always used to think that life was simple. The existence of crises was apparent either on television or only happened to "other people." My father wasnít in great health, but he was fairly active. He smoked cigarettes regularly, but due to his service in the Marine Corps, I always figured him to be in decent shape, despite his aching joints. Each of my parentsí children, my two brothers and I, lived in different states. My parents lived in Pennsylvania, my oldest brother, Denny, lived with his wife in North Carolina, and my other brother, Gannon, lived in Virginia with his wife. Having grown up in a military environment, we had no concept of a steadfast "home." When we finally did experience a crisis in the well-being of our family, my delusion of lifeís simplicity and harmlessness was forever destroyed.
My dad was always a hard worker. He was so loyal to whatever task he committed himself, he never wanted to quit. He believed quitting would put his employer in a bind. This is not altogether untrue, since my dad often did the work of three people. After spending over twenty years in the Marine Corps and fighting in a war, I figured after retirement, he would make an attempt to slow down and relax a bit to enjoy the life God gave him. However, his work ethic wouldnít allow it. Due to his labor-intensive days and a few other factors, my father suffered a pair of heart attacks in August of 1998.
Fortunately it didnít kill him, but immediately following the advent of the ailment, my mother called all of her sons. I checked for messages on my answering machine the next day. My mother's voice was obviously distressed. She had always been strong, but she spoke in a very deliberate, restrained pattern. In the voicemail she left for me, she said, "Your father is in the hospital. He's okay, but call now." Within the time span of the next hour, I called everyone in my family plus my work and my best friend. When I called Denny, he was shaken up more than I had ever heard him. His voice started off in a slow tremble as he explained what had happened - He seemed particularly shaken by the fact that my Dad, on his way to the emergency room, relayed through my mother what he thought would be his parting words to his sons.
His message was, "Tell my boys I love them."
Hearing Denny choked up like this convinced me I needed to be with my family during this trying time. After making the arrangements with work to let me off for a week, and getting my best friend John to Fed-Ex my dress blues in case the worst happened, I hurriedly left Texas to deal with this crisis.
When I arrived in D.C., Denny picked me up from the airport. By this time, my dad's condition had stabilized, but he was still in the intensive care unit. The doctors had already performed minor surgery to open up the arteries around his heart. As a result, while his health was still a concern, we could feel at least a little safe that, with the proper care, our father would recover satisfactorily. Needless to say, everyone was in better spirits when I arrived.
Despite one particular concern that arose because of the excitement our arrival caused my dad, the doctors assured us he could return home in a few days. While we anxiously awaited the reunion, Gannon approached me with an idea. Gannon explained how Dad's workload was causing him problems, and he suggested that we help by giving our dad a low-stress, low-maintenance hobby. The benefits would be multifaceted. First, Dad could quit his job and work on something he enjoyed. Second, since everyone in the family would be involved, it would give us all an opportunity to communicate on a regular basis on the grounds of fulfilling our responsibilities to each other. Third, Gannon stressed that he felt there was a void in the marketplace for a visible gathering place for Marines and former Marines to reflect on the nostalgia of the brotherhood. If we played our cards right, it could even make some money. By accomplishing that, we could absolutely eliminate our dad's need to work at a full-time job throughout his retirement.
I heard all I needed to hear. I concurred, and by the end of my weeklong stay, I produced the hypertext code for Gannon's simple but intelligent design. We fiddled with a few other names only to find most of the ones we thought of already taken. Thus, OO-RAH (with a hyphen) Magazine was born.
My dad's heart attack also made me examine other aspects of my life. I was unhappy at my job, but like my father, my sense of loyalty kept me there well past the time that job served its usefulness. When I returned to Texas, I no longer felt the need to trap myself in a stress-filled rut, so I actively pursued other employment - both in Virginia and in Texas. Only a short time later, a recruiter I contacted called to tell me he thought he found a new job for me. He was right. Within weeks, I was settled in to my place of work. Realizing my happiness was in my control, my demeanor changed in such a way that everything else just seemed to fall into place.
The heart attack affected my parentsí lives as well. Dad was ordered by the doctor to take some time off. He took six well-deserved and needed months. I received word from my mom that she would quit her job in January, my parents would sell their house, buy an R.V., and drive across America to finally experience retirement. I believed this to be merely a whim until one day my mom called to tell me that she and my dad actually sold their house. They had left by the end of May on a journey to see America. However, they stopped in Wyoming, liked it, and havenít left. Since then, both my parents took on new jobs and seem to be genuinely happy.
From time to time we are exposed to challenges which test the very fiber of our being. Some people call them problems; others call them opportunities. We can either stand up to that challenge with dignity, or we can falter in its face, wincing in woeful agony and bitter defeat as we let it consume us. It can envelop our lives to a point where we cannot even divert our attention from it. It can detrimentally affect our personal and professional relationships in such a manner that we cause our friends and family to turn away from us. The way we handle this sort of challenge is indicative of our character. We can develop character from our own triumphs and failures, or we can choose to learn from the wisdom of another personís experience.
Iíve learned crises and tragedies do happen to everyone. Sometimes there is little or nothing we can do to prevent them. Instead of simply reacting to each and every one as a victim, there are many occasions that we can choose to turn crisis into a groundbreaking opportunity by simply altering our perspective. Some people claim that tragic events happen for a reason, as if life were some preordained venture over which they have no control. Instead, I feel that when we are faced with a crisis, we have a choice to learn from it, and continue to do the best we can, or we can allow it to beat us, and simply stop trying. In order to achieve all of lifeís goals, there is really only one option.