The doctor took the stethoscope out of his ears and reached in his pocket for his prescription pad. I have been sick off and on for a month due to allergies and sinus stuff. The bronchitis returned last weekend so I went in to get a steroid shot.
"The deal with patients like you," he said as he wrote me a scrip for antibiotics and cough medicine. "Is that y'all never met a day that you didn't find something to like. And that's a great thing. The problem with guys like you is that you never rest when you are sick. You're always pushing."
I never thought about it like that before. In retrospect the good doctor is on to something. While I will never be confused with Fred Rogers or any other Mary Sunshine type you may think of, I do tend to find something to like about most every day the Lord sends. Especially now since I don't practice law all the time anymore.
Perhaps that is what has sustained me for much of my 60 years, the first day of which I enjoyed yesterday.
Yesterday, I became the first male on my father's side in 2 generations to hit the big six-oh. While I can't say that I obsessed about the bad hand I've been dealt genetically or went screaming in the night about it, it is fair to say that I have been aware of, not so much my mortality, but just how any of a number of things that happened along the way could have jumped ugly.
Around 1986, I was mugged at gunpoint. My Tulane classmate Jeff Adams had the same experience right after graduation. He got his head blown off. I didn't. About 5 years later a drunk in a Tahoe ran a red light turning my Chevy Nova into a concertina. I walked out with a small laceration in my ear.
Around 1993, I came home from work to find 3 guys robbing my house. I must have scared them as much as they scared me. They went out the back while I went back out the front. Surely one of those assholes had a gun. I certainly didn't. All they got was stuff. You can replace stuff. It worked out.
About 2008 I was diagnosed, much to everyone's considerable surprise despite my sorry family history, with coronary artery disease. It is in the left anterior descending artery which is popularly, for lack of a better word, referred to amusingly as "The Widowmaker" for it's documented ability for killing people dead. Heart disease claimed my father and his father. I'm asymptomatic. I crush every stress test they throw at me.
My cardiologist says I have a better chance of getting shot than having a fatal heart attack. Whatever that means. My PCP goes so far as rating my chances for such an event as "zero" despite the sludge in my system. I am fortunate to be living in the era of statin drugs and stents. My dad was not so fortunate. Also, unlike my father and my grandfather I don't smoke. Smoking will kill you graveyard dead about 5 different ways.
One of the reasons I don't smoke is because I have suffered from upper respiratory problems all my life. I had pleurisy as late as last May. Some folks get colds. I acquire stuff out of a book by Dickens. I catch these things and I get over them. Around 2010, Hugh Tedder, another Tulane classmate, caught the flu. He died. He left two daughters. Where's the fairness in that?
I don't much ascribe the hand of God in sparing me all these years. That would suggest that God routinely intercedes in human history which I can't say that I see from the evidence before me. Or that if he does, he is perverse about it.
So I can't say that I can provide an explanation for how I arrived at this charmed state of affairs.
But as the doc says, I do tend to find something good in every day that I am lent breath. I enjoy spending time with the boys at Catholic High. Even when they piss me off. I practice law just about as much as I can stand. I think my current caseload stands at 3. I still pretty much suck at golf but it no longer troubles me enough to try to improve. I am playing guitar and singing with the help of an exceedingly patient and frequently amused young professional musician.
I have stumbled into a relationship with a beautiful, kind, and tolerant woman. She is lovely in every way. Far better than I deserve in any event.
Last night we attended a party where I was surrounded by family and friends. Good food and drink. Much story swapping and laughter along with a few tears. How did I get to this pass? Call it pure dumb luck. Call it what you will.
But I realize that I am the most fortunate man on Earth. And I don't take it for granted one little bit.
The doc handed me the scrip.
"Have fun at your party. Take a little of the cough medicine about an hour before you go. Eat and drink what you like as long as you got a driver," he said. "Just see if you can find something good the next couple of days that involves reading a book or watching sports. Because I want you to rest. No working out. No golf. Chill out. You're in remarkable shape for 60. But you are 60. And you need to get well."
I started to walk out of the room. The doc called my name. I turned around.
He gave me a fist bump.
"Congratulations, man," he said. "You did it."
So it would appear.
And I don't have to think about this stuff anymore.
Sunday, October 25, 2015
Sunday, October 18, 2015
Sunday, October 11, 2015
I had just gotten on the "El" from the stop located at Midway. I was trying to get to stop at Adams and Wabash to go spend the afternoon at the Art Institute of Chicago before hooking up with my friends Don and Mark. Mark and Don went to Vanderbilt together whereas Don and I went to law school at Tulane together. Over the years we have all become friends.
Mark lives in the Lake Forest section of Chicago (I think) and graciously offered to put us up if we ever wanted to come up for a "guy's weekend." The stars aligned and off we all went a week or so ago, me from Little Rock and Don from San Francisco.
Now I have taken the El many times but always from Evanston or Willamette. I had never gone from Midway to the Loop. I was pretty sure I had figured it out but just to make sure I made discreet inquiry to a woman that was the only other person in the car.
She was a beautiful. Blond hair, black sweater and coat. Pearls. Grey pants.
"Excuse me ma'am," I said. "This goes straight to the Loop doesn't it? I'm trying to get to Adams/Wabash."
She smiled and nodded.
"Oh yah," She said. "Da Loop is da only place dis train goz. Adams/Wabash is da last stop before it turns around an goz beck to Midway."
Face like Catherine Deneuve. Mouth like Studs Terkel or Dennis Franz.
I was in Chicagah all right.
Chicago is a hell of a town. It has the harmonic convergence of sports, the arts and really cool bars that would give me plenty to do. Think of a more frigid version of New Orleans which is not a completely inapt analogy. They both are Catholic towns. Indeed, folks in both cities identify themselves by what parish they are situated in. They both are completely mobbed up. And the politics of both are riven with corruption.
I could deal with all that. What I couldn't deal with is the cost of living up there and the fact that Mother Nature tries to kill you 3 months out of the year. So my appearances in Cook County will be sporadic in nature and limited to early Fall and late Spring.
This trip was a quick one. Don's visa was of a limited duration and both he and Mark have to work for a living and all that. Besides both Don and I have been to Chicago a bunch of times. Neither of us needed to see the sights. So we basically hung out at the Art Institute and in a couple of bars in the Loop.
Chicago and New Orleans are both alike in that they are both tavern towns which is nothing you can say about Little Rock. The bartender that ministered to us at Miller's Pub on Wabash Avenue was 75 if he was a day. The lady that waited on us at Exchequer down the street on Saturday told us she had been working in bars for 15 years. A person can actually make a career working in joints like Miller's and Exchequer.
Both establishments have been around forever. Dark wood paneling. Pictures of various celebrities and sports figures up on the walls. Ball games on the monitors. And, as Don pointed out, pretty girls everywhere. I've had better steaks. I've had better pizza. But being with good friends in a couple of cool bars made the dining experience all the better.
Speaking of weather, I'm glad that I pretty much limited my sartorial selections to golf stuff. Saturday was pretty nasty. The high was 52 or so and the wind was howling across the lake at 30 mph. Walking from the Art Institute to Centennial Park was a trek under the circumstances. The breakers on Lake Michigan were up around 7 feet which I had actually seen before. Still an amazing sight.
Talk of the weather was not far from many casual conversations with folks in the restaurants and the guy in the liquor store. This was pretty cold for early October even for those folks. Does this mean we are in for another terrible winter?
Not for me. Oh, we will have our ice storms and day or two of three inch snows here in Little Rock. We will be inconvenienced for a couple of days. Mark has to shovel snow a couple of times a week every winter. And like the rest of us he isn't getting any younger. I can see why retirees leave there for warmer climes. I understand why folks with the means to do so winter in Florida. Like I said, Mother Nature tries to kill folks that live up there for about 3 months a year. And the older you get the tougher it is to put up with.
I love Chicago but I'm glad I don't live there. Better to hop on a plane and head back home reading the Chicago Tribune sports page where the bottom line is they hate Jay Cutler and love the Cubs. The Northwestern Wildcats, occasional doormat of the Big 17 or whatever they are calling it now, are 5-1. Things are good on the North Side.
But better to come home.