Facing Mortality (indirectly) — Pt. 2


In my previous post, I talked about a 42-year-old colleague who was diagnosed with cancer, and how that shook me.  About a week later, my 90-year-old father underwent surgery to repair an aneurysm.  It was a minor surgery, but at that age, no medical intervention is really minor.  He had to stay an extra night in the hospital because he had some atrial fibrillation while there.  Luckily, my sister was able to be with him during the surgery, but when she had to return to work, it was my turn to step up and help him through the early stages of recovery.  At the same time, my wife went to be with her 91-year-old mother who is recovery from a fall which broke her fibia.  If she walks again, it will be after 3 months of rehab.

So, what is the point of all this?  I guess it is that I am seeing mortality, not directly, in my own life, but rather in the lives of those close to me.  Through their eyes, I can see what kind of horizon lies ahead.  Being a Christian, that does not scare me.  It just gives me pause.  In a recent NPR interview with Dropbox creator Drew Houston, he said he had heard that on average we are given something like 30,000 days on this earth.  When he did the math on his age, he realized that he had already used up about one-third of those days.  That is what motivated him to get moving.  Seeing other lives nearing an end is doing that for me.

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Facing Mortality

Life events can have a profound effect.  We all know that.  But even the little things…events that we hear about others can change us in very profound ways.  That is the way it was for me.  How many times have we heard it: “So and so was recently diagnosed with cancer.”  It happens almost weekly.  But this time was different.  This time it was someone I know at work…and not just anyone there.  This someone was a person I talk to every day.  She is undoubtedly my favorite person at work.  Yeah, she has her quirks and doesn’t stay in contact well, but there is a strong connection between us.  And the poor woman who has had trouble having children finally got the family she and her husband have been wanting.  At age 42 and with some risky pregnancies, she delivered her second baby just this year.  And then the diagnosis came.  Metastatic melanoma.  One with not a particularly good prognosis.  I not only feel for her and her family, but I think about my own life now.  I am nearing retirement, and what have I done?  What is still left undone?  So many things I could have accomplished, but thus far, haven’t.  …which is part of the reason I am writing here.  I joined WordPress two years ago, but have hardly touched it after the first 4 months or so.  So much of what I wanted to do in life was write, but I have not made time for it.  This is a start…

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The Downsides of Being Apart

Married people are supposed to be together, aren’t they?  Usually when a couple gets married there is a honeymoon, and then a settling in period in a new place that they can call theirs.  Not so in our case.  This is my second marriage, and it is later in life.  We each had — indeed have separate lives 1700 miles apart.  We are each at the top of our earnings at jobs that are hard to find replacements…especially at our age.  In addition, she has an elderly mother living with her.  We knew these things when we got married, and we had a plan.  She could retire in two years, put her mother in assisted living and move to be with me.  Then we could really start our life together.

We are in that intervening period, and it is not all bad.  After all, all we have ever known is a long-distance relationship.  We know how to feel close when geographically separated.  We keep in touch several times a day by phone and on the internet.  We know what the other is doing at nearly any moment.  And there are even some advantages to being apart.  I will have to admit that I can do more pleasure reading and watching videos than I could if she were here.  I can stay later at work without feeling that I am depriving her of my time.  There are things she can do when I am not around for her attention.  Eventually we will have to give up some of those freedoms, when we are living together.  Compromises will ensue.

But there are other times, like now, when I so wish I could be with her.  This morning she was going horseback riding with a friend.  Riding and care of horses is one of her passions — one that I am learning to enjoy with her.  But this morning I received a phone call from her saying that she was hurt badly while riding and was waiting for an ambulance.  She sounded together, but that may have been for my benefit.  She briefly relayed what had happened.  She had been thrown off her horse onto her back, and while she could move her legs, she was in a lot of pain.  That was nearly two hours ago, and I have heard nothing since.  It is times like these when being apart leaves one feeling so helpless.  All I can do is pray and wait.

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Daily Prompt: Luxurious

Daily Prompt: Luxurious. What’s the one luxury you can’t live without?

There is definitely one item that I once considered a luxury, which I now consider a necessity: my laptop computer.  Yes, I could live without it…if I had to.  But I am so glad that I don’t have to give it up.  And when I say ‘laptop,’ I am including with that a connection to the internet (am I being greedy?).  Now, I have a flat screen TV (no cable, mind you), a smartphone, a late model car, a bike, an electronic piano, a couple guitars and some low tech items (microwave, coffeemaker, iPod).  I like having these things, and some of them I use daily.  But the one thing that has become nearly essential to me is my laptop.  I use it to do work, to make lists, to budget, and it is where my music collection resides.  It is my window to the world, the device I would first turn to if I needed a job, and my tool for self-expression (yes, for writing here and other writing I do).  It also provides much of my entertainment (Netflix, Second Life, etc.)  Yes, my laptop is the one luxury I would find hardest to do without.

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Daily Prompt: Regrets, I’ve Had a Few

Daily Prompt: Regretfully Honest?

I had been taught well that honesty was always the best policy.  Adults taught me this, and an adult was interviewing me, so I figured if anything, I could be honest with this man.

I was being interviewed for the second biggest and second most prestigious scholarship in the state.  Because I was planning to go out of state for college, I was not eligible for the biggest scholarship.  This scholarship was a combination of need-based and merit-based, but those details eluded me.  And since I was not fully aware of what was at stake, I was relaxed, and the interview seemed to be going well.  The man put me at ease, discussing my plans and goals, as well as my life situation.

It was only later, when I discussed the interview with my mom, that I was made aware of my mistake.  The interviewer had asked me of how I was planning to pay for college, and I told him what I knew; I told him that the college I was planning to attend, guaranteed me scholarship money, up to a certain amount.  That is, if I were to receive $1000 in scholarship money, they would bring the total amount up to $X.  (I really can’t remember the numbers.)  My mom explained how that probably ruined my chances for the scholarship I was being interviewed for.  They probably assumed that I didn’t really need their money.  And while it would have been nice to have that moment back, it doesn’t mean I would have gotten the scholarship.  In the long run, it mattered little.  I still got my college education and beyond.  It just kinda bothered me to disappoint my parents that way.




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Daily Prompt: Underneath the facade

Daily Prompt: Imagine All the People. The next time you’re in a public place — a coffeehouse, a park, a store — observe the people around you. Pick a person, a couple, or a group, and imagine what their lives might be like.

They made an attractive couple.  Both brunette, young and smartly dressed.  She wore her hair shoulder-length with slight waves.  Her brownish dress was long in the back, but short in the front, revealing shapely, tanned legs, feet in sandals.  He was taller than she, sporting a trimmed, four-day beard.  I assumed they were waiting to get on the same plane as I was, leaving Philadelphia behind.  The guy fiddled with his tablet, while the girl stared off into the distance.  He looked up and said something about what he was doing…something funny.  She smiled at him, but then resumed her thoughts.

‘He has no idea,’ she thought to herself.  This trip was supposed to be our anniversary trip, but he shot down all my suggestions.  On our honeymoon we actually went to two museums and many historical sights, but none of that this time.  Nope, we went to see the Phillies instead.  At least I could use the chance to read…when he didn’t need his tablet to check stats, that is.  I should have listened to my sister…taken things more slowly.  But I was ‘in love.’  Oh well.  The trip is over now. ‘This one is in the books!’ as they say in sports.

He rubbed his beard and thought about what would be waiting for him at work.  His colleagues would handle much of the paperwork while he was gone, but not all of it.  He had kept in touch every few hours using his phone, remembering then how that irritated his wife at dinner.  ‘She got over it,’ he thought.  He looked at her profile and thought about how lucky he was to have such a pretty woman by his side.  Remembering that her birthday was coming up, he thought about what to get her.  Another watch, he decided.  She likes those.  Football season is starting; maybe he would get two tickets to the Bears’ game that weekend.

The boarding announcement came over the loudspeaker, and the couple stood up.  She looked even more petite standing up next to him.  He placed a hand on her hip, a possessive gesture meant to send a message to the men in the crowd.  ‘She is mine.’    I was not so sure.


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Daily Prompt: I Got You, Babe!

Daily Prompt: Groundhog Day.

“I Got You , Babe” is something my wife says to me, or I say to her.  Of course, it is also the line from the song that plays every time the alarm goes off in the movie, Groundhog Day.  Today’s prompt is about living a day over if we could, in order to get it right.  The day that comes to mind for me is a summer day 5 years ago.  It was a hot July day in 2008.  I don’t remember the specifics of what I was doing, up until about the point that the policeman woke me up in my parked car.  If only I had not left the car running (for the sake of air conditioning), I may have gone unnoticed.  If only the keys were not in the ignition, it would not have been a DWAI (driving while ability impaired).  And of course, if I had not been drinking before I left the house, and then again, while parked in the parking lot, none of it would have happened.  I would not have been taken to jail.  I would not have been subject to fines amounting to nearly $10,000 (USD) and made to take classes every Saturday morning for months.  I would not have had my license taken away, and my insurance rates go up.  I would not have been forced to quit drinking.  If only…if only…

And yet, if I could have changed the events of that day, and not been forced to quit drinking, my life would not have gotten better.  At the time I was angry that I had gotten charged with “driving while ability impaired” when, in fact, I was not driving at all.  I should have been grateful that I had not hurt or killed anyone before I had parked.  That would have really shaken me up, and caused me to re-evaluate the way I had been living my life.  As it was, that rather minor offense of mine was enough to make me think about what might have happened.  I have blogged about this before, in another context (https://cinnwriterblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/daily-prompt-what-might-have-been/ ), but it seemed to fit here, too.

What did happen is that my wife lost any remaining respect for me, and a marriage that had had problems all along, dissolved.  But I was not alone for long.  A wonderful woman came into my life at the same time as I was working to stay off alcohol.  She had been brought up in a home with an alcoholic father, and knew well the damage that alcohol could do.  She did not drink, and although she would have loved me if I had, I also had plenty of motivation to abstain now.  I truly believe that God provided this for me at a time when I needed it.

“I Got You Babe” Bill Murray wakes up to another day and tries to change it.

“I Got You Babe” says my wife to me.  I say it back to her, not wanting to change anything!

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