger:

I look forward to your comments.



Saturday, June 21, 2014

I Had Fun Today!

It has been a while since I gave my last speech, and I needed a fix! I got in my zone and it felt great! Today that drought ended in a big way with my keynote commencement address at the University of Minnesota's Physical Therapy Commencement Exercise. It was short, which is hard for me to do; but, I received many positive comments, saw a few longtime friends and made several amazing connections.

It will be interesting to see what results of the networking that went on with a few professors in the Green Room and a constant barrage of connecting and reconnecting in the reception area after the ceremony!

I played with the professor who hired me, the student who made it all happen and even got in a comment about that big mudslide at the University Medical Center yesterday!

Afterwards, I told one parent every time I give a presentation all I can think about on the way home are the things I did not say and wanted to. It is that way if I give a fifteen-minute keynote address or a six-hour workshop.

It is now more than six hours after my presentation and I am thinking of all kinds of things I wish I would have said.

The ceremony was held in the newly renovated Northrup Auditorium on the University of Minnesota's main campus. The irony in me speaking on that stage was I graduated on that same stage in December 1980 with the grand stairway for "The Nutcracker Suite" dominated the stage. That night, I had to be lifted onto the stage as there was no ramp.

Fresh from the farm in South Dakota, my uncle commented as he stepped into this huge auditorium, "You could sure stack a lot of bales in this place!" It is all in your frame of reference.

Today, the highlight of my speech was when I talked about another commencement address I gave way back in 1998 to the Native American OIC in south Minneapolis and I got to experience something I have never experienced before, nor ever will again. I wrote about it in my book.

I was privileged to witness Dr. Leon Sullivan, who was commonly known as The Lion from Zion. He was a civil rights leader in the 1960s along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and a famous Baptist minister in Philadelphia for decades.

I saw the spirit come into him for a few minutes that day and he was able to express the passion he had for his work. I wanted the new graduates to understand they need to be passionate about the work they are going to do with the patients they will help when they start practicing.

They are already aware of the skills they need to be successful in their chosen field, but I was trying to drive home the point one more time. Many of the fifty graduates already have jobs and once they pass their boards, they will be Doctorates of Physical Therapy.

After my speech, they had the rest of the ceremony which included handing out several awards and recognizing students for their outstanding achievements, and as the new graduates received their diplomas, I was privileged to shake their hands and congratulate them on their accomplishments. It was an impressive group of young people who are ready and qualified to take their place as physical therapists. Many of them are in their mid-20s and dare I say it, looks so young! Of course, that is coming from someone who graduated on that stage thirty-four years ago!

Let me close with a photograph from before my presentation as I sat on the stage at Northrup:

Click on the image to make it larger:

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Saturday, June 14, 2014

Happy Father's Day

This post marks a special post for me besides wishing all fathers a wonderful day with family and friends on Sunday, June 15, 2014. Before I address my main goal in this post, let me first explain the other reason this is a special post.

This post marks the three hundredth post I have written on this blog! My first post was August 1, 2007. It was entitled "When Bridges Fall" and you can imagine what the topic was for that post. If you would like to read it, click here. If that does not get you there, click on this link: I would be curious to see if you think my posts have changed since then.

Now, let me address the intent of this post. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you read my last post about my father and what would have been his eighty-first birthday. I told you in that post there was plenty more I wanted to write about my dad but it already rambled on long enough. As you know, some of my posts get rather lengthy as I am using voice recognition software Dragon Dictate; and once I get started speaking, I have a hard time stopping!

Like I stated in last week's post, my dad played for a living. As a coach for many different sports and several ages he was always playing right along side his athletes. I did not use the term student/athletes because some of his programs were summer programs and we were not students when we played summer baseball.

I showed you a picture in last week's post of him teaching me how to bat left-handed. He was always mentoring, coaching, teaching and playing with me. I had a very special relationship with him in that sense.

In the summer of 1968, he accepted the vacant guidance counselor and track and cross country coach job at Worthington State Junior College. He left the guidance counselor and baseball coach position he had been in Sibley, Iowa for only two years.

Worthington was the eighth town I had lived in before I was fourteen years old, and we had lived in sixteen different locations. Dad continued to get better jobs all along the way and we never stayed anywhere more than three years.

I write in my book "I Still Believe In Tomorrow" I really believe the reason I have been able to adjust to all of the changes I have had to adjust to since my accident was because I was being groomed to deal with change growing up as a child and moving all the time. I was adjusting to different houses, friends, schools and very different environments going from an Indian reservation to a small town comprised of a very conservative, very Dutch community in southwestern Minnesota.

This picture was taken when dad took the job at Worthington when he was only thirty-five years old:

Click on the image to make it larger:

He was not very old, but he finished his career in the community college ranks in Worthington for eight years; then seventeen years at Rochester Community College in Rochester, Minnesota as a physical education and health teacher; as well as their track and cross country coach.

Besides being my dad, he was also my best friend. I was with him constantly and he taught me all kinds of things. I want to show you this picture of how he was teaching me at a very young age how to read a scorebook after one of his high school basketball games before I was even four.

Again, click on the image to make it larger:

First and foremost, he was a teacher, then a coach and lastly my friend. I remember going to his biology classroom when we lived in McLaughlin, South Dakota and a student had brought in a bald eagle in a cage. I remember walking around the cage and having that eagle follow me around the room almost the entire way with his flexible neck.

What a treat for a young child to be able to go to Dad's workplace, see an eagle, a live rattlesnake and other animals in formaldehyde, learn big words from his Anatomy, Muscular, Skeletal and other charts that would carry me through my life and stick with me today. His biology classroom in both McLaughlin and Edgerton, Minnesota were treasure troves of knowledge for my young mind. Gastrocnemius, sternocleidomastoid, pectoralis major, gluteus maximus, medius and minimus and brachioradialis, remain some of my favorite words today!

Once again, I could go on and on; but let me end this post by wishing all of you fathers and grandfathers a wonderful day with your family either in person or in thought, if not those free weekend cell phone minutes, Skype or FaceTime a wonderful day on Father's Day!

I look forward to your comments.



Friday, June 6, 2014

My Dad

My Dad was born eighty-one years ago today! June 6 has always had a special meaning for our family as many events happened on June 6. Most notably, of course, was June 6, 1944 when the Allies stormed the beaches at Normandy and turned the tide in World War II.

Another notable June 6 was the night Robert Kennedy was shot on the fifth and died twenty-six hours later on June 6, 1968 just after winning the California Primary Election. If only he had taken the intended route out of the ballroom instead of being whisked away at the last moment through the kitchen.

I do not intend to discuss the latter two events; but rather discuss the life and times of my father who died of mesothelioma on July 23, 2006.

Like many children of my father's generation, he was born in the house on the family farm near Elkton, South Dakota on June 6, 1933. He took us by that farm a couple of times and the thing I remember most about that small farm was the artesian well that supplied that farm for many, many years. As far as I know, that well is still gushing out clean, fresh, cold water at a rapid rate. I remember looking out over the pasture and seeing three water tanks that had slowly been carried away by that well as the water pressure wore away the bottom of the tank and pushed it away from the well.

I am not sure exactly how long they lived on that farm before my grandma and grandpa bought the farm where Dad spent most of his early life growing up until he moved away to go to college. He used to tell great stories about his memories growing up despite all the tragedies they had to endure on that farm.

My dad was a runner. My grandmother made sure of that. My dad is the second of seven children born to Ben and Irene Patrick. When Grandpa Ben was plowing on May 27, 1942 he saw a storm coming from the West. He told dad's older brother, Murl, who was barely ten years old, and plowing with two teams of large draft horses, to take the horses in, unharness, curry down, feed and prepare them for the oncoming storm. Grandpa told Murl he would be in when he was done plowing. Grandpa never made it out of the field. A bolt of lightning saw to that. 

When the storm had passed and Grandpa had still not come in from the field, Grandma, pregnant with child number seven under the age of eleven, brought a couple of the kids out to see where Grandpa was. She found him going in circles, literally, fried to the tractor, and had to figure out how she was going to get him off the tractor and out of that newly plowed field.

She ended up driving to neighbors' farms eliciting help to get Grandpa off the tractor after they got it stopped. By that time, it was time to do the evening chores which included milking the cows, gathering the eggs and feeding all the other animals. Life was not easy in the good old days!

Three years later, baby Lorraine had seen the boys throw kerosene into the large round, old, gravity furnace in the middle of the basement. She thought she would do like her older siblings had done, except she did not know you had to flick the can to stop the kerosene from bringing a flame out and burning her. She died of the burns shortly after that.

By the time, my dad was twelve years old; he had lost his father and baby sister. I do not think he ever got over that. He did not, nor did the rest of the family, have time to grieve, as there were chores to do!

Murl, Dad, Leroy, Norris, Barbara and Dorothy all went to a small one-room schoolhouse through the eighth grade. After that, Grandma gave them a choice. The only two I know of are Murl and Dad's choices. As I understand it, when Murl was young he liked Gene Autry, the singing cowboy, and wanted to be the next Country and Western star! Grandma gave him this choice; you can go to high school or if you choose to stay home on the farm, I will give you a guitar and lessons.

Murl chose the latter and sang the old Country and Western songs his entire life, amassing an impressive collection of incredible, valuable guitars.

Dad's choice was this: you can stay here and help Murl and me run the farm, or you can go to high school and continue running. However, if you go to high school, you have to run everywhere you go, and when you are here at the farm, you have to wear a pair of five buckle overshoes.

Dad also chose the latter and became a member of a small five-man team from tiny South Dakota State College in nearby Brookings to win a National Championship in track and field in Abilene, Texas in 1953. Here is a picture of that team:

Click on the image to make it larger:

Kneeling: Russ Nash and my Dad
Standing: Jack Pearson, Leo Hammerich and Pete Retzlaff looking at the trophy with coach Jim Emmerich

Along the way, Dad ran everywhere. His siblings have told me they remember passing him in the family car on their way to high school as he ran the five miles into town.

I have a lot of stories I would like to tell you about my dad, but I see I have already written a long post. Let me finish with a story and a picture of my dad teaching me to bat left-handed. I was thirteen years old and we lived in Sibley, Iowa in the summer of 1968.

Dad was my coach, mentor, father and friend. He had some shortcomings, and I was occasionally on the short end of the stick, but not very often. We had a special relationship and I miss him every day. I am sure if you have lost a parent(s) you feel the same way.

Click on the image to make it larger:

I miss all the time we spent together. He will be teaching me again all too soon!

Happy Birthday, Dad!

As always, I look forward to your comments.