WEDNESDAY WONDERING

When A Regular Guy Goes Missing, by Rich Paschall

It was just about time for Tiffany’s favorite customer to arrive, so she took a spot at the server’s station. That was located at the end of a long bar.  There, between the bar and the back wall, was an area for water, extra glasses and silverware.  Neatly tucked into an alcove was a computer with a touch screen.  On the modern device, the waitresses could place their orders which would go back to the kitchen or alert the bar tender of something to prepare. They also had a spot to bring dirty dishes for handsome young Hispanic bus boys to take to the back kitchen.  It was not unusual for a waitress to be there, but Tiffany was there for a particular reason.

From the end of the bar, at the server’s station, one could look down the length of the Wild West Restaurant and Sports Bar and see the front door. When Tiffany’s favorite customer arrived promptly at 1 pm, Tiffany planned to direct him to a table that was in her serving area.  If he sat outside that area, she would have to let one of the others wait on Harold. She just did not like that idea.

Tiffany had started working at the restaurant and bar three years earlier.  She was in her earlier 30’s then and had a friendly and energetic way that got her hired by the hard-working managers.  After a while, she became a favorite waitress for many of the regular patrons.  She usually worked through the lunch hour and into the early evening. Sometimes she covered on a later shift where drunken patrons tipped her well.  Despite that, she still preferred the afternoons.

After she was well established at the restaurant, a retired gentlemen from the Midwest became a regular Wednesday and Saturday afternoon customer.  He was very punctual, arriving right at 1 pm each time.  Tiffany knew his order and he was easy to serve.  When Tiffany had left for a few months to try a new, and allegedly exciting place, she found she missed the atmosphere and the friends at the Wild West.  She did not realize how much like family they were until she went away.  The customers were nice, the managers were fair and friendly and the other waitresses were like sisters.  When she got the opportunity, she returned.

Gulf Coast

Harold started coming to the Wild West Restaurant and Sports bar shortly after he had left the cold Midwest climate for sunny retirement on the Gulf Coast of Florida.  He liked the Soup and Sandwich special each Wednesday and Saturday so he quickly made that part of his schedule.  You see, Harold was very well-organized and when he put something on his schedule, you could depend that he would follow through on it. That’s why all of the employees knew Harold was about to walk in the door.

Tiffany had a sweet spot for Harold, as the saying goes.  Even though he did not say a lot, she found him rather endearing.  She looked forward to his dependability as well as his smile.  It just sort of indicated that there was some order in the world.  Despite the lack of conversation, she knew he appreciated these twice weekly visits

When the front door opened at 1 pm, Tiffany was ready with a smile, but the patron was not Harold.  Nevertheless, she politely smiled as a young man took a seat where Tiffany had planned to place Harold.  It was OK, there were other places for Harold that he would like.  A few empty tables had a good view of one of the televisions.  So, she brought the young man water and a menu and returned to the server’s station.  She tried to watch the door diligently, but the lunch crowd kept taking her away from her post.

At 13:30 it was apparent something was wrong.  Time had gone by quickly before Tiffany realized Harold was late. He always came through the door at the exact minute.  Some days she was convinced he waited around outside for a few minutes so he could be precisely on time at 1 pm. This particular Wednesday he was not there at 1, 1:30 or at 2.  Harold did not arrive for lunch.

Tiffany’s disappointment was noticeable to her coworkers.  She liked how nicely Harold fit into the routine, and now he was missing.  Could he have gone to another restaurant?  Could he have scheduled some place new?  Could she have lost her favorite customer?  Questions swirled through her head. What could possibly be the answer? Perhaps he was sick.  Perhaps he had an accident.  Perhaps he was stuck at home and had to make his own lunch.  Whatever was the issue, she hoped Harold was doing well and had good food.

At that very hour Harold was indeed having lunch.  A middle-aged nurse, who looked like she had not slept for a day or two, was hanging a fresh bag to feed Harold intravenously directly with the stomach tube. It was not the sort of meal he was used to on a Wednesday afternoon, but it seems he was in no position to object as the stroke had left him rather speechless.  Today’s meal definitely was not on his schedule.

Note: The next Harold story appears in two weeks.

SUNSHINE, SPRING TRAINING AND SURVIVAL

The missing Harold mystery, Rich Paschall

George and his ever talkative wife Martha had just about enough of the Midwest winter. They were tired of snow,  tired of cold. At close-to-retirement age, they were just plain tired. When another cold night forced them to stay at home rather than visit a favorite neighborhood stop, they realized there was only one thing which could pull them through to warmer weather. Baseball! Right then and there, they began to talk about a trip to sunny Florida for a round of spring training games.

A year before, they had traveled to Florida on a rare road trip to see the Chicago Cubs play. The Cubs lost, of course, but they deemed the trip a success. They had visited a ball park other than Wrigley Field, spent a day at the beach, and wandered through town to do some typical tourist shopping. They had some very hot days, but did not suffer the kind of stifling humidity Lake Michigan can serve up in July. Now, in March, they were ready to go south again.

Always sunny Florida?

Always sunny Florida?

George sat down with spring schedules to see what teams would be playing, so that he could  find the best matches for the days they could go to Florida. Martha researched the ball parks themselves and the surrounding night spots on the internet. When they had chosen a few games they might like to see, they looked at hotels, air fares and rental cars. After a full night of debate and delay, they made their choices.

They would return to the familiar spots of St. Petersburg. From there they could go to Tampa to see the Yankees, then down to Bradenton to catch the Pirates and from there to Sarasota to see the Orioles.

Unlike the famous George and Martha of Broadway play and movie fame, this couple rarely had arguments. In fact, they were in agreement on just about anything that meant parties and good times. When almost all of their arrangements were in place, and they were congratulating themselves on another “road trip extraordinaire”, Martha had one more good idea. Of course, the good idea may have been fueled by the German beer she had been drinking all night, but it was an interesting idea, nonetheless.

“Why don’t we call old Harold for the game in Bradenton or Sarasota?” Martha blurted out as if her head had been hit by a rock and she was stunned silly.

“Harold!” George shouted with glee. “That’s a wonderful idea. The old boy probably needs a road trip anyway. Let’s give lucky old Harold a call.”

While Martha dutifully looked for Harold’s phone number, George wondered why the little tapper of Dortmunder beer had run dry. “I am headed to the basement, ” George called out. “I have to find another one of these big cans of beer. You killed the last one.”

“I did no such thing, George,” Martha lied.

When the twosome finally met back at the kitchen table, each was carrying the object of their search. “Well dial the phone and hand it over, old woman,” George said with a laugh.

“I am not as old as you, wise guy,” Martha said as she handed over the phone. Both began to giggle and laugh like school kids up to no good. The phone rang away as the couple talked on until George finally realized there must have been at least 20 rings. He hung up.

“I can not imagine that Harold is not home at this hour. He was never out late.” It was true, of course. In all his life Harold was rarely out at night, and since he retired and moved to Florida, he was always home by dark.

“He’s probably sleeping, you nit wit,” Martha declared. “Let’s give him another try tomorrow.” And so they did. In fact, they called for several days in a row and at different times of day, but Harold never answered. When the day of the trip arrived, Harold was not part of the plan.

Undeterred by their lack of success at lining up Harold for a game, they resolved to try him again once they landed at the Florida airport. They departed from Chicago’s Midway airport. Unbelievably, it was once the busiest airport in the country, but that was before the jet age. Now the crowded airport just seemed like the busiest airport. St. Petersburg airport, on the other hand, was in stark contrast, even for spring training. The crowd was small and the rental car line was short. The couple got their car, got to their hotel, and got on the phone. Still, there was no Harold.

“I hope the old guy is OK,” Martha said, finally voicing more than a bit of concern.

“Sure, Harold is just fine,” George insisted. “He is probably at some nice restaurant right now being fussed over by some cute waitresses. Don’t worry.”

At that very moment Harold was being fussed over by some weary nurses at the Intensive Care Unit of the county hospital. This trip, the retired planner from the Midwest was going to miss the endlessly talkative George and Martha.

Note:  The next Harold story appears in 3 short weeks.

THE COMMITTEE

My cousin called. It’s nice hear from her, good to remember I have some living family remaining. There used to be a lot more of us. When we were all a good deal younger, we used to see each other sometimes at family events. Anyway, we got to talking about insomnia. It’s part of the “older person” package of goodies. I commented my problem is the committee. Its endless meetings. Just when I want to sleep, the meetings begin.

First up, the Scheduling Committee. Dental, doctor, and veterinary appointments. Vacation dates. Taxes. When the snow melts, we’ll have to get someone to take a look at the siding and the roof. See what needs repair.

Enter the Maintenance Committee. They get to worry about the aging heating system. The once new, now not-so-new refrigerator, range, freezer. Water heater. Doors, windows. And let’s not forget the well. Exhausted, I drift off for a while, but I’m awake and alert in time for the Family Concerns Committee.

Indian corn in kitchen window

The Family Concerns Group obsesses over health issues. Is Garry just tired, or is there some lurking disease? Is my shortness of breath because I’m old and out of shape, or something more sinister? Next up, worry about the kids and the granddaughter’s college education. And the dogs. Can’t forget the dogs.

I don’t even want to discuss the obsessive number crunching of Ways and Means. Complain, complain, complain. They just want to know where I’m going to get the money for everything. Shut up, already. I have no idea how I get from month to month and I’d just as soon not examine it too closely!

Wait! Another committee? Oh, right. Now it is time for the meeting of the Ecological and International Affairs Committee, an umbrella group that focuses on the economy. War. Global warming — which admittedly seems less an immediate threat right now than usual.

Melting ice caps. Disappearing polar bears. Besieged elephants, lions, tigers, rhinoceroses, and wolves. Where are the birds? Have they have survived this terrible month of bitter cold, snow, and ice? And the swans? I worry about swans. And geese. And ducks. Let’s not forget bats. We no longer have bats. They are all dead from an accidentally imported bat plague.

Bees. We are running out of hives. If we have no bees, there won’t be food. Which might be good for the planet. Fewer people equals less pollution. By the time the committees adjourn, the sun is up and I’m exhausted. Aren’t you? How are your committees? Had any good meetings lately?

What’s on tonight’s agenda?


Think Global, Act Local – “Think global, act local.” Write a post connecting a global issue to a personal one.

MISSING MONDAY – RICH PASCHALL

In Need of a Plan, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Bill rolled over to take a look at the alarm clock. It was almost 8:30 so he decided to spring into action. He never set the alarm clock. He saw no need. He was retired and had always longed for the time when the alarm clock was not to be used to alarm him out of his sleep. Some days he got up by 7:30 am, other days it was 10. It depended largely on how late he stayed up reading or watching television.

Since he needed to make a call at 9 am, the affable retiree rushed about the house in a rather disorderly fashion, leaving a bit of a mess in his wake. That did not bother him as there would be plenty of time later to clean up the place. Now he was making coffee and giving just the slightest thought as to what he would buy today at the supermarket.

The only thing Bill tried to be punctual at all week was the Monday call to his neighbor, Harold, who lived just a few doors down. The way Bill saw it, old Harold probably relied on the weekly call.

The Midwest planner from down the block seemed to know no one and had little contact with the world. Bill was convinced he was doing Harold a big favor. He did not know exactly how Harold felt about the weekly sojourn to the giant Publix supermarket, however. It must have been a Monday highlight for the newly retired neighbor and new friend.

A very quiet neighborhood

The quiet neighborhood

A quick glance out the window revealed a perfect Florida morning. Bill loved this area of Florida. In honesty, he settled there because the property values were quite depressed in Sarasota County after the big recession, and he got a good deal in a good neighborhood of old timers, like himself.

Now it was time to help out an old guy who needed a friend, so he called Harold on his AARP phone and waited for his tentative voice to respond. Bill was quite amused as he thought of the same surprised tone Harold had each Monday morning when he answered the phone.

Much to the amazement of Bill, there was no response. He let the phone ring a long time before giving up. “I wonder what the old guy is up to this morning,” Bill thought. So he decided to wander down the street and ring Harold’s doorbell.

As he went up the steps to the front door, a voice called out. “You ain’t gonna find no body at home, young man,” Harold’s next door neighbor called out as Bill chuckled to himself. Not too many people referred to him as “young man.” In fact, no one did. He turned around and walked in the direction of a woman who did seem to be a lot older than Bill or Harold.

Mabel Crockett was well into her eighties but still rather spry. She kept up on the neighbors by frequently finding an excuse to do things around the outside of the house. It was unnecessary as there was an Association to deal with maintenance and yard work, but she liked checking up on things.

“So where is old Harold this morning?” Bill asked in a cheery tone.

“They carted him off pretty early, I reckon,” Mabel said in a deep southern drawl.

“What?” an astounded Bill exclaimed.
“Well I ain’t one to meddle in other folks’ affairs,” she lied, “but I seen that Sunday paper still settin’ there on that landing he calls a porch, so I just took a walk over there. In the back I could see he was, uh, just layin’ there on the ground in that screened in patio. So I went on home, dialed 911, and it’s a good thing.”

“Good thing?” Bill questioned.

“Why, he was still breathin’ when they loaded him into that big ol’ ambulance. Leastwise, I think he was still breathing. The young feller drivin’ that big vehicle said he still seemed kinda fresh.”

“Fresh?  That seems a strange way to put it,” Bill said with a rather incredulous tone.

“Well, I guess it was because he couldn’t a been layin’ there too long. Anyways, they said they was taking him over to the general hospital. Right over here a piece,” she said pointing to the south.

“Oh my,” Bill responded with a great deal of concern. He said good-bye to the old woman and rushed to his car.

72-StPete-Pelican_2When he arrived at the general hospital, he went right to the emergency room and inquired about Harold. His questions only got questions in return. “What time did he arrive? What was the problem? Did he come by ambulance or did someone bring him?” Finally, the lady without the answers invited him to take a seat and someone would come out shortly. By “shortly” she must have meant an hour.

After the long wait, a nurse with a clipboard in hand appeared. “Are you here about the elderly gentlemen who had a stroke?”

“Stroke!” Bill exclaimed as he got all choked up about someone he barely knew.

“Yes,” she said calmly. “Are you the next of kin?”

“No.”

“A relative perhaps?”

“No.”

“Do you know who is next of kin or related somehow?”

“No.”

“Do you know who his doctor is?”

The series of questions went on until Bill finally explained that he was just a neighbor. In fact, Bill did not even know Harold’s last name.  The nurse looked disappointed but thanked Bill anyway and went back to her station. Bill followed.

“Excuse me, nurse, will I be able to see him?” Bill inquired.

“No, only immediate family,” she explained.

“But we don’t know if he has immediate family,” Bill said with a sense of urgency.

“I’m sorry,” she said as if she has had to say that a thousand times before.

As he left the hospital Bill realized that the master planner from the Midwest had no plan for this. Although Bill rarely planned anything, he decided he better go home and make one.

Note:  The next “Harold story” appears in two weeks.

THE COMEBACK

The first thought I had this morning was “The phone is ringing. Answer the phone.” Getting to the phone from bed is a stretch and a twist. I could make it easier by moving my Disney “Someday my Prince will come” lamp, which would make it harder to reach. I use my lamp more than I use my phone, so the phone stays put.

Regardless, answering a ringing phone from a dead sleep is one of my more acrobatic moves. Most times, when it rings early in the day, it is either a telemarketer or a doctor’s office reminding me about an appointment. This time, it was a friend from whom I was very glad to hear.

Ice Dam Feb HDR

“Hey R. !” I said. You’ve got to love Caller ID.

“I’m alive,” he said. He sounded great. Considering he had two heart valves replaced during the past week, that’s not such a small thing. I was amazed, delighted. Impressed he sounds so perky and clear-headed.

R. goes way back. We met at the college radio station, where it seems everything important to me began. He was 13. I was not quite 18. I felt very superior, being so much more mature than he.

He had such a baby face, full of freckles. He still does, though the hair has become mixed with gray. Such a kid. Our lives continued to intersect throughout the decades. When he was 14, he got cancer. He was treated. Went into remission. Decided to skip college because he figured he was going to die young. Not.

He taught himself computer programming and morphed into a cracker jack software developer. He learned to fly and bought a small plane. I got to fly … even a pretend run as “co-pilot.” It was fun, and scary, and made me realize I love to fly … as a passenger. No piloting for me, thanks.

He went to live in Brussels. I went to live in Jerusalem. Both of us came back and married. My first husband — with whom we were all friends because he ran the college radio station where we all met — died following a mismanaged mitral valve replacement. I was married to Garry by then, having met Garry at that same radio station. No exaggeration — everything started there.

So you can see why everyone in our crowd is more than normally nervous about heart valve replacements, even though Jeff’s death was at least partly his fault — but more the fault of an arrogant doctor who failed to take the most fundamental precautions in post operative care.

Hearing from R. was wonderful and heartening. He had two valves replaces, the mitral and the aortic. He had previously, some years back, had a coronary bypass, so he was a little cranky this surgery. He takes exceptionally good care of himself — and his wife, M., would personally fight back death with her bare hands. I wouldn’t mess with her.

We had talked several times about surgeons, hospitals, mechanical versus tissue valves. I explained why I preferred tissue. No blood thinners and with all the other medical issues I’ve got, who needs to deal with that too? R. is not exactly free of other medical problems, either. He’s got that cancer lurking in the background, so less is more where medication is concerned.

But he sounded terrific. Alert. Alive. He made it. If you live around here and you need serious heart surgery, I highly recommend Beth Israel. They are terrific. If there’s such a thing as a great hospital experience, you will have it there. I don’t say this lightly, having been resident in pretty much every one of Boston’s highly regarded facilities.

R. is going to be okay. I could hear it in his voice. He sounds better less than a week post op than I sound 11 months after mine.

It is deeply reassuring to not lose another friend. Given how the herd has thinned, we are even more precious to one another than we have been in the past. No more taking for granted.

This totally made not only my day, but possibly my year.


Daily Prompt: First Light – Remember when you wrote down the first thought you had this morning? Great. Now write a post about it.

WHAT’S GOING AROUND HAS COME AROUND

About 10 days ago, Garry and I got sick. Coughing. Wheezing. Sore throats. Runny noses. Chills one minute, sweating the next. The perfect storm of a classic winter cold. My son came down with it at the same time as did half the people with whom I’m in touch on the Internet. We all have the dreaded What’s Going Around.

We get sick every winter. Every damned winter. It doesn’t seem to matter what we do. We get sick anyway. We faithfully get our flu shots, but what comes around is never what it was we got vaccinated for. We tried to have a conversation earlier this evening. I couldn’t hear him because my ears are blocked. He couldn’t talk any louder because his throat is so sore. Then we both started to cough, then laugh, which made us cough more.

Danger lurks. No one is reclusive enough to avoid What’s Going Around. The worst places (in order of threat level) are a doctor’s waiting room. The drug pickup area at the pharmacy. The grocery store. A dentist’s waiting room. Really, any place where people gather in the winter is a place full of germs. We are doomed.

me sicko

Whatever we are suffering is never the flu. We have all the symptoms, but it’s not what it looks like. Even though this year’s flu vaccine wasn’t quite on target for the mutated strain that showed up. Oops. The CDC takes their best information and base the vaccine on it. They usually get it right, but sometimes, the flu that shows up isn’t the one they prepared for. Double oops.

We’ve already been told — on the phone, without an examination because all those other sick people are clogging the office — we do not have the flu. Is this supposed to make us feel better?

I’ve been trying to smile. To not whine all the time, which is what I feel like doing. I’ve got a ton of stuff I need to do and feel too crappy to do it. We are snowed in.  I can barely haul my aging, aching carcass and a camera to a door to take a few pictures of this impressively deep snow.

It’s hard for me to stay cheerful when I feel exactly as bad today as I did a week ago, if not slightly worse. So does Garry. And Owen. None of us is better than last week. I think I’m worse. But the doctor says it’s viral, so there’s nothing she can do.

I’m not cheerful. I feel like my lungs are full of liquid. As if I’m being water boarded by a virus. I know it’s just a winter cold. It will go away. They always go away. I wish it would go away very soon. Now would be good.

AT THE HEART OF THE MATTER

Re-springing Your Step – Tell us about the last experience you had that left you feeling fresh, energized, and rejuvenated. What was it that had such a positive effect on you?


It was just about a year ago when I discovered the heart murmur I’d had since early childhood was not just noise. It was a badly damaged mitral valve, and the aortic valve was in trouble, too. The heart muscle, trying to compensate for the inefficient mitral valve, had grown huge, trying to push blood through the ventricle. The muscle was so oversized, it was blocking the valve. I wasn’t getting oxygen.

72-pacemaker_2I was having trouble breathing. I was pale, weak. And I didn’t think much of it. Heart problems don’t manifest dramatically. They creep up on you. You are tired. You do less. You avoid stairs, limit activity.

I believed my heart was the one organ I didn’t need to worry about. I ascribed all my symptoms to other conditions. Asthma. After-effects of cancer. Arthritis. Bursitis. Other stuff.

When one has many overlapping medical conditions, it’s easy to assume whatever is going on, is probably one of them. It will pass, I told myself.

The local “doctor” colluded with me in pretending everything was hunky dory. I’d been getting an EKG every year. Every year, they told me “you’re FINE.” I took it at face value, a gift horse. I wasn’t about to examine its teeth.

My supposed cardiologist showed no interest and even less alarm, at my situation. He didn’t have time to see me personally. Dr. Brownstein — a very busy man I was assured and my so-called cardiologist of record — never actually saw me. He sent me to his young nurse practitioner to pass along messages, omitting to mention the cardio myopathy in the left ventricle. At that point, no one suspected I also needed a bypass for a clogged artery. No one ran any tests.

Dr Brownstein when I finally saw him — 6 months after it was determined my mitral valve was failing —  said I should wait until my heart completely failed, then deal with it. He said — this is a quote — “You can manage with a bad valve for years.” Big happy smile. The asshole.

72-Bette'sPix_05

I was coming out of my self-induced fugue state. I went online and searched for surgeons specializing in minimally invasive repair of mitral valves. I knew, from reading about it, that the best course was always to repair ones own “original equipment.” Not always possible, but always worth trying. If it didn’t work, the surgeon would use a replacement valve — fashioned from the tissue of a pig or cow — or a mechanical valve.

I didn’t want a mechanical valve because they require a lifetime of blood thinners. Also, my first husband died of complications following implantation of a mechanical mitral valve. Bad history.

I found a doctor. An excellent cardiac surgeon. He ran tests, including an expanded EKG. It showed the mitral valve to be in very poor shape, but he though there was a slight chance he could save it. As for the aortic valve and the big muscle blocking it, he’d carve that out. He was sure he could save the aortic valve.

Heart surgeons cover emergencies and Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston is a premier cardiac facility, so patients come from everywhere. I was rescheduled four times before my number came up. Finally, I was in the hospital. More tests. Intrusive nasty tests. They didn’t give me nearly enough drugs. There are things I’d rather not remember.

Finally, D-Day. They opened me up. It was evident the tests hadn’t told the whole story. The mitral valve was not working at all and there was almost no blood passing through the aortic valve, either. How I was managing to survive was an interesting question. And I needed a bypass. And some other stuff.

The surgery lasted almost 8 hours and they kept me in a medical coma for 48 hours afterwards. If you think you can’t feel pain when you are in a medically induced coma, you’re wrong. You can feel pain just fine. You just can’t do anything about it. I was hurting. But it was a very fine hospital and at no point did I feel anything but safe and protected. These people had me. Never was there a moment when I felt in danger, even if I was. After determining my heart would not beat on its own, I had one final surgery to implant the pacemaker.

I got home at the beginning of April. I was a physical and emotional mess. Over the weeks and months, I sorted it out. Pain eased off slowly. The the 6-month mark passed and my breast bone was not healed. Now, at almost a year …. it’s close. It doesn’t grind as much.

self 4-27-2914 marilyn

More important, the spring is coming back. It’s a tiny spring. I’ve had cortisone shots in my hips and walk better. My back is the same. It can’t get better, but applications of heat and gentle exercise might keep it from getting worse.  I’m beginning to feel like someone I know.

So, what put the spring back in my step? Heart surgery and lots of it. A mitral valve replacement. Cardiomyectomy and aortic valve repair. Cardiac bypass. A pacemaker. Two big shots of cortisone in my hips and a year of healing.

Everything isn’t perfect. I’ve got so many replacement parts, it’s funny. Two breast implants, a pacemaker, something else in there that works with the pacemaker, and of course, a replacement mitral valve. And each piece has a serial number. I carry a wallet full of cards with all the serial numbers.

That’s what brought a semblance of spring to my step. Not quite like the spring of youth, but I can walk, climb a few stairs. That’s something. That’s a lot of something.

MORE THAN SKIN

New Skin – If you could spend the next year as someone radically different from the current “you” — a member of a different species, someone from a different gender or generation, etc. — who would you choose to be?


winter sun January hadley

I can’t imagine wanting to be anyone (or anything) but me. Perhaps in a dream, I’d be a horse or an eagle. Or a dolphin. But that’s dream stuff, not living.

When I was a teenager, in those hyper hormonal years of Hell, I wanted to anyone but me — though even then, I never wanted to be anything other than human. I grew out of that pretty quickly and by the time I got into my 20s, was already fond of myself. At least the brainy part.

I’ve always had issues with my body. Ill health has stalked me from early on. By the time I was in my late 20s, I used to laugh, tell people that, with the help of modern medicine, I’m living proof the unfit can survive.

So here I am, alive and still complaining. I’m sure someone elsewhere has even more after-market replacement parts than me, but I don’t know him/her/them. I’m sure I’ll never be an unidentified Jane Doe on Ducky’s autopsy table because I carry 4 cards with serial numbers identifying various implanted pieces — pacemaker, two breast implants, and a heart valve. The piece of plastic fibula in my right leg predates serial numbers and two pieces were put in, but subsequently removed when they didn’t work.

So here’s the thing. I don’t want to be someone or something else. Not for a year or a day. What I want is to be is me. An all-original, functional version. With no arthritis or heart problems. Without cancer or bursitis.  Supple young skin, and silky, thick hair in a blanket down my back. I would like the perfect complexion my friends so envied and which I never appreciated until it was gone. I’d like my teeth and stomach too, please.

Fantasy aside, I’ll hang on to me, grateful to be alive. It’s New Year’s Day, 2015. A beautiful, bright, sunshiny day in the heart of winter. I ever-so-slightly over-baked the blueberry pie, but the prime rib will be perfect.

I will do my best to make this an excellent year.