Let’s discard the word “recovery” to describe my present condition. The better word is “active” as in “fully active” or “more fully active” than I was before I knew I was in trouble. Medical people advise me that I won’t recover. One recovers from a fracture or flu. From a genetic condition there is no escape, only management.
While all this has surprised “skinny” me and my wide-eyed friends, it was a gift. Compared to other dreadful conditions, my heart surgery was a ride in the park. I write about the ride, the park, and how the village gives the process a meaning larger than survival. When Garrison Keillor reads notes from his audience, applause happens around survival issues: Iraq, cancer, marriages that continue. The community is happy.
There were no symptoms, no pain. Iíve been active for years, in fact, I folk dance and commute on a bicycle. With aging I expect decline, a quiet life around writing, friends and gardening. Not owning a car was my embrace of that future. I fancied biking my way to health, but aerobic physical activity is itself not a solution.
Which is something I remember from the last days of Father Bob Draeger, a friend who prided himself on his treadmill, his blood pressure counts, his pulse, but cheerily smoking his way to lung cancer. He had calculated his overall health was a bit of a license to ignore the Surgeon General. I had made the same gamble - not cigarettes but arterial sclerosis was creeping into my well crafted future. The voice in my head who, I thought, was laughing at smokers was my better angel laughing at me, at us, at the human desire to add a few years: Survival is temporary. Leave behind something worth remembering, Bill, but, please, not how you saved your butt.
In our short space we have the power to dream big. Even our star will die and all our libraries and digital records will be smoke. Make your story worthy of the ending - how there was an intelligent life form in the Milky Way that raised evolution to the heights of love. A story that survives our star.
I hope the extra years I may spend are worthy of this ideal.
Next: Telling the Story Out Loud
“There were no symptoms, no pain. Iíve been active for years, in fact…”
You surprised me. You taught me that health care is more than personal survival, it is about the patient’s loves, about preventing the incompleteness of lives left behind. Gratefully, I want to say…
Oh, I’m afraid I will miss some. I list friends I can remember as I came out of the fog; these and others looked after me in the many ways I mention in this essay. Thank you, all.
Rashmi Vasudeva on the mend herself last winter, International Folk Dancers of Hart Park, the Bay View Neighborhood Association, Peggy Hong, Niska Banja, Inga Velikanova, Sue Silvermarie and our son David Sartori, Cindy and Mike Maierle, Mary Buchel, Amy Carlson, Joan Janus, Ted and Christa Marlowe, Katherine Adjoran, the good George and Gerry Sell and the Sell Nation from Japan to Memphis, Karl Schroeder, Erica Flynn, Dave Wetzel, Barb and TJ Harkness, Jenny Durnall, Hoodmomma Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle, Sky Schultz, Bob Borth, Claudia Egerer, Anna Opgenorth, making a cameo appearance-Dave the hockey player who turned 50, Sue Shannon, Core el Centro, Vanessa Collin and Brenda Ray, Bob Sell, Kathy Parker, Lyn Woloszyk, Sherry Espinosa, the four doctors, Betsy Daniels, Mike Neville, Deva Nation, my full moon Looney Bebeau, Cleo Pruitt, Kat Zylka, Melinda Rodriquez, Pegi Taylor, all who hugged me at the Nerve House dance party, Jill Lackey, Laurie Mudek, Bob Graf, Harvey Taylor, Megan Carr, Ihab and Sally Hassan, Hambo and Karen Tutkowski, Loki, Sura Faraj, Keciko, Stephanie Harling, Holly Haebig, John Curran, Rebecca Derenne, Soyoung Park, Terianne Petzold, Rebecca Cors, Hiroko Washizu, Michael Moynihan, Barbara Leigh, Janine Arseneau, Matt and Abigail Schumwinger and the Leo unit (I wasn’t supposed to lift you but your hug heals), Mary Kelly, wiki-gnome Tegan Dowling, the brains behind Cardiac Therapy at St. Francis: Jill, Anna, Crystale, Lorene and Debbie and the brilliant hospital staff on Suite A, and the last who will ever be first, that chauffeur who always gives my mind a ride, James Godsil.
in memoriam: Dad, Mom, John Faragher, Father Bob Draeger
unaware of me, but teachers forever: Kurt Vonnegut, Wislawa Szymborska, Ariel Dorfman, Harold Bloom, A. R. Ammons, Pjotr Kropotkin.
And if I forgot anyone, please wake up my memory. Gratitude is the elixir of a long life. And, Let’s Party.
Hearts - A Knife-Side View of our Community