Are you doing everything you can?

This morning I thought about a man that I haven’t remembered in a while. Back in the days of my old blog I wrote about him once or twice and he deserves to have his story told a little more often, or at least, to have my part of his story told.

His name is Jim Heller, and he was an artist. He was also almost completely paralyzed; anything from the neck down was immobile, except for very slight movements in his right hand.

It was those movements that allowed him to become a precise artist. I got to see him work every now and then because we went to church together, and our ward would divide up service assignments to help him out.

On the 2nd of every month, my brother and I would ride our bikes down to his place and make him dinner. This was always a bit of a process because Jim was a slow eater. He would wheel his electric chair into the doorway of his kitchen and tell us what to pull out of the fridge or the cabinets, then have us nuke it in the mike.

We had to cut everything up for him and feed it to him one small bite at a time. He had to tell us every time he was ready for another bite, or a drink through the straw. It took a few hours.

Not that it was an imposition or anything; he was very easy to talk to and we had great conversations. Jim loved movies too, so we would put on a John Wayne flick, or a cheesy sci-fi, or a WW2 film. I watched Anaconda and Tora! Tora! Tora! while feeding him. The only time I’ve ever seen The Ghost In The Darkness was while I was spooning peas into Jim’s mouth. (Awesome movie, btw.)

In my teens I didn’t have a lot going on that wasn’t scheduled for me by my parents. Go to youth activities at church, go to piano lessons, go to Boy Scouts, go go go. When I had time to myself, I spent it ignoring my homework so I could sit at my drawing table while blasting KoRn or Offspring on my CD player.

The lack of a full schedule made it easy for me to visit Jim. I don’t remember seeing it as an imposition or anything, because what else was I doing with my life? Goofing off and daydreaming about girls who would never date me because I was the weird kid?

No, go take one night in thirty and feed someone. That’s a kind of service I don’t do any more. I’m too busy, too dialed in on my own stuff. Plus, obviously, I’ve got a wife and kids now, it’s just different.

But back then, I think it was really good for me to see up close the life of someone who had to rely on others for absolutely everything. Jim had a nurse come by who helped him with his medical stuff, his pill sorting, his bathing and dressing, getting in and out of bed, all that. He always had to have his remote on his tray and his LifeAlert right next to it.

One night he called his neighbor at 2AM because there was a bug chewing on the soft skin under his arm and the pain was excruciating. Jim tried to ride it out without calling and it just got to be too much.

Think about that next time you have an itch and you scratch it and it goes away. Think about a life where you couldn’t do that for yourself.

I never once, in the three or four years that I regularly visited him, heard Jim gripe about his condition, or pity himself. Dude got diagnosed with whatever had put him in a chair in his 20s. Doctors said he would probably die in his 40s. He made it to his 60s.

And to the utter extent that he was able, he worked to support himself.

Every time we came by, we wrapped up the night by setting his art supplies out on the tray on his wheelchair. Pencils and brushes with long sticks attached. Paint pallets with just a drop of this color here, a slight mixture of these two there. Throw some water droplets on to loosen up this shade here, I don’t need much.

He painted scenery, animals, westerns, faces. Indians and mountain men, cowboys and pioneers. Wolverines battling wolves for a kill. Lynxes in the wild. Temples. Christ. His friends.

A few times a year we would load his stuff into his big old van, then help him onto the ramp so he could get inside. Hook his chair to the floor with ratchet straps and drive him to convention centers so he could sell prints and originals. It was heavy and repetitive, and tiring in the Vegas heat.

Yet the whole time you’re doing it, you’re saying to yourself, what am I going to do? Cry about it to the guy who can’t walk? Can’t take a leak without help? Come on, man. Even when I was just a low-ambition punk@$$ from Henderson I could figure that part out.

There are still times that I feel bad about not being there when he died, in July of 2001. I had missed our appointment on the 2nd of that month because I finally had things on my calendar. I had a job (tire tech) and a sport to train for (cheerleading).

He called our house and asked if I was coming. It was 6:30. I apologized profusely, I can’t even remember what I was doing that night but I was busy. He said NBD, he would call his niece, she was over there all the time.

I said I would make it up to him next month. He died about two weeks later.

I made it a point to sing at his funeral. Felt I owed him that.

Often I make the mistake of assuming that everyone has had the same life experiences I have, that they’ve known the same kind of people and have shaped their expectations of life accordingly. I have to remind myself that that isn’t the case.

We’ve all had unique struggles, they just happen in the same vein sometimes. And there will always be someone who has it worse than we do–not that it’s a competition. The point is that someone else’s trials can help you realize not only your blessings, but the limitations you are putting on yourself.

Especially today, in the age of competitive victimhood, with social media being such an easy platform for you to scream your hardships into the void of the world, looking for validation.

When that temptation arises, think of men like Jim. He dealt with those demons at some point in his life, I’m sure of it. That kind of stoicism is usually a destination, not a starting point, and he got there.

I for one am very grateful that he did, and for what he taught me in our short time together. Men like that ought to be remembered.

Learn from that. And get back to work.

Buy my mom’s house in Henderson, NV.

For years, you’ve wanted to be a legit Old Hendersonian.
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You’ve wanted to live within walking distance of the Water Street District, where you can eat a different culture’s food every day of the week.
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Where old men in white smocks cut your hair with hand-sharpened scissors and tell you stories about The War.
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A place where whatever grocery store across from Wal-Mart is trying to survive this week. (Is it a Sav-On? It’s Albertson’s. No, it’s Haagens? No, it’s an Albertson’s again…)
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Well, you no longer have to dream about being closer to Target AND Walgreens AND Friendly’s Donuts AND Johnny Mac’s AND Cinedome 12, with its $4 Tuesday Tickets and the same ticket-tearing lady who’s been there since I was 11.
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Yes, all of this is within your reach, because a home just went up for sale in…THE TRIANGLE! Specifically, my mom’s house!
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You can be the envy of your friends as you step out into your front yard, look west, and gaze upon the industrial masterpiece that is Timet Industries! They make titanium there, how cool is that?!
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And it’s right behind the James I. Gibson Library, which used to be by City Hall, but has since moved closer. About 90% closer. It’s on  your doorstep, giving you The Look, and jangling its keys. Once you own this classy, revamped, War-era house, you’ll have that last 10% right at your fingertips.
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Directly east of your new Legit Hendo House is the leggitest Discount Tire Store in the whole valley, designation “NVL01”. I worked there in high school when it was a much less classy outfit than it is now.
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A decade ago, many Triangle houses were derelict or outright abandoned. In just the last year or two, many of Mom’s neighbors have redone their houses, and the neighborhood on the whole is looking a lot better, which is why these houses have gone up in value. That, and the location.
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In fact, here’s a short list of what’s within a mile or so of your new place:
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-Walgreens
-St. Rose Hospital
-Capriotti’s
-Albertson’s (for now…)
-Chevron/Terrible’s
-McDonald’s
-Del Taco, El Pollo Loco, Subway, Jimmy John’s, Carl’s Jr. (same shopping center)
-Target, PetSmart, Staples, Marshall’s, and Big Lots (also same shopping center)
-The Henderson Convention Center
-The Farmer’s Market (every Thursday)
-Jack in the Box, Sonic, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Pep Boys, and the US Post Office…all next door to each other.
-And that’s not even counting the Wal-Mart on the corner of Lake Mead and Boulder.
For crying out loud, you’re less than two miles from Cinedome 12 (the cheap seats!), Johnny Mac’s (wings! pizza! ribs!), Friendly’s Donuts (JUST ASK ANYONE IN TOWN), and the Sunset Pizzeria.
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The only Old Henderson Landmark not inside that circle is the El Torito restaurant, which was teleported out of Mexico thirty years ago and is still serving the same recipes today. Deadpool himself would swear by these chimichangas, and we all know how Deadpool likes to swear.
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But enough about the neighborhood perks! What about the house perks?
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Well, my mom bought the place in 2009, after having to sell the house I grew up in off of Pacific and Horizon. Check out the B&A:
mom house
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You’re getting new paint inside and out.
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New windows, all up to city code.
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Plenty of new plumbing and fixtures (including for the kitchen, hall bath, and laundry.)
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Three of the rooms couldn’t even be used when she moved in. Now the house has 4 bedrooms and 2 renovated bathrooms, plus:
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A walk-in pantry
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A spacious living room and family room
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Tile and laminate flooring
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AC and a swamp cooler
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A 12′ storage shed out back
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And 2 driveways out front on either side of the property. (3, if you count the pull-through.)
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Heck, you’ve even got pomegranate trees in the backyard, and fertile soil full of fertilizer from Mom’s two hyperactive egg-laying hens. Those planter boxes have more chicken crap in them than Green Valley High School’s entire athletic roster.
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Mom’s been able to run a full-time business out of this house, with two 12-foot wide longarm quilting machines, the whole time she’s been there.
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The downside of that is that her house has been full of business-related stuff, and she’s the only one living there, so most people who walk through have only seen a house full of unidentifiable quilting stuff that might or might not be used to conceal the activities of a serial killer–and I can’t think of anything more Vintage Henderson than that.
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Not to worry, though–Mom’s bringing that stuff with her when she moves into my basement in Utah.
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So if you’re in the market for a Hendo House, seize your chance to own a legend! Her agents Sherrie ((702) 525-4316) and Mary ((702) 281-0322) will get you a showing.
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Or be a sweater vest sellout and buy a boxy little cookie-cutter shack in Green Valley that costs WAY more than it’s worth, plus an HOA. Don’t let me tell you what to do.

Colts Comic #1: JJ tries to call Andrew.


These will get more sophisticated once I move out of my friends’ basement and have my full desk set up.

For those who don’t follow the NFL, JJ Watt is a defensive player for the Houston Trailer Trash. His job is to try to sack Andrew “God Mode” Luck of the Indianapolis Colts.

The joke here is that Watt claims to spend the offseason in a Spartan cabin in the woods, with no tech, just weights. In truth, it’s a fancy forest house.

In contrast, Andrew Luck can’t FaceTime because he still uses a flip phone. Enjoy.

ITY2K! “Great Expectations” Edition

Doubtless in school you were told that certain books were “classics” because, well, they just were. If your teacher felt especially generous, they might go on to say that great works of classic literature captured the spirit of their time so that we could better understand the era whence they sprang.

Problem is, most of those stories are boring, or the concept lacks relevance today, or I just thought it would be funny to riff on it…and thus this stream of comics was born.

Ergo, I present to you, ITY2K! Today’s victim? GREAT EXPECTATIONS,  by Charles Dickens.

 

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