Aimless as the Wind

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Heavy Heart

My heart hangs heavy like five pounds of meat in a plastic bag
      Swinging low in my chest with each step I take.
My mind is confused, I’m wandering about, my spirits sag
      I have to function for everyone else’s sake.

I sit and stare at the animated faces around the table
      Wondering how they can be so damn content
When I’d blow my brains out if I was able.
      It’s their happiness I resent!

My brain aches from emotional surges
      On a roller coaster racing through up and down
Fighting hard to control my primal urges
      Wanting to find a partner and leave town.

I can not escape — the demon that controls is me
      The authority I resent does not come from without
But is embedded deep within my mentality
      And I must understand this force without a doubt.

Before I am reduced to a catatonic state
      A victim of my own negative feedback
Without intervention it will be too late
      I keep searching for a guide to keep me on track.

Love and affection elude me because of my mistrust
      I question everyone’s motives (even my own)
Is it money, power, loneliness or lust
      Can there be some other way to not be alone?

I long for a gentle touch — a non-judgemental ear
      One who is not frightened by my wide emotional swings
One who would understand the dichotomy of my fear
      One who could survive my stings.

I continue in my exile as I look around the table
      No one here can know the thoughts I entertain
I am the picture of a business man — stable
      A facade that I struggle to maintain.

The walls are tall that I have built
      Very thick and strong
But within my self-made prison I wilt
      For a true love I long.

      – Michael Rusk

The Man Who Would Be President

Afraid again

Scared of my own shadow

A grown man

Hiding from his wife

Afraid to spend his own money.


“Fuss at ’em!”

She screams

“Tell them to make you President!”

She demands

“Honey, can I please have some money?”

I ask apologetically

“What do you need money for?”

“Where did you spend the last money I gave you?”

“Spending it on your girlfriend?”

She counters angrily

“You should take your lunch!”

She continues in a motherly voice

“Quit eating out you’re getting fat!”

She adds with a disdainful look

“All I have is ten dollars.  Is that enough?”

She states with finality

Not that it’s really a question


I reply and take the offered bill casually.


“When are you going to cut the grass?”

“You need to get fertilizer.”

“You need to put down bug-killer before the grubs eat it all up.”

“You need to change the oil in your truck.”

“You need to wash your truck.”

“We need to clean out the camper.”

“When are you going to start the screen room?”

“Your son got fired today.”

“That stupid Min-Pin is in heat and bleeding everywhere.”

“Your daughters won’t clean their rooms.”

“The boys left the gates open and I had to clean up 3 piles of crap.”

“We need to replace the carpet in the living and dining rooms.

It’s been peed on so many times that the vacuum sticks to it.”

“You need to fix the toilet paper holder in the bathroom.”

“We need to do new wallpaper in the kitchen.”

“I sure wish you’d get the bay window installed in the family room.”



“We ate dinner at 5.  Your plate’s in the refrigerator.”

“Why don’t you come home on time?”

“Why are you always at work?”

“Why don’t you wake me up in the morning before you leave?”

“Why do you go to work so early?”

“I’m leaving for my walk now.”

“There’s a whole load of clothes in the laundry room that needs to go up.”

“The dishwasher’s clean and needs to be unloaded.”

“Would you mind feeding the dogs.”

“Be back in a little bit.”


Silently I pull my plastic plate from the fridge.

It’s nice that she managed to save some scraps from the feeding frenzy.

A hamburger, broccoli with cheese and some salad – with no fat dressing.

A minute in the microwave.

Knock the dog off the table.

Turn off the television.

The sounds of two separate radio stations

Each at high volume

Pulsate through the ceiling.

Sit down to a nice quiet meal.

Forgot the drink.

Have to run downstairs to find a cold can of diet Coke.

The dog’s standing in the chair

Sniffing my meal

But jumps down when I scream at her.

I finally get the first bite

The microwaves have long since dissipated

But the grease hasn’t solidified yet.


The basement door bursts open again.

“Daddy, how do you do this problem?”

“See number 12?”

“She didn’t explain it in class and I have a quiz tomorrow!”

“I hate Calculus.”

“I don’t have time to read the book!  I need to get this done.”

“Then I have a research paper that’s due tomorrow.”

“I haven’t started reading the books yet.”

“Do you know anything about ‘Lord of the Flies’?”

“That stupid computer forgot my paper.”

“How do you do footnotes on it?”

“How do you do a bibliography?”

“You don’t know how to do the problem?”

“C’mon dad – just rotate the equation through the x-y plane

then take the double integral in terms of x.”

“I just don’t know what kind of work she wants me to show.”


“I guess I’ll just get an F on the test!”

The basement door closes automatically behind her.

Short of the thumping from upstairs it’s quiet again.


The front door flies open.

“Dad – can you get my Roller Blade out of the tree?”

“We were trying to knock the basketball down and my Roller Blade got stuck.”

“We were throwing the basketball up to make the bats dive at us.”

“Do you know where my bicycle helmet is?”

“Can we go up to the pool parking lot and skate?”

“Why not?”

“All the other kids are up there!”


That crisis fades away.

I return to find the remains of my hamburger under the kitchen table.

No dogs in sight.

Hope they live through the night.


Tromping steps on the deck.

The power walkers return.

My precious spouse and her friend.

“What are you doing still eating!”

They scream in unison.

“What have you been doing?”

“You’ll be as big as a house!”

I start to explain but settle for a weak “Nothing.”

I clear my dishes

Grab the laundry basket

And escape upstairs.


I resolve that tomorrow I’ll demand to be President.

And I’ll really surprise her

I’ll ask for a raise, too!


Happy Birthday Mama!

Happy Birthday Mama!

Words that I must say today.

Wrong on so many levels. Yesterday I went toy shopping for Delia, my most recent addition to the grandchild stable. She celebrates her first birthday in a few days. A joyous occasion marking an important milestone in her life. My kids are ecstatic, planning a family gathering with smash cakes, decorations, gifts, refreshments – everything we need to be happy.

On the other end of the spectrum – my mother. She also has a birthday in a few days. There won’t be a party, no cake, no presents, no singing “Happy Birthday”, no candles to blow out, and definitely no happiness. To her it will be just another agonizing day alive, in a semi-private room, in a rehab facility, because her frail body is slowly giving out.

There’s nothing happy about her special day. She’s filled with regret that she made it this far. She’s been praying and hoping for release long before now. She constantly questions why she’s still alive. She can’t fathom the purpose of her existence. She doesn’t understand whyshe outlived her daughter. She wonders what she’s done to have her son, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren live so far from her.

She laments that she’ll never get to see the family she created before she dies. She doesn’t take solace in the afterlife. All the church going and bible study she’s done for all these years is little comfort to her now. She is alone. Depression and despair are her two faithful companions.

All she wants is to return to her home, die in her own bed.

The nether world she lives in must be hell. Mind as sharp as a tack with a body that no longer allows her to do what she wants. She’d love to read, to be on the internet to follow her family’s daily journey on Facebook, to communicate through email, and stay connected over the miles. But she is blind. Only able to read by using a magnifying glass, one word at a time. The one ability that she would give anything to have back. Pictures are no value to her, written words are no comfort.

As Delia celebrates her first birthday in preparation for the future unfolding before her – my mother acknowledges her 91st birthday and the past that lays behind her.

She’s done – the never ending credits are still rolling on her life. She wants them to end so she can turn it off and finally go to the bathroom.

She continues to offer her only message to me “Don’t grow old.”

I Woke Up Again This Morning!

I woke up again this morning!

I never cease to amaze myself … the audacity of life … the simple act of existing.

Then the memories flood in! Guilt clouds the horizon. The unopened birthday card mocks me as I sit down for my first cup of coffee. Kitchen table is littered with the contents of the box I’d gotten the day before.

All the correspondence, pictures, and newspaper clippings my mother had collected over the years. Things we had sent her as we moved about the country. Sanitized accounts of our life. Snapshots of the kids and places we visited. Trying to include her in our adventures, keep her involved, as we stayed far from her.

She’d looked at it all then put it in a bag for the future. And now that future has come. She expects, no, eagerly awaits death. She is purging her house. She doesn’t want strangers coming in after she is gone, pawing through her memories. She wants to return everything she has gotten. My kids will soon get their own box of memories from her. They too will wonder what in the hell they’re going to do with all the memories.

When I actually took the time to read the letters we’d sent and inspect the pictures she had saved it slowly dawned on me what images she must have had of our life. We’d shared the best parts. Minutes out of a timeless fabric. It was an excellent marketing piece for “It’s a Wonderful Life.” She missed all the messy parts. She missed the real “us.” She had no idea what our life was really like.

I had robbed her of knowing us.

Now, as she approaches the end, there is nothing I can do to fill the void, provide the missing pieces, and capture the totality of how we lived. She’ll never know how she shaped our lives. How her child-rearing had such an impact on her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

She won’t have the chance to know her grandchildren. To have them run around, sit in her lap, give her hugs and kisses. No, she’ll lay in her bed in the rehab center, looking past the flowers I’ve sent in lieu of flying out to see her, and remember only what’s been carefully shared with her.

I take another sip of coffee, it’s getting cold. I refill my cup.

The brewer is complaining about descaling. The floor needs to be mopped. Silence surrounds me.

Life goes on.

My Poor Mother

My poor mother! Got a call Tuesday morning. I was surprised, since I had talked to her the night before about a package she had sent me. I thought maybe she was calling to see if I had gotten it yet.

“Mike? I’m in the ER at Pres.” she greeted me.

“Oh no! What’s the matter?” I asked.

She explained “I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t move! My legs were paralyzed. I called 911. I crawled out of bed and wiggled my way to the back door to unlock it because I didn’t want them breaking down the door. They checked me over then carried me to the ambulance in a dining room chair since the gurney wouldn’t fit through the door.”

She’ll be 91 this Sunday and has been living alone for over 25 years in a mobile home in a senior mobile home park. She had a gentleman living in the same park who was her companion for over 20 years. He was company and was her primary transportation ever since her eyesight became so bad that she couldn’t drive. He passed away over a year ago and she’s been pretty isolated since. Even though she’s legally blind she’s managed to continue her daily life with the help of grandkids who stop by regularly to check up on her and take her to doctor appointments and the grocery store.

I feel helpless, living almost 2,000 miles away. I’m her sole living child since my sister died of pancreatic cancer in 2011. Guilt overwhelms me that I’m little comfort to her. We talk about once a week and she bemoans the fact that she is still alive. I hear the loneliness in her voice. She tells me she doesn’t know why she is still here, how parents aren’t supposed to outlive their children, how daughters are the only ones who really care.

I don’t have any answers for her. She raised me to be who I am – independent, avoiding relationships because they hurt, selfish, and seemingly devoid of feelings.

She’s been thinking about moving into an assisted living facility but backed off the idea. It’s overwhelming her, the thought of packing up all her belongings and moving to a new place.

She just wants to die. She’s lived a full life and is begging for release.

They moved her to a rehab facility on Tuesday afternoon after finding little in the CT scans to explain her issue. She hates it. The food is terrible, she’s in a room with a roommate, and she just wants to be back in her own house. She’s angry and depressed.

I’ll call her later. I dread the conversation.

Her only lesson to me is “don’t grow old.”

Her brain function is incredible! She remembers stuff from my childhood, and hers, that just amazes me. She feels so helpless trapped in an aging and failing body.

Is this what I have to look forward to? Is this why I take so many risks? Riding a motorcycle, smoking, going to dangerous places – is this passive aggressive suicide? Maybe her lessons are working. I don’t want to be like her. Bitter, alone, and chasing away those who try to help.

All I know is I can’t go before her. That would break her heart.

Rolling Stone Interview

November of 1965, a young hippie, hitchhiking from UC Berkeley to the East coast, wandered into a small town in southeastern New Mexico. He passed a school gym where a talent show was in progress and stopped in for a listen. One particular act caught his interest, a clean cut folk trio – two guys and a girl – singing unfamiliar lyrics to familiar folk song chords. He hung around and after the show ended, worked his way through the students to find the group. He introduced himself as Jann Wenner and started asking about the songs he heard. Two members of the group, George and Jennie, immediately pointed to Mike and told Jann he was totally responsible for the words.

Jann asked Mike if he would spend the afternoon talking about the songs and the inspiration behind them. Mike agreed and they wandered over to A&W Root Beer to sit down and talk.

JANN: I couldn’t help but notice that when you started singing the song to “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” the students started looking at each other and the nuns in the back looked a little agitated. The words were funny to me but seemed to strike deep in the audience. What was the inspiration?

MIKE: I don’t know, the words just started flowing out. I wrote about the things I saw happening in the school. The jokes we all told behind the nuns’ backs just needed to be brought into the open. They fit the mood of the music and I figured it would shock everyone.

J: Shock is a good way to describe the reaction all right. I half expected the nuns to stop you from singing.  You only did a couple of songs. Is that the extent of what your group does?

M: No, we play at retreats and other student gatherings but we’re limited to accompanying normal hymns. No room for improvisation!

J: Then you don’t play outside of school functions. That’s too bad. You guys are good at the guitars and harmonizing. Your 12 string rhythm and the lead from George? That’s his name? Were spot on and Jennie’s voice was close to Joan Baez. You’ve heard of her haven’t you? Do you do more song writing?

M: We talk a little about playing outside of school but around here there’s no place for a group like ours. It’s all electric guitars, drums and saxophones! Nobody wants to listen to folk music. I do write more songs but Jennie doesn’t want to sing them. She thinks the words are too rough and wants me to really tone them down. I can’t do it because it takes the truth out.

J: Give me an example of bits she might not sing…

M: (digs in his guitar case and retrieves a pile of loose notebook paper) Let me see, oh here’s one she absolutely refuses to look at even – I titled it “Bless Me Father” and it starts out “You call me an animal! You say I’ve sinned! But what about you Father, what’d you do to my friend?”

J: Wow! That seems a little far out … dangerous to sing that song! What about the war? What about politics?

M: What war? What politics? I don’t know what you’re talking about. All I know to write about is what I see for myself. I know how scared we all were when Kennedy was assassinated and now the protests have started in the big cities. We don’t ever see that here. This place is far away from that part of the world. It doesn’t exist to me except on the television. It doesn’t get in my head like stuff that happens to me.

J: Hmmm. Interesting take on life. Think you’ll ever leave here and do anything with your songwriting talent?

M: I doubt it. I think me and Jennie are getting married, have kids, there won’t be any time for this. Besides, the words I write really make her uncomfortable. I don’t feel like writing anything different so I’ll probably just stop and do something else to make a living.

J: Hey, it’s been great talking to you. I’m heading back east. Think of starting a magazine. If you change your mind and start writing and singing look me up. My name is Jann Wenner. Who knows if you make it big I’ll put you on the cover!

Not reprinted by permission – parallel universe is not copyright.

Reflecting on the Future

In 1967 China exploded their first hydrogen bomb, Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice, Dr. Christian Barnard performed the world’s first successful heart transplant, and I learned to program FORTRAN at White Sands Missile Range.

I abandoned engineering to get a “real” job working as a programmer/analyst in a meat packing plant in New Mexico. I followed a twisted path, moving from industry to industry, propelled by people I met along the way. Always seeking more challenges, keeping pace with the latest technology, learning the newest fad in programming, applying technology solutions in many industries, and honestly, chasing money to feed my family.

A chance decision in Texas brought me to the east coast where I continued my journey of exploration and advancement. First Martin Marietta Data Systems, then high-speed optical payment processing systems, on to credit processing and auto-lending. Finally, ending up in Northern Virginia at a fledgling private student loan company. We worked hard to take advantage of the infant internet and I built our first web pages to demo to Steve Case – he wasn’t impressed.

In 2006 I joined a contracting firm after working as a sub-contractor for them at TD Ameritrade. I continue learning at each engagement – new industries, systems, languages, business processes, and people. It can be a little daunting given the pace of technological evolution.

Looking back I wonder where I would be today if I hadn’t sat down at the keypunch machine for the first time to write my quadratic equation program. Probably barefoot, wearing beads, a scraggly ponytail, living in a commune somewhere in the Northwest.

May get there yet.

The Flame

Valiantly Flame struggles against Wind
Clinging tightly to Wick it dances about
While Darkness waits anxiously for its friend
To vanquish this invader of its space.

Tenacious Flame moves quickly
Looking for better grip
But there is scant protection here
And his grasp begins to slip.

He fights and strains slashing at Darkness
Sputtering with exhaustion, moving to and fro
And is yanked violently from his post.
And Wind laughs and Darkness cheers to see him go!

— Michael Rusk


The crow sits outside staring at me through the window

Waiting patiently for my soul should it decide to go.

Read my thoughts my winged black brother

Today is not the day — go wait for another.


I’ve thoughts to think, my blood is flowing

The fire is burning and I’m desperate to get going.

I’m starting to think that it’s all coming clear

I might have a clue as to why I am here.

I’ve got to be strong for the way is not easy

It’s not a path for the weak or the queasy.

I must be the master of my physical domain

My body must be ready for this terrible strain.


The crow remains outside my window

Waiting patiently for my soul should it decide to go.

Read my thoughts my winged black brother

Today is not the day — go wait for another.


It’s obvious to me that the answers I need

Have been germinating inside like a tiny seed

And now is the time after mental purging

That the seed case is splitting and the plant is emerging.

I’ve made it so hard by looking without

But now I can say without a doubt

That I’ll break the surface and see the light

And think if I have to until the night.


The crow has a partner outside my window

Waiting patiently for my soul should it decide to go.

Read my thoughts my winged black brothers

Today is not the day — go wait for others.


Each prophet that’s come to this floating orb

Has said the same thing but none will absorb

There is nothing to be learned from the books on the shelf

You have every answer contained in yourself.

You are God and you are Satan and all that’s between

You can dump all your baggage and wipe the slate clean.

Following others with their beliefs and rules

Is the utmost stupidity practiced by fools.


The crows are flocking outside my window

Waiting patiently for my soul should it decide to go.

Read my thoughts my winged black brothers

Today is not the day — go wait for others.


My spirit has existed since the beginning of time

Floating free through space or living in slime.

From planet to planet from star to star

It’s traveled long and it’s traveled far.

Evolving and learning in spurts and fits

Leaving it’s abode when the wanderlust hits.

And finally it found me as my cells began to split

And I grew and it waited and now here I sit.


The noise is deafening ouside my window

The flock is waiting should my soul decide to go.

Read my thoughts my winged black brothers

Today is not the day — go wait for others.


The spirit grows bored with its mortal form

It spent more time here than was its norm.

It learned a lot throughout this life

The love and hate and restless strife.

Its ready now for its final mutation

To end its travels and eternal gestation.

Without much warning it does its part

And wills the body to stop the heart.


The flock is silent outside the window

As the soul has chosen this moment to go.

They had read the thoughts of their restless brother

And knew there was no need to look for another.


Michael T. Rusk



Earlier this week, driving to the office, I was stopped at a red light, second car in the left lane of two lanes of traffic. Looking ahead, I could see crows on the road fighting, or at least it looked like it, over something on the road. There must have been a dozen or more, flapping furiously, flying at the ones in the middle who were pulling at some squished roadkill. Definitely gave the appearance of an angry, absorbed bunch trying to get in on the mashed meal. Similar scenes appear on the news when the relief trucks drive through the villages handing out too little food to too many starving people or at the local Old Country Buffet when they bring out a new dessert.

The light changed to green and we bolted from the starting line, in a hurry to get to work. The crows were preoccupied and the frenzy got worse. From experience, I knew they were screaming at each other and distracted by all the violent wing hits. We were doing 40 when we reached the scene and the birds realized cars were coming. My human panic projected on the crows when I saw them suddenly try to recover from the fighting to get away from the oncoming menace.

Even with the windows rolled up, there were some sickening thuds! One crow rolled towards my wheels like a football and I instinctively swerved to avoid hitting it but to no avail. On the right, another crow hit the grill of the car next to me and flung off to the side. No one could slow down without causing a massive pile up. We were all in shock – at least I guess most of the other drivers felt like I did – expecting the birds to get out of the way before we got there. The carnage in my rearview mirror was awful. Besides the raccoon that was the cause of it all, I counted three birds down, two still and one feebly flapping. The last car was not too far past the scene when the surviving crows circled back and settled once more on the raccoon and, I suspect, the unfortunate members of their group.

Reflecting, I have seen the same behavior first hand in boardrooms and back offices. We are not so different after all, we just wear clothes.

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