Here's to joy...
Forgive me for the length of this note, but several friends have asked me to provide an update on my health. This is the only way I can keep in touch with most of my dear friends, co-workers, and loved ones now.
My doctor has put me on a strong dose of medicine (it's in the same "family" as Lyrica for those familiar with that med) in an attempt to calm the damaged nerve that doctors believe is causing these debilitating headaches. The early returns are that the med knocks me out and makes me slightly nauseated and hurting in my wrists. Constant nausea -- either from the headaches or side effects from medicine -- means that I usually only feel like eating one small meal a day. I want to emphasize for those who missed my very first posts on Facebook, in the Shopper-News, and on my blog back in April that my condition is NOT terminal -- thank the Lord. There is only a slight chance that continuous severe migraines can cause a "migraine stroke."
If this approach doesn't work, my doctor advises what I've already been thinking -- seeking help at a research facility (Cleveland Clinic, Mayo, Vanderbilt, Duke).
I won't lie. The days are difficult. It's a daily toss-up whether the migraine-like headaches are going to be moderate (say a 5 on the 1-10 scale) or severe (7 or above). I spend each day in a cool, dark room and cannot tolerate light or noise. I spend my days thinking, sleeping, dreaming -- mostly about moving to the Mississippi Gulf, Hawaii or southern California.
I can no longer read, write (this note has taken all my strength), listen to music, or even read the newspaper. I can, on a good day, scan Facebook or Twitter to see what's in the news and what's going on in the lives of you, my friends. I feel so lucky, though -- even though I am disabled, I see so many with cancer, heart-related problems, etc., and feel like I'm fortunate. My heart goes out to all of you who are hurting in any way.
My illness -- which dates back to complications from a surgery I had last year -- and recent events, especially the tragic school bus accident in East Knox County that killed three, including two young children, has reminded me that one can't take anything for granted. Each day is a gift, and nothing here is guaranteed. I have lost my ability to work, to function daily, to enjoy all the simple things I love and took for granted -- writing, working, reading, crossword puzzles, listening to music, old radio shows, or news on radio/TV. So many others have lost so much more, including loved ones, and could be staring terminal illnesses right in the face. It puts things in perspective.
There's much more I want to say, but I've worked on this note on and off for some time and have gotten sick. I do want you to know that I love each and every one of you. Those who have brought me food, sent me notes of encouragement, made phone calls on my behalf, sat with me while I slept, took me to doctors' appointments or surgeries, done favors both large and small -- I can never thank you enough. To all of you who ask my family, friends, and co-workers about me, I thank you, too. All of this, you see, keeps me going.
To my family, what can I say? Even though we have more than our share of illnesses right now, we've somehow made it this far. I love you and thank you for what you've done for me. My best Christmas present would be that we're all happy and healthy.
I have read so much hatred of late, and I think life is way too short, WAY too short, to let hatred rule your heart. I used to get fired up about politics or this or that myself, but when you suddenly find yourself immobile and living with constant pain, or see loved ones struggle daily, or watch friends fight illnesses, or read about the death of someone as young as 5 or 6, your priorities change.
Just -- please -- pause, take a deep breath, recognize, as Carl Sagan once said, “Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let them live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”
You don't know how badly, how much I would give to be back out there, seeking stories of humanity, trying to share them with you through words or rhyme.
You don't know how much I'd love to hear Robinella, Sarah Clapp, Paul Brewster, The Black Lillies, and Phil Leadbetter sing or pick live again, or enjoy a beverage and a ball game with Mike Finn. Or hang out with Brad, Bill, Robert, Jim, and "the gang," or go on Friday night dinners with Robert and Diana. Or simply to be able to listen to Bing Crosby on the turntable.
You don't know how much I'd enjoy laughing or joking about our "Twilight Zone"-like ESP connection with Ross Southerland, or talking with Tom Mayer or Brandon Hollingsworth -- who have to be brothers from different mothers, because our interests are so similar and esoteric -- or enjoy the company of the Halls Women's League, the Fountain City Lions Club or the Northside Kiwanis.
Bethany and Danny -- I owe you a lot. Your kindness and graciousness has been nothing short of amazing.
The weekly or by-monthly notes from friends on Facebook -- you have no idea how much they've meant.
I miss Ruth White's laughter and sarcastic wit, singing with Emily, doing my Ted Baxter voice for Shannon ("Hey, Mare!), trying to make the gals in compo (Sara, Kathryn, Patrice) laugh with my impressions, and, yes, I even miss trying to live up to Sandra's expectations. She made me a better writer, and for that, I'll always be grateful. Libby, Judy, Carol, Wendy, Cindy, Anne, all of you are dearly missed.
You don't know how much I miss Saturday nights at Shelton's, phone calls with Dean, planning a drive to see Dewayne and Bridget, or the love of a good woman. You don't know how much I miss dinners with the Rat and John D., or the annual trip to see Marvin and Sarah West. You don't know how much I hope to still keep those lunch appointments with Lola Alapo, Carly Harrington, Thomas Deakins and Mike Cohen. You don't know how much I hope I can go vinyl hunting with Spencer or Janna again. (Jack and Maria, I hope to see you again soon!) And dear Rheta -- I'm gonna make it to Fishtrap Hollow one of these days, come hell or high water. Give my best to Hines.
You don't know how much I hope to be back in the D with David and Jen. You don't know how much I hope I can make a minor league game with Kurt or even drive over to Charlotte and relax on Sonia's deck again. You don't know how much I want to fly out to California and finally make it to Coronado with Chuck. And, even though WATE was stupid enough to let Gene Patterson go, I hope that he, Cortney Piper, George Korda, Craig Griffith and I can be on a panel or something again.
You don't know how much it hurt to be unable to attend Drew Weaver's wedding, Scott Bacon's retirement party and 100 other things. Trust me when I say I was there in spirit.
I miss all of you, my friends, you dear people who have made this journey so sweet. And it is a sweet, sweet dream.
"Sometimes I fly like an eagle; sometimes I'm deep in despair."
I'll leave the last word to the late Carl Sagan and update you later as I can. I've made an extra effort to write this update, mainly to thank you, and to be honest, I've made myself sick. But it was worth it to tell you I love you.
"In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty," Sagan said. "And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends on how well we know this cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky.”
Here's to joy, my friends. Here's to joy.