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IT ALL STARTED WITH A FIRST DATE…

Thirty years ago today, James and I had our first date. As it was only a “first” date, neither of us had any idea that God was actually bringing soul mates together. That said, right there during that first date, although neither of us had the nerve to say it, we somehow both knew that we were destined to be together for the rest of our lives. In fact, from that day on, we have indeed been together every day. Well, I should say every day where we had the choice. There have been the odd days out where work or unfortunate hospital stays have caused us to be apart but I don’t really think that times it was out of our control should count, do you?

Has it all been sunshine and lollipops in a fairy-tale life? Of course not! Although most of the time it is actually as close to perfect as two people can get, there have also been those moments when I was sure that he was trying to test exactly how far he can push me before I kill ‘em. And naturally (although I cannot imagine why… hahaha) those moments when I have done the very same to him. That being said, when we feel that we are at our wits end, we take a moment to ask ourselves, “is this something worth losing our relationship and our love over?” The answer is always categorically, “NO.” It is then that we realize that it is time to make-up ASAP, as from that point on; any time we spent angry is just precious time we will never recover.

I can honestly say that I love James as much as I did way back then when we both fell in love with one another for the first time. In fact, in many ways, I love him even more. I don’t know what, where, or even who I would be without him, I only know that I would never have been this happy

I thank my James for being there with me through thick and thin (both literally and figuratively) for making me laugh, bringing me joy, for sharing his life and his love, and for holding me close on those occasions when I needed to cry. More than that, I thank God, who after thirty some odd years, brought two lost souls, both searching for something that was missing in our lives, together; for it was only God who knew that the something missing was each other.

I know that this blog was totally self indulgent. If you took the time to read it anyway, then thank you for letting me share a bit of my personal life with you.
Until next time,
Don

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So You Think Miracles Don’t Happen In Our Modern Times? Read This!

It’s been a very difficult ride since last May when James and I sold our home and moved into a condo. Almost immediately things began to go wrong with our health, finances, and with the very condo unit we purchased. At one point, James thought we should have a priest come over and bless the place. Kind relatives and friends have sent us blessing candles, sage and protection angels, and inspirational cards. Below is only a smattering of the things that have happened, some mere annoyances, others quite challenging, while still others were downright frightening. I won’t put you through all of the drama, aches, and pains, I’ll jump right into the story that this Blog is truly about

It all started on the 5th of July. I had to be rushed to the hospital with severe abdominal pain. As it turned out, I was passing a kidney stone. They told me that I had nine in total and that the summer may prove rather “interesting” to me, as some or all may pass in the coming several weeks.

I was placed on an IV and given pain-killers. Not much story here, but it was the catalyst for something much bigger. After about 12 hours in the E.R, I was released with a couple of prescriptions.

Fast forward three and a half weeks – and my arm began to swell. There was an odd sharp pain in the vein that ran the length of it. The best way to describe it would be like someone was doing a very poor job of putting an IV into it.

After an examination and an ultrasound, it turned out that I had two blood clots in my arm, caused by the IV from the previous weeks. I was admitted to the hospital and after a several days of intravenous blood thinners, I was able to go home, placed on oral blood thinners. It was determined that I would most likely need to stay on them for life as this was not my first blood clot rodeo. I’ve suffered them twice before, always in my arms and always the direct complication of being placed on an IV. Obviously, my blood tends to clot when my veins are provoked. I took a quick goofy selfie in the hospital to put my sisters at ease. I knew they were worried. However, this too is only a precursor to the real story.

The goofy selfie

One week later I believed that the ceiling in my home had suddenly collapsed, when I felt that something had crashed onto my skull feeling much as though someone had taken a baseball bat to it. “It had to have been a two by four falling out of the ceiling,” I told myself. Instinctively, I grabbed my head tightly and looked up at the ceiling, which was quite intact. It took a few seconds for my brain to wrap around the idea that this incredible pain was coming from INSIDE my head!

I was rushed back to the hospital where I was told that such a pain is known as a “thunderclap” headache, due to the sudden onset and the extreme pain it causes.

I had to undergo a series of testing to find out exactly what brought it on. After several tests (and confirming with further tests, i.e. MRI & MRA with contrast) I was found to have a blood clot in the frontal cortex of my brain! Now that it was determined that a clot was there, the question was what should be done about it?

The frontal cortex of our brain, controls important cognitive skills, such as emotional expression, problem solving, memory, language, speech, judgment, personality, decision making, moderating social behavior and much more. It is, in essence, the “control panel” of our very personality and our ability to communicate and I had a blood clot there, why had it not killed me? If it moved, even ever so slightly it would cause sudden death from either a massive stroke or my brain may just bleed out. On another note, they also found that both of my corroded arteries were dangerously clogged, one 90 percent and the other 75 percent. But –  as the doctors said, “one problem at a time.”

As you can imagine, hearing such news is quite frightening but it also caused me great worry about James, my family, my loved ones and their grief and anxiety to this awful news. I decided to face the situation with a smile (yes, a smile) a sense of humor and most of all, residing myself to the fact that whatever happens, it is God’s will. Although I instinctively wanted to pray to be spared, I knew that God already was quite aware of what my wishes were and instead asked for the strength to handle whatever comes and to never allow my faith, or that of my family and loved ones, to waiver.

There was not much time to figure out how to move forward. A hospital team of seven specialists ranging from hematology to neurosurgery to pain management, cardiology, and everything in between were on my case. I was taken out of the ER and placed into the I.C.U. where I could be closely monitored throughout the night. It was decided that in the morning, I was to undergo an angiogram so that the doctors could have a closer look at the clot which they all hoped would aid them in a plan of attack.

I cannot even tell you how many people began to pray for me. I believe that even hospital staff, whom had taken a liking to me, was silently praying for my well-being. So many of them had come in to see me to talk and laugh.

As you might imagine, I was not able to sleep that night, I did find comfort in the inspiring Christian music that I enjoy listening to, as I prayed and took a retrospective look on my life thus far. I had been so lucky and so blessed. Many were the times that I felt as though I had my very own angels watching over me. Perhaps in a way, I did. I think that my biological father and my big brother, both of whom passed away during my childhood, were watching over me for decades and I know that my mom has been watching and guiding me since the day she left this mortal world in 2003. I actually felt at peace excepting that whatever was to come, was out of my hands.

Even Louder – One of the songs that carried me through the night

In the morning, just before the testing, I was surrounded by James and my family whom I did my best to entertain with my dopey sense of humor. Then just as the hospital staff came to wheel me down to the OR where the angiogram was to take place, I received a text from a friend in New York, who is a Rabbi.

The text informed me that our mutual friend, my brother-in-law’s sister, Jackie, had notified her of my situation and that she, my Rabbi friend, was praying for me along with her entire congregation. I was overwhelmed with the outcry of support that I was receiving. I had Christians (from Catholics to Baptist to born agains), Jews, and Muslims, young, old, men, women, black, white, Latinos, and Asian, all praying for me. I couldn’t help appreciating what a blessed man I am. I felt loved beyond words.

At the OR they gave me an anesthetic that was not meant to put me out but perhaps it was exhaustion, lack of sleep, being worn out by pain, the stress, or all of them, I fell fast asleep. When I awoke, the test was over. There was much commotion going on. I could see the seven physicians huddled in the back corner of the room, talking and reviewing the results in the computer. I asked what was going on and was just told to try to rest for a little while longer as the doctors take more time to confer with one another.

After what seemed like an hour they dispersed leaving only the neurosurgeon and hematologist to come and talk to me. I braced myself for the worst.

I kid you not – the news I received was an actual God performed miracle.

Overnight, the clot in my brain had somehow, mysteriously disappeared!

It simply dissolved of its own accord and was not there any longer. Not only that; both of my corroded arteries were now clear! They had no way to explain it. It should be impossible. The neurosurgeon whispered to me that although as men of medicine they must look for scientific answers which leads them to say that the clot somehow “dissolved away on its own,” but, confided to me that the only true answer he could see was a pure unadulterated miracle! Even if it were possible that the clot dissolved by itself, what of the blockage in my corroded arteries? How could they possibly clear?

I often hear people complaining that miracles never happen anymore. I have always been a believer that miracles happen every single day. We have just become so hardened and jaded that we turn a blind eye to them. If what just happened to me had happened two or three thousand years ago, it would have been included in the bible!

God has blessed me beyond measure and I feel the need to testify to that fact. I am still dealing with pain, as what happened is a head injury – only instead of occurring from the outside into the brain, it happened from within. I also still have the two clots in my arm, which although has its own risks, they are quite treatable. I know firsthand, as I’ve beaten them twice before, even with one only inches away from my heart.

Last Friday I received a phone message from my primary doctor, She said, and I quote, “I just read your whole medical report and saw the test results… Wow! I have no words. You are so incredibly lucky!” I suppose I am, if “lucky” is the scientific term for “blessed.”

If you don’t believe in miracles, then please explain what happened to me because a team of medical specialist could not! As for me, I will continue to believe in Miracles. I will praise God forever and thank him wholeheartedly.

I will do my best to be a man worthy of such a blessing and try to live my life as close to “Godly” as this simple man is capable of.

If this Blog has touched even one person who needed to hear this kind of a true life story, anyone who needs something to believe in, to hold onto, then all that I have been through will have been worth it. Perhaps that is indeed the reason behind it all.

May God bless you and yours.

Until next time,
Don

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Father’s Day 2018

When it came time to hand out blessings, God surely moved me up to the front of the line. Father’s Day reminds me that I had two exceptional fathers; one who gave me life and another who made that life wonderful. Talk about remarkable dads, when my biological father, Mario, found out he was going to die, he set my dad (John Abate) up to become our new father. I can’t even imagine all that was going through his head, a man still in his thirties, awaiting a fatal heart attack to snatch his life away but taking the necessary steps to see that his wife and children will be loved and cared for after he was gone. That is truly unconditional love.

Furthermore, I can’t fathom the idea of a young bachelor stepping into another man’s shoes to become daddy to three children ranging in ages from 6-16. My dad, John, not only did that, but he taught us that it is not blood and DNA that makes a family a true family, it is caring, respect, selflessness, and above all, love.

I do believe with all my heart that when my time comes to be called home to God, the first thing I will do is thank him not only for the blessings of James and all of my wonderful family, but for going above and beyond with the two great men in my life that I have had the good fortune to be able to call “dad.”

Wishing all of the fathers around the world, and above in Heaven, a blessed and happy Father’s Day. Thank you for your sacrifices, your hard work, and your love. You are appreciated more than you can ever imagine.

 

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My biological father, Mario Massetti, with me    Christmas 1960. He passed away just days before Christmas of the following year.

 

Old Port Cove

John Abate, the man who became my dad, my inspiration, my hero and… my best friend.

Until next time,
Don

 

 

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Another Trudy Birthday…

Today would have been my mother’s 93rd birthday. Her outer beauty was only a hint of the true beauty that lay within her heart. Trudy was truly a “one-in-a-million” woman with a heart of gold, a quick wit, a contagious smile and an infinite well of interesting and comical life stories.

Mom 21 years old

Trudy 21-years old

 

For those that knew her, she was a true friend, a confidant and a comedian, as well as a sympathetic ear with a shoulder to cry on and arms always opened to embrace you with a hug of true love and compassion whenever you needed it. She had a unique kindness and an undying faith; not only in God, but in her family as well as her friends. She was just the right mix of smart and funny with a hint of naughty that made her a lot of fun and kept you on your toes. If you never had the opportunity to know her… all I can say is – it’s a shame, because you would have absolutely adored her!

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Trudy 35-years old

 

 

That said, if you happen to love anyone of her children, then you do also love her, as all that we are is directly related to who she was. Our wit was once hers, as is our kindness, love, supportiveness and generosity. I know that we, her children, even today almost fifteen years after her passing, still strive to live our lives in a way that would make her proud. There was something so rewarding about having the opportunity to make mom happy that it was almost more selfish than selfless.

 

Mom Bayside Purple Room

Trudy 47-years old

 

I don’t know how I would have navigated through life without the benefit of her wisdom and love. Nowadays, I call upon my mom in my prayers and still, she never fails me. Her presence is felt each and every day by all five of her surviving children, with amazing signs that quite frankly, defy explanation.

Mom on terrace in Flushing.jpg

Trudy 52-years old

 

To this day our mom is still our rock, comfort, teacher, and supporter. Her love transcends death and we actually never truly feel that she has left us. She is merely on a different plateau watching over and guiding us with the same great love and grace that she had in life.

 

Mommy Fish dress

Trudy 74-years old

 

Happy birthday, Mom. You lived your whole life for us, your children. Though you suffered through unfathomable pains and illness and unfair diseases for literally decades, you hardly complained and still always had a smile for all those who came your way. Thank you not only for giving us life, but for making it wonderful. I personally thank you for teaching me to be the man I am today. You were, are, and will always remain… unforgettable.

All my love, always from your son-your son

Donald XOX

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Thanks Mom

Throughout our lives, we experience many “coincedences” but there are times when we have to sit back, take it all in, and see if what we experience is a simple coincedence or a bleessing.

Earlier today I took the pups out for a walk. At this point in time, I have to take them out separately, as Theo’s current eye ulcer has him on medication that keeps the eye very dilated, making his eye extremely sensitive to light. I walk him first, he does his business rather quickly, allowing me to return him home without having to keep him outdoors, bothered by the bright sunlight, while continuing on with the long walk, which Buddy so enjoys taking.

As Buddy and I were nearing home from our neighborhood stroll, I was deep in thought about Theo, wondering how long it will be before this latest bout of unfortunate health will last. I couldn’t help thinking that he is a lot like my mother. I often kid that she and Theo were cast from the same mold, both beautiful, fluffy-haired blondes, plagued with endless medical issues. Also in keeping with my mother, Theo somehow manages to always be happy and uncomplaining through it all.

I began to silently pray to my mom, asking her to please watch over my little pup and help me to take the very best of care of him. As I did so, a small leaf fell from a tree that I was walking under, gently landing upon my shoulder. The craziest thing about it was that it was formed into a perfect little heart shape. I must admit, that it made me have to hold back a tear.

At this point, there are a few bits of information that you should know about.

First: My mother’s birthday was on the 11th of June while my dad’s birthday is on the 11th of January. I have always joked that if you added the sum of their two birthdays, you got my birthday, the 22nd! Because of this, whenever I see the clock reading 11:11, whether in the morning or the evening, I send a prayer out for my mother.

Secondly: Last night as I was color-coding Theo’s three medications (to help ensure I give him the correct medication at the correct time) I could not find another round sticker to mark the box of his most important salve, which I wanted to mark as “green.” Too tired to go on searching, I decided to use a little green “heart-shaped” sticker to mark that package.

Okay, back to my story… As I entered the house with Buddy, James told me that my alarm had gone off a few minutes ago, marking one of Theo’s medication times. I quickly went into my bedroom to retrieve the salve needed for Theo’s eye and when I grabbed the box, it was the medication marked by the small green heart! Astounded, I sat down a minute to allow the coincidence (?) to set in when I looked at the time and found that the clock read, 11:11!

Make of this story whatever you wish, but for me it was yet another sign that my mom, true to her dying words, is still watching over her family from above with the same brand of unconditional love and gentle caring that she had blessed us with all of her life. Thanks mom. I love you too.

Until next time,Don

Don

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Don’t Let Frustration Overshadow Your Blessings…

So I was waiting in the doctor’s office today sitting next to a young woman who was having some sort of smart-phone issue. She became quite upset by the momentary inconvenience it was causing her; apparently due to the connection in the building, she was unable to reply to a Facebook posting. Suddenly she shoved the phone into her handbag and sighed out loud with a great dramatic flair of frustration, “I hate my efen life!”

Well those of you who know me, know that I was as equally frustrated because I had to keep my mouth shut and mind my own business. I was burning to tell her that such a statement is an affront to God who for whatever his reason, had given her a life of privilege, which she obviously takes for granted.

All over the world there are countless numbers of people who would give their souls to trade places with her and have to live a life filled with her trivial problems.

She doesn’t have to worry how she will get the next meal into her children, who haven’t eaten in days. She does not have to trek barefoot for two days to stand on a line for another day (or more) in the baking sun to get a couple of buckets of water for her family, which by the way, they now have to haul back home!

She is sitting pretty, here in a doctor’s office, about to receive whatever medical attention she needs, while millions of people all over the world are watching in horror as their spouses and worse yet, their children, die of very curable diseases.

As people living in the United States, we may take for granted (myself included) just how blessed we truly are. We do not suffer hunger, although if we miss a meal, we exclaim, “I’m starving,” when in reality, we (thankfully) know nothing of starvation. We BUY water in bottles because we feel a strange need to partake in what we consider a luxury of better water than we have in our taps (which is a fallacy created by the companies making billions off this ridiculous purchase).We regularly see doctors, dentists, optometrists etc., when we are in need of them and forget that others worldwide are dying every minute from lack of medical treatment.

Before I get too preachy, a door I probably went through four or so paragraphs ago, I just want to say that it is okay to “take our lives for granted” every now and then. It’s a sign that things are quite good on a regular basis but please, for God’s sake, don’t cry out that you “hate” your life.

At times, frustration can be a bitter pill, but try to keep life in perspective. It will talk you off the ledge, if you let it.

 

Frustrated Businesswoman Tearing Out Hair

Frustration, it’s part of life!

 

If we took as much time reflecting on how good our life is, instead of focusing on the silly little things that leave us peeved, I promise you, you will be a much happier, more humbled person who appreciates each day as the gift that God intended it to be.

This whole thing reminds me of a song by Francesca Battistelli, “This Is The Stuff” Within a catchy tune, she sings out to God about life’s little frustrations and how we handle them, with lyrics that say:

“I lost my keys in the great unknown, and call me please ’cause I can’t find my phone. This is the stuff that drives me crazy, this is the stuff that’s getting to me lately. In the middle of my little mess, I forget how big I’m blessed, This is the stuff that gets under my skin, but I’ve gotta trust You know exactly what You’re doing. Might not be what I would choose, but this the stuff You use.”

This Is The Stuff:

Thanks for reading my rant. I wish you all a day of peace and blessings beyond measure.

Until next time,

Don

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Made In 1957… And Built To Last!

When I turned thirty, it had absolutely no effect on my psyche what so ever; and why should it have? I was strong, healthy and for the first few years of my thirties, still being asked about (high) school! I felt that my whole life was ahead of me and the opportunities were infinite.

When I turned forty, it too was just another number to me. My body was in great physical shape inside and out. I liked the slight, subtle touch of grey that had begun to fleck my hair on the sides of my head, and even at forty-nine years old, while taking a routine stress test for an annual physical, I was asked by the stress test technician, if I’d like a job, touring the country, demonstrating the machine at medical fairs and conventions. I felt like a “Superman.”

I entered my fifties with the same optimism and enthusiasm as the decades that had proceeded. For goodness sake, at fifty-three years old, young (and quite fit) men at the gem were telling me that my body was their goal!

However sixty hardly carries all the same cheerful prospects that the 30’s, 40’s, and yes, even 50’s did. Lately I was chatting with a stranger in the market who asked almost childlike, “what’s the big deal, so we’re middle aged?” Middle aged nothing, I thought. Who the heck do you know who’s 120 years old?

There’s a reason I am being chased down by AARP and worse yet, hounded by insurance companies to make sure my “final expenses” will be covered. If that’s not bad enough, I receive weekly invitations to come and enjoy a free meal at various restaurants around my community to start “PLANING MY OWN FUNERAL” and I’m even being offered wonderful two-for-one deals on cemetery plots as well as discounts on cremation. This didn’t happened when I turned forty. Clearly I have been placed into a new demographic. One that, if you please, I’d rather not think about.

Sixty is apparently an age that etiquette deems to be socially acceptable for organizations to constantly remind one that they should start preparing now, because they are closer to death than they’ve ever been before. I get it; I have one foot in the grave, but if you don’t mind, I would like to still go on living until such time that the Grim Reaper actually grabs me by the throat and drags me into the hereafter, kicking and scratching all the way. Is that too much to ask?

As you can plainly see, 60 is not a friend of mine. I am not graciously embracing 60, tossing it around as just another number. I do appreciate that in actuality, I’m merely one day older than I was yesterday, but I also know that I need help from younger people with my “tech” problems, who snicker at me because I don’t use my smart phone for anything more than calls or photos. If I have to climb a ladder it is no longer done with the same quick sense of purpose and reckless abandon of my youth but instead rather cautiously, always aware that one wrong move can leave me with some badly broken bones, and I relish getting into bed by nine o’clock each night, as if I’m meeting an old dear friend. All this said, inside I feel every bit the same as I did when I was twenty-seven; it just seems to come with rather old packaging nowadays.

So sixty, I say to you, beware. I am not going to allow you to get the better of me. I may be older, but I didn’t reach this age without a multitude of struggles, each and every one of which, I conquered with sheer determination and stubbornness beyond compare. If you do however think you want to take me on, remember that you have been warned!

In fact, I’ve decided that I am not going to sit back and just “accept” 60 as my newly “assigned” number. From now on when someone asks me how old I am, I think I’ll simply answer, “five dozen years old!”

Jan, Don, and Maur 2

Celebrating 60 with two of my sisters

Until next time,
Don

 

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