As I suppose you all know by now, I got pretty sick in the second half of December.
It is more or less a matter of public record that I have co-existed with Crohn's Disease since 1963, surviving a rugged six years before my particular complications were diagnosed (during that period--from 1963-69, I was pretty much sick daily, and did not grow, giving me a kind of wrecked ten-year old's body until I was 16).
During Woodstock, I was at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, undergoing my second major surgery in nine days, after I started hemorrhaging in an unexpected way. That was the second time I cheated death, the first being when I sat in the middle front of my parents car, without wearing a seat belt in 1967. We were on the freeway, cruising at 65 MPH when we were hit from behind sending our car over the side of the road, where we rolled three times before landing upside-down on a pile of rocks.
Somehow, I managed to walk away from that holocaust, amazingly, with just scratches.
In 1973, as a result of three previous Crohn's surgeries, my intestines twisted around themselves and ruptured, giving me peritonitis, and again sending me to the critical list as I lost 11 feet more of gut to gangrene.
In October 2010, after getting a bad respiratory infection in Chicago, I made the mistake of covering a Giants/Padres pennant deciding game on a cold Friday, the last weekend of the season. The next day I went into respiratory failure and was about a minute from being on a ventilator before I was able to slow my heartbeat and avoid the cataclysm of being intubated.
Which brings me to Christmas Eve of 2012. A week earlier I had urgent, but not emergency Crohn's surgery again. This was my first Crohn's flareup since a surgery in 1989 (that was not life threatening) from which I was rebounding nicely when my remaining good kidney failed. Although at first we all thought my symptoms were just a bad electrolyte imbalance. "Acute Renal Failure" was the diagnosis I read on the X-Ray request they dropped in my lap when I was being wheeled for a CRT scan.
And, well, Christmas night I was as miserable and sick as I have ever been, thinking maybe this time my number was up.
Obviously, it wasn't, and the truth is, though I was weary and trying to prepare myself to leave this wonderful planet and plane, I was clear that I loved being alive. I love my pal and partner Diane, and our dogs. Not to mention the work I do and my friends and various circles of buds, and wanted to stay alive to write more and play music and simply goof off and watch the sun rise and set.
Now, I did not write the above to garner any sympathy at all. For, though it may look rough--and at the time, going through each of these incidents truly was just that--I survived them all, and well, I cannot stress how happy I am to simply be here, breathing, eating, and even getting ready to watch football this Sunday.
Not to mention do some mock drafts, play my guitar and get ready for a couple of gigs, and of course, pick up writing these columns. Which are work, but which are also something I both love, and somehow need to do (you Type A's out there will understand this, I hope).
I think this confluence--plus the other ups and downs in my wild ride of a life--of near death experiences is what enables me to write about baseball and play in the "Zen" way that has been attributed to my style. I know it explains why I try to remember that fantasy baseball is a game based upon a game and while fun, and serious, is not worth losing much sleep over. (Well, OK, when one is in a pennant race I can cut a little late season slack.)
It is why though I love baseball, I hope I will never be accused of being fanatical about it, for I love books and music and movies just as much. As do I cooking, and playing with our dogs and simply sitting in the sun, breathing, and enjoying the most out of each breath.
So, in a odd kind of way, all the above does sort of constitute "what doesn't kill me will indeed make me stronger." Or, more as I work towards, "what doesn't kill me makes me more conscious."
And, to a large degree, that is what makes me a better fantasy player. And guitar player, and I hope human being. And, if none of those, it does make me appreciate every breath every day.
The thing is, it did before this last foray, although now my appreciation of those breaths is even greater.
Life is crazy. It is hard, offering challenges, for certain. But, our experiences on the planet also offer moments of sweetness that I suspect cannot be duplicated on any other plane, and I think, without those sweet moments, the down times could not be contextualized. And vice versa, and that is the essence to appreciating the tapestry of our lives. At least that is what I think.
This last Christmas go-around, in addition to my poor abused kidney failing, I had a horrible case of chronic hiccoughs. And by chronic, I mean maybe every five-to-ten seconds, for eight days. My Docs theorized since to remove the bad gut from me they had to cut through my diaphragm, that it was irritated and was causing the hiccoughing (those of you lucky enough to be Facebook friends with Diane probably got a chance to see my incision, but, well, I don't do Facebook).
Well, to cure or suppress hiccoughs, they give you Thorazine, the same anti-psychotropic they used to give to bring folks off bad acid trips, and a medication they also give to people suffering the effects of schizophrenia.
Well, it did kind of crack me up that the same medication that offsets schizophrenia also cures hiccoughs. And, I got a total of three Thorazine tablets and can clearly understand why people would not want to be on it longer than maybe one pill, if that. And, it did stop my spasms, so I am grateful for that even if I think I lost a little chunk of the data files in my grey matter.
But, goofy as that paradox is, it is indeed similar to existence. Bittersweet. Counter-indicated. Good and bad. A blessing and a curse. Just like life itself.
I can live with it. I hope to keep on living with it for a while, yet.