Given a second-chance, longshots can surprise, sometimes even astound!
Called! A Longshot's Story...
I awoke one morning in late March 1970. Terribly hung over, I couldn’t recall much about the
previous evening. Over the past several months, my alcoholic blackouts had become more
frequent. Yet this morning was different.
I inexplicably began to honestly look at my life, something I hadn’t done in ages. The
result of this candid self-assessment quickly morphed into sheer torment. An insidious sense of
doom, gradually seeping into my consciousness around the fringes over the past few weeks, now
mercilessly bore down and enveloped me.
I knew instinctively that my clever schemes and panoply of sensual pleasures could no
longer shield me from the truth. My three-years debauched, deceitful romp of endless thrills and
delights was on life support. Brutal consequences were quickly heading my way. It would soon
be time to pay the piper. I had been running up quite a tab. In short, I was fucked.
After miraculously passing my first year, I was now on the verge of failing a second
straight year at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Failing one year was bad enough;
however, failing two consecutive years, especially for someone who academic record from high
school had earned him a coveted early acceptance from this renowned bastion of learning, was
an entirely different kettle of fish. This kettle had the stench of a real loser. That loser was me.
Without any twinge of personal accountability or conscience, I had squandered the
opportunity for a first-rate education. Having been unexpectedly abandoned several months
earlier by my first real love, a pervasive heartache still shook me to the quick, leaving me
emotionally paralyzed. My adolescent nemesis of feeling like a self-conscious, flawed outsider
surfaced stronger than ever. I had no sense of direction and had pretty much exhausted what
should have been an abundant supply of cash.
Everything was closing in on me. I felt ashamed, adrift, and afraid. My life lacked
meaning. More to the point, I lacked meaning.
Feeling trapped like a wounded animal, I desperately bolted outside to get some air.
Aimlessly walking around for who knows how long, I eventually found myself down by Lake
Ontario where it abuts the campus.
It was a cold, overcast, and windy day, and the big ice was breaking up; chunks were
flowing at a good speed, and a number of people had gathered on the shore to check out the
sights. At some point without any forethought, I left the shore and soon found myself
impulsively jumping from ice floe to ice floe.
As if on automatic pilot, I headed toward the fastest-moving floes about three hundred
feet further out in more open water. I lost my footing on the slippery chunks of ice several times
and fell into the freezing water. Each time I struggled to climb back onto the floes, I cut my
hands on the sharp edges.
Riding the blocks of ice and looking back to shore, I saw several people beckoning for
my safe return. Totally unfazed and full of disdain, I defiantly kept going. I didn’t give a shit
whether I lived or died. After somehow making it back to shore, I had a sense of foreboding that
this intimate brush with death had merely been a mild precursor of what lay ahead.
In October 2010, on the eve of open-heart surgery to replace my aortic valve which apparently
had been defective since birth, I knew one thing for certain. Even if the operation should go
fatally awry, my life had already been blessed beyond measure. Thankfully, my surgery and
post-operative recovery couldn’t have gone better.
Yet five months later, while attending to my longtime ministry as a hospice chaplain, I
was cracked open once again, although this time not physically. A harrowing memory from forty
years earlier drifted into my consciousness. I recalled perilously riding fast-moving ice floes on
Lake Ontario, with no concern whatsoever for my safety. Shortly afterward, additional memories
flooded in from the tormented yet ultimately transformative decade that immediately followed.
An inexplicable yearning welled up within me to truthfully write about this crucial period
that, for all intents and purposes, set the table for how the rest of my life would unfold. In what
felt like a deal-breaker, the players and the events from these life-defining years needed to tell
their own story in their own voice and on their own terms with no holds barred. To make this
happen, the story must be told exclusively from the perspective of who I was at the time.
Equipped with a new aortic valve, I started writing.