The Road Back

Although my supervisorial candidacy ended abruptly in calamity as I was struck by a near fatal hemorrhagic stroke on June 26 of 2018, as I approach the anniversary of the event I reflect back at the time I spent on the campaign trail and realize that I have no regrets as I learned more about this county and the place that I have made my home for nearly 30 years. To the unions that endorsed and worked with me I was so honored, you are the very essence of what democracy should be and the keepers of the commons during a very bleak and amnesia-filled period in our history.

A side tale… One day with union and campaign volunteers we were going door-to-door in the Ukiah area and we were on the Pinoleville Rancheria. Since the homes were spaced out a bit we were conducting what we called stop and drop, where a driver drops off the volunteer to go knock on a door. I spotted a drive with a green metal gate partially open across the driveway with an older gentleman working in the front yard. I motioned to my driver and she dropped me off, and I walked into the area. I hailed the gentleman who was wearing a baseball cap that said 'Native Pride' with a scattering of artistic eagle feathers as part of the cap and I gave him a quick introduction. 

He scowled at me fiercely and asked if I always trespassed across locked gates. I directed his attention to the partially open gate, saying I would not have come over it if it were locked. “So” he says, fixing me again with a fierce gaze. “Looking for votes, huh?” He then pointed to a pile of gravel and said that if I wanted his vote, I had to spread that gravel on his driveway. At that point I was pretty sure that he was just enjoying messing with me, but I was still on unsure territory. I could see my driver parked at the top of the drive; her window was down and she was watching nervously. I joked that if he helped get me elected maybe I could get a county crew to come out and work on his driveway. 

At this point he was looking over the campaign placard that I handed him, “Skyhawk, where did you get a name like that?” he asked in a hostile and skeptical tone. I gave him a very brief explanation of my self-chosen name.

Then I asked, “What is your name?” 

“White man hater” he said with conviction. At that moment I fell absolutely in love with this audacious outrageous old man and whether he was serious or just messing with me I cared not. 

“Where did you get a name like that?” I repeated his previous question to me. I quickly interrupted myself. “Oh. Never mind. There is plenty of material,” I said. 

Suddenly there was a raspy, crackling, scolding female voice calling from inside the home: “Old man, you leave him alone!” An older woman burst out onto the porch, obviously my friend’s wife. She repeated her scolding when she got outside, “Old man, you leave him alone!” My friend looked at me, gave a little chuckle and a slight shoulder shrug. I spent a bit more time talking with the couple, just visiting in their front yard. 

Talking a little politics, they explained to me a bit about the social structure of the Rancheria and who the various players were.

At any rate as I traveled around the county and the Fifth district I was constantly impressed and emotionally touched by all of the ad hoc structures that arise due to our inherent remoteness. 

So Mendocino County, although my efforts concluded with my stroke, I am so glad that I got to know you better. Your quirky spirit, your maddening contradictions are a full and worthy reflection of the human spirit. As for me, I spend much of my time in various therapies, I still can not safely walk without use of my quad cane, I also do not have use of my left hand, although both of these things are slowly improving. I am learning a lot about patience, I have always retained my long term memory. (My short term is the most affected — it is improving but I sometimes have a hard time remembering what happened in the morning.) I have always remembered my past and who I was and am, I have a lot of time to reflect on my life and my love for it. I have learned to be very quiet, maybe that is just my brain injury but I am actually enjoying the quiet and learning how to stay in it as my brain heals and re-wires. I have a deeper appreciation and understanding for how powerful a place silence can be. I also have recognized that due to my reduced state I understand the realities of being a child again. I cannot drive or work, since way back at the time of the stroke I have had to learn to walk and talk, eat and use the toilet all over again. At first, like a baby, I could not even sit up on my own, so I get to be born twice in one life. It is not an experience I would ever recommend, but it is truly extraordinary.

Samantha and I also want to thank you for how much you have cared for our family. After some arduous circumstances during the campaign that was very healing for us. The stroke hit me at the end of June and they flew me down to Castro Valley. I needed brain surgery to relieve the pressure from the bleed or else I would probably not be here anymore. I have no conscious memories until around mid August and did not get home until September 15th, when I understood how much love cradled my family during that time I was gone. 

I was deeply touched that many of you donated time, labor, love and money to the GoFundMe account that was set up thus ensuring that this calamity would not leave us homeless. What was a very dark and scary time for Samantha and our girls was also a time filled with love and light thanks to so many of you.

Thank you Mendocino County, I love you and I will see you around.

Thank you for reading this if you made it this far: organizing my thoughts is still not my strong suit and I have to type with one hand which is frustrating.

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