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Life Sucks — Sometimes

life sucks

In a few months I will draw my first social security check. My oldest son will turn forty in May, the same week my oldest granddaughter graduates from high school. Illusions of youthfulness no longer cover the reality that I am officially old, a curmudgeon whose best days are in the rear-view mirror. If I live to age seventy, six-sevenths of my life is gone, and if I live to eighty — not likely — three-fourths of my life has wafted away as steam rising from a radiator heater — the steam that used to entertain me fifty years ago as I stared out the school window, hoping for spring’s soon appearance. I am a pessimist by nature, choosing to see things as they are. My counselor and I were talking about people who love to point to spry, healthy, all-jacked-up-on-Mountain-Dew people in their eighties and nineties as examples of what any of us could attain if we would but do ___________ (fill in the blank with the latest, greatest health/fitness/lifestyle tip). While such people are well-intentioned, they are, in fact, delusional. The human race is a pyramid, with the Jack LaLannes of the world standing on the pinnacle. Most of us will not have such lives, and will, instead, face a variety of health problems as we age. And for some of us, our health problems will have begun long before we got old. In my case, I was fifteen.

At the age of forty, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, and over the last two decades osteoarthritis has attacked my spine, neck, shoulders, hands, and feet. My orthopedic doctor says arthritis is like a wildfire spreading through my body. Throw in high blood pressure, diabetes, nerve pain, a torn meniscus, and a torn shoulder labrum, and, well, life sucks. Tonight, I photographed a local high school’s junior varsity and varsity basketball games. This required me to stand on my feet for an extended period of time. It was not long before the years-old ritual began: pain in my lower back, pain in my shoulders, pain in my feet — even with orthotics — culminating in burning numbness in my thighs and face. At half time, I sat down as I have done countless times before, rocking forward and back, relieving the pressure on L5 in my lower back. The pain subsides and the numbness dissipates, that is, until the buzzer sounds, telling me it is time to stand once again, camera in hand, ready to photograph young, athletic men who remind me of myself forty-five years ago.

I am sure some of you are thinking, if photographing the games cause so much pain, why do it? Simple. Yes, life sucks, but I have two choices. I can either rot away in my recliner watching M*A*S*H reruns, or I can force myself to get out of the house, knowing that the price of admission is pain. I choose the latter, having no desire to spend my days mindlessly watching TV. I take narcotic pain medications, NSAID’s, and muscle relaxers, hoping they reduce the pain enough that I can gut out whatever it is I want/need to do. This is not me whining or complaining. I don’t seek your sympathy. But I do have a point I want to make . . .

My wife, Polly, was, until last year, destined to be one of those eighty-somethings standing of the pinnacle of life. She rarely got sick, and the only time she was in the hospital was to give birth. Polly has worked at Sauder Woodworking for twenty years. Up until recently, she had never missed a day of work. Never, not one day. Polly expected to live a healthy life all the way to the finish line. Naive? Perhaps, but past experiences suggested she had “good health” genes. One early morning, however, everything changed. Polly woke up me up, saying her heart was racing. Sure enough her pulse rate and blood pressure were quite high. Off to the emergency room we went, and hours later it was determined Polly had AFib. Two months later, Polly started bleeding internally, requiring two outpatient surgical procedures. A month or two after that, Polly broke a molar. The dentist could not fix the tooth, so it had to be surgically removed. A few months after that, Polly had to have surgery for a deviated septum. By then, both of us were singing the LIFE SUCKS tune. Surely, better days lie ahead, we thought. Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come. In January, Polly began having severe bowel problems. This eventually landed her in the hospital. Numerous tests later, it was determined Polly has ulcerative colitis — a diagnosis that explains some of the problems she has had in recent years. Six days later, Polly left the hospital, her life changed forever. Life sucks.

And then, our water heater quit working. A small thing, to be sure, but I thought, doesn’t the shit ever stop flowing our way? I want to think that better days lie ahead, but I don’t know what tomorrow might bring. All I know to do is to endure, believing that there will be moments and days when life doesn’t suck. Sometimes you have to look really hard to find them, but they do exist. I remember a particularly painful day last summer when the family was over for dinner. Quite frankly, I just wanted to be left alone, but this event had been scheduled for a long time so I put on my weary fake smile and endured. But there came a moment when I was sitting in my lawn chair outside watching my younger grandchildren play. So full of life, filled with energy and silliness. I found myself, in that moment, enjoying life; a brief respite from pain and suffering. It was a reminder to me that, yes, life sucks, but there are the joys of life, the reasons for which you continue to get up, breathe deeply, and live.

Earlier this week, I attended band concerts for my fifth-grade grandson and my seventh-grade granddaughter. The fifth-grade concert was, well, good job, kids. Keep practicing! The seventh-grade concert, however, was phenomenal. My granddaughter plays in the jazz band, and I was quite impressed with their skill level. She has come a long way — talent-wise — in three years. I sat on the front row. This made me an easy target for thoughtless, careless people. Three times, people plowed into me. One teenager knocked my cane out of my hands. I wanted to scream, I am a big man! Can’t you people see me? I said nothing, choosing instead to endure their punishment. And it was worth it. Once the music began, I found myself in one of those “life is good” moments. I have the privilege of watching my grandchildren grow into teenagers and young adults. My dad died at age forty-nine and my mom committed suicide at age fifty-four. None of my children or grandchildren ever got to know my dad. He was dead by the time they were born. My oldest two sons remember my mom, but that’s it. I have often wondered what my mom would have thought of my redheaded daughters or my grandkids. Alas, heart disease and mental illness ended my parents’ lives on a “life sucks” note. I wish it could have been different. I wish my children and grandchildren had the opportunity to know my parents. But all the wishes in the world won’t bring them back from the dead. All I can do is try to keep their memories alive through stories and photographs.

Yes, life sucks, but I am grateful for those moments in time when it doesn’t. I am blessed to have a wonderful wife and family. And even though the pain is unrelenting, I continue to try to look for those times when I am reminded that life is good; that even in the midst of suffering, there are moments of joy. All I know to do to is get up each day and hope for the best. I don’t know what any one day might bring, but I remain hopeful that in the midst of stormy weather, the rain will cease and the sun will shine — that is until a meteor wipes me (and you) off the face of the earth. 🙂

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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  1. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Whatever comes your way, you and Polly have each other. You have “been there” for each other. That is why your lives don’t suck. Yes, they have been very, very difficult. But they don’t suck because something that sucks is worthless. I don’t believe that, whatever you’ve experienced, your lives are worthless or meaningless.

  2. Avatar

    This! Oh, yes, so much this!
    With our own multiple and myriad health and home issues, I find myself smiling at the grandkids’ growth and silly sentiments. Mostly, I’m ever so grateful for HOT WATER! We haven’t always been able to have hot water, and who knows if we always will… but to take a hot bath is the epitome of AHHHH!
    Sometimes the pain is so bad and tears squeeze from my eyes despite my best efforts, I just look for a beautiful color, pattern, or good music. It doesn’t stop the pain, but it sho does make me smile! <3 thanks for the reminder, Bruce.
    I know you and Polly will press on because you are both stubborn as hell! Thank goodness!

  3. Avatar
    Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    You know I’ve been there and gotten that same unfortunate tattoo as you guys. But on days like today when I crawl out of the bed to a perfectly blue sky, parrots darting by, and howler monkeys in my yard I know there are still some things that are good, that make life sweet and worthwhile during the worst of the attacks. If not, there’s always coffee. I hope there are those moments for both of you.

  4. Avatar

    One thing about life, you were fortunate to have children and grandchildren. I guess hope comes through the young. I never had kids, and now I just have old age and the suckitude that comes along with it, with no children or grandkids to help, and that is very very scary. I almost want to go warn all the childfree people, this is what is coming. I was too sick and poor to have children, mostly infertile, doctor’s told me don’t get pregnant you will die so that wasn’t all chosen. I am sorry Polly is sick, and hope they can get to the bottom of what is happen. Some of me and my friends are asking why is life so hard? I mean for some of us it is one tragedy or difficulty after another. If there was a God I think he’d be a big old bastard the way he tortures me and some of my friends.

  5. Avatar

    We bipeds are not ‘fallen’ and especially as I get older, I realize more and more that the organism is not perfect and and Mortality starts with the same ‘M’ as Murphy’s Law! There is heart trouble in my mom’s side of the family and it goes on from generation to generation, Evolution doesn’t necessarily fix everything as time goes on. It varies the possibilities and makes many less than desireable choices sometimes in the juggle of survival. Perhaps that is why we need baby Jesus, the Perfect One who promises to eventually make everything perfect.
    Personally, I much prefer being allied with Murphy. He apparently said, of an engineer who wired a transducer incorrectly, “If he can find a wrong way to do it, he will!”, or something like that… Murphy was involved in tests to see how much deceleration the human body can stand in a crash. Wonder who volunteered for that testing….
    We do have some choice in our ‘deceleration’ and I guess it has to do with accepting it all somehow, some way, and not clinging to our pain when the second half starts and there are photos to take. Thanks for your take on this, Bruce. Best to you, you old fart, and to almost perfect Polly.

  6. Avatar
    Hugh Young

    Come on man, this is EASILY ‘splain’d……..YOUR LOVING CREATOR IS PUNISHING YOU FOR TURNING YOUR BACK ON, AND BETRAYING HIM……HOW………DARE……..YOU!!! *angry faces, angry faces*

    At least I’m quite sure that any # of Evan G.Ellikalz would love to line up to inform you of this! *rolling eyes face, rolling eyes face*

  7. Avatar
    Becky W

    I hope Polly’s medical treatment helps a LOT. And of course I always hope you will have the best combo of pain meds to give you comfort, Bruce.

    On top of fibromyalgia I learned that my knees were ruined, as in, cartilage mostly or all gone. So I’ve added surgeries and recuperation to my life. Apparently taking my fibromyalgia pain meds also mitigated the pain in my knees enough for me to keep walking. Now I am in the aftermath of the first knee replacement surgery, and it’s painful. At least I’m getting the best knees that exist, and will become the Bionic Woman. Maybe I can go out and right wrongs, fight crime, blah blah blah.

  8. Avatar
    Julie Snider

    So sorry that you & Polly are enduring such numerous health problems of late. I too have endured a myriad of severe health issues in my relatively young age (I’m 46). And it sucks, it really does!

    The recent health problems began when I quite unexpectedly became pregnant at 43, giving birth to my daughter 3 days after my 44th birthday in 2016. I went into congestive heart failure with flash pulmonary edema two hours after she was born (I had a preexisting heart condition that suddenly deteriorated into a serious cardiac event). I ended up having to have open heart surgery for an aortic valve replacement when my daughter was 4 months old. It had already been a rough pregnancy riddled with physical issues for an old momma like myself, so the heart issue was icing on the cake. Recovery was tough, then the following summer of 2017 I endured another round of very serious, life-threatening health problems unrelated to my heart. Twice!!! Needless to say, it was tough, not just physically, but mentally as well. I still suffer from PTSD.

    Of course, I have my ultra religious IFB zealot family members trying to say it is *God’s judgment* on me for backsliding. Yeah, ok. Whatever.

    Bruce, have you had any religious friends or family members trying to blame you for your own health issues? Do they say it is God’s way of punishing you or God trying to get your attention to draw you back into the fold?? It’s maddening!!

  9. Avatar

    Bruce, thank you so much for your brutal honesty. You’re not a pessimist — you’re a realist. Which means you deal with facts, and things happening right now, and sience. Fundagelicals want their followers focused in Bible verses, faith and the hereafter so they don’t stop and see how much their lives really do suck.

    Am going through this back-and-forth with life sucks/ain’t life grand right now, mainly with my business. And the next door neighbors, and finances. Getting ready to try selling my house again in April. Looking forward to my only son’s wedding in October really helps.

    Keep writing about REAL LIFE. We appreciate so much how you share yours with us, and how it helps all of us to heal,and grow.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      My life has always had “life sucks” periods — all the way back to my elementary school years. When people question that, I say, I was ten the day I got off the school bus, walked in the door, and found my mom on the floor lying in a pool of blood. She had cut her wrists. (Fortunately she survived.) That was a “life sucks” period and many more followed. My Evangelical beliefs, however, demanded that I deny reality and say “life is wonderful, thanks to J-E-S-U-S” no matter what I was facing or going through. It’s really a form of lying to yourself. And I get it, no one likes the pain “life sucks” periods can bring. Religion, then, can become a narcotic of sorts.

      And as your comment shows, “life sucks” can apply to non-physical circumstances too. Attending the weddings of my children were wonderful times. I hope the same for you come October.

  10. Avatar

    I get it. I’m a few years older than you, Bruce, with chronic pain issues, too. Despite the pain–and all the other issues aging brings–life still has its great moments. I hope that will be true, for you and Polly as much as for me, for a long time yet. I hope Polly’s latest diagnosis helps her doctors find medications that will make her life easier. Good wishes to you both.

  11. Avatar
    Amy B

    I’m quite behind on my reading. Poor Polly! When it rains it pours. I’m glad you refuse to succumb to pain in hopelessness. And I hope the doctors find a way to help Polly.

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