14 September 2012
21 July 2012
I must be getting old.
By five-thirty Sunday afternoon I was in my car and on my way back to Chicago, determined to make it home with as few stops as possible-one for gas and dinner, and one or two for a restroom.
I only made one stop, in Des Moines, Iowa. I stayed for two days. And it probably saved my life.
I feel off.
I've made this drive a dozen or so times before: I-35 north to Des Moines, then I-80 east into Illinois before catching I-88 for the last 100 miles or so home. It takes about eight hours, and is at least an hour faster than taking I-70 across Missouri to St. Louis and then I-55 to Chicago. On the way down to KC five days prior I was annoyed by the construction on 88 west, so much so that I considered taking the longer route home until I realized that it really wouldn't save me any time.
Kansas City to Des Moines is almost exactly two hundred miles, and for most of it, I felt weird. I've found that I cannot adequately describe what I mean by "weird." If you've seen the Jodie Foster movie Contact you may recall the scene towards the end where she is traveling at the speed of light and her face seems to separate from her body. That is how I'd describe how I felt, and it is not adequate.
I'm gonna pass out.
An hour before or after and I would have been in the middle of nowhere (the ride from Des Moines to Iowa City is especially void of civilization) but for reasons I will forever be thankful for the extreme nausea and dizziness arrived just as I did into the outskirts of metropolitan Des Moines. By the time it felt like someone behind me was stabbing me between the shoulder blades I was in the city itself.
I would very much like to know the person who came up with the idea to affix the large blue 'H' symbol to highway exit signs so that I may buy him or her several drinks. At around 8:45 PM, in the twilight of an Iowa summer night, I was certain that I was having an emergency, and had I not seen that H I don't know where I would have ended up. Most likely I would not have ended up at Methodist West Hospital in West Des Moines.
I hope I'm wrong, but I believe I'm having a heart attack
As it turns out, I was wrong. I was not having a heart attack. I didn't find this out until Tuesday morning though because the cardiologist on call in the ER Sunday night wanted to assume that I was, so after being treated for several hours I was admitted, and early the next morning underwent an angiogram, where it was determined that I needed a stent in my proximal left anterior descending coronary artery.
As I said, I did not actually find out until Tuesday morning that I never had a heart attack. I also found out that I needed a stent because my artery was 99% blocked. Technology is a wonderful thing: I saw a video of my artery before, when the dye used during the procedure was barely passing through, and after the blockage was removed, when the dye flowed freely towards the rest of my heart, as oxygenated blood does now.
I'm a lucky man. I dodged a bullet. But I fired the bullet, too.
I recently turned 45. I'm 5' 9". I weigh 235 pounds. I don't exercise regularly. I'm married to a wonderful woman. I have two beautiful sons under the age of five. What the hell was I thinking?
It's hard to convey but even when I was most alarmed, most frightened by my symptoms while driving, I never felt like I was going to die. It was more like a feeling of "uh oh, something's wrong and I gotta find out what." However, once I heard that one of the arteries that supplies blood to my heart had been 99% blocked, all I could think of was how did I not die, be it that night, or the day before, or the week before. Who knows how long I was walking around with this? The day before I left for KC, I spent a few hours in my backyard cutting up and hauling out large pieces of a tree that we lost in a storm, and I brushed off the slight twinges I felt between my shoulder blades as just fatigue on a hot day.
It's been very hard facing my kids since I got home Tuesday night, simply because every time I see their faces I am reminded of what could have happened, how I could have just disappeared from their lives forever. I feel the same when I look at my wife. I almost abandoned my family. It's the worst feeling I have ever experienced in my entire life.
But I have to forgive myself, because I now have work to do. I have to change the way I live if I want to stay alive, and I cannot do this if I am caught up in the guilt of my prior selfish lifestyle habits. Frankly, it has been easy this week avoiding food that I have eaten before that I now know is horrible for me; I don't miss it. Yes, it's only been three days, but the choice is simple, isn't it? I change. Or I die.
I will have a much harder time conquering the challenge of getting in shape. I have never been in shape. I need to lose at least fifty pounds. Five-zero. That's a lot. And it can't be done all at once, which means it will take dedication, persistence and time.
I'm nervous, but not scared. I'm nervous that I've already done too much damage to my body and have sealed my fate of an earlier-than-expected grave. I'm nervous that as time passes I will become someone who is convinced that every little ache and pain is the harbinger of something much more threatening. I've always been aware that some day I am going to die, so this is not the sort of thing that will trigger a midlife crisis. Still, I have to be realistic: I could already have died. The fact that I did not means that I'm still relevant and I can still gain control.
Blockages in the left anterior descending artery are commonly referred to as widow makers because the heart attacks they trigger are usually sudden, massive and fatal. I struggle reading that, knowing that this whole experience could have turned out much differently for myself and the people I love the most.
It's great to be alive.
I'm not someone who is going to start lecturing others about the way they live their lives. All of us to some extent choose what we are, what we become, and what we will be. I thought I was lucky before for reasons unrelated to this health scare. I had no idea what luck really is; luck is knowing that you could have lost everything in the flash of a second, and now have the ability to avoid something that terrible with just a little resilience and dedication.
I am amazed at how simple it all seems sometimes.
25 November 2010
Today happens to be my favorite holiday of the year. I love that there is no hype, no expectation other than hang out with family and eat yourself into oblivion (if you so choose). Plus it gives me the opportunity to post this, the best Thanksgiving story ever, again. My mother is a wonderful person, and the fact that she readily admitted her "error" also shows what a great sport she is. Believe me when I say we laugh WITH her about this, not at her.Happy Thanksgiving to all, especially Mom!
(The following was written in late November, 2004)
Is that a neck in your turkey, or are you just glad to see me?
I would like to apologize to my mother in advance, for being unable to resist the urge to tell this story...
My fiance and I had Thanksgiving dinner at my mother's home this year, with the rest of my family. My mother is an excellent cook and has prepared many wonderful holiday dinners throughout the years. This year was no exception.
Wednesday afternoon I was home as Mom placed the frozen turkey in the sink to began preparations to cook it. At one point as I was walking through the kitchen, I heard her say that something was missing.
I don't know anything about cooking turkeys.
I looked at the turkey in the sink. Mom had removed two packages from inside, which I assumed to be giblets and something else, a liver maybe, since it was dark. My mother and I then had the following exchange:
Mom: Doesn't it look like it is missing something?
Me: Um, the head? I hear they usually get rid of it before they sell them.
Mom: I mean from the inside. There should be something else.
Me: I don't know what's normally inside a turkey.
Mom: It's male parts, it's missing it's male parts.
Mom: The male parts of the turkey aren't inside like they usually are.
Me: (Just now understanding what she is talking about) What? I'm never eating turkey again...
As I said before, I know nothing about cooking turkeys. I can identify the parts of the turkey after it is cooked, but I have no idea how one is packaged. So I did a little research and found that when you buy a turkey, there is supposed to be a package inside containing the giblets and the liver, and also the turkey neck. For all I knew before, I thought the neck was still attached and you just cut it off when you prepared the bird. I don't even know what the point of including the neck is.
Then it hit me.
My mother, who later told me that she has been cooking turkeys for over 40 years, has always thought that the neck that is normally included inside the turkey was instead, um, "something else."
That something else being what puts the "Tom" in turkey.
This explains why the neck has never been part of a holiday meal in her house.
And why I will never not laugh at the sight of a turkey, live or dead, cooked or uncooked, again.
25 October 2010
Evan's baptism was Sunday. We had the christening in the chapel of the parish I attended when I was growing up. I had all of my "C" sacraments there-communion, confession, confirmation-and I bet I've attended close to one thousand masses there in my life.
But not recently. I have a tendency to encounter "falling out" situations with churches. I grew tired of this particular parish over a decade ago, because they played the city in which the parish is located for fools, acquiring a valuable piece of land (in the name of creating a "badly needed" parking lot) and demolishing an historic building. Guess what? The lot is nothing but grass, and has never been anything but. I have had a falling out with two other parishes in the area over what I believe are blatant political endorsements-more on this later, promise.
I digress. We went to this parish for the baptism for logistical and sensible reasons. My mother still attends this parish, and we thought it would be nice to have her third grandson baptized there (five of her six grandchildren have now been christened there-Desmond is the only one who was baptized elsewhere). I had no problem with going to back to this church.
We arrived at the church about twenty minutes before the start of the baptism, and I snagged a bulletin available in the lobby expecting to see our son listed with the other babies being christened there on this day. To my surprise, there was no mention of forthcoming baptisms.
I was a little disappointed but it was certainly nothing for me to be alarmed at. However, later in the bulletin, there was a half-page block of text, and it began like so:
"We remind our parishioners to vote, and to encourage others not just to vote, but to vote correctly. We all should vote and encourage others to vote for life."
The emphasis is mine. It took a few moments of conversation in my head to figure this out: Vote correctly? What the hell does that mean? And why does the parish want to make sure that I vote for the remainder of my life...wait a tic, that's not what it means. They're telling everyone to vote pro-life.
I wanted to leave. I wish I had the stones to say that I didn't want to be a part of anything this church participates in, but of course I didn't, and we had our son baptized, and I forgot about all this until we returned home.
Look, I understand the Catholic Church's position when it comes to abortion, and I understand why they are so passionate about it. Truly, that would never upset me, but I draw the line at them telling me that I need to vote Republican.
And let's be honest, that is what this was, an implicit endorsement of the GOP because it is the "pro-life" party. And it is completely wrong. As far as I'm concerned, this parish should have it's tax-exempt status removed for making a political endorsement.
(For the record, if there had been an implied message to vote Democratic for any one particular reason, I'd say that was wrong too. However I admit that it would not incense me the way this actual message does, because the entire abortion debate nauseates me.)
The Church is pro-life, and I am pro-choice. By the way, that does not mean that I am "pro-abortion." I wish there never had to be another abortion performed anywhere on this planet, and I am tired of pompous, holier-than-thou pro-life supporters who accuse those of us who are pro-choice of encouraging pregnant women to have abortions no matter the circumstances, like we are all population control freaks or something.
I am pro-choice for one and only one reason: I am a man. I will never know what it is like to be pregnant. I really don't think men should have a fair say in restricting a woman's personal choice.
Obviously, this is an extremely volatile topic, and I could write about it for the next year. To placate my disappointment, I am going to write the pastor of this church a letter expressing my distaste for seeing a thinly-disguised endorsement in the church bulletin. The church has no place in politics unless it wants to pay taxes. I will be respectful and courteous, but I won't feel better about this until I write him. I will be curious to see if he contacts me afterward.
One last point, and I can't express this in any other way, so let me apologize in advance for the way I say this. Have you ever seen a bumper sticker that says "You can't be Catholic and Pro-Life"? I see them around more and more these days, and when I do, I want to tape a large piece of paper next to the sticker and write in big, bold, block letters with a giant black permanent marker:
"The fuck I can't!"
04 October 2010
Am I equating sleep deprivation to being slammed to the Astroturf over and over? Yes. Yes, I am.
Seems lately that if I am not sleeping, I am thinking about sleeping. Yes, I'm thinking about it now. ZZZZZZ.
Evan will be two months soon, and he's a great baby. He has a witching hour, however, that lasts for more than an hour. It's closer to three or four, and it starts around midnight. I did not give birth to this baby. I did not go through the anxiety of knowing that there was something growing inside of me that would eventually have to be expelled. Or excised like a like a fly out of soup. I slept fairly comfortably from the time this baby was conceived until the time he was born.
Thus, I stay up with Evan during his witching hours. We go to sleep sometime before two and three in the morning. Evan is a ball to be around during his nighttime prowl-he's not fussy unless he's hungry-and I'd be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy the one-on-one time with him.
Did I mention that we have another son? Did I mention that he gets up every morning by 7? Did I mention that he creates about as much noise as a jet engine at takeoff?
I've taken more cat naps in the last eight weeks than I had in my life up to that point. I have fallen asleep while standing in the shower. While drinking coffee. While watching the first thirty minutes of Saving Private Ryan.
I'm sure on more than one occasion when I've been out in public lately someone has taken a look at me and thought "Yowsa, that guy looks horrible; he must feel awful."
Just the opposite. Sure, I'd love to be sleeping more (or writing more) but if I have to be lacking in sleep, let it be on account of my boys. These days wont last forever.
02 September 2010
Did I mention that we are tired?
No complaints though. The surreal feeling that comes with doubling the number of kids in our house has finally worn off, and I no longer anticipate the knock at the door that brings an official-looking person who tells us that this is all a mistake, that this child is not ours. Parenthood 2.0 has officially left the beta stage.
Every single time in the last three weeks, when I have tried to write here, Evan wakes up. It just happened again two minutes ago. As I took him upstairs to Kristen for a feeding I told myself to come back and at least write something.
More later. Promise. There's a lot to say about this new kid.