Ben… A Recovering Idiot (who often relapses) Friend of many (or so he thinks) Foe of one, two or maybe a few (hundred) Grandfather of twelve (and not a bad one in the bunch) Father of six (that he's been notified of) Married for 38 long, arduous and worthwhile years (readers of The Book all agree it’s a miracle) Husband of one (which is fairly unusual for a Mormon) Jack of no trades (and master of none) Inventor (who’s not that successful but keeps the bills paid) Dodged certain death at least 5 (00 times) Broke 27 bones (and wondering which one will fail next) Missing only two fingers (and had just one lobotomy up to this point) Over the hill (and can’t remember if he was ever really on top) Legal owner of Michele and this blog (his favorite?...depends on the day)

A couple of years ago, my siblings and I decided we weren’t going to live forever so we planned a trip. I wanted to take a 3-day cruise from LA to Tijuana, get rooms with 2 bunk beds per room with a couple in each bunk, top and bottom. This would keep the cost down. It might jam the bathroom up a bit in the busy times but sometimes the village has to sacrifice, especially when you run out of toilet paper.

All expenses totaled up and then divided by eighteen would pencil out to about $14 per person per night. I thought it was a brilliant plan even though two of the eighteen would have to sleep on the floor between the overloaded bunks. Basically, I don’t think we could have done the Motel 6 in Pasco that cheap and yet this was going to be a full scale international tour.

But it was not to be. My high-class sisters wouldn’t give my thrifty plan the time of day. So we decided to go to Tahiti. They booked the trip.

A few months later, we found out Todd had Stage 4 cancer in his kidneys, lungs, lymph nodes and brain. The planned trip was still a year away. We began doubting he’d make it and yet praying he would.

Well, he made it with flying colors and passed away about five months later.

He was in tough shape by the time we got on the plane. He’d been chemo’d and radiated as much as the doctors could legally charge for. I worried he’d get sea sick or want to stay in his room all day. Maybe we’d even be camped around a hospital ward for the week.

Guess what? He wore the rest of us out. He was eating, dancing, jet-skiing, swimming with the sting rays, snorkeling, boating, four-wheeling and cracking jokes that had us in stitches. We came home from that trip with surprised gratitude that between Todd’s efforts and the Lord’s help, it had been a premium success.

Nine siblings, their spouses and a lucky daughter. We had nary a cross word which was probably a first for several of us.



Since we couldn’t afford the gas for a motored cruise ship, we found a sailboat that was almost as good. The wind was free. I threw this shot in of my baby brother and I and our wives. You’ll notice the audio cuts out about half-way through. Sorry, I didn’t want the rest of the family hearing about our takeover plans for the family jewels.


This next picture is of my famous sister-in-law Krash Ann. I’m not sure what happened but she must have caused a wreck somewhere on the island which just affected her right side. It’s funny that she always smiles after her wrecks.


If you look carefully in the background, you’ll see my brother Brad. I get that same expression and body language from him most every time we meet up.


So we went jet skiing and four-wheeling one day. Michele took a fancy to this native who led us around the ocean and countryside. I assume he’s a native with all the tats. They both spoke French that whole day.



Just to keep things even, I got a picture with Francois’s sister. We kept it toned down to regular English with a little pig Latin thrown in once in a while, just to keep Michele off balance.



I am a lucky guy. She is a semi-lucky lady. (I’m talking about the pictures below)


We visited and all 18 of us went through a session at the temple in Tahiti. It was a special time as we enjoyed eternal perspectives, especially in light of Todd’s circumstances. The last two verses in the Old Testament are what this all-important temple thing is all about.



This is a shot of Michele and I jet skiing close to our boat. The guy taking the picture was Francois. Michele was yelling in my ear to catch up with him.


Every night there was music and dancing in the small ballroom. The bar didn’t make any money on us. After the first night, they realized that they better start bringing in some water for the family. The bartender told us that was the first time they’d ever had to stock up on water.



In spite of being on the rocking boat and all the medical treatments he’d undergone, Todd was out on the dance floor more than any of us. He just wanted to enjoy his time and experience to the max. We were all amazed and impressed.


I don’t have many pictures of Todd. I’ll finish with one of when he was bishop and performed a marriage in his ward. After giving many of us lots of happy memories, he’s moved on to an even better place and is waiting for us there.

Of this we are sure.


Early yesterday morning, my brother-in-law Todd Merrill who was in his early 50’s, passed after a truly heroic battle with cancer. He battled to the end with a refusal to let cancer take away his love of life.
We found out he was in Stage 4 about a year and a half ago. Since then, like always before, he and Lisa continued having family dinners for the rest of us deadbeats (when compared to them). Todd and Lisa remained wonderful hosts to all. Their door was always open.
As the chemo, radiation and disease took their toll, Todd barely noticed. He was always friendly and talkative, even to the end.
A couple of weeks ago we got a video from Lisa showing Todd and his daughter Katie passing the time with Todd’s brother Bruce. Todd was in pretty rough shape but as always, willing to do his best and keep plugging away.


I still get teary when I watch this. What assurance in the divine Plan and what a trooper as he watched his last days scroll by!
I work next to a field that Todd farmed. We often got together on summer days when we saw each other and shot the bull. I’m going to miss those great meetings.
I’m trying to compile a few vids and pictures of a family trip we took a few months ago. Todd was always ready to venture out, no matter the activity and no matter how he felt. He encouraged us to record the times as they happened.
Soon after he found out about the cancer, our family met at the cemetery on Memorial Day where we always meet and share stories and reminisce. After the cemetery, we head for a park to brunch and run races. I always race my sister Jill and I always win. She’s younger and better looking but I’m smarter and cheat at the start.
I also always hurt myself.
At the cemetery this last year, Todd posed for this picture…
Some might think this is morbid. But Todd didn’t. He did everything he could to get better but he accepted whatever the end result was going to be. One of my siblings got confronted about some of the pictures going on social media about Todd’s final experiences.
This person said that it was wrong to post pictures like that. My relation informed them that Todd was fine with it. The reply they got was something like: “Well Todd is not in his right mind then.”
I’m sorry but Todd has always been in his right mind. He didn’t hide from his friends. He didn’t hide behind his bedroom door. He was out there. Always! He continued to invite and visit and pose. He has thousands of friends and loved them all.
By now, Todd has verified that life is eternal. Todd’s last and biggest problem here on earth, now that he’s done with the cancer fight, is where are all his friends going to sit during the funeral?
I’m glad I’m family so I’ll have a seat. It’s likely I may need to push Jill out of my chair and tell her to move to the back.

The cancer removal on my ear was scheduled for May 6. When the appointment was made last month, I thought the date was too far off but I was at the doc’s mercy. In addition to the ear, they told me earlier that I had loads of pre-cancerous lesions on the top of my head but they wanted two grand to remove them.

So last week, I bought a jug of liquid nitrogen for twenty bucks and instructed my wife to get to work on the noggin’. She needed more than a little urging but I finally prevailed. She must not have followed my instructions exactly because this is what I ended up with:


This is not the first time I’ve self-medicated. Over the last month, I’ve gone through at least six gallons of liquid nitrogen and four or five lbs of dry ice in my pursuit of medical breakthroughs in precancerous lesions. You can see I’ve been a little successful by observing the patches of clear skin I’ve gotten.

But this time, I went too far. I told Michele to push harder and longer with each 350 degrees below zero application.

But with this aggressive treatment, I now had painful blisters. I usually operate on the adage that more is better. But not this time! The blisters you see are not the only ones. The back of my head looked like foxholes on Normandy Beach in World War II, AFTER the invasion.

Remembering that my appointment to have the cancer cut off my ear on May 6, I was shocked when I got a phone call on Friday informing me that they had had a cancellation and could take care of me Monday, April 8th at 2:30 pm.

I thanked the receptionist effusively, happy that the cancer was going bye bye before it had a chance to branch out. But then I realized that I had taken over the Derm Doctor’s job on the area where I part my hair. He wasn’t going to like it. Oh well, I wasn’t going to cancel the appointment just because the doc might think I was threatening his job with my new skin treatment angle.

So yesterday my blisters and I crawled into the pickup and headed for town. My sister Lisa and husband Todd (who is also fighting cancer) called me on the way in. She had seen my blisters and wondered what I was going to tell the doctor about them. I told her I was wearing a hat to hide the blisters.

“What if he tells you to take it off?” She asked. I was ready for that possibility. “I’m going to tell them my religion requires me to keep my head covered at all times. I’m also going to tell them that the round dark spots on the sides of face were birthmarks.” Lisa (with Todd in the background repeating her instructions) told me not to lie. “Just tell them the truth.”

I informed them I was telling the truth. Truthfully, my religion is partially about maintaining my self-esteem and keeping my head covered was required at the moment to do that. And I’d had the skin on the sides of my face since birth so technically, the birthmark line wasn’t a lie either.

“Don’t lie.” They chorused back.

“OK, so what should I do?” I asked.

“Tell him you got a really bad sunburn” Lisa replied.

“Oh, so you want me to lie?” I replied. I decided I would just stick with the hat, religion and birthmark angle. They laughed and we hung up.

I was still a little early for the appointment so I called the snakeskin office just to make sure I had the right time. This operation is fairly substantial, filling all three floors of the medical building. After giving my info to the receptionist, she said they had no record of me coming in on that day and I was still on tap for May 6.

I felt my blistered head rise in temperature. I restated the fact that they had called me last Friday and set the appointment for what I remembered as 2:30. She said they had not. I said they had. She said…

Well, you get the gist. I told her I was a block away and would be darkening their door in about 30 seconds.

I parked, put my hat on and cracked the sidewalk in several places as I stomped toward their building.

Walking in, I made a beeline to the desk. We had the exact same conversation we had just had on the phone. She inserted several times that they don’t do Moh’s Surgery in the afternoon so there was no way they had called last Friday.

On the outside, I was maintaining my firm viewpoint that they were mistaken. Inwardly, I started to wonder if maybe I had dreamed up that phone call and the moved-up-to-Monday appointment.

I decided it was time to go upstairs. “I want to talk to your supervisor” I insisted. She informed me that I literally did have to go upstairs to talk to her. I turned and headed for the stairs while she grabbed her phone to inform the supervisor about the bundle of trouble on the way up.

I have several levels of dialogue I employ in situations like this. They stretch from one to ten. I was on level six as I climbed the stairs to level three.

I finally made it to the third floor out of breath. This was not good as I lose some of my impressive conversation skills and powers of persuasion when I’m huffing and puffing and hanging on to the desk trying to breathe.

The chick in charge appeared and I steeled myself for the exchange. I knew that in the 15 minutes it had taken me to climb the two flights of stairs, everything had been communicated between level one and level three. I could tell by the look on her face that she knew all about me.

Just as I grabbed a breath to begin, she told me to follow her. I trailed her back into a room, still trying to grab some oxygen.

“We’ll operate on you here” She said kindly.

Right about then, I saw this sign on the wall. I was grateful I had kept my dialogue at level six instead of ratcheting it up to nine or ten.


If I hadn’t I might have ended up in a straight jacket or jail cell instead of a far more friendly operating chair.

I forgot about breathing and started being amazed that the approach I often take had worked. It usually doesn’t and my wife always tells me it never does. But it must have. I was sitting in the op chair with my hat on.

A nurse appeared and asked for my hat.

“Can’t I keep it on?” I asked. “I’m not comfortable if my head’s not covered.”

She said she was sorry and grabbed my University of Virginia Law School cap. Little did she know one of my sons had attended the school in Charlottesville. Little did either of us know that a few hours later, Virginia would win the national college basketball championship. Or maybe she did and that’s why she wanted the hat.

When she saw my dome, she asked what had happened. I was tired of confrontation at that point so I just told her I was trying to save a few bucks and take care of the pre-cancerous lesions myself. She took the news better than I thought she would.

Soon, the doctor appeared and said “I’ve got to see this!” I thought he just wanted to see the guy who had been causing all the trouble. But when he zeroed in on the big bubble blister I was sporting, I realized he was sizing up his competition. He handled it quite well and said “Very interesting.”

The next couple of hours flew by, far better than I thought. I even started worrying what doctors do when they’re operating on a patient that they were at odds with. Do they start cutting perfectly good body parts out of the cantankerous curmudgeon to sell on the black market? Do they throw a bunch of bad bacteria or canker sores into the wound just so they can charge you more to fix it?

But it was great. Everyone was friendly and efficient. I especially liked the vibrator the doc put on my ear. My ear was shaking so much that I didn’t even feel the needle go in. I decided I’m going to buy a vibrator and use in whenever I get in a painful situation (which is quite often). I wonder if they make a vibrator case I can wear on my belt so I have it at all times. Whenever I break a bone, I’ll have the vibrator on hand to take the pain away. I might even be able to use it for a defibrillator since I’m sure sooner or later I’m going to need one.

They had to cut a chunk of skin off behind my ear to transplant on the jag they took off my ear.


I have to admit. This is the best looking portrait I’ve ever had.

I drove home and told Michele the story. I was still amazed that I was able to walk in off the street and get operated on. This outfit was awesome. They screwed up and still made it right. I was glad they recognized the fact that I was not trying to scam them.

This morning, my phone rang. It was a recorded call stating that I had missed my dermatology appointment yesterday. I called them back. They told me the appointment I had requested last December and reaffirmed last Friday had been missed by me.

All of a sudden, everything cleared up. We were in Arizona for Christmas and I called up a couple of dermatology clinics in the Tri-Cities. They were booked up for several months. A few days later, one of them called and scheduled me for January. I called the other outfit back and cancelled, telling them that I had gotten in somewhere else. They said that was fine.

Then I went through the extended process previously outlined in this blog. When the cancelled clinic called me Friday, I just assumed it was the doctor I had been working with since January. I don’t know why they jumped back in and scheduled me for yesterday.

I guess I’ll just keep my mouth shut and leave things alone since my cancer is gone, I’m taken care of and never once told an untruth about my appointment and UVA hat all through yesterday’s events.






So I went to the doc a little over a week ago and he cut off a chunk of my ear. Said I would get a call if it was cancer. The week went by without a call. I was elated. Once again, I had beaten the odds.


But yesterday my phone rang and guess who? A robocall. I called AT&T and lodged a complaint that I know will go nowhere and produce zilch-o results. I hung up, started a couple of augers and crawled inside a grain bin.

I felt a buzz in my pocket and saw it was another robo call. With the slight possibility it wasn’t, I answered.

It was the doctor’s office announcing I had cancer. The nurse could hardly hear me because of the noisy environment I was in. I could hardly hear her because I was immediately in shock and denial.

We scheduled an appointment for me to go in and they would start wacking away on my ear until they ran out of cancer. The situation was a bit disconcerting but like most of my last 8 years, I had corn running. The augers took my mind off the C word (cancer) and put it on the other C word (corn) for a bit.

When I finished inside the bin, I started thinking outside the bin about the implications. I probably wouldn’t have a problem if I hadn’t stirred up the growth (see a couple of posts ago) with my homemade remedies and turned it into a hornet’s nest. But now, like always, my theoretically ingenious solutions turn the smallest problems upside down into monster disasters.

Because of my primitive extraction methods, the basal cell carcinoma had probably moved out of it’s little apartment just above my earlobe and was moving into a big mansion named Ben.

Just because I made it mad. Bummer. I’ll throw in a picture I’ve already posted just so you remember how angry the little sucker looked.


I decided I had better put my things in order. I’ll begin by first making my bed.

Then I’ll let my wife know of the recent developments and the fact that she better start looking around for a replacement. I always thought I’d go first but the odds pointed toward a sudden accident rather that a lingering demise.

Next, I better start once again cleaning up several properties I own that need a major spring cleaning. I don’t want to leave my wife and her new partner with messes that they’ll have no idea what to do with. I do not want to do anything that would mess up their honeymoon.

There’s no way her new husband will be as brilliant and ingenious as I in disposing of mass amounts of metal, rubber, spare parts and several hundred other classifications of truckloads of materials that I’ve paid through the nose for over the decades. I’m just grateful I’ve already spent several years (literally) in the clean-up mode. Maybe this will be my last project.

At the temple last night, I ran into a doctor friend who lost one of his ears in a car wreck a few years back. I informed him that soon I might look just like him. If I’m lucky.

If my doctor starts wacking on my ear and doesn’t hit non-cancerous ear material before he runs into my head, I’ll have an important decision to make.

Should I tell him to keep going? At this point, I think he should. I’ll tell him to not put the brakes on with his turkey-carving implement until about the halfway point which is an invisible center line of where the tip of my nose is located. This isn’t what I’d prefer but might prove beneficial in several ways…

  • I’ll lose some weight
  • Hopefully, the portion of my brain that brings about some of my goofy decisions will be gone. If that portion is on the other side, I’m in trouble.
  • Since half of my mouth will be non-existent, this will probably cut down on my food consumption. Maybe I’ll finally get back down to my desired healthy weight of 180 or so.

Last night I ran into another friend who asked about my ear injury. I told her the details which brought on some alarm. I calmed her by saying at this point it could very well be a non-catastrophic incident. But then as I left, I said “Ta-Ta for now. It’s been nice knowing you.” I guess maybe I’ll start using those lines as my parting words whenever I talk to a friend.

I’m glad our county has just elected a coroner who is a good friend of mine. I have peace of mind knowing that he’ll keep people from desecrating my corpse, at least until it is six feet under. After that, let the dancing begin.

At least I won’t have to scramble around and write my life story. In fact, I’ve got scads of boxes of Recovering Idiot that probably won’t be gone before I am. Maybe Michele can save some money on funeral programs and pass out books.

May 6 is the day they start chipping and excavating. Wish me luck.

I’m going to bypass tradition and start at the last of today and work backwards toward this morning.

Stopping at Winco in Richland this evening, I got a wild hair to see if this outfit would sell my book. I moseyed on over to the customer service/alcohol dispensary and asked for the manager. The lady called for Chris to hasten thither. I stood and waited. A guy came out of a side door and headed my way. I figured maybe it was Chris. I took a step sideways to try to get a better visual angle at his name tag. Suddenly I heard a very loud tinkling kind of crash in very close proximity to my location.

My sidestep had taken my body mass toward a multi-layered shelf full of liquor and other adult beverages. My heart sank as I realized I might be paying for a sizable quantity of booze without the benefit of inebriation.

Every bottle and can on all three rows was overturned, hanging over the sides and just generally looking drunk. I began grabbing those items that looked like they were ready to hit the floor. A Winco employee ran over and we started standing all the containers back up.

I muttered to the guy that I was sorry and ended by telling him that as always, me and alcohol just didn’t get along. Not a drop was spilled.


Chris showed up shortly after. He couldn’t help me but referred me to Never Never Land, just like all the other chain stores have done. It’s also known as the home office.

Just before Winco, I continued my book crusade by stopping in at a Bible bookstore in the Uptown shopping center. Just before that, I stopped in at another Bible bookstore in Kennewick. Both establishments were nice to me but I felt like a fish out of water since they were Christian bookstores. This may be a surprise to some of you but I’m also a Christian, specifically a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

I’m aware of a few of the rather stark differences between the two camps, especially from their point of view. For this reason, as I shared a brief synopsis of the book contents, I did a full disclosure and notified them the flavor and brand of the church I attend. I didn’t want them misled.

Neither threw me out. Both suggested I leave a book and their manager would let me know. As I walked out, I wondered how long it would take them to throw it in the dumpster.

Prior to the religious stops, I stopped at the Bookworm. The owner told me to leave a box of books and she’d see how they moved. She didn’t throw me out either. Before I got out of the store, a lady bought one of the books I’d just dropped off. I saw the owner’s right eyebrow go up about an inch and a half.

Pre-Bookworm, I stopped in at Ranch and Home. I left a box of books there in December but they got shoveled into an area that looked like a salesman’s outer darkness. It just didn’t seem like a good merchandising spot to me. I figured the entire stock I had left would be waiting for me to carry them back out when I returned.

I walked to the aisle they were in before. Everything was changed. I walked around. I asked employees. No one knew a thing. Finally I found Elvira, the sweet lady I had left them with.

“Where’s the books?” I asked. “They’re all gone.” She answered. I argued with her and then told her to quit playing with me. She repeated again that they were gone.

I was shocked. She said they sold out  a month ago but didn’t know how to get in touch with me. It was cool. I danced a little jig with her and then carried two more cases of books in and restocked their shelves. This time, the books went in a much better location. All in all, it was a pleasant surprise.

Earlier, I dropped two more boxes off at Country Mercantile. This book deal isn’t dead yet.

And now, for the highlight of the day. I hit the dermatology clinic for a look at my ear. The doc said “Yeah, we gotta get that thing off.” I asked him what it was. I was hoping for something like a benign cyst or a mad freckle. He said “It looks to me like basal cell cancer.”

Now this is the first time anyone has ever accused me of having cancer. I didn’t know how to react. He didn’t act like it was a big deal which sort of set my mind at ease. That is until I thought of my dear brother-in-law Todd who is in the fight of his life with cancer right now. That got me a little stirred up.

He said “We’ll send it to the lab. If we send you a letter in three or four weeks, you don’t have cancer. If we call you before that, then we’ve got a problem.”

I was a little bothered but then decided that I would take steps to alleviate the entire situation.

I just won’t answer my phone if they call me. I am so grateful for smart phones so I don’t have to guess who the caller is.

I just hope I didn’t get things too stirred up with the Basal crew when I liquid nitrogened, bread tie strangled, dental flossed and toothpick winched up the mound of them and then lastly, stuck the dry ice on their home base for a good fifteen minutes. Them Basal’s are tough.

I’ll be praying for a letter instead of a phone call.

Stay tuned.