Excerpt for Through the Fire: The True Story of a 21st Century Job by , available in its entirety at Smashwords




The events described in Through The Fire are similar to what Job in the Bible experienced.


- Pete Dechat is a 21st Century Job.

- People tell him how lucky he is to be alive.

- He knows different.

- “God brought me through the fire.”

- Pete will tell you things as he learned about them.


Mostly after awakening from five months in a coma.



Through The Fire


The True Story of a 21st Century Job



Pete Dechat



Copyright 2018 by Pete Dechat


Cover design by Marti Dobkins

Published by UCS PRESS

Prescott, Arizona

publisher@ucspress.com


This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Most of the Bible verses quoted in this book are from the New King James Version (NKJV) translation.

NOTE: Some names in this book have been changed for reasons of privacy.

View the author’s testimony at


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cGV6ASLFK0&feature=youtu.be



About the Author



This is Pete Dechat’s first book. A labor of love by a man who went from wanting to be a rock star to telling everyone he can about the Creator of the stars in the heavens.

He literally went Through The Fire. His ministry is sharing with people in the United States and other countries how God brought him through that fire.

The son of Andrew Frank Dechat and Monika Lore Dechat, was born in 1971 at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

He graduated from Osborne Park High School in Manassas, Virginia.

Pete lives with his wife Judy and daughter Rebekah on Virginia land that includes goats, chickens, gardens and fruit trees.


In Loving Memory


Gabriella Louise Dechat


Gabi”


November 2, 2002 – July 10, 2007





This is Gabi’s footprint found on a partially-burned sheet of paper after the fire. It is a reminder that she left her footprint on the hearts of all those who loved her.


Dedication



To Mom and Dad. They were there for me when I needed them the most – after God brought me through the fire.


Acknowledgments



I will be forever grateful to Mom and Dad for the incredible amount of time and effort they put into watching over and caring for me during five months of coma and after when my world seemed to be crumbling around me.

And to John Nootenboom, my friend and business partner, who was the first to tell Mom and Dad about the tragedy that claimed my four-year-old daughter Gabi’s life. And who suspended much of his normal life to help hold things together for my family.

To my best friend Tim Pemberton, who gave me my first Bible, and provided continuous prayer support for me all through everything that happened after the fire, and to Tim’s wife Emily, also an incredible prayer warrior.

Also, a forever thank you to my clients Norma and Orlando Querollo, who frequently visited and encouraged me in the hospital.

There are so many medical professionals that worked on me and tended to my needs both during the coma and for many months afterward. I am so thankful for each of you.

Super thanks to my wife Judy and our amazing daughter Beka for their support and unconditional love for me. You are the cherry on top.

Above all, eternal gratitude to the One who brought me through the fire so I could share my testimony with the world – God Himself. After all, He is the one this story is really about.


Table of Contents



Introduction

The Fire

Who would want to bomb Mickey?

Gabi

Life before the fire

My competitive nature bloomed early

Latchkey kids

Building Fort Apache

Self-taught strummer

The windshield battered my face

Me, a punching bag

Rock star

The road to superstar salesman

Daffy Duck

Severed finger is no excuse

Last birthday present from Gabi

John 3:16

Comatose

Five months of darkness

There was no bomb

In loving memory of Gabi – July 10, 2007

They thought I was toast

Tim’s assurance from God

Life Post-Coma

Then came the pain

Three-week shifts

Brutal day-to-day grind

That hole in my throat

What the therapist overheard

They didn’t want me to know

The rehab rollercoaster

Auditioning with a frozen right arm

Surgeries and re-do surgeries

The No. 1 doc in his field

Sometimes you have to just sit and take it.

Pursuing Mrs. Right. The one I thought got away.

How I met the Love of my Life

Coffee concoction

To us a child is born

Paying it forward

Straight-talking John

What I learned from a horse

He didn’t recognize me

The angel has a name

Miracle or lucky?

My Testimony. My Ministry.

Pastor Yousaf set me straight

Why I am alive

Foster children

Hot summer in Cuba

Oppression and possession in India

Ghana surprise

Getting to Pakistan

Soul Warrior

Postscript

Why I hand out my card

More about the author


Introduction

My story is like a diamond. There are many facets, and each brings about another level of beauty to the overall story. It’s too hard for me to choose a singular focal point because there are too many things worthy of sharing.

However, once you’ve read this true story, you will have no doubt about what the ultimate focus is in my life.

This story will speak to anyone who has gone through a hard time, a struggle, crisis or pain – really anyone over the age of five probably fits that description.

I see things and tell things from a Christian perspective. Even if you’re not a Christian, I pray that if you have gone through what seems to be too much for you, or you know someone who’s struggling, my story will be of special encouragement. The majority of people I’ve told my story to have found it inspiring, and some even life-changing.

It is common for people to let circumstances define them, and they live as a victim. It is true that we can be a victim of something negative happening in our lives, but choosing to live as a victim is just that – a choice. “Woe is me” can easily become a way of life. It can consume you. To me, that’s like looking at the ground instead of at the sky. You need to change your perspective, or change what you focus on. The roses. The trees. The lakes. The mountains. There are too many beautiful things in this life to only see the negative. Feeling sorry for yourself is seeing the glass half-empty instead of half-full. That’s like being half-alive, which is also half-dead. You are robbing yourself of the fullness life has to offer. I know from experiencing tragedy but more importantly from experiencing victories.


My circumstances don’t define me. The One living in me does. Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” But neither Jesus nor the thief can do it unless YOU allow them to.


Someone recently asked me how I was able to avoid having pity parties because of getting burned on 96% of my body, and the many months of surgeries and rehab. I told him, “Not living like a victim is my choice. Sure, I could let myself moan and groan like I was a victim, and many would believe I had the right to behave that way. But bad things happen to good people all the time. So my attitude was ‘Why NOT me?’”


Why has God blessed me with all He has? I don’t know. I know that when you are faithful with little He has a way of promoting you to bigger things. But it doesn’t mean bad things won’t keep coming your way. I don’t even know myself well enough to understand the trust He has put in me to share this story. But I am thankful He is allowing me to serve Him in this way.


To God be the glory!


Pete Dechat


Job 1:21 New King James Version (NKJV)


21And he said:


“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”


The Fire


Who would want to bomb Mickey?

Something caused the walls of our two-story home in the Orlando, Florida suburb of Sanford to shake. Seconds later there was a loud explosion.

I thought a nuclear bomb had gone off. Disney World was the only thing close, but who would want to bomb Mickey?

My four-year-old daughter Gabriella – Gabi was sleeping in our bedroom, which was on the first floor. My stepson Jimmy, who was 10, was in his upstairs bedroom. My wife Gladys and I were in the office where I ran my company out of, Professional Window Treatments of Central Florida, which was also on the second floor.

I was still in my underwear, and had an untouched cup of coffee on my desk. I was talking on the phone to a neighbor who installed blinds and shutters for me. My wife was behind me, faxing in an order when the explosion happened.

We ran out of the office. At this point I had no idea that our house was even on fire. I just knew we had to get out of there. Gladys went down the stairs as fast as she could. She went through the living room and out the front door. When I ran out of the office, I started toward Jimmy’s room first, but I saw Jimmy already coming down the hallway. So I headed down the steps as well.

When I got to the open front door, I stopped – one hand on either side of the door frame, realizing Gabi wouldn’t know what to do. I turned back and ran for her.



Gabi

I had no thoughts of what could happen when I went to find Gabi – just that I had to get her out. It didn’t matter what would happen to me as long as I could save my baby. I didn’t consider the danger I was putting myself in. I just instinctively ran to find her. I was absolutely certain I was going to get her out. Failing was not an option.

In my haste I ran upstairs to her room, forgetting she was downstairs in our bed. I was so upset I wasted those valuable seconds. When I finally got back down to the master bedroom and opened the door, smoke billowed out. The fire was deafening. I had no idea how loud fire could actually be. Smoke was getting into my lungs. The sound of the flames was like a steady roar. The smoke was so thick I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face.

I stumbled across the debris making my way to the bed. I kept yelling as loud as I could. “Gabi, Gabi! Daddy’s here to save you! Where are you?” She didn’t respond. All I could hear were Gabi’s cries, but I couldn’t tell where they were coming from.

As a parent, you understand the different cries of your child. You can tell when she’s hurt, when she’s tired, or when she’s just cranky. This was like none of those. These cries were different. They sounded like the cries of someone who had lost hope.

I finally made it to the bed. It was covered with tattered drywall and broken 2x4’s. With one hand I lifted the debris, desperately searching with the other to find my little girl. All the time continuing to call out for her, and hearing nothing in response but those haunting cries. I can still hear those cries today.

The fire was getting closer. I was standing right in front of the open closet door with my back to it. This closet was about 12 feet deep. I wanted to see how close the flames were so I turned. What I saw could be anyone’s rendition of what hell might look like. Inferno would be understating it. I had never seen fire so intense. It was 10 to12 feet away from me, floor to ceiling.

The intensity of my search ramped up to match the danger I now realized I was in. At this point, I didn’t even feel the heat. I didn’t feel any pain. I didn’t even realize the struggle I was having to breathe. Finally overcome by the smoke, I blacked out. My body slumped onto the bed while the flames got closer.

It must have been an angel that woke me, shouting, “Get out now!” My back had been facing the fire in the master bedroom, but from the time I heard this voice, to when I stumbled out of the house and off the front porch, seemed like only a few seconds. The first person I saw was Jimmy. He looked blistered and was standing in a way that looked like he was in a great deal of pain. His forehead skin was hanging down like a scarf. I told him, “It’ll be ok.”

How it would be ok, I didn’t know.

I collapsed on the grass, and kept yelling, “Someone get my daughter! She’s in the master bedroom on the first floor!” However, I knew that as much as I loved Gabi, if I couldn’t find and rescue her, nobody else could.

By the look of horror on the faces of kids looking at me, I could tell I must have looked awful. I was embarrassed thinking about the fact that I was only in my underwear.

I remember my wife leaning down and telling me, “You did good, Pete.”

I passed out. Next thing I remember I was on the sidewalk across the street being attended to by a medic. She swabbed my nose. What came out was black. I couldn’t feel anything. It was only about five minutes from our house to the hospital. I felt I needed to stay awake so at every turn I tried to think of what street we were on. I was actually pretty right on. I was not surprised when they stopped, opened the back door and slid the stretcher out.

There was a lot of commotion around me. Then everything went black.


Life before the fire


My competitive nature bloomed early

Early on, I was competitive in the classroom, and in sports.

I vividly remember being in a spelling bee in the second grade. It got down to the last two of us. I went first. My word (in second grade, mind you) orangutan – even though the teacher pronounced it “orangutang.” I spelled it out exactly as it sounded, which obviously was wrong.

My opponent was given the word brown. That might have been the first time in my life I mumbled to myself, You kidding me? To this day that still bothers me. The girl was practically grinning when she spelled b r o w n.


At that same school, there was a teacher that would kick one of those rubber kick balls way above the school, and I was able to catch it.

Now to be fair, perspective for a first or second grader is not exactly to scale. But he wasn’t pooch punting it. He was giving it his all. And those balls fly when you kick them. My arms stung and would turn bright red, but I would do it over and over again. I guess since none of the other kids could catch it, they wouldn’t stick around. I learned a lesson that has stuck with me all these years:

Whatever you do, give it your best effort. And don’t give up.


Latchkey kids

Marion Dechat (now Fera) is my older sister by two-and-one-half years. As latchkey children, we basically raised ourselves. Our parents were never home. They worked in Washington, D.C. They left before we woke up, and didn’t get home until 6-7 p.m.

We had to wake ourselves, dress ourselves, and feed ourselves. It was great for me because this level of responsibility as a child served me well as an adult. I sometimes wonder how kids today would survive that.

Our family did not do a lot of things together, but I wasn’t unhappy as a child. I was very good at entertaining myself. My dad also did a good job showing me how much fun splitting wood, and other chores could be just like in Tom Sawyer. My parents’ focus was on their jobs – both worked for the government. It’s funny how subconsciously we really do admire our parents. When all the other kids were saying they wanted to grow up to be policemen, firemen, athletes, or astronauts, I had the exotic aspiration of growing up to work for the government – just like Mom and Dad.

There was no evidence of religion in our home – not even grace said before meals. We went to church only at Christmas and Easter. Going to church was just what you had to endure to get to the sweets or treats when we got home.

My sister and I ended up in different high schools because of rezoning. She stayed at Garfield High School and I went to Osborne Park High School.

I have to mention this: when I was younger, it was never a problem with my friends coming over and my sister being there. What got weird was when we got older and my friends started noticing my sister. It’s never cool to hear from your friends how hot they think your sister is. Awkward.

My parents would not let me participate in organized team sports. I don’t know if it was because of the cost, the time, or both. At 16, I started working out every day. I only weighed 120 pounds, but I could do 50 pull-ups, 100 push-ups, and 100 sit-ups all in five minutes.

My mom didn’t like that I was working out because she thought I wanted to fight. I explained, “It’s not because I want to fight, it’s because I want people to think twice before picking a fight with me.”


Building Fort Apache

In the eighth or ninth grade some buddies and I decided to build our own private hangout. We called it Fort Apache. A three-room structure that was suspended totally off the ground, positioned against several trees that provided strong, stable support. The rooms were connected by doorways, and each room was at a different level above the ground; maybe about 800 total square feet of indoor space. Because of the trees, each room had a unique shape.

It was a mile back in the woods behind our community. We kept it our secret.

As the derelicts we were, my friends and I would diligently sneak out almost every night, steal lumber from a nearby construction site, and somehow carry it through the woods in the dark.

I’m pretty sure our craftsmanship wouldn’t meet any building code, but it was quite the feat for us. We even tar-papered the roof.


One of the funniest memories I have was a warm summer evening. A bunch of us were heading to the fort at dusk.

We decided to race. I got way ahead of everyone so I stopped to see how far behind they were. It was pretty dark, but I could hear their voices and could tell they weren’t far behind. When I turned back to start running to the fort, one inch from my face, was the biggest, ugliest spider I’d ever seen. It was on a huge spider web spanning about six feet in diameter. It was a bluish-grey color and had a one-and-one-half-inch fat body.

My breathing moved the web back and forth letting it sway perilously close to my face. I screamed like a little girl.

When they asked what was wrong, I almost couldn’t get the word out. I stuttered out sp-p-p-spider. They all laughed at me.

As far as I know, Mom and Dad never knew I was sneaking out at nights. From their always-long workdays, getting up and leaving so early in the morning, and getting back home so late in the evening, they probably treasured their sleeping hours.


Self-taught strummer

I started playing bass guitar only because my friend Chad got a guitar about six months earlier for Christmas. He had been taking lessons and he told me, “Get a bass guitar and we can start a band.”

I bought an old Univox bass and a small 30w Gorilla bass amp. I’d never played bass, or any other instrument for that matter. As soon as I got it home, I plugged it in and popped in my Billy Idol cassette tape. The song that came on was Mony Mony. I didn’t even know how to tune the bass, or that it needed to be tuned, but was able to figure out how to play along with the song anyway.

When Chad came over so I could show him, he only said one word, “Jerk!” He said it with love I’m sure.

We named our band Apache after our childhood tree house. It was only the two of us in it. Our primary audience and most fervent fans, also the two of us. We did jam for a few friends. But mostly just dreamed.


The windshield battered my face

When I was 15 my front teeth were knocked out in a horrible car accident. The hole in my chin needed 72 stitches. I blew blood bubbles out of the hole. It was big enough to stick my pinky finger through.

My jaw was dislocated and broken in three places. The front part was not just broken but shattered to where it couldn’t be rebuilt, so there is a part under the upper front bridge where the bone is missing. No one can see it except the dentists when they work on my teeth.

There were four of us in the car. The driver was a young lady, Trish. She was big into the punk movement, as was my friend Ron in the front passenger seat.

I sat in the back behind Trish. Chad sat beside me right behind Ron. We were not into the punk movement, but at that time we had friends that represented every facet of society.

Trish drove with her left foot on the brakes and right foot on the gas. Bad idea. They were building out Potomac Mills Mall, and there were many new roads and stoplights.

I had fallen asleep in the backseat, so I didn’t witness how the accident happened. I was told that we were coming up to one of the new lights when a huge station wagon stopped in front of us. Trish panicked and mistakenly slammed down on the gas instead of the brakes. So she sped up instead of slowing down, slamming into the station wagon at top speed.

None of us wore our seat belts, so I flew over the driver’s seat and smashed into the windshield face first.

I remember Trish saying she thought she lost her eye, but it was her eyelid that was ripped off. She also had a broken arm,

Ron was the worst off. He had a fractured skull and his nose was peeled back.

Chad had the best luck that day. He just sprained his knee.

He still laughs that I kept coming to him every couple of minutes asking, “Hey Chad, Is it bad?”

“Yes, it’s bad, Pete.”

“Hey, Chad, Is it bad?”

“Yes, it’s really bad.”

“Hey, Chad, Is it bad?”

“No, it’s actually ok.”

I kept repeating things because I had a concussion.

Chad later told me, “You kept asking me that, and alternating blowing bubbles out of the hole in your chin. I swear you were smiling.”

My dentist was the most upset of everyone because I was the only one in our family that had perfect teeth. I had to wear flappers until they made my permanent bridges. They are expensive, about $10,000, and the top one has to be replaced every ten years or so. The bottom is still the original one, over thirty years old now.

Through the course of the next year after the car crash, bone fragments kept making their way out through the roof of my mouth as the front part of my upper jaw was shattered so badly.


Me, a punching bag

My parents went out of town that weekend, but since I had to work I stayed behind.

The boys I hung around with most that particular year were brothers, Tommy and Sonny. Their grandparents owned a music shop. Their dad was both a crack and heroin addict at the same time – and functioning. His addiction was so bad that he ended up having half his hand amputated because of the heroin abuse.

Tommy got into the same drugs as his dad, but Sonny, who was a few years younger, only drank and smoked pot. The three of us went out to a party. I didn’t really know anyone there, but I was social so I fit in.

Out of nowhere I got blindsided with a punch to the side of my head. The guy was a 250-pound football player. He caught me totally off guard. Before I knew it, one guy pulled the bandana from my head to around my neck and held me in place from behind, while several other guys pounded on me. Any time I moved forward, he pulled me back like a dog on a choke collar.

I was only able to look up once and I made it count. I knocked the guy down that was in front of me. Other than that I felt like the side of beef in the Rocky movie. They eventually wore themselves out and stopped.

My false teeth were knocked out. I was looking around for them when this skinny punk came up to me. He yelled, “You hit me!” He started a new round in the fight.

He was right, I did hit him. He was the guy I knocked down. The rest of the team formed a circle around us to see how he’d do on his own. He was probably three or four inches taller, and about twenty pounds heavier, but I took him down and was beating the snot out of him – remember, I may have been light, but it was all in my biceps. I could do fifty pull-ups easily.

When they saw him losing they all jumped in on me. I got the guy in a choke hold and told him, “They might kill me tonight, but I’m taking you with me.”

I really thought that was going to be the outcome; that they were going to beat me to death. I remember letting go and hitting the closest guy to me. Unfortunately, he was the only one trying to pull people off of me. Yikes, he jumped in too. In a moment of desperation I cried out, “You’re killing me! You’re killing me!”

With that they finally stopped.

I looked like the elephant man, totally disfigured.

I got helped to my car where I found my two loyal friends, Tommy and Sonny, cowering. It turns out that Tommy had started the fight. They beat me up because they knew I was with him.

When we got back to their house, their dad looked at me, then looked at them and said in disgust, “There is no excuse for why you two don’t look like him,” and walked away.


Rock star

In no way was I a positive role model during my teen years. Knucklehead is a word that sums up those years best. I did a lot of things I should not have done. That behavior was really on display when I was bass guitarist with the thrash metal band, Calibra.

It was maybe a few months after the beating that a drummer who knew of me, asked me to audition for Calibra. I was really surprised I made it. That group was so talented. I was good, but I can honestly say that I was the weak link. At that time I’d never taken a lesson, but was able to pick things up by ear quickly.

I felt like I needed to learn more and started taking lessons. I wanted to catch up to the level of talent in the rest of the group. The instructor was brilliant, and extremely talented. He was playing for the band Foghat at the time. As talented as he was, I stopped taking lessons because he was trying to teach me techniques that didn’t seem relevant in my view with what we played.

(Later, because of my friends Tim, who played drums, and Fernando, I joined them in a jazz band.)

Calibra was a wild and crazy time for me. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll was not a saying for me – it was a lifestyle. I was one of those guys who’d take his shirt off and jam like crazy, jumping out into the crowd. Someone recently found a picture online from one of our shows. Ahh, the things that come back to haunt you.

Then I saw the writing on the wall. I saw many extremely talented, yet starving musicians. At the time I was a janitor by day, and they needed ME to buy them something to eat?! It didn’t look like the road I wanted to be on.


The road to superstar salesman

I started my working life at a Giant Food supermarket at 16. I bagged and loaded groceries for customers, and then moved into a porter (janitor) position. I was such a bonehead that I was offered the option to quit or be fired after it was found out that another knucklehead and I had stolen a keg of beer. I chose the former.

I then worked at McDonald’s in the grill area. I was actually accepted by two companies, the other being Chili’s, which would’ve actually paid $1 per hour more. I took the job at McDonald’s because another friend of mine – Fernando – got hired the same day I did.

After the first day he quit. I learned that I should never base my decisions on what a friend is going to do. I eventually got promoted to janitor, which I did full time while playing in the band. After determining I wasn’t going to be a rock star, I asked my manager one Friday after my shift what he thought about me quitting the band and going into management. He said, “Cut your hair and start Monday.” I moved to different locations in northern Virginia.

I was eventually very heavily recruited by Schwan’s frozen food. I was finally convinced to take the job, and worked as a sales person. I flourished there and quickly was top salesman in my region, and went on to be the number two sales rep in the entire company (that’s pretty good considering there were over 8,000 sales people nationwide). I was promoted to sales manager in Manassas, and worked there for nearly seven years in that position.

They decided to redistrict, and a divisional manager that had cursed me out early in my managerial career was taking over my facility. When asked what I thought about going to work for him, I said, “I won’t. I’ll transfer, or leave the company.”

That’s how I ended up in Florida. A division manager that knew of me had an opening and took me.

John Nootenboom was the person who originally talked to me about joining Schwan’s. He was a sales rep at the time. He also was promoted, and worked as a sales manager at the Manassas location while I was there. We both were highly successful. He ended up leaving the company before I did, and he started Professional Window Treatments. He had been begging me to leave Schwan’s to come work for him, but there was no way he could compensate me enough to do it.

But when my wife and I saw all the new houses going up near where we lived, we asked about buying a franchise from him. We took the profit from the sale of our home in Manassas, and bought a house to live in – that would later become a rental property – put a contract on another house (the one where the angel saved my life), and bought Professional Window Treatments of Central Florida.

There was a corporate decision to downsize at Schwan’s, so they had to let either myself, or the other manager working in my office go. I should have let the other manager keep his job and worked the blind business full time. But I was scared, and didn’t really know enough about it at the time. They chose to keep me and I accepted. The employees there didn’t like it. It was not an easy situation for anyone there.

They allowed me to promote some assistants. One salesman that had transferred from another region and was highly successful, wanted that job badly; but I didn’t think he was a natural leader. When he asked for examples of who I thought was a good leader, I named several, including Washington and Grant.

I made the mistake of saying even evil people could be considered great leaders – not because they were good people, but because they got people to follow them. I said, “Even Hitler could be considered a great leader because he got an entire nation to do the unthinkable.”

From that, it was twisted into “Pete thinks Hitler is great.”

Flatly opposite from what I actually think. Any remaining loyalty withered away. I decided at that point it was best to part ways, and start working full time for our blind company. In the first three months, I produced as much profit as I’d have earned in an entire year at Schwan’s. I actually worked less at that point than any other point in my adult life.

I marketed by mailing flyers to houses that were newly constructed, and knocked on doors whenever I saw people home.

I was the primary sales force, installer, marketer, and accountant – chief cook and bottle washer in a manner of speaking – of my business. I had two people who helped as contractors. My neighbor was the main one. He lived right next door, and did much of the installations. He was the one I was on the phone with when I thought Disney World might have been nuked.

I had married Gladys in September 2001. She was my second wife. My first wife was a good friend of mine. But I was a horrible husband to her. I was married more to my work than to her. Not that she didn’t have her own faults. I just know that I was the reason it didn’t work out. We amicably split, and I know she’s remarried. I hope he is better to her than I was. Everyone deserves that.


Daffy Duck

I loved my stepson Jimmy like he was my own son. My daughter Gabi loved him, and looked up to him. I have this wonderful photo where she was caught wearing his hat. Her expression of being busted was priceless.

Jimmy was protective of Gabi. One time she sat on a fire ant hill. Jimmy saw it, grabbed her off of it and stripped her clothes off to keep her from getting more bites. Very quick thinking on his part.

One of my favorite memories with him was when he was three or four. He went to a daycare close to our house in Manassas. I would go to pick him up early when they were all on the playground outside. I would let the kids chase me around all the while laughing like Daffy Duck. Just picture a mob of twenty or so toddlers trying to catch me.

I’m sure that could’ve been a huge liability for the daycare, but the teachers loved it when I came. It was a break for them because ALL the kids wanted to chase me.


Severed finger is no excuse

I loved softball. Really, I loved anything competitive. I was strong, and fast. I would be the guy that could cover the ENTIRE centerfield. I could also hit the ball far, but it was base-running speed that made me dangerous. I could get to third where most guys might only get to first or maybe second.

In Virginia I collected league championship shirts on several very competitive teams. I also played in Florida, but not long enough to reach any level of success with that team.

I was working at a customer’s house while she was having her wooden floors replaced. Because of this, she had all the back doors open. As I ran out the front door to grab some more samples, the wind blew the door shut. The middle finger on my left hand got slammed in the door right where the lock plate was.

This literally cut through the bone right at the root of the fingernail. The skin on the underside of the finger was the only part still attached.

I calmly walked back into the kitchen, and said, “I think I need to go to the hospital.”

I have never been faint at the sight of trauma, but when I looked at my finger move around freely in any direction – almost like a video game joystick – I felt my knees buckle.

The customer drove me to the hospital. For some reason, they insisted on an X-ray, even after I told them the bone was cut clear through. I sat waiting for the X-ray. And I sat, and I sat. Finally, after the fourth person had come, got X-rayed, and left, I spoke up. “I’ve been sitting for over an hour with my finger cut off. When is it my turn?”

I wasn’t even on the list! They finally did the X-ray and confirmed what I had been telling them all along.

This male nurse came in.

“What do we do now?” I asked, “…tear it off like Ronnie Lott did?”

“Oh, not at all,” he said.

I was surprised. “You’ve seen this before?”

His response makes me laugh even today. “No, but I read the manual.”

We both laughed.

“Look here,” he said, “this blood flow is coming from the tip of your finger back…this finger will be just fine.”

By this time the numbing shot was wearing off. He proceeded to tear off the nail, and dig out the nail’s root. Then he sewed the tip back on and wrapped me up.


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