Riding Metro North. No Wings.

Tuesday.

Low 30’s F.

Walking to catch the 6:16 a.m. train to Manhattan, irritated that I have a late jump, and finding a seat is now a 50% probability. $15.25 for a ticket, and I have to worry about getting a seat.

I’m 1000 ft away from the stairs to the platform, and the cyclops eye beams through the morning fog illuminating the track.  This is followed by a short horn blast signaling its arrival at the station.

It’s 3 minutes early.

I run.

I catch the train.

NO SEAT.

I stand for 55 minutes.

I’ve started a new book by Niall Williams titled “This is Happiness.” And this ain’t bloody Happiness. [Read more…]

Running. With Bro.

I’m sitting in his chair, a padded wheel chair at the side of his bed at the Rehab Center.

He’s sitting up on his bed, but bent over, trying to catch his breath.

Oxygen is flowing from a tank down a tube through his Trach.

My eyes are never far from his heart rate monitor.

It’s a lime green digital read out, being fed stats through a line connected to his index finger.

120.
122.
118.
123

A heart rate equal to a light jog.

Not a 10 min, or 15 min, or 30 min jog.

A 24 x 7 jog.

Running. Running. Running.

He coughs, interrupting the signal. The machine flashes yellow alerts, and fires a piercing alarm to the Nurse’s station.

Then silence. [Read more…]

Flying AA 5240. With Grace.

It’s a head cold that won’t release.  Thurs, last week, I wake with a scratchy throat, a cough, and a certainty that this, this thing is sliding, and sliding fast. And it does. And it did. And it’s still here.

I take inventory.

Air travel. Hands laid down on arm rests, where hundreds of others set down exactly in the same spot. American’s Clean-up crew, not enough of them, mop up major spills. Most arm rests sit untouched by the cleaning rags, or maybe they are touched, with the same rag passing from one arm rest to the other to the other. Petri dishes, waiting.

Airline club. I brush away crumbs of food on the seat and the arm rest. Coffee cups, soiled napkins, all sit stacked on the side table. One cup, 3/4s full, has a lipstick tattoo, and a fingerprint, a thin film from hand lotion leaving traces of her DNA. I shift in my seat, the freshly painted Quiet room can’t hide its fatigue from the thousands that pass through the day. It groans, Give me your Tired, Your Hungry, Your Rich, all sequestered in this Oasis a few minutes before boarding. Passing our crumbs, paying it forward.

Long term rehab facility. Walking down the hall. Avoiding a stare in each room. Ventilators pumping oxygen. 24×7. Pumping. Pumping. Why is she here? Why is he here? Does she ever get out of bed? How does she not get bed sores?  I turn the corner to my Brother’s room. A roll of the dice and he’s here. Here. Inside. I’m Outside. His roommate. A Veteran. (?) Amputee. It’s Veteran’s Day on Monday. Our eyes connect. Good morning I offer. He never responds. He has no bowel control. The Help pulls the thin curtain. It’s OK Sir. No problem. Just turn a little to the left. The smell of disinfectant fills the room, and burns its tracks.  On the flight home, someone has passed gas, the smell detonates in the cabin, the young lady in the seat next to me buries her head in her sweater and whispers: “Disgusting.” I’m brought back to Rehab. Just turn a little to the left Sir.

It starts in the head, the slow drip of fatigue slides like lava and builds, from sinuses down to the toes.  DayQuil every 4 hours. NyQuil before bed. Bed. Sleep. Work. Bed. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep.

This morning. I flip open the smartphone. 26° F, feels like 22°.  And it arrives. Why now, I can’t explain.  Anne Lamott’s ‘mystery of Grace.’  Mucous secretions streaming. This air I breathe. This thick comforter, and the warmth that it offers. This miracle of being here, in this moment, in all of its fog.  I’m Grateful. For all of it.

And, I’m not moving, not from here. Not from this spot. Not today. Not until noon.


Photo: (via Endless Summer)

Walking Cross Town. Small gestures with big tailwinds.

Late to bed Tuesday night, following long return flight from Phoenix.

Late jump Wednesday morning.

4th morning train to NYC.

Light misty rain.

And, Terry Tempest Williams continues to lay tracks.

In the end, it’s rarely the large gestures that count, it’s the small ones.

My antenna is up.

On train, a middle aged man gives up his seat for a lady. She’s not young. Not old. Not pregnant. He just does it. And stands for the entire 55 minute ride.

At Grand Central Station, Construction worker, hard hat under his arm, looks behind as he crosses the threshold of the exit, sees me coming, holds door open. I was several yards back. Let’s say 10 yards back. Rare occurrence. It was a conscious act.  Everyone is exhausted with political attacks, the lack of civility. How about some decency today?

And the gestures, small, keep coming.

Flight to Phoenix. Elderly lady sits in aisle seat. Not her seat. “Would you mind taking the window seat.” She gestures asking him to lean closer: “I have a bladder problem.” He slides across and takes the window seat. “No problem.” She exhales.

Susan out for a morning walk in Phoenix. She returns to tell me “the most unbelievable story.” I roll my eyes. Can’t wait to hear this.  She comes across a lady walking “Sunny”, a Golden Doodle.  Lady asks where we’re from. Susan explains. “Here to visit my husband’s younger brother. He’s hospitalized and breathing with the aid of a ventilator.” Lady pauses to assess the receptiveness of her planned gesture.  “I’m sorry to be so forward, but would you mind if I said a Prayer for him and for you.” And then proceeds to reach for Susan’s hands, and Prays.

I walk across Fifth Avenue. It’s 7 a.m. E.S.T. and 4 a.m. in Phoenix.

He’s sleeping now, machine pumps oxygen into his lungs.

I stand waiting for the cross walk sign to turn.

I look up, light drizzle brushes my face, three flags flap over a major hotel entrance.

I inhale deeply, and then exhale, and this Agnostic fires up his own Prayer.

Breathe Bro. Breathe.


Photo: Mine with smartphone. At Times Square yesterday morning, at the end of my cross-town walk. NYC awakening.

 

Ah, yes. The underpinnings for sugar addiction. I’m O.K. Breathe easier.

Think of the actual physical elements that compose our bodies: we are 98 percent hydrogen and oxygen and carbon. That’s table sugar. You are made of the same stuff as table sugar.

Just a couple of tiny differences here and there and look what happened to the sugar: it can stand upright and send tweets.

~ Augusten Burroughs, This Is How: Surviving What You Think You Can’t


Notes: Sugar Photo credit. Quote via quotespile

Driving I-95 S. I Wear My Sunglasses At Night.

5:33 am.

Tuesday.

I dial up 80’s on 8 on Sirius, and accelerate down the exit ramp, spilling into light traffic onto I-95 South. Another day. Rick Moody’s “relentless sameness to it.”

Second song on the playlist: Sunglasses at Night. Corey Hart. (1983). I clip the front end…and then the chorus, and the lyrics spin and spin and spin.

I wear my sunglasses at night / So I can so I can / Watch you weave then breathe your story lines. / I wear my sunglasses at night / I wear my sunglasses at night./ So I can so I can / Keep track of the visions in my eyes / I wear my sunglasses at night / I wear my sunglasses at night / So I can so I can
See the light that’s right before my eyes

18-wheeler, no branding, slides into the center lane, and then again into the left lane. I’m doing 70 mph and he’s widening the gap. He’s passed 4 other semis, UPS, US Postal Service, Sysco and New England Seafood Distribution, before returning to the center lane. Clear skies as far as you can see.

Lanes tighten up ahead, and he slows in the construction zone. I approach and he’s to my right.  He bobbles left into my lane, and I slide left into the towering cement highway divider. If your window was open, you could brush that divider with our hand. Steady DK, Steady.

I tighten my grip on the steering wheel. Five hours sleep, and a miscalculation of the dosage of ZzzQuil, new sleep medication. Steady DK.

He slides back into his lane, I shift lanes and exit onto I-287. He heads to Manhattan.  Exhale.

I wear my sunglasses at night. I wear my sunglasses at night.  [Read more…]

Miracle. All of it.

7:45 am. Yesterday morning. X-ray reviewed. Referral made to Oral Surgeon: “Young guy, really good, my patients really like him.” I return home and wait for phone to ring.

How long has it been? 6 months? 9 months? A year? Same dentist is grinding down the jagged edges of a broken wisdom tooth, bottom left. “You should get it pulled. It’s only going to get worse.” The answer was reflexive: “No.” Somebody wanted it there. It’s been there for more than 50 years. ‘Til death do us part. A small grin builds from left to right, as if to say: “Have it your way.” Yes, your patient is the same guy who refused teeth whitening, the crown-replacement, the mouth guard for night-time teeth grinding and anything but the basic maintenance program.

So it was. My tongue started working on the foreign. The new. The crack. The edges. The gap. Sliding over and around the edges, into the crevice, into a pocket, a repository for nubs of pistachios, bitty kernels of popcorn and hard corners of raisins – working to remove what the brush and floss failed to accomplish.

Months later, this thing turns to a low throb, exacerbated by my latest food obsession, crunchy granola. By the bags. Upper and lower teeth hammering on the hard grains, nerve endings pressure tested.

Then comes the Night. The low throb turns to a searing pain, the left ear aching and can’t bear to hold a 1/2 oz ear bud to pipe in a podcast, a playlist or any form of distraction.

[Read more…]

Take the Test


Source: Ed Batista

Walking Cross-Town. @ 80%.

It’s cold.

I’m zigzagging cross town.

I hit red lights and turn to walk up avenues. I approach walk signs, and turn back down streets.

The skyscrapers cradle the wind currents, they gust and swirl, and find the exposed skin: the neckline, the forehead, up the pant leg — both eyes gush water.

I reflect on a conversation from the day before.

“How you feeling?”

“Much better thanks. But I’m a bit shocked at how quickly I tire. And I have these intermittent bouts of lightheadness. Destabilizing, really.”

“You had material blood loss. You know that red blood cells take 4-6 weeks for complete replacement.”

You had no idea. None. Zero. How little interest you take in something so important to your sustenance. Yet that doesn’t seem to rock you as much as knowing the older you get, the less you seem to know. This jolt makes you lightheaded. Or perhaps it’s the speed walking, and a shortage of red blood cells.

I slow down. Way down. The lightheadness grows.

This movie is running in slow motion. Other pedestrians pass you by. Others pass you by. This makes you uncomfortable. You are losing, behind, slipping, slowing. Increasingly you are feeling ok with that. Really? Are You? Not really. You try to accelerate…want to…can’t…don’t…need to.

I stop. [Read more…]

Running to 2018. (Not.) Grounded.

It’s the morning weigh-in, the same weigh-in that takes place every morning during the prior 365 days, but there are differences. Major similarities and major differences. A few notables.

It’s New Year’s Day.

It’s early morning, and I’m in the bathroom.

For the pre-weigh-in ritual, I prepare. I sit on the toilet and drain every ounce of excess weight. Every ounce counts.  And then, I strip the body of all clothing. Socks. Undershirt. Undershorts. And, Smartwatch. Yes, I sleep with to measure sleep time, even though measuring the inverse, insomnia, would be a more useful and interesting data point for researchers.

While I’m sitting pondering life on the toilet, I admire the new scale sitting on the floor in front of me. A Xmas gift from the Kids. An electronic scale from Nokia, the “Body Cardio.” It has a smooth, gunmetal finish, and was manufactured by some craftsman (craftswoman?) in Espoo, Finland. You step on the scale and its gremlins beam your weight, heart rate, fat mass, muscle mass, water and bone mass, directly to your Health Mate smartphone app. A miracle, really, all of it.

I reach for the counter to raise myself ever so gently from the toilet, trying to avoid ripping the sutures. The eyes skitter frantically trying to avoid the midsection. But as hard as they try, they can’t: Unavoidable. From the waist down to the upper thigh, the skin is discolored, a dark, deep purple – Skin’s way of saying: “Listen Pal, while you were resting peacefully under anesthesia for this ‘routine’ surgery, I was getting chopped up.” And if that wasn’t enough, there was swelling, significant swelling around the incision and freakish skin discoloration of all of Man’s reproductive organs. And this swelling is not that which you find part of the normal, reproductive process. Routine surgery? Will this all work again? A nightmare, really.

The heat is turned down overnight, I’m standing on cold floor tile, I shiver. Can’t bear to look.

I look back up.  I take a deep breath, and deliberately take one step and then the other to stand on the cool metal scale. The eyes are panicked, doing everything possible to bypass the midsection carnage and focus on the digital readout.

The scale recognizes the weight, which triggers a digital read-out: “Happy New Year David.” The ‘Happy New Year’ is wrapped in beautiful white fireworks. Nice touch. I hope the Happy part commences soon. The scale mechanically proceeds through its sequence of weight (including day over day up/down change), my heart rate, BMI, muscle mass, water and bone mass. Then it offers up the previous day’s step count. And, shares today’s weather, the high and low temperature.  Miracle, all of it.

So, we can stop here. Breath deeply and say, ok, life goes on.

But there’s more. A wee bit more to this story. [Read more…]

%d bloggers like this: