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I do believe that things that happen to you while growing up help formulate how you react to events later in life.
I suppose it all started early in life for me. I suffered my first asthma attacks as a baby. Before I was six years old, I had taken several emergency trips to the hospital because I turned blue from lack of oxygen. I spent years trying to sleep sitting up because I couldn't breathe lying flat. It had something to do with the diaphragm. Lying down stretched it out, so it was more difficult to breathe. Sitting up compressed it, making it easier to breathe.
A description of my life from an early age to age twenty is one of continuous suffering from chronic bronchial asthma. I did a lot of wheezing for breath (oxygen). My lungs were always congested. Any form of exercise was difficult.
Dad worked hard trying to support a wife, eight kids, and his mother. He used to come to my room late at night after working all day and try to comfort me. One time I remember him sitting there crying. At that time, it appeared there wasn't anything he, or anyone, could do.
At age nine, I spent three months in two hospitals. The first six weeks was at a children's hospital, where they tried to determine what I was allergic to. The result was "too many things." All I remember was that they wouldn't give me a blanket, just a sheet. I was cold all the time. One time my dad decided to sneak a couple of toys into my room by using the back stairs. Very soon the nurses found them and confiscated them. Soon it was time to leave and go to the next hospital. To the best of my knowledge, nothing was ever determined about what was causing my allergies and attacks.
Then I spent six weeks in another hospital. There they tried to straighten out my deviated septum (nose). They broke it and reset it six times before they gave up. In those days they used ether to put you to sleep. When I woke up I had that residue smell and taste, which made me sick to my stomach. I will always remember waking up and throwing up once a week and hoping to get out of there and go home.
As luck would have it, the guy next door was bedridden with cancer, but he had a newfangled aluminum wheelchair. (The rest of them were the old high-backed wooden ones, which took two people to navigate). My dad knew him and worked a deal so that I could use it. Off I went around the hospital with nurses chasing me. I do believe that part was fun for me but maybe not for the nurses.
Then I had to go back to school. Someone must have made me study while I was in the hospital, because I was able to pass enough tests to move on to the next grade.
Or maybe the teacher just wanted to get rid of me.
During grade school and high school, I spent a lot of my days too sick to go to school. Our house had a waist-high counter in the kitchen. I found I could lean on it, and bending at the waist made it easier to breathe. I spent many an hour standing there reading books and watching my mother cook. Maybe that is why I can cook a lot of things. Leaning over at the waist seemed to help the diaphragm work better and made my breathing somewhat easier.
Whenever I could, I played football and basketball. (I was no good at baseball). It took quite a toll. Sometimes in high school a local doctor would bring a large bottle of pure oxygen to the games and let me breathe that during the time-outs. But afterward, I would be so exhausted that all I could do was struggle home and lie on the couch while the other kids were out having fun. Many times my dad had to pretty much carry me from the gym to the car and from the car to the couch.
One of the problems this created was the restriction of my social development. I had little if any social life. That lack of development has hindered me most of my life.
I was determined to do the best I could. In fact, in my senior year, I was voted third string all-state in basketball. That was a pretty high achievement coming from a small school with an enrollment of 120 students in all the grades. It helped me get my scholarship for my first year of college.
This was rather important since I had seven other brothers and sisters, all younger except for one.
My dad had a small business. I started working for the business when I was about five years old. The only thing that excused me from work was school and playing sports. Most of the time even the asthma was not an excuse.
Astoria, Oregon, where we grew up, was a rather small town. It was about eight blocks to the school from our house. From the school to my dad's business was about ten blocks. From the business back home was eleven blocks. In those days you walked to get where you were going.
During high school my normal day was to walk to school, then walk to work, and then walk home for dinner and studying. That is, for those days when I was not too sick. By the way, Astoria, Oregon, is built on a hill (like San Francisco), so neither of these walks was on flat ground. The hardest was the last segment from work to home. Its problem was the last three blocks, which seemed like going straight uphill at a steep angle. You have seen pictures of the streets of San Francisco. Astoria was just like that.
When you are suffering from asthma, you walk about ten steps, stop and rest, and then repeat the process. It was very difficult—especially uphill. However, mother only cooked one dinner, and if you weren't there, the other seven kids would eat it all.
When I was sixteen I got my driver's license. That meant that I could now be a delivery boy for the store.
The business was a small candy, tobacco, and novelty distribution business selling to small taverns, restaurants, and grocery stores, etc. One set of customers was from Astoria south about thirty miles. The other set was from Astoria east about thirty miles. My dad would take orders all week from his customers, and on Saturday I would drive the small delivery van on one of the routes and deliver the orders. The next Saturday, I would do the other route.
One time I asked my dad how much I was getting paid. He looked at me and said, "You get fed, don't you? You have a bed to sleep in, don't you? You have clothes to wear, don't you?" That was the end of that conversation. Since I usually left at about 9:00 a.m. and didn't get home until about 9:00 p.m., I was able to find the best burger places to stop at on my way home. He never did complain about me spending the company money on burgers and Cokes, so I figured that was my pay. We must have been breaking all kinds of child labor laws, but I didn't know any better. Besides, a little work never hurt anybody.
Along the way, I was able to graduate with only one B and the rest all As for the four years of high school.
My asthma went away when I was about twenty-one or twenty-two years of age—good thing too, because I discovered beer and girls about that time. I do, however, occasionally have fleeting thoughts it might come back some day.
I was quite proud of my achievements in education and sports in spite of the massive roadblock I had to overcome. I believe from an early age it taught me determination and toughness and to persevere ... to work hard in order to make my life better. When I was eighteen I didn't really know where I was going, but I was determined to get there.
When I started college, I had a full basketball scholarship at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. My dad and mom drove me to the school with about five of the other kids. I remember the night before they were to go back; Dad took me out to the swimming pool of the motel for some privacy and gave me twenty-five dollars. He told me that he wished he could do more for me, but I had a sister in college and six other brothers and sisters at home. "But I can give you some advice: don't wear your heart on your sleeve. That way they will never know that you are down," he said. I didn't feel bad, because I knew he worked very hard to raise us all. I parlayed the twenty-five dollars into a college degree and a law degree by a lot of hard work over the next ten years.
College was a challenge. My basketball scholarship ended after one year. I had badly injured my ankle during the last part of the year. Also, I discovered that "white men can't jump," as the saying goes. I was not offered a scholarship for the next year, so I had to go to work somewhere.
Then it was work during the day and go to school at night and study when I could. But I managed to get it done in just one semester longer than the normal four years.
I worked as a janitor in a bank during my second and third years in college.
Accounting was always easy for me, so I took all the accounting courses I could during those two years. That enabled me to get a job with an accounting firm for my last year and a half of school. I continued working with them after college, long enough to get my two years experience for a certified public accountant certificate after passing the exam.
That enabled me to go to law school. I found a night law school in Portland, Oregon, and got a good job with a firm that was made up of both CPAs and lawyers. By then I had married and had a daughter to take care of. Those were four very tough years with little fun. I worked all day and then went to school at night. I studied during breaks at work and on weekends.
Working as a CPA, our busiest time was from December 15to May 15, which included the testing time at law school. Somehow I made it through and passed the exam for my law license. There were about eight hundred people taking the exam that year; 425 passed and got law licenses. I am sure I didn't finish in the top ten. I was just glad to finish above 426th.
After law school, I moved to a small town in southern Oregon, where I had spent a few summers growing up and where my asthma never bothered me. I had several good years intermixed with a divorce, and then an opportunity came along to get rich, I thought. I had the opportunity to buy about two acres of land across from the new county courthouse. It seemed like a great deal.
Since I was a fairly successful young lawyer, the bank was more than willing to assist me in getting into a large amount of debt. This was in the late seventies and early eighties.
Those of you old enough to remember, that was a time when interest rates sky rocketed. I, unfortunately, had acquired the debt either on short-term notes needing to be constantly renewed at higher and higher interest rates, or adjustable rate mortgages, which went up and up. Rates peaked at 24.5 percent.
When the interest rates got up to about 14 percent, I was getting quite concerned. My bankers, however, assured me that it would not go much higher and that "rates go down as fast as they go up."
Can you image trying to pay interest on about $750,000 at 24.5 percent interest?
By then my banker friends turned from lenders to aggressive collectors. They and other creditors were pressing for repayment. Real estate prices were depressed. Everyone in town knew I was in trouble, and they could buy the property cheap at the coming bankruptcy sale.
To compound the matter, I was involved with a messy divorce from my second marriage—the second one in eight years in this small town.
So there I was, physically and emotionally broke. It was time to move on. There I went, leaping into the great unknown, but at least I had a good education, plenty of experience, and no health problems. Starting over shouldn't be much of a problem. I moved to Sacramento, California, and started a new career as a real estate broker.
In 1988, I was happily building my career in the commercial real estate business. My golfing buddy, John, came to me with the idea to start a business selling long-distance time to small business. In its concept it was fairly simple: buy large blocks of long-distance time from the major carriers (AT&T, MCI, Sprint, etc.) and resell it in smaller blocks to small businesses after a good markup. John was, according to him, a very good salesman and would handle all the sales. He had another friend, Tom, who had a lot of money and would help finance the start-up of the business. I was to establish the Public Utility Commission (PUC) tariffs and do the accounting work.
This was made possible by the recent breakup of the AT&T system.
It seemed like a great opportunity. After all, I was forty-five and had not made my millions yet to retire in the style to which I wished to become accustomed.
But, as things turned out, John had "salesman's block." That is a condition that keeps older salesmen from being able to sell. He had failed to mention this to me, although, in truth, he may not have known. So, instead of going out in the community and getting all these sales, he sat in his office, hiring salespeople and trying to tell them how to do it.
This made our costs increase dramatically and our revenues be substantially less than budgeted. As most small businesses do when faced with a shortfall in cash, we began to fall behind in paying our payroll taxes to the IRS and the state of California and our major creditors.
The situation was getting bad. Tom was no help because he had a major drinking problem. John went out and got an executive job with one of the local hospital chains.
Since I handled the money and prepared, filed, and signed the tax returns, I could see that I was going to be the first one to be held responsible for more than $100,000. Of course, I didn't have that kind of assets at that time. I could see that my "partners" would probably say it was all my fault, and they knew nothing about it. I was kind of stuck. I was left holding the bag, so to speak.
The only solution was for them to sign over their portion of the business to me. I then proceeded to work like hell to keep the business afloat. Looking back, I should have walked away too. Ultimately, the creditors would have gone after Tom since he was the only one with any money.
For about four years, I struggled and worked very hard to create a business that would be successful. We had opened offices in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, in addition to Sacramento, California.
In the summer of 1993, I worked out a deal with our largest creditor to sell the customers in California to them in exchange for the debt that was owed. The actual price would be determined by the performance of that customer base during the next twelve months.
I then moved to Portland, Oregon, to run the remaining two offices.
In early December, 1995, I was very tired of the debt load I was trying to service. I had an opportunity to sell half of my customer base of Oregon and Washington customers for a nice sum, and I took it. I was to receive payments over two years of enough to pay off all of my current debts. This was dependent upon the performance of those customers. And I still had the other half of that customer base left, supposedly worth more than $500,000. The plan was to build the business back up from there.
I remember going to my accountant just before the year end, probably to pay my account current, and bragging about how things had finally turned around for me. I had started this business seven years before, and with a lot of hard work it was finally paying off. It was going to be a very good Christmas.
The business was always undercapitalized. I could not borrow conventionally because of a prior bankruptcy in 1984, which destroyed my credit, and I had very little liquid assets or other assets. It was a very high-stress situation, but finally I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Little did I know it was a fast-moving train wreck.
Here is one example of the stress: One Friday night I went home, and I knew I was going to be about $85,000 overdrawn at the bank on Monday morning. I pretty much knew that there would not be enough collection of receivables over the weekend to come near that amount. I had no idea what I was going to do. I had no other source of funds. I must have drunk a lot of bourbon that weekend. Then, I did what had to be done to continue this business. After all, about twenty-five families were depending on me to keep going.
I talked to some of the creditors and got them to resubmit the checks to their bank, which got me about seven to ten days to cover those checks. Then I called all the people who owed me money to encourage them to pay. And I put off some payments that should have been made. Of course this didn't really solve the problem; rather, it just moved it down the road, so to speak.
This is just one example of many. It seems I was constantly behind the eight ball during these years.
But now that was all behind me, I thought. I was feeling pretty good—so good that I decided to go to the doctor about the numbness in my right leg and, while I was at it, get a complete physical. After all, I hadn't been to a doctor for nineteen years.
This nice lady doctor down the street from my office gave me an appointment late in the day in early January—6:30 p.m., I recall. That way I didn't have to miss any part of the working day.
The first thing doctors do is take your blood pressure. She took it once, frowned, and did it a second time. Then she changed arms and did it again. Then she said it was 220 over 170 and legally she couldn't let me leave the office like that. She was very concerned. So she gave me a couple of pills and said she would check it in an hour. I didn't think too much about it. I had had high blood pressure twenty years before (not that high, however), but I thought that I had controlled it pretty well. Of course, I hadn't checked it in the last few years.
Excerpted from Dying is Not on My Day Planner for Tomorrow by David Moore Copyright © 2011 by David Moore. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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