The year 2016, if it’s not my last, will hopefully be remembered as the worst year of my life. Believe me, I know things can get much worse, but despite the repeated kicks to the crotch this year, I hold out hope that it was a fluke–a confluence of events like a perfect storm that wreaks havoc on an unparalleled scale. This year can kiss my middle aged ass.
It started rough. As many of my readers know, my Gretel got sick last year. It didn’t seem to be anything major, but it took its toll on both of us. So we packed up last summer and moved from the farm back to our house in town. The farm had been our retirement plan; but the change happened too early, undermining our finances dramatically. That was fine…that was 2015 and I was still a best selling author, able to pay the bills with my novels which were being released three to four times a year.
I was struggling to deal with an estranged father, and got news that he too was sick around Christmas time 2015. Just like most years some good things kept momentum growing and the roughest events in life were treated as obstacles to overcome.
Enter 2016: Shortly after the New Year, my father died. There was no lead up, no extended hospital stay, no call to warn us that if we wanted to make peace now was the chance; there was no chance.
All the unresolved issues between us flashed emotionally to the surface. And on the day he was buried, I began a new novel–“Hedged”–which I wrote in three weeks. It poured out. It’s the tale of a young man and his sister who were raised in an abusive household until their father left. Their adult life was shaped by a skill set suited only for surviving abuse, resulting in a dark story of dysfunction and revenge. It’s a thriller by the way.
I had no sooner sent the novel off to the editor when my own beloved Gretel, the girl of my dreams and the reason I do everything in my life, fell seriously ill, requiring a midnight trip to the emergency room. The midnight trip turned into a week in the hospital, during which time we were informed that she has a rare stage 4, squamous cell carcinoma. Gut wrenching grief seized us and has held on tightly ever since.
The next seven months were an exercise in putting one foot in front of the other. Daily radiation treatments, chemo infusions every three weeks with one week of an automatic chemo delivery pump in between. We had been so busy dealing with the impossible, we didn’t even see the improbable sneaking up on us.
Gretel didn’t make it to remission before the treatments stopped working. Now we are on PET Scan watch. Every three months we drive to our Nation’s Capitol (it’s literally right next door) to give us some early warning when the cancer has rebounded. This part has me in tears as I write it. I love her more than anyone I’ve ever had in my life and there’s nothing I can do to save her. That’s not an easy predicament for an old soldier to be in (not that it would be easy for anyone), but after a life of being ready to fling myself into danger, to sacrifice for those I love or even those in need, it’s the ultimate blow to the ego that no amount of sacrifice on my part will change the outcome of this illness.
Well, at least we have insurance. Being a self employed indie author, we were excited to have access to the Obamacare marketplace. Affordable healthcare that couldn’t be taken away or overcharged for because of our age or preexisting conditions (like stage 4 cancer).
Then the next round of bad news… uhhhh. How the HELL did Donald Trump win the presidency?! Don’t get me wrong…I’m an old, Constitutional conservative, GOP, white male, gun owning, veteran. I was hoping for a responsible Republican. But sadly, I don’t think there are any left. After 36 years of being told that dropping taxes on the rich will be good for the people, only to have the opposite happen, I think the party has pretty much just sold its soul to the capitalist gods. This fact is demonstrated beautifully by the fat golden calf they erected as president.
It’s almost as if the party tapped a hot base with social issues in 1980 and decided they no longer needed to actually be a responsible government to the people. Did you know Eisenhower had a tax of 91% on the top earners? Nixon had 70%.
But I digress. No one owes anyone anything. And if a thing can be taken away, it’s best not to rely on it. We’ll see how that turns out with the healthcare.
But along with this new president came a wave of hate. Now I’m not saying Trump created it (though you have to admit, he did stir it up a lot). But regardless of the source or the responsible party, there is now something in the United States of America that we haven’t seen before (not out in the open anyway)…Nazis. Yes, real live, Seig Hailing Nazis.
Yeah, I know they’ve always been here, hiding under rocks and in the slime, and I won’t argue over semantics concerning nomenclature or origins. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re an advocate for White Nationalism and you stiff arm salute your new leader while shouting “Hail!”, then you’re god dammed Nazi.
Really?! Nazis in the Ronald Reagan Federal Building? Blocks from the White House?
I’m a Constitution loving patriot. I swore my oath of service to that Constitution. And at a time when I’m having to deal with the potential loss of the only calming influence on my life, I’m also trying to figure out how to organize safety patrols for minorities, women and LGBT. Because I don’t care if you call yourself a Nazi or not; if I catch someone harassing, threatening or harming anyone, I’m going to crack a skull. That’s what Americans do to Nazis. We fought a war over that shit and there’s no way we’re going to let those arrogant pricks have free reign in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
I don’t know what the future holds for this country. Hell, I don’t even know what the next few months hold for my family. But I know I’m a soldier–I have been since the moment I swore my oath of service. And I take that oath seriously.
So it’s amazing to me, that at the age of 50, here in the United States of America, I’m contemplating defensive strategy, firepower, and roving safety patrols. It’s blowing my fucking mind. I don’t know what the solution is…I’m not that smart. But what I do know is that my family, my friends and my community have a vicious guard dog watching over them. So the jackals best stay away–hands off–or there will be holy, living hell to pay.
S.L. Shelton is the author of an Amazon Bestselling Thriller/Action Espionage Series, (The Scott Wolfe Series), and the new Bestseller, Hedged. Follow him here on WordPress, on Twitter @SLSheltonAuthor or Facebook.