Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Small Step

JFK said, before he died, that America would put a man on the moon in the same decade.  It did. 

I remember July 1969 when the Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon, and Neil Armstrong descended the ladder from the module on live TV to set foot in the Sea of Tranquility to proclaim American dominance.  He said, "One small step for man, a giant leap for mankind."

I went outside at that moment to look at the bright moon and exult.  I exult no longer, because America is no longer dominant, and that was almost half a century ago.

Armstrong died today at age 82.  So many hopes, so unfulfilled.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

You Mean, Like, Right Now?

I recently developed a benign fatty tumor the size of an almond on my right forearm high up by the elbow.  I have one on my thigh too, they're not dangerous, they just . . . are there.

Except this one caused my forearm muscle to ache whenever I lifted something heavy straight up with my knuckles up, or carried something light for a long time, like a half-liter water bottle for forty minutes on a run.  So it impacted my lifestyle because it affected my running, you know?

The GP ($10 co-pay) at Kaiser passed me on to the surgeon ($20 co-pay),  I went in for a consultation with him one morning last month and explained the ache this fatty deposit caused me in my forearm.

Well, I could either live with it, he said, or have it cut out surgically.  He didn't mince words or hem and haw around.

Well, let's get it cut it out, I said, thinking of future arm-pain free running.  I started to pull out my appointment book to see when I could best schedule the outpatient procedure.

I'll do it right now, he said.  You mean right now? I asked brightly.

Yes, he said, now.  I immediately realized that I didn't quite have my mind wrapped around having a two-inch incision done right then, and then hopping off the table and going to work.

Or we could schedule it for later, he said, seeing my hesitation.  I started thinking of having to come back to Kaiser a third time, and having to pay another $20 co-pay.  I needed a moment to think and I considered asking, absurdly, Will it hurt?

Okay, I said.  Two Novocaine shots and three minutes later the fatty tissue mass has been wrested out of my arm through a long slit in the skin using tongs.

The yellow mass lay suspended in bloody liquid in a test tube while the doc put five stitches in my arm to close the incision.  The gently floating lump looked like a hocker somebody had spit into a puddle.

Don't do anything stupid to cause the stitches to come out, the doctor warned me, knowing that I was a runner.  I didn't ask him when I could go out for my next run after the surgery.

I went out for a run at noon that day, for four miles.  The wound was weeping a little by the time I got back but I think that was just perspiration being expunged from the site.

It's all healed now and the arm feels great.  I'm a big fan of proactive Kaiser, getting this done right away for only $30.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Grandfather Twilight

I was rummaging around in the basement, trying to re-order my cinder-block-and-wood bookshelf I have down there.  It's got three 12-foot long shelves filled with books I've read.  Only half of  one shelf is literature or fiction, the rest contain history, mostly Civil War or World War Two books.

I came across a slender children's book pressed between two huge historical tomes that I have been thinking about and searching for for years, Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger (c1984), which I used to read to my three kids at bedtime.  It's about a kindly bearded old man living in a hut in the woods who closes his book at the end of each day, takes a pearl from an endless strand in a locked wooden chest he keeps and, followed by his loving dog, walks to the edge of the sea to gently release the glowing orb into the sky at twilight where it slowly rises and enlarges until it becomes the moon.  Then he returns home to lay down and sleep, good night.

As I worked out the devastation bestowed upon my life by my ex when she parentally alienated my children during our interminable and obscenely expensive divorce litigation, which induced them to walk out of my life forever half a decade ago, I went over the countless wonderful things I did for and with my sons (yeah, that's right Jimmy, Johnny and Danny), and I thought often of the times I read them this wonderful book.  No matter where I looked I couldn't find our copy of it.  Not actually having it was frustrating, but divorce teaches you that possessions are mere things and immaterial and the real valuable "stuff" resides stored in your memories.

I actually have our copy of Grandfather Twilight now, after years of wishing that I had it.  The book, with its lush pictures and wonderful story, is as beautiful as I remembered.  I love this book, but not half as much as I love Jimmy, Johnny and Danny, who reside in my memory as three precious children still.

Friday, August 10, 2012


I donated my 95th unit of whole blood today; I gave my first pint in 1982.  They like my blood because it's O+, which is secondary only to O-, which can be transfused into anyone.

In eight weeks I can donate my 96th unit, which will be my 12th gallon of blood.  Imagine 12 large chlorax containers filled with bright red fluid. 

The date is circled on my calendar, as I'm trying to get to one hundred, a little goal I set for myself.  I'm on track this year to donate six times, like I did last year and one other year. 

The absolute maximum amount you can donate in a year is seven times, but only if you donate right after the new year and right before the end of the year.  You literally have to carefully plan it out, and I've only done it once before.