Those of us who worked in high risk professions live a life of illusion. We live a fantasy of invincibility and indestructibility.
We are tough guys. Nothing can get to us. Nothing can hurt us. Except the one day when the widow making, life taking, chest grabbing, head pounding, heart-a-stroke grim reaper comes to sow his crop.
We never realize were are an argument, flight of stairs, snow shovel, or stressful moment away from being worm food.
I had this epiphany the other day while laying in an emergency care center hooked to an I.V. My vital signs were all over the place, in the wrong direction. Temperature low, heart rate high, and blood pressure low. My weight was down 12 pounds. My skin was whitish with purple tinges. My eyes were yellow.
It wasn't a flight of stairs, snow shovel, argument, or stressful moment that got me. It was a bout of diarrhea. A week long bout that laid me up in bed all day, day after day. I had been sicker in the past. I stupidly thought this was nothing. I could ride this out.
I drank plenty of water, took anti-diarrhea medicine, and prayed the toilet paper would not run out. I hoped I would not die an inglorious humiliating death sitting on the porcelain throne with my pajamas wrapped around my ankles.
On the morning of day six I thought I had it beat. I ate my first solid food in five days, a peanut butter sandwich. I washed it down with ginger ale. I felt good. I decided to a shave and shower. I smelled like a sick old man.
When I saw myself naked in the mirror, I looked like a wraith. My my joints were purple, and my skin was wrinkled where there was muscle a week ago. Something was not right. I shaved and showered. It took all the energy I had. Back to bed.
A few hours later I called for someone to take me to the emergency clinic. Severe dehydration was the diagnosis. If the I.V.s did not bring my vitals back to normal, it was off to the hospital in an ambulance.
I was reminded more than once that I was not young anymore. People my age, blah, blah, blah.
After the first I.V. I felt one hundred percent better. My color returned, the wrinkles were going away, and some semblance of strength was returning.
About half way through the second I.V. I got hungry. Appetite hungry. I wanted food. Chopped steak with onions, mushrooms, and mashed potatoes, smothered with jus. A platter of Chinese food. Maybe a nice thick Reuben sandwich. A sizzling platter of fajitas. Braised lamb shank with garlic and rosemary. I wanted real food. Tasty food. Salty, fatty, spicy food.
After I.V. number two, the vitals were back to normal. I was given a prescription for a heavy dose of antibiotics and told to drink stuff like Gatorade™ instead of water. Electrolyte drinks will hydrate you. Water, as I found out, will go right through. I stocked up on this life saving substance.
That night over a platter of fried rice, I started questioning a lot of things. The next day, as I drank copious amounts of Gatorade™ and stuffed myself silly, I started rethinking my life.
I need to reshape the way I live.
I faced facts. I am no longer a tough guy. No longer the rock solid 25-year-old 175 pounds of rompin stompin dynamite. I am a sixty-three-year-old 169 pound wet box of matches.
I started making a list. It is turning into a list of lists. Soon it will be what contractors call a punch list.
Number one is get my house in order. During the weeks leading up to my illness I was very busy. Being down a week meant weeks of ignoring home. The place looks like vagabond squatters live here. There are some long put off repairs that need to be done. Get the house in order.
Find a training program to keep in shape. It is no longer about lifting the most weight, jumping higher, punching harder, or running faster. It is about keeping agile, balanced, and energetic. I have a few ideas.
There are some personal, relationship, legal, and financial issues that need to be dealt with. Those will be handled.
I have some creative projects in mind, including the cookbook that has been on the back burner for months. I need to find a method to finance these projects and profit from them.
There is an ever growing stack of books waiting to be read. Less time entertaining myself online or in front of the idiot box. More time reading and listening to my eclectic music collection.
One of the old school self-help motivational gurus wrote, "Hearses do not have luggage racks". Time to have more fun and return to socializing.
Chicago is a great city. It is a feast for all the senses. I intend to explore every nook and cranny of this town. Those explorations will be documented here.
There are more items and side lists. Most important, except for the few things I have to do, I plan on only doing what I want to do. Most of my needs, wants, and desires have been satisfied.
I learned the frailty of the human body the hard, obstinate, stubborn way. What is left of my time on this planet will not be wasted in futile soul sucking activities. I am going to cherish every minute I have left.
When the Grim Reaper comes to sow his crop he better be ready for a fight.
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