What happened over 15 years ago shapes me today…
After 33 years of a life in radio broadcasting, the onset of Multiple Sclerosis ripped me out of the career my father got me started in when I was in high school.
I dove head first into the world of radio, went to college to study the field, became the Program Director of the college radio station, took a part-time job at a local station to further hone my new skill. After my 3rd year in school, I was offered a full-time radio job. I dropped everything and took off, much to my parents chagrin.
I worked with some of the most talented and influential people in the business in some of America’s greatest cities: Knoxville, San Antonio, Washington D.C., Baltimore and Miami. 30 years later, I’d finally been given the opportunity to prove my worth and be the boss, I was lucky. The last radio station I was in charge of experienced its highest level of success in it’s 30+ year history. I was on a roll!
Then, I couldn’t feel the ground when I walked, my right eye began fading and my limbs grew weak. Over a month of testing revealed the malady that stopped everything, Multiple Sclerosis. Within a week of being diagnosed, my career came to a screeching halt, I didn’t finish.
For the next 8 years, the failing walking gait progressed from a cane to crutches to a wheelchair. The dimming right eye combined with “floaters.” Muscle seizures and other symptoms including loss of bladder control, all finally met their match with a medicine change and intense Vitamin D intake. I’ve stopped getting worse but I’ll never get better (without modern science).
Even the years of transition from degrading physically to not degrading physically were hard to handle mentally. I could always tell I was getting worse. Then, it stopped. Years passed and no progression. There came a point when I wondered, what do I do now?
That’s when I decided to write a book and chronicle my path, the radio career that was halted by the diagnosis of a chronic disease. But, wait. I was a radio DJ, what did I know about writing a book?
Some of you know this story: I hired a writing coach, she sent me on a learning mission for 6 months. I researched my life for 6 months and I wrote my memoir the following 6 months. From conception to completion, a year and a half. Many times I wondered if I would finish, but something wouldn’t let me stop.
300 pages later, I released Come Get Me Mother, I’m Through. Then, I had an idea for another book. Six months later, I released The Death of Fairness. It’s a short story of only 66 pages, but I FINISHED IT. Another book idea came about and 9 months later, I FINISHEDBonnie’s Law, the return to Fairness, around 230 pages. I self-published the first two, I’m shopping for an agent and publishing house for my latest as we speak, but…I FINISHED IT.
I didn’t get to FINISH my radio career. My intent now is to finish everything I do. Here’s my next challenge.
One year ago, March 31st, the CBS television network tried something different because of the pandemic. For Memorial Day, to salute our fallen soldiers, they asked any available trumpet and bugle players to play taps at 3pm wherever they lived. Not surprisingly, thousands of horn blowers heeded the call.
In 1965, I began playing the trumpet in John Henry Lassen’s 5th grade band at Washington Elementary in Cañon City, Colorado. Mr. Lawson had a trumpet playing son in that class, he made me better.
I was placed in the 7th chair in the CU all-state band as a senior, traveled in an All Star band and choir to Europe and was the Drum Major the last two years in school. Were it not for my music classes, I would have never received an A on my report card.
I actually attended Southern Colorado State College in Pueblo, Co. to major in music. However, by then, I’d already been bitten by the Top-40 radio bug and I ended up a DJ as opposed to a band director in Jetmore, Kansas (total respect to Jetmore. My uncle Don was the principal of their high school for decades).
I haven’t picked up a trumpet since the early 80’s but I really like the CBS taps idea.
Yesterday, I ordered that cute black and gold B-flat trumpet that has been on my feed for at least six months. I don’t have a clue why it appeared and I swear, I just came up with this idea. The chip Amazon put in that McRib years ago is still working. I’ve only had one. How else would they know?
After a search for a long lost memory box, I found my old Bach 5c mouthpiece and have begun to buzz my lips into it in preparation for the arrival of the cute little trumpet (boy, the mouthpiece has oxidized. Is that even the correct word?)
Next year, on Memorial Day at 3pm, I’ll be playing taps outside my backdoor so my neighbors can help me recognize those who’ve given me the opportunity to do really goofy things.
I’ll go all the way back to John Henry’s quarter note, half note and whole note exercises and a year from now, I’ll be ready. I will FINISH. And, hopefully, I’ll be able to bring back some of my old trumpet magic. I laughed every moment I typed that sentence, I guess we’ll see.