Sunday, December 21, 2008

Confessions on Turning 50 With Chemo

Confessions on Turning 50
By Norm Kent
October, 1999
Published in The Express Gay News and read on the Howard Stern Show!

I confess.

For years, I have been lying about my age. Just like some of you. I even used to joke to people that my younger brother was my older brother. Anything to maintain my youth.

But today I write a column I did not know I would be able to ever publish this year. So here's the truth. I am turning 50 years old on October 18. While I do not recommend the Norm Kent Tumor Diet to anyone, I am healthier and more fit than I have been in a fifteen years.

I am a student of the 60's, turning 50, leaving my 40's, feeling like 30, wishing I was 20. But I confess: According to my mom, sometimes I still act like I was 10. Well, you gotta keep a lotta little boy in ya' to love life.

A quarter century marks my time in Florida, from my first move here to Key West, with a stop in Coral Springs, on the way to my townhouse in Victoria Park. It's been a great ride. I have experienced the blessings of life and health, of family and friends. I have cherished memories of loving moments, and endured sad ones, from the passing of my father, to the loss of two of my labrador retrievers, now begging for bones in doggie heaven.

I have taught at FAU, and lived to see my students from 1978 become Circuit Court Judges and Police Chiefs by 1998. I have practiced law for two decades, and I have still managed to maintain a heart and advance the public good, often representing those who could not effectively speak for themselves. But I confess. I have made money because of other people's troubles.

I have won significant legal victories that have afforded me honor and distinction, and fumbled some cases that a grade schooler could have won. I have held court in the Floridian Restaurant and the Supreme Court in Tallahassee. But I confess. I have had my ass kicked in court more than once.

For eight years, I had my own talk radio show in the country's 11th largest market, and even had a fan club in my name. Still, I have read the papers when critics called me 'obnoxious as hell' and 'the biggest horse's ass in the world.' Ouch ! But I confess: Sometimes I have been both, and more.

I have played on a straight State Championship softball team in 1984, and competed in the Gay World Series in 1994. I love playing softball, competitively and hard. But I confess: Sometimes I have just not given a damn, not played to my peak, and not tried hard enough. I hate complacency, but sometimes I have been complacent.

I have travelled from Mykonos to Mount Olympia, and I have witnessed glorious sunsets in Key West and magnificent sunrise’s right here in South Florida. But I confess: Not everything has been so majestic. I have also fallen asleep drunk on the floor and done far too many hedonistic party drugs. Of course they were fun. That's why I did them. But I confess: I still love pot, both medicinally and recreationally.

I have had close friends and dear lovers. I have lived through relationships which I have cherished and some that I have shattered. I confess: some relationships unearthed because of my own arrogance, pride, and hubris. And maybe because I use too many big words, and have too big an ego.

I have survived eight knee operations, a ruptured Achilles tendon, and a year long bout with lymphoma, cancer, and chemotherapy. I chose the cherry flavored kind. They called it ‘courses’ of chemo, like I was dining out instead of dying. Still, here I am, lucky to be alive, to see another rising sun, to be awake to turn 50 years old.

I am still enchanted with my youth, and 21 is definitely the age I would always choose to be. But I am happy as a bunny in heat to be where I am now. In life, if you spend too much time crying about the darkness, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars. I don't know that the golden years will be so golden, but I loved yesterday, I am still here today, and I am looking forward to tomorrow.

After surviving cancer, I now realize that the best medicine continues to be love, laughter, and chocolate. I understand that possessions and position earn you neither respect nor dignity. Only your deeds can create honor, only your character can earn you esteem. In life, you learn that to bring sunshine to yourself you first have to bring it to others.

I don't try to please everyone because I realize that then you cannot please anyone. I am true to myself and honest with my peers because it is simply so much easier to fall back on the truth you can remember, rather than fiction that you have to create. It is healthier also to be who you are, and not try to be something you are not. It is easier to live open than in the closet, because spirits grow in the sun and not on the dark side. I think I learned that from Yoda or Luke Skywalker.

I learned a lot of things from Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, and Lassie. It's okay to stand up for the underdog, fight for the disenfranchised, and demand dignity for animals and all living things. We can speak out for the environment, the earth, and the protection and preservation of life. Sure the Bible begats a few too many people in an incredulous manner, but it also says more than just a few wise things in Ecclesiasticus, the Prophets, the Proverbs, and the Ten Commandments. And everyone should read Robert Frost.

For some of us, I guess it means watching your kids grow up. And that is of course a very special experience. For me, it has been watching too many of my friends die too young, from foreign wars to domestic diseases. But it has still been a marvelous journey, as is any climb to a mountaintop. The beauty is the journey itself,

Turning 50? Why, it means remembering Woodstock and Haight Ashbury; Abbie Hoffman and Allen Ginsberg; Harvey Milk and the assassinations of JFK, RFK, and MLK. It means I was there when man landed on the moon and when they still delivered milk in glass bottles to your doorstep before dawn. It means remembering the cherished days of high schools and summer camps in the 1960's and living for the reunions in the 1990's. I had one last week at Mickey Mantle's in Manhattan. I could say I am still alive but my heroes are dying. The truth is being 50 means knowing your real heroes are the friends and family you know and love, not idols you do not.

50 means having watched Americans die unnecessarily in Vietnam and being taken hostage in Iran. It means finally, after all these years, once and for all understanding anyone America does not like automatically becomes a foreign dictator who must necessarily be invaded and bombed, whether it is Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, Libya, Somalia, or Yugoslavia. Our country finds no shortage of people to kill. But we are never the aggressor. The history books tell me so.

It means knowing when AIDS was called GRID, and when Richard Nixon said he had a secret plan to end that war in Vietnam. It means recalling Watergate, George McGovern, Nehru suits, and love beads. It even means remembering when Marlon Brando was a thin, good looking actor, and when America was shocked by a three second nude scene in the play 'Hair'. It means watching MASH before there were reruns of it. And knowing when Opie was a kid.

It means I got to watch the Three Stooges and more times than I care to remember, became one of them. Forget computers, I remember when software wasn't a word, and time sharing meant togetherness. I remember Tiny Tim dancing through the tulips. 50 ? It means you have been at times rich and poor, broke and well off. Well off is better. It means you have spent more than you had to and kept more than you needed. It means you have partied too hard and at times not enough.

It means newsreels before the double feature Saturday matinees, Buffalo Bob, Howdy Doody, and even Amos 'n Andy, not to mention Fred Sanford or Archie Bunker. It means Dad drove cars with tail fins and I played with toy soldiers made of lead. It means stickball in the street, roller skate keys, potsy, and polaroid cameras with blue flashbulbs.

No- you can't go back, but I can always go on, cherishing what was and looking forward to what yet may be. So can we all on any day, at any age, at any time. Well, like I said, ‘ya gotta have a lotta little boy in ‘ya to love and live life.......

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