|The Early Years: 1964 - 1970
I was born on August 20, 1964 in Arlington Hospital. My mother was Francis Silvester and my father was John March. I was the second child born to my parents, having an older brother Larrick, that was was born on October 31, 1962. We lived in Falls Church for the first few years of my life, until my sister Christine was born on March 22, 1967 and we finally moved to Chantilly, VA in May of 1968.
Some of my first memories are from the Falls Church years. It was in May of 1967 that I had the first tragic accident to befall our family. My brother and I were collecting ladybugs from a bush, with other kids from the apartments, when my brother wanted the RC Cola bottle I was using to hold my bugs. He as using a styrofoam cup, or something like that, and he wanted my bottle, and it seems as if I took off running and it seems I tripped over a crack in the sidewalk and went head first into the shattered bottle on the sidewalk.
This is the moment of my first memory. Sitting in the baby sitter's car with blood pooling in my hands. I seem to remember being in the hospital, and the walls were greenish yellow, and the next memory I have is of watching Walter Cronkite through a patch over my left eye. When people ask about the black dot in my left eye, this is when it happened. That black dot is the remaining stitches I got in May of 1967. We shortly thereafter, moved into our first real house. We moved to Chantilly, VA.
The Chantilly Years I: 1968 - 1970
At the time we moved to Chantilly, it was considered the backwoods of Fairfax County, and our street was still a dirt road and I remember walking through our house while it was still being built. I don't have very many memories of my first time living in Chantilly, but I do remember Larry breaking his leg in the front yard and no one believing it was broken. I remember we had two cats we named Salty and Peppy and the girl across the street was name Pamela White. Us kids, and I am not sure who "us kids" actually were, called her "Pamelapoo".
This is also when I fell in love with the name "Sir Echo". Our neighbors, the Ellison's, had a very smart, very beautiful German Shepherd dog they named "Sir Echo". He would unlock the fence gate and take off running around the neighborhood. My mother talked about just calling his name, and he would come back to his yard. But, I always remembered that dog's name, "Sir Echo" and one day I wanted to have a German Shepherd named "Sir Echo".
I remember by mother walking my brother to the corner to catch the bus to Brookfield Elementary, and I would walk to the corner with them. My mother would pack my lunch box and I would carry that with me. It was an "I Spy" lunch box too. I would hold it behind my back for some reason, and I never remember actually opening it up later in the day and having lunch.
This is also about the time I got my favorite toy of all time. My very own "Billy Blastoff". You can see it in my hands in a lot of Christmas pictures, and I have such great memories of playing with that toy. I mean, I can still see myself playing with that thing, and the way it smelled and the batteries going in the back, and just the whole way it sounded. My mother eventually bought me another Billy Blastoff from E-Bay for a Christmas present not so long ago.
One of my most prized possessions is the Christmas tree topper my father bought in 1969 or 1970. It is the Bradford "Celestial Lights" Christmas Tree Topper. You can find them on E-bay.com during Christmas each year and they can go for upwards of $400. I think the retail price back in 1969-70 was about $12.50. I still put it up during Christmas and just let it spin around for a few months. Of course there isn't a tree under it, but I still like the way it looks and it reminds me of being a kid at Christmas time with the family all around. Such memories from small things.
The Winchester Years: 1970 - 1976
Our parent's marriage ended in divorce in 1971, and the three kids, as was the custom back in the day, went with our mother to live in Winchester, VA. That was the home town of both my mother and my father, and generations of the March family. My mother's family, the Silvesters, have roots in Elkins West Virginia that reached all the way back to Pratola Peligna in Italy. I am proud to be a March, and proud to have Italian blood pumping through my veins. I tend to hope the mix of the Italian, German, Irish and French blood explains a lot about me.
We have a picture of the three kids on my Grandfather's bed that I remember being taken. It is the last picture we have of him while he was alive. I think he passed away very shortly after that picture was taken. I loved spending time with my grandparents on my mother's side each summer. They would ask who wanted to go to the beach for a week and I would throw my hand up and off we went. I think it was Ocean City, and I don't remember where we stayed, but I remember always stopping at the McDonald's before getting to the Bay Bridge. We always stopped and I always got a big orange soda. One year I remember getting something to eat and before we even got to the bridge, I had to use the bathroom. So, my grandmother handed me an empty coke cup and I peed into it while we crossed the bridge. Such memories.
I also remember going crabbing with my grandfather, and catching frogs around the house we stayed at. I remember not being understood by the adults. One night I was bored and I asked one of the men there if they had any "Matchbox Cars". He handed me about five actual matchboxes, and said that is all they had. I remember thinking this guy was just stupid. I mean, not having matchbox cars was almost... illegal or at least unheard and un-American.
We lived at my grandparents house for a while, and my uncle, Jimmy, and his friends would scare the hell out of us by putting pillows up against the windows on the outside of the house, remember, the windows were up since this was before the years of AC, and these guys would rub the pillows on the windows and say (and I quote) "We want your heads, we want your blood" and it would scare the hell out of us.
Of course my mother, and my grandmother would more or less box his ears, but they just kept doing it.
We also were aware my grandmother talked with Angels. We broke her lawn chair, the type with the wide flat webbing, and when she asked who broke her chair, we of course had no idea. The next day we were outside again, and she asked us about the chair. Again, we had no idea. Then she told us an Angel came to her the night before and told her we knew who broke it, since it was us, and the Angel wanted her to know, it was us. So we fessed up, and I never forgot she had the ear of an Angel.
She was also a witch. She had something call "Witch Hazel" in a squeeze bottle in the main bathroom, and when I first saw it, I knew we were in trouble. I never asked her about it, but I just assumed when my uncle, Jimmy, called her "Granny Good Witch", he knew what he was talking about, and I was not gonna ask any more questions.
I don't remember a lot about my Grandfather Silvester, although I remember talking with him in the building out in the backyard. Of sitting with him at the dinning room table when the family was in from Philly. Eating Italian and listening to them talk a little in Italian. He passed away in 1971, and my other Grandfather Harold March passed away in 1967 and I sadly do not remember much of either one. Those two men are total mysteries to me, but because of them, my Father was who he was, and my mother is who she is. Together, I am who I am. Both my Father and my Mother would from time to time say "You remind me so much of your (fill in with mom or dad) when you do that!" That always made me smile.
My grandmother March lived in Winchester at the corner of Cork and South Loudoun. Her house is still there, beside the parking lot to Cork Street Tavern. I loved that house, I loved my Grandmother and I was always very comfortable at her house. she was a seamstress and she would have women come into her parlor and they would be trying dresses on, and she would be working on stuff, and I would be in the living room playing with my wooden blocks and toy soldiers. My brother would drive her crazy, I would just be happy playing alone all day.
We also met our stepmother for the first time at my grandmother's house. I remember walking in the side door and seeing my dad and this woman I had never seen. She was introduced to us, and I am sure she was more shocked then we were. Hell, we met her around Christmas and we were kids. I do however remember she had a big hairdo. I guess it was a beehive, or a B-52 style, but that is about all I remembered from our first meeting. And from that point on, it was just like Margie was always there. We met our new step-brother a little later, but it was a hoot, at least for me, to have an older step-brother that made my own older brother a little brother. I found it nice in an evil little brother way.
Our step-brother Billy was, and still is, an incredible person. I got along with Billy great, and almost from day one. He just seemed so smart, worldly even, and since he was the oldest of the bunch, and that was four of us kids by now, I really had someone to look up to. We all did, and since I was always doing that anyway, it just became natural for me and Billy to just hit it off. Toss Billy's cousins, and now my step-cousins, Mary and Chris, and there we were. The three Musketeers! (remember, even they have four)
We lived with my Grandmother on Wood Avenue until about 1973 when our mother bought a house in Clear Brook, VA. My mother then got remarried and we had a step brother and two step sisters all off a sudden. So there I was, about 9 years old, I had two step-brothers, Billy and Sonny, and two step-sisters, Sandy and Pam, and of course a new step-father Bill.
This is when things started to get weird for me. I am not sure about everyone else, but I was one messed up 9 year old. I had always thought of myself as being a little outside of things going on around me, and I would sit back and "watch" what was going on, and try to act as I was expected, regardless of where I was mentally. I always remember thinking about what was the right thing to do, the right way to act, and the right things to say. Then doing it. Normally it was NOT what was going on in my mind that I was doing on the outside.
I knew something had to give, had to change, or I was simply going to lose my way. I knew I had a way out, but I was not sure if I wanted to roll the dice this early in my confusing life. But the day came, and I took the chance that way hanging in front of me.
The Answer To The Question: 1976
I was at my grandmother's house in Winchester, laying on her sofa. My mother was in the kitchen with my grandmother talking, and the phone rang. The phone was on a little shelf in the parlor so I could plainly hear it. How this moment in time came about, I really do not recall. But that phone ringing was my father calling to get an answer to the question I had ignored up to that point. I assume everyone involved believed I had spent hours if not days mulling over the question that simply needed an answer. In reality, I hardly gave it any thought. I knew what I thouht I wanted, but even at that age, I would think about things from both sides, and think it out, and twist it around, and get to the point where I simply said the heck with it, and went on thinking about something else.
The grandmother answered the phone and she simply asked the question "Michael, your Father wants to know where you want to live, Winchester or Chantilly?"
My answer was an off the cuff answer. I said "Chantilly". Instantly I heard my mother break out in tears and my grandmother said "John, he said Chantilly..... Okay, I will let him know.". She then turned to me and said "Michael, your Father will be here in an hour to pick you up."
I said okay, then laid there and thought about what I just said. I do remember answering, I just do not remember thinking about the question. I have always tried to come up with a reason, or reasons why I picked Chantilly over Winchester, but honestly, I could pull out 15 or 20 things that would make sense, and make it a great story. And over the years, maybe there are a lot of reasons that add up to the answer being given. But at the time, it was was an answer without a thought being needed. My mind, my being, my subconscious, simply took over and said "Chantilly". I was actually shocked and about 10 seconds later I got scared. I had no idea what I was getting myself into but there I was, I was moving to Chantilly. I just wanted to take a nap.
The Chantilly Years: 1976 - 1982
I always thought of Chantilly VA as being "The City", "Uptown" or whatever I could think of that made me feel as if Chantilly was New York City and Winchester was "Petticoat Junction". However, everyone else in Fairfax County thought of the folks out in Chantilly as being just above the uncivilized tribes of the Amazon. We were the hicks in the sticks. However, from a hayseed from Winchester, I felt on top of the world.
It was even pointed out to me on my first day or so at Chantilly, I had an accent. Just short of being from Mobile Alabama or so I was told.
The day I moved to Chantilly was the Saturday before school started. Which means on Sunday we went to the only place one would go to get school clothes back in those days. Tysons Corner Mall. Yeah, the day before school started, and we went shopping. I just remember being asked how many pairs of jeans I wanted and I almost cried. Honestly, I was overwhelmed. We were by no means poor or went without while I lived in Winchester, but I don't remember being asked how many jeans I wanted. I asked my Dad if I could have two pairs of jeans, and he said "No, you need more than just 2, you have to go to school all week." So I think I got 3 pair of jeans and 3 pairs of cordaroys which were all the rage back then. Not to mention I got a pair of tennis shoes, just like what they wore on TV. Normally we just got the cheap stuff, since were pretty rough on our shoes, but Dad let me get a pair of the blue sneakers, with the three white stripes on the sides. And a cheap beater pair of sneakers I had to change into each day after school. This is when you still had school clothes and play clothes.
The difference between going to school in Frederick County versus school in Fairfax County was totally something I was not ready for. I was stepping into Chantilly High School, surrounded by people I didn't know and a school bigger than anything I had ever seen. My first day at Chantilly High was a mess. I was being escorted around by a student that was moving to Florida, and I was stunnned to see teachers already had my name in their roll books. I mean, wow, this school system had everything on point.
By about the second or third day, Howie Scott sorta cornered me in Mrs. Van Allen's English class and asked who I was. I told him I was "Mike March" and he said I wasn't. Since he knew Mike Marsh and I was not him. It scared the hell out of me, but we figured out what was actually happening. See, the kid that was escorting me around was "Mike Marsh", and since half of the world thinks that is my last name, the school administrators more or less gave me his schedule because they spelled my name wrong. So, even when teachers called the roll and asked for "Mike Marsh", I answered, since that is just what I always did.
It took about a week to figure that out, but in the end, it all worked out well.
During my years at Chantilly High School I was one of those people that could float around and be friends with just about any group in the building. From the Jocks to the Freaks to the band nerds to the disenchanted to the kids that wanted to fit in and tried to hard and never fit in anywhere. I just didn't care that much to be honest. I wanted to graduate and see what came next and I knew, by looking at my own parent's lives, the life I was leading while in High School was nothing like real life. I knew real life did not include many folks that were the most important people in my life at that moment. So, as much as I loved the people I knew in high school, I also knew an hour after I graduated they would become less important with each passing month.
I graduated from Chantilly and never looked back. I was right about life not being the next part of the puzzle after high school. Life was something unto itself. But I still have friends from that time I still talk with, and with modern social media, it has made staying in contact that much easier.
The Northern VA Years: 1982 - 1998
My first foray into living on my own took place in early 1983. I was working for the DC Superior Court, and taking the Metro and had money to burn. A few of us got together and leased an apartment in Reston. If I remember right it was Me, Chris Ford and my cousin Mary. Eventually things happened, which is normal for humans, and Ted Johnson moved in after Chris moved out. We were there a total of a year, and after that, I decided I needed to go to college.
I was accepted to go to Shenandoah Conservatory of Music, as it was called then, and just short of a week before school started, I got a bang up great job making $7 an hour, and I just couldn't believe that kind of money was just out there. I started taking out the trash, and ended up working at CIA Headquarters about 3 or 4 months later, with one of the lead techs.
Marty was his name, and he told my bosses to give me a huge raise, and make me a tech as well. They didn't, so he quit. A week later he called me, told me to show up at a warehouse in Springfield a day later and within a week I was working for DynCorp as a tech. It was not long after this, I was scheduled to go to East Berlin on my first trip out of the country. And my first ride on a jumbo jet.
My World Travels: 1986 - 1991
I started working for DynCorp on a Telecommunication Contract. We were building and installing "black and red" communication gear in American Embassies around the world. I spent a few months helping other techs build their racks for installations overseas before I got my first set of racks to build and ship. I was sent on a 2 week trip to East Berlin deep inside of East Germany, and asked if I would stick around for another 2 weeks working at Truman Plaza in West Berlin. It took no time at all to jump at that offer. So I spent a total of about a month in East / West Berlin before heading back home.
After getting home from Berlin in mid November of 1986, I took a part time job at Shoppers Food Warehouse in Chantilly. I wanted to have something more to do during the down time of being sent overseas, where we made "Bank", so I got a part time job. A good friend was working already at the shoppers Food Warehouse and she was part of the reason I thought I would enjoy working there as well. This was also where I met my first wife Sheila.
During the fall and winter there were some contract shenanigans taking place between DynCorp and the Department of State, and I saw an opening on the Security Contract and jumped ship and got away from the Telcom Unit.
I was back out of the country in only a few months, and landed for the first time in the Middle East. My trip was to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and the schedule called for us to be gone three weeks. We actually ended up being gone for 10 weeks, and mid-way through the trip we were told to go to Kuwait and make a Marine Booth move, and we have 7 days to do it. No more, no less.
While in Kuwait, we had a very tight time frame to work with. We had 7 days to move a Marine Booth all of about 10 feet to the left of where it currently sat. And by move, I mean move just the equipment inside of the actual bomb hardened, ballastic proof, Marine Post One. We had to make the move, and keep the Post offline for as little as possible. If I remember correctly, we had about 90 minutes to make the cutover so none of the Embassy Security would be exposed.
During one of our late nights in Kuwait, we were on about hour 14 or 15 and we were pulling cable. I was on the floor pulling cable in from where we laid it along the back office hallway, when it just got hung up on something. I simply said "What asshole is standing on my cable?" then laid back onto the floor. I remember just being totally spent totally drained. Then Ohio Senator John Glenn looked down the hall at me, raised his foot and said something like "I would be that asshole." then he lifted his foot off my cable. Virginia Senator John Warner was there with him, as was the American Ambassador. Everyone, but me, got a good laugh. I was just tired and wanted to call it a night. I still remember that night like it was last week, instead of 30 years ago.
When It was Thought I Was A Soviet Spy: London 1987
I traveled around the world for a few years, but the weirdest thing to happen is when I got picked to go to London England to install one of the first classified information systems. This was going to be a long trip but one I really wanted to be on. I got my wish and I was sent over to London a week or two into the trip. Most of the guys with me were from Pittsburgh. Actually, I was the only one that was not. Anyway, eventually, I was picked up inside the Embassy, asked to go with the Marines to see the Security Officer where I was informed I was being accused of being a Spy and had 24 hours to be out of the country. I was persona non grata. I had flown my girlfriend, Sheila, over to London to see a concert by Echo and The Bunnymen, and it just so happens to have been the night I was made persona non grata. I asked if I could still go see the concert, they looked at me like I feel from Mars, said I could, so off I went that night. I told Sheila what was going on, we went to the concert, and it was great, and the following day, we flew back to Dulles Airport.
I thought I was going to get arrested at Dulles, but I was not. Eventually I was told the leader of the team in London simply did not like me, and had told the security office he thought I was a spy, and that is all it took. A few tens of millions dollars later, I was cleared of course. I sat in Springfield VA for a six months, as punishment, which never made sense to me, and I finally was sent on my next trip. To Mogadishu, Somalia. As you can see, I have been to some of the best places on earth.
The Wilderness: 1993 - 1998
I traveled around for a few more years and my wife at the time said I should quit, since it didn't make sense for me to be newly married and still going overseas. We would be happier if I would stay home. I mentioned I would take a huge pay cut, she was okay with that, so I quit in October 1990
On August 20, 1991, my birthday, I was told by my wife she was having an affair. Sorta felt like a kick in the gut, but eventually when I pulled my own head out of my ass, I sucked it up, bit the bullet, and did what needed to be done. I am glad that her and I have talked via Facebook because we both wanted to apologize for the craziness of that time. Being human sometimes just takes time and space. Sheila and I had our time, and it seems we both ended up where we should have started. All is forgiven from both sides.
I spent the next few years drifting around Northern Virginia with a chip on my shoulder and a great distrust for almost everyone I met, and just kept chugging along. During these years I met some great people, mainly through 'The Doc's Office BBS'. It was during 1996 while dating and living with my girlfriend Becky, we got Serrecko and Yossarian. When that relationship fell apart, it took a few months before I figured I just needed to get the hell out of Northern Virginia.
It was April 6, 1998 when I drove to work and I was sitting in traffic and more or less just decided it was time to call it a day. When I got to work, I walked into my boss's office and asked hi to drive me home. I was done, I was leaving northern virginia and No, I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew I was done doing this. So he drove me home, wished me the best and I have not seen him since.
The Winchester Years - Part II: 1998 - Present
The next stage of my life began when I made the decision to pack it all up, and move to where I considered my home town. I was heading back to Winchester, Virginia.
I had been around the world and lived in the hustle and hustle of Northern Virginia and always longed to be in Winchester while walking down the mall in Gabarone Botswana, or touching the Berlin wall. I just never knew I was also opening the door to the final years of my life.
Adrift In The Familiar Unknown: 1998 - 2001
Within weeks of moving to my hometown, my Father passed away. It was on June 1, 1998 and a date that will remain with me the rest of my short life. I have already put the lessons I learned that week to good use. A few people know my Father had a terminal disease the whole time I was in high school. He was diagnosed with Scleroderma in about 1971, and was given 2-3 years to live. He always told us his final plans had already been taken care of, and he just needed to be taken to a certain funeral home in Winchester, and it was already planned.
| On June 1, 1998 I found myself sitting in the offices of Jones Funeral Home in Winchester with my step-mother. Since, as I have mentioned, he told us everything was being handled by Jones, and just go there.
Short Tangent: My Father grew up with the Jones living a few doors up the street, and him and Butch Jones would actually play in the funeral home and around the bodies of those being processed or getting ready for burial. They were kids, and they were playing, and it just happened to be around a bunch of dead people. But our two families knew each other for decades. Tangent Over
The funeral director at Jones Funeral home, sitting across the desk from me and my step mother, simply said something along the lines of "Your Father did not have anything pre-planned with us, other than, it seems, telling you that we would provide funeral services." Well, my step-mother and I sat there stunned. Within a few minutes we were checking on coffins, vaults, and everything else one needs to do for a funeral. Now remember, I am the middle kid. But, I was also the kid that moved away to live with our Father in Chantilly, so I felt it was part of my duty to make the arrangements.
Needless to say, that was a horrible day, a horrible experience, and one of the things I remember most about those 4 days of sadness. It did keep my mind busy, and I kept it together. I do not want to put anyone through that, and since I have been given a chance not to have that happen, it won't. More on this later.
During those early years of my return to Winchester I did all kinds of things for a living, most of which I really enjoyed doing, but they were only jobs. Not something I truly wanted to do for the next 30 years. So I worked in the Home Alarm business, building web sites, and eventually found something that paid well, and gave me freedom. I became a Mortgage Loan Officer officially on September 11, 2001. Yeah, that day.
Riding The Dragon: 2001 - 2007
I got into the mortgage business on accident. I was taking my mother out to lunch, and she was working for mortgage company as a processor, and I met her boss when he handed in his checks from a recently closing. He told me he only made about $13,000 on the deal. I almost passed out.
While at lunch I asked my mother how I could do what he was doing, and I asked Brian and the next thing you know, I was offered a chance to sit in and watch, learn and ask questions. After I got confident enough I would be allowed to take a loan application. I actually closed my first loan, around the end of October, and promptly quit the job I was working at Charles Town Racetrack.
I rode the dragon from 2001 all the way to March of 2007. I was working only enough hours each week to keep myself funded, with enough money to live my life, and not feel guilty when I went to sleep. I knew the housing market was going to crash and turned away a lot of loans by passing them on to other loan officers. I didn't need a six figure income to be happy, but I was happy working my 20 hours or so each week and making $60k-$70k a year. I could sleep, and I could enjoy life. I could also see the crash coming in early 2006 and started looking for a life boat.
I started sending out handfuls of resumes, mostly in the technology or computer industry and probably sent out 300 resumes, and I really wanted to get back into the Federal Government. The only real opening was in Pakistan and I had no desire to go back overseas.
A Soft Landing: 2007
Just when I thought I was going to get caught up in the coming crash, and still being amazed those around me were still just plugging away as if nothing was wrong, I got a call from Navy Federal Credit Union. I had applied there in September and this was now the first part of February when they called. I was asked to come in that day, take a test and only do that if I could start working the following Monday. This was Wednesday. So, not having actually worked since July and living off my savings, I said sure. I went, took the test, was told I was hired, and NFCU would be calling me by Friday.
I called the following Monday because there was not call from NFCU. I am not sure who answered, but they told me, and I can quote it, "If she wanted to hire you, she would have called you. If she has not called you, she does not want to hire you." So after I got off the phone, I more or less said NFCU could go screw themselves and kept looking for something.
So on March 15, 2007 I got a call from who else? Navy Federal Credit Union. They asked me if I was still interested in working for them, and I said "Sure, why not." They told me where to be on March 19 for what was called NET, or New Employee Training. When I walked in the door, I saw a gentle in the classroom at the Hampton Inn, and I asked if this was the NFCU new hire class and Mr. William Green told me it was. He asked me to sign in, and there it was, my name on the roster. So, I signed in, and grabbed an end seat, closest to the front of the class room.
Slowly people starting to show up, and over time, these people would become almost like brothers. Rico, and Mark, Ricky, Greg and David. All but Ricky and Greg are there still, and Rico has become like a favorite gardener or maybe a favorite landscaper.
Although I wanted to be a loan officer, there were none in Winchester so I ended up being an Contact Center Account Specialist, or a CCAS, which is now called an MSR. I hit the floor on April 20, 2007, and did it until October 8, 2007 when I applied for, and got a job that came open in the IT department. People there were actually more amazed that I knew the Vice President of ISD than anything else. Or at least it felt that way. I went to high school with Tony Gallardy, rode the bus with him, and he got me into collecting beer cans. He came over to the house and we played ping pong and you know, we were friends in high school.
It was almost a year to the day that I started working in ISD that I got married for the second, and final time. I had met Tammy, she worked at the Contact Center, and we got to know each other, and she was in a horrible situation, but over the year that was 2008, we fell in love, and got married on October 9, 2008. Which was a Thursday. I was working in the new east section of our building, we were expanding, and I called my friend Larry Veach, who is a preacher, and asked him if we could stop by his church and get married that night. We already had the license and we had told my mother, and she started to make these plans and get the whole thing more complicated, and complex. Tammy and I just wanted to get married, quietly and just start our life together.
I called Tammy asked her if she wanted to get married that evening and explained it was 10-09-08, and it would be easy for me to remember it, and we had skipped getting married on 08-08-08 because the Beijing Olympics were opening that day, so I thought that day would be perfect. So, we got married that day. Tammy had a broken little finger, we had introduced our dogs to each other just a day or two before, and she got in the middle of them, and well, things happened. But, we got married in our work clothes, and her in a cast.
We didn't tell anyone for a few days and by then, we had bad news to follow up the good news.
The Gaggle Years Begin: August 30, 2008
During the summer of 2008 I had started to stay more and more at Tammy's house and eventually I moved in, and we made plans to get married and just start a life together. While this was taking place, I was still running local online forums and I was busy working on one of these sites, and this ad kept popping up for a game called "Combat Arms". I figured after this thing kept coming up, I should join it, and maybe the ad would stop.
I joined the online game, and over the first few weeks I would play a little bit and I started to have some fun and I started to play more and more, but it was rather boring so I found the game's online community and went looking for people to play with. I saw an "ad" for a clan called "The Gaggle of Noobs" a guy by the name of NoobRevenge had started. I joined cause I thought the name was funny as hell, and I was a noob. So, the way things are with me, I went headlong into this clan.
I started a forum for the Clan, and since we were limited to only 20 players in the clan, you could only move up if you went to war with other clans. However, you had to have at least 4 players to go to the clan war. So, I devised a system where we would create multiple Gaggle of Noobs clans, and we could control all of the leader accounts, so we could easily go to clan war simply by moving players from one Gaggle to the other. It was a master stroke. Eventually we had nine total clans and each clan could have 72 players. And we played all of the time.
On September 9, 2008 I had hernia surgery for a belly button hernia, and while recovering at home, I played more and more of Combat Arms and started to gather around me, other really great people. All were funny, and all were helping grow the Clans and just having fun. The Gaggle was growing online, I had a great job and I was getting ready to be married, and life was just great. What could go wrong?
The Happiest Five Days: 2008
Tammy and I got married on October 9, 2008 and five days later on October 14, 2008 I was told I had kidney cancer. It was not something I was ever worried about getting, and nothing I ever gave much thought about cancer. But here I was, newly married and getting ready to tell my wife, and my family I had cancer. That was one very hard day following the five happiest days of my life. I was married to the woman I should have been married to all of my life.
Cancer Strikes: October 14, 2008
I had been going to doctors all year it seemed. I was getting dizzy a lot and I had all kinds of scans of my head and tests and I was just getting frustrated. I was also still getting dizzy. On October 7 I was headed to the hospital for one more CT Scan of my bladder to see if maybe, I had bladder cancer. At this point, it almost just no longer matter to me. So on Tuesday, October 14, I walked into a local urologist. This was my 35th doctor's appointment for the year.
I was shown into an examining room and the nurse told me to get undressed, the doctor would be in shortly. See, they were going to run a scope into my bladder to check to see if I had cancer. I remember something like that way back in the 1st grade and I also remember not enjoying that little adventure one bit. In walks the nurse and she was surprised I was still dressed. I told her I would talk to the doctor about this first before getting undressed. Within a few minutes in walks the doctor and I am still just sitting there.
He pulls up a chair and asks how I was and I sorta went off on him a little. I mentioned this was my 35th appointment, and so far no doctor had figured out what the hell was making me dizzy, and I did not see what sticking a camera up my "Johnson" would prove. So without much fanfare, he simply said "I think that is fair. I should then let you know you have kidney cancer." I was actually relieved to at least have a doctor find something. After letting that run around my head for about 15 seconds I said "Fine. What do we do about it now?".
The doctor was pretty straight forward about things, he even showed me the cancer on the scans from the hospital and we talked about the next steps. Since it was caught early, the best course of action was surgery. I said let's do this thing and asked when we could get it set up and taken care of. He mentioned he was going on vacation for the next two weeks, and we could get around to it after that.
WHAT!! My cancer was supposed to just grow for the next two weeks while my doctor went on vacation? Well, there was no other choices given. He didn't say "Look, this is a slow growing cancer, and you could go another 2 or 3 years before it would be a problem, so waiting a month or two would be okay." Nothing like that was said. So I thanked him, and told him I would get back with him when he returned from his vacation.
I went back to work, talked with my boss John O'Leary and broke down in his office. I asked him point blank, how was I supposed to tell my new wife what was going on. He went to her desk, since she was an Assistant Manager there, and brought her back into his office and left us alone. That is when and where my new wife found out I had cancer. That was without a doubt the worst day of my life. I asked my boss for the rest of the week off, and left to get things set up.
I located a urologist in Reston VA, that worked out of Inova Leesburg, and he had Mayo Clinic training and was listed as being in the top 100 doctors in our region. I got in to see him rather quickly, since I already had scans, and the works. Anyway, he said the same thing as the other doctor in Winchester, but he also said he could do the surgery on November 8, 2008. Which was the day after the 2008 Election, and I thought the recovery time would be quick and I would be able to watch the news about the new President, whomever that was. So I said "Let's do this thing".
The cancer surgery was planned for November 5, 2008 which was the day after the General Election. So I watched Barack Obama get elected and the next day I was having cancer surgery. The operation was scheduled to take about 3 hours, and I was on the table for almost 7 hours. Of course I was not aware of the passage of time, but my new wife and my mother, along with sister and sister in law, were left to be worried about my condition.
While I was recovering in the hospital it was thought I had a blood clot in my lung, so I was rushed into wherever they rush people, and I had a filter inserted to break up any clots that I may or may not have. This would eventually come to save my life.
After a few days recovering I was released from the hospital with a boxful of syringes to give myself injections of a blood thinner, that whole blood clot thing again. So off I went to sleep in my own bed. I think this was around November 10th or so. I had a follow up appointment on November 13 with my local doctor, Dr. Kaiser, at Berryville Medical Associates, and mainly for a blood draw and I was going to have them give me the injection in my belly for the day.
Later that day, while actually playing Combat Arms with other members of the Gaggle of Noobs, I started to get this pain like a running stitch on my right side. I told the guys online I would be back later, and told Tammy I was in some serious pain and I took a Percocet I was given for pain. Then laid down for only a few minutes, then headed for the sofa in the living room. This is when I told Tammy to call 911, she thought I was joking, I told her I was not, and to call them right away, then I passed out.
When I came to there our living room was filled with medical people and they were trying to get me on the gurney for a trip to the Emergency Room. While I was being driven in the ambulance, I could see Tammy following in her Jeep and I kept going in and out and the EMTs were radioing my blood pressure to the hospital over and over. I heard something something over 50. I thought to myself, my day had come and I would not live much longer.
In the ER I was surrounded by more doctors than I had ever seen. I was also having blood pumped into me out of this huge bag that was hanging near my head, and I heard a doctor tell Tammy "You might wish to say goodbye, he might not make it.". I thought "Hey, I'm right here!". They pulled someone out of a CT Machine, shoved me into it, discovered my spleen had ruptured and got me into another OR and a Dr. Foxx sent a stent up the same vein they used for the filter a few days before to cut off the bleeder in my spleen. At this point my gut was full of blood, and they told Tammy I might not survive if they went in to drain the blood. So I was pre-op for the next 3 or 4 days at the Winchester Medical Center. That means no food or water.
I begged and begged my new wife to please get me something to drink, get me some ice to suck on, anything. Forget what the doctors said, I was slowly dying of thirst. After a few painful days and nights, I was told it would simply take time for things to get back to normal, and the blood in my gut would just have to be reabsorbed over time. But I would live. Then I got my first drink of water in almost a week and I could barely stop drinking it.
After a few long painful months, and many sleepless nights, I returned to work. Probably too early, but I went back to work and before you know it, life had returned to normal. Over the next few years, which might sound strange, but it really was over the next few years, the one thing that kept me up at night, was trying to figure out what my reaction would be, if a doctor told me I had 6 to 12 months to live. Since I already had cancer, I figured my chances of getting it again was pretty good, and I thought I should at least figure things out. I can honestly say, when Dr. Kang and Dr. Gourin told me I had 6 to 12 months left, my reaction was more or less muted.
I had actually never figured it all the way out. I simply refused to think I would actually ever need to deal with it, so my thoughts were never far enough along, to allow me to put it behind me. And when I really had to think about it, the same thing happened. I did not seem real, and I finally understood, there simply was no way to deal with it. Each day would be unique, hard, easy, and totally a waste of effort. So far, I have been spot on.
The Gaggle of Noobs Paintball Team: October 6, 2012
The paintball team, which became "The Gaggle of Noobs Paintball Team" started with a conversation between me and Butch Mayo. He told me his son, Hunter, attended a birthday party at Skyline Paintball in Strasburg, and here I was, 48 years old, and I had never played paintball once.
One of the Supervisors I knew had also been out of work for a week or so, his little brother killed himself and he was taking it as hard as one would think. So I approached him and was trying to get his mind off his own troubles and asked him if he would be interested in playing paintball, and his eyes just lite up. I had never seen him so happy so quickly. He said his little brother loved to play, and he used to play a lot and was totally up for it.
That is how it all started to be 100% accurate. I then started talking with other friends around the contact center, and finding other broken people that needed to get their own minds off of their troubles, and before you knew it, we had 20 people ready to get out there and start shooting things up in the woods. There were 6 or 7 of us that wanted to get out there a week or two early, to check out what was needed, how it was done, and what we were getting ourselves into. So we put together the first group and headed out on October 6, 2012.
The Original Gagglers were: Mike March, Jenn Maute, Matt Neff, Tyrone Jones, Chanel (Martino) Robinson, Joe Doherty and Paul Hughes. Paul is not in the first team pictures because we went out as an NFCU group. But quickly realized we didn't want to go out like that, so we used the name "Gaggle of Noobs" which was the online group I took over once the actual founder online, took a powder and disappeared.
The TRUTH of the whole Gaggle thing was and is this: The major players that wanted to turn it into a small business to be able to write off the expenses we were accumulating were the 6 that got together and formed the LLC. With Matt Neff and myself ponying up hundreds of dollars at each event to keep people playing, buying paintballs, even paying for their event fees, we knew there had to be a better way, and a way to make it cheaper for everyone concerned, and mostly those few putting all the money in. A small LLC was formed, and within a very short time, it fell apart due to misunderstandings, and money issues.
BUT I wanted to keep it going, others wanted to keep it going, so we reformed the LLC and went at it again. Then we reformed it again, and again. Finally, it just turned out to be me running the whole thing, putting in all the money, recruiting members and supporters, asking for input from those still wanting to be involved, not getting any, and things just not getting done until I said fuck it, and did what I thought was right. Finally, it comes down to where the Gaggle is right now. Which is the same damn place we have more or less been since about the beginning. I run the thing, no one else cares to do more than proclaim they are in the Gaggle, and when the Gaggle does good things, they like to mention they were there at the beginning, and all of that.
I only wish that over the past few years, at least since October 6, 2012, I would have been able to get 2 or 3 or 4 or hell, even 1 more person with the passion to help others, play some paintball, expand into other sports and just keep things going. But it never happened. A lot of the times folks would approach me and ask "Hey, why don't we get together and do "X"?" I would say "Well, we can do that, take the lead." which is when they would say, "Well, I was hoping the Gaggle would do it.".
This is how we played Flag Football for the first time at the WCC. The first time we rented a gym to play basketball and volleyball. The first time we played laser tag. There were always a lot of folks wanting to do stuff, but very few that wanted to actually do anything to make it happen. It always fell on me, and all you have to do is ask anyone that has been involved at ALL, about who got things done.
Cancer Returns: July 21, 2014
Sadly on July 21, 2014 I was told I had cancer again. This time it was HPV Throat Cancer, the same type that Michael Douglas had. It was highly treatable, and full recovery was around 85%. I was sent right away to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore MD and within a short time, Tammy and myself had moved into the "Hackerman Patz Family Pavilion" and my treatment started. Radiation and Chemotherapy was on the menu. Pain, suffering, depression, tears, fear and despair was also on the schedule. I was out of work for 200 days. I told my radiation doctor, Dr. Kiess, I always knew I would die of cancer, and she told me I was probably right, but it would not be THAT cancer. I returned to work on February 2, 2015 and really just wanted to get back to normal.
Normal stopped being normal when I ran out of the pain killers that was giving me the ability to fall back into 12 and 13 hour days. Once I ran into the wall of pain, I was out of commission again. However, I struggled to do what I could do and later in the year, I got bitch slapped by those in my chain of command.
Bitch Slapped For Getting Cancer: September 11, 2015
I was told 4 times my PAR was what it was because I was out sick for so long, and all the way up to AVP Level I was told over and over again, to more or less suck it up. I was also told it was partially my fault for not making sure my boss, and his boss, were doing their jobs. The only words I had for that was "Go fuck yourself". I should have gotten an attorney and taken them to court and beat them to death. When I die, the proof I have will be turned over to my bulldog like mother and let her unleash the dogs of war on them. Waiting almost a year to give someone a PAR, after telling them 4 times you did not get one because you were out sick too long, then finding out it had been signed off by an AVP 4 months earlier? That is when I stopped wearing NFCU Logo shirts to work. I knew if they treated me like that, other people had been treated like that. Thankfully, I was able to let our Deputy CIO in on what was going on, gave names and I had the proof in my pocket while talking to him. Had he simply asked for any proof, I was handing him a memory stick with everyone on it. I still have the memory stick, and I might simply publish it to YouTube one day before I die.
All I can say about that is I wish them the best, she will beat them until her last breath and she will not let go until she has them handing over a small fortune. The proof is in their own words, and it is hard to refute what one says when one actually hears it from their owns mouths. As long as I am alive, I want them all to rest peacefully cause when I am gone, I hope they rot in hell where they belong.
Cancer Yet Again: January 5, 2016
While going for a check up in September of 2014, It was suggested I get a chest x-ray to see if everything was okay. I already had an idea it was not okay, and I asked it it would matter if it was put off until after Christmas. I asked them to give me one more Christmas. And they did. We went home with an appointment on January 5, 2016.
I was told the HPV cancer had spread to my lungs, and I had between 6 and 12 months to live. Tammy and I then drove the two hours home in silence. We stopped at my mothers house and broke the news to her. I will go to my grave painfully aware of how much my mother hurt that evening. How much pain I was bringing to the family, and how little I could do to help them. Over the past 20 years almost I have dreaded the day I had to lay my mother to rest. I didn't want to think about it, and I didn't want to have to ever do it, but I knew I would, and I knew she would rely on me. Now, I will not have to deal with that, and I only hope she can deal with what no parent should ever have to do. Bury a child, even if that child is a 51 year old man.
This Is How It Ends: 201?
This has been fully typed over the past two or three weeks. It just kept growing and growing. There were moments when I was angry, moments when I was sad, and people I was angry with, when memories of the past came flooding back. I guess we humans do that, but find a way to forgive because we think that is what we are supposed to do. However we find peace, we find it alone, within our hearts, and minds, and truly in our hearts.
However, I'm human enough to go to my grave being just a little angry and being okay with that as well. One should never be happy about dying from cancer, anger gets you through the last months of the fight. One should never fight with a friend, and cancer is by no stretch of the imagination a friend. I'm angry with it, and I'm okay being that way.
|© 1996 - 2016
Michael S. March
Founded: Nov 1996