Light at the end of the tunnel

So relaxed, like never before

My arms nailed to the bed

My legs won’t move

Too numb to speak

No desire to try

Peace hijacks my body

the pain has fled

Is that a light I see?

Am I moving toward it?

I don’t care

I’ve longed for this

Free at last, done with it all

I surrender

Take me now

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Bright lights. Screaming. Calling my name

Come back to us they say

Yelling and prodding at my mortal shell

Are you in there…What is your name?

He’s back! someone says. The questions ensue

I’m back from where? 

It felt so good…

One of my late Grandfather’s favorite jokes was “I’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a train.” He was a funny bastard. But I beg to differ, and here is why.

 

“Cellulitis. Isn’t that the stuff that you suck out of the Real Housewive’s fat asses?” My doctor was not amused. I assured her that I was joking, that I was already intimately aware of what cellulitis is. I had it once before and my nervous joking didn’t cover how alarmed I was at this diagnosis. I was prescribed an aggressive antibiotic and given a phone number to call if the infection’s redness crept past the outlines she drew on my wrist and leg. I was on my own for the weekend. Football and bed rest.

I couldn’t help but reflect on the last time I had it. I remember it like yesterday.

I woke at 5:30 AM one morning in July feeling awful. Nauseous, raging fever and confused. My children were small, I knew that they couldn’t be left if my wife drove me to the hospital so I called my father. He rushed over and took me to the hospital. As we pulled into the dropoff area I opened the truck door, fell out and vomited all over the parking lot. Emergency techs got me into the ER. I had a fever of 104. An hour later they still didn’t know why.

I was admitted. In order to get me to relax they gave me morphine. The nurse working with me joked that I, and all men in general, were “big babies.” I wasn’t in the mood to justify myself, I let the morphine do its thing. What happened next will stay with me forever, I will need that long to explain it.

I felt such peace. I felt more relaxed than I had ever felt. My arms and legs felt as if they weighed hundreds of pounds each, I couldn’t move them. And I didn’t want to. All pain left my body. I saw blinding white light and I’m pretty sure I felt as if I was moving towards a tunnel. It was amazing. Until I came back. See, everything I just detailed I recalled later. What actually happened was the morphine attacked my weakened kidneys and I went down. Unresponsive for at least 3 minutes. My heart never stopped but I know that I was dead or awful near it. My nurse had come back in and seen that I was slipping away.

I woke to at least 5 doctors and nurses yelling at me, bright lights and beeping machines, repeated inquiries of “can you hear me?”, and “come back to us”. After what seemed like hours I was able to tell them my name and date of birth. I could see my mother and father’s concerned faces in the sea of people surrounding me. I was back.

After everything quieted down my nurse came in and tearfully apologized for calling me a baby. I didn’t care. As she leaned over my bed she leaned on my right leg and I screamed in pain. She pulled the sheet up and exposed my leg; it was twice as thick around as my other. I was immediately transferred to the ER. Cellulitis.

I spent 8 days in the ER. I almost didn’t make it. They couldn’t stabilize the infection. One hazy memory is of my wife walking in with my then 8-year-old daughter as I vomited all over myself. A bad moment indeed. I spent most of my time in a haze, frantically trying to figure out what I had experienced. I asked my mother about it. She said that I was down for the count. As if I had been dead for hours. She was terrified. As I put the pieces together I realized that I had seen the other side. And I am not afraid of it. I know that I will feel relaxation and peace, 2 things I have never had enough of.

Of course, I recovered, I would not be writing this otherwise. But today I was jolted to think that I could go through that again. I just hope that this new antibiotic works by Monday. Otherwise, I’m getting admitted again.

Oh well, worst case scenario is that I compare notes with my funny grandfather about the whole tunnel/light thing.

 

 

too soon…?

You wouldn’t know by looking at her, she is 5 foot 2 and 104 lbs, but my mom is a real tough woman. Nothing gets her down. After burying her second husband in 3 years she went to a “grief group”. Once. She never went back, she said the people there needed to “get over it already”. I thank God every day that I inherited her ability to bounce back and not dwell on the past. She’s not cold, she just insists on always moving forward. This is a wonderful quality. At least it was until she decided she wanted to date again and joined a dating website.

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I am torn by this. She says that she has never been alone and part of her needs a relationship. She’s not looking for a husband, just someone to spend time with. I don’t want to stand in her way but I warned her of what she is getting into. But, convinced that our area is too small for her to meet anyone she insisted. I myself have never done online dating but I know many who do and they have told some stories. I quietly sat back and waited for the storm.

My mother is an attractive woman. She doesn’t look her age and she has a very youthful attitude. Her profile exploded the day it was posted. Men from as far away as Oregon contacted her, opening with lines such as “willing to relocate”. Not one response from anyone less than 100 miles away. Against my advice, she responded to most and gave out her cell # and email. She became as glued to her iPhone as my 15-year-old daughter. She wouldn’t tell me but she was chatting for hours with these guys. She didn’t share what was going on with me until one night when she said “this one says he loves me” and shook her head in disbelief. He loves her, by email. He’s 5 states away.

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I had to step in. I asked her to let me use my (quantified) ability to judge a person’s character and assist in the “weeding out process”. In doing so I discovered the real problem; she is too nice to shut someone down. If they email her she will respond. I told her she needs to set parameters. Set a distance requirement, not divulge her cell #. So far she has had 2 lunch dates, one of which was nothing like his profile and the other used a profile pic that was at least 20 years old. She has had 2 “very successful” men find themselves stranded at customs without credit cards asking her for money. To her credit, she eventually told them to stop contacting her but she let it go too far. I had to take the phone from her once to tell one guy that he was to stop calling her or he would have to deal with me. I wasn’t very pleasant and I think he soiled himself.

I am very bothered by this process but I am helpless to stop it. It’s what she wants. I love my mother, I want her to be happy and I won’t stand in her way. But I find myself in hyper-protective mode. She is fairly well-off financially and I fear that someone will take advantage of that. My worst fear, of course, is that someone may harm her. I find that the roles are reversing. She raised me and protected me. Now I find myself protecting her. I can handle the role, but I feel awful bad for the poor bastard that does her wrong.

 

delays, delays

I haven’t been able to write lately. I wasn’t feeling it. I have been reading the works of the great bloggers that I follow but that’s it. I’m in pain. This is notable because I have a notorious tolerance for pain and I’m still suffering here.

Last weekend I had my youngest son for the long weekend. It was great having him. We were fortunate enough to have a couple of unseasonably warm days so we were outside a lot. Target practice with the pellet guns and yard work. He wanted to learn how to split wood so I indulged him. He’s one of those kids who is immediately good at everything he tries and it wasn’t long before he was splitting logs with the ax with precision and strength. I let him chop while I stacked. But I made the mistake of standing too close and as he struck one log I watched helplessly, as if it was slo-mo like on TV, as a half log shot left and hit me on the left shin. I yelled out initially then curbed my reaction so that he wouldn’t feel bad, it wasn’t intentional. But it hurt like a sumbitch, and it still does.

Fast forward to Tuesday and I can barely walk. The pain is the kind that radiates through the entire body. In addition, I noticed that my fistula, a surgically created port for dialysis, is swollen, red and sore to the touch. I have had it for 8 years, it has never been used because I was fortunate enough to get a transplant without being on dialysis. It has never been swollen, red or sore. I knew I had a problem. So I called my transplant team.

Anything other than a cold or flu goes through my transplant team due to my history. When I explained to them what was going on they referred me to PCP. I questioned them on that, isn’t the fistula a pretty major thing? But they were insistent so I made an immediate appt for the next day. Yesterday I drove 2 hours to meet a Dr. whose first reaction was “why didn’t your transplant team feel that this was worthy of their time?” Facepalm moment. She immediately left the room and called them. I was confused by her urgency. My confusion was eradicated when she came back in. She had told them that I have cellulitis, a potentially deadly bacterial infection, in my fistula. She then told me that they now want to see me. Facepalm again.

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I wish that people would just listen to me. I am in tune, I know what is going on with my body. Now I am going to have extra appointments and more driving. Which I can’t do because I’m ordered to have the leg and arm elevated until the antibiotics kick in. I take cellulitis seriously, it almost killed me in 2006. White light, tunnel, the works. A random bed check is the only reason I’m alive today. I’m not going to lie, beyond annoyed at unnecessary delays I’m a little concerned.

when the student becomes the master

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“What are you talking about?” I said to my son. “I’m nice as can be.”

“Dad, all I’m saying is you seem different. Less patient. You’re not the same. Just pointing it out.” This came out of left field to me. My youngest son and I were in a Wal-Mart checking out car stereos, having a great time and he drops this on me. Apparently, I had made quite the facial expression when a toddler in the next aisle let out a blood-curdling shriek. I explained to him that it wasn’t that I was angry at the child, or the parent for that matter, I just have a very low tolerance for loud noises.

“It’s not just that.” He informed me. “You were wicked inpatient in the supermarket and hardware store today. It’s not like you. You’ve always been the guy that smiled at people and let little things go.”

He was right. Well, mostly correct. I suppose that in my transition from a fast-paced area to a relaxed community I have not yet adapted to the difference in pace. I still walk fast and when shopping, for example, I am all business. People up here tend to move slowly, stand obliviously in your way and I guess it shows on my face. It’s not that I’m not nice to people, I just get annoyed at the aloofness of people. I can see how it would look otherwise. Annoyed at first, I quickly realized that this was a teachable moment. Even for this old dog. The kid is sharp and I admire the hell out of his ability to just speak his mind.

The student becomes the master.

I suppose I could take this opportunity to call this a parenting victory. But it’s not. He’s just a very smart, observant and very chill young man. He was up visiting me for the long weekend. His 18th birthday was the day after Thanksgiving and I was getting him some speakers for his car. Because we don’t spend much time together anymore, we are not as used to each other as we were. He saw a change in my behavior and he called me on it. I could be angry but I’m not. I needed it.

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I have taken some hits lately and I’m really trying to be that positive guy that everyone counts on to be in a good mood. But it’s become a job. He reminded me to be the person that he apparently looked up to.

As we were leaving the store he told me to meet him at the front of the store, he was going to use the bathroom. I sat on a bench and waited for him. When he came out, I stood up and looked him in the eye and said “You’re right.”

“About what?” He asked.

“About me not being as nice as I used to be. I’ll work on it.”

“Good ’nuff” he said and turned and started walking towards the door. I watched the handsome, 6-foot tall young man with the hat turned backward and confident yet easy-going gait and thought to myself I did something right with that one.

 

 

 

 

Day 17… a letter to my friends as a whole

I have really gotten off track on the whole 30 letters in 30 days but it is still very therapeutic to write these.

Dear Friends:

There are 3 types of friends. The Facebook friend: a friend who you keep in contact with after you or they leave a job and their life interests you enough to follow them. This category also includes the high school classmate because us Baby Boomers (I’m the last year but it counts) didn’t have social media back then and we, of course, we lost touch. We follow each other to see what each other is doing and to know when one of us dies.

The second type of friend is the actual friend. Someone who has been to your house, met your family, has answered the phone and been there for you when you needed something. You all share some type of memory with me.

The third type of friend is the “3 AM friend”. Just as it sounds, if we called each other at 3 AM and needed anything it was just done. This is a short but important list. If you are on mine then you are special.

To all of you, I want to ask you to bear with me. I have moved much farther away and getting together is more difficult. Driving to get-togethers is simply too much driving for me. I won’t be seeing you much.

But that doesn’t mean that I have forgotten about you. I am still here for you and if it is within my ability I will help you in any way that I can. Even just to talk.

If you are indeed my friend, you will know that my theory of friendship is no matter how much time elapses, we pick up where we left off. I plan on letting all of you know just how much you mean to me. Just give me time.

pass the papers…I mean stuffing

Thanksgiving is always a difficult day for me. I love the day itself, having the family together for a big meal and quality time with the kids. Relatives and friends visiting. Turkey coma and football. The reality of Thanksgiving in my house has always been a wife who hates all holidays and her anxiety and misery would infect the entire house. Relatives stopped coming over, family stayed away and I found myself barely getting through the day without the help of a good Irish Whiskey. This year I was expecting the worst ever when I found out that my wife had told the kids we were divorcing.

My mom and I arrived at my wife’s new place around 12. I took great strides to make this holiday easier for everyone. I made the turkey and stuffing, all she had to cook was a couple of sides, some dinner rolls, and an appetizer. There would be no alcohol because I had a long drive ahead of me. Everyone was there already.

The day couldn’t have gone better. We got the table ready, we all sat and had a great meal with great conversation. Completely unlike every Thanksgiving before.

At the end of dinner as the Tryptophan set in and conversation slowed a bit my wife came in from the kitchen and sat down, a pile of papers in her hand. “When do you want to come down next week and take care of this?” The papers were divorce paperwork. I looked around the table and the expressions on everyone’s faces suggested that this was just no big deal. I was shocked. She might as well have asked me to pass the stuffing.

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I had agonized over getting a divorce for years and it turns out everyone is fine with it. The fact that we are not fighting over assets and custody is a blessing. It’s just so surreal.

Driving home that afternoon it occurred to me that all it took to finally have a good holiday without stress was to get a divorce. How about that?

Not what I expected

I remember it like it was yesterday. But it was 7 years ago. We had just had a terrible argument, in front of the kids of course, and I had stormed out of the house to go to work mad as I had done so many times. I could hear the coffee mug smash against the other side of the door a second after I had slammed it. It was going to be a great day for sure.

My first call was to my mother. She was always my go-to when this shit happened. I called her to talk, and while I was at it I asked her if I could stay in my Grandmother’s house for a while. She was maintaining a nice house one town over that was in probate. My Grandmother would never live there again. It made sense for me. She gladly agreed to let me stay there.

My next call was to my wife. I stepped outside after the morning meeting at work and told her, in no uncertain terms, that I was done. No more fighting in front of the family, it was too much for all of us. Her first reaction, to my absolute dismay, was to tell me that I was not to expect to “just waltz in any fucking time you want to see your kids because that’s not happening”. I always suspected that she was that type but there was my proof. I just told her that I would be by later to grab some of my stuff. She would be at work so it would be fairly easy. Except of course for the kids. They would by this time have already heard my wife’s version of our conversation.

When I got home that night, the wife was at work as expected. What I did not expect was my 4 kids sitting me down. Intervention style. My oldest daughter, then 16 led the charge.

“Dad, you can’t leave. It will be so much worse for us without you here.” I was very taken back. She went on to tell me that I’m the glue that keeps the family together. How I offset the toxic influence of their mother. That their lives would be much more difficult if I didn’t live there. That I needed to stay. For them. I knew what I had to do right then and I told them that I wasn’t going anywhere.

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One big takeaway was to wonder what my wife would have thought if she was to hear that! She would have been crushed and pissed off at the same time. What a cocktail of doom for all involved. I never betrayed my daughter for saying that.

Fast forward 7 years. My wife and I just had a conversation about finally getting a divorce. We have the papers and have agreed to terms. I am confused by my own reaction, I should be doing cartwheels but I’m sad about it. I was especially worried about the reaction of the kids. Especially my youngest. She is now 15 and she has always been very hopeful that she would see her parents be happy together.

Yesterday I texted my wife and asked her when we should talk to the kids about the divorce. We were going to be together for Thanksgiving and I wanted to gauge how awkward it was going to be. She replied that she already told all of them. Last week. I was floored. So many things pissed me off and I couldn’t finger what bothered me the most. That she told them without me?  That she didn’t tell me that she told them? Or that none of my kids, who have known for a week, said a single word to me about it? What are my expectations here?

I suppose it is possible that they can be uncomfortable and not surprised at the same time. They’re not going to give me a cookie for my staying in a horrible marriage for those extra years. It was the right thing to do and I’m glad I did it.

It’s funny that after all of the years of wanting this moment to come, I wasn’t ready when it did.