Just Venting

Tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. I go into Lenox Hill Hospital for a 1:30 p.m. surgery date with Dr. Paresh Shah.  The event is the closing of a pouch that has opened off my esophagus and increasingly over the last 3 years interfered with my eating while encouraging both my belching and vomiting.  On the positive side, it has also led to my losing about 15 pounds and developing a mutually beneficial relationship with the fine folks who manufacture, distribute and profit from Ensure, milk shakes and a remarkable variety of soups and hot fudge sundaes.  Still on the up side, the diverticulum has led me to eat taking small bites slowly, chewing thoroughly and being content with less food per meal.  In short and often sweet–and Buddhistically abstract– the virtues of patience and persistence are closer to being significantly more mine than ever before.

Some other ultimately positive consequences of this particular turn of fate:

  • Both my primary care physician, a Dr. Altman (who is actually quite young and who is now my PCP because my designated PCP, Dr. Aron,  has apparently decided that my health is not sufficiently interesting that he would enjoy or be challenged  continuing in that role) and my cardiologist, Dr. Janis, who replaced my now retired cardiologist, Dr. Cagin, in approving me for surgery both suggested that a man of my 70 years would do wisely to either reduce his work hours or retire altogether.
  • My work supervisor, when made aware of the opinions of these gentlemen through my expressed desire to comply with their wisdom, denied my request to lop 8 hours off my weekly schedule while offering no opposition to the social worker whom I [allegedly] supervise reducing his work week by 10 hours.
  • For the second time in 17 years I am actually considering working somewhere other than Samaritan Village’s Highbridge facility.  Both fortunately and unfortunately the city is filled with opportunities to help those struggling with addictions, criminality, fear and denial.  Chances are actually pretty good that someone out there (HEY!  ARE YOU READING THIS, SOMEONE OUT THERE?) will find me appropriate to join with them in this deeply rewarding work.
  • Me being more in love with Bobbie than ever!  (I could try and try mightily to explain this, but I’d fail.  You have to believe me on this one.)  I did just upload this photo of her and Mrs. Sipowicz onto my MP3 player.

The mp3


valuable possession I’ll have with me in the hospital–despite being told “Bring no valuablepossessions.”  It’ll hold about 65 music albums and photos of family and friends and a special and separate album of this particular snap.  I’ve known Bobbie since 1957.  She’s never looked or been more beautiful than she is now.  I mean, look at those weird-assed toes!  Does Kim Kardashian have toes like that?  Or Kate Bekinsale or any of A’mare’s nameless companions?  But I rhapsodize…

  • Another positive in all this is that, rather than simply accepting and living with the diverticulum, I am accepting and living with the possibilities of modern medicine.  Two years ago I underwent a procedure to open the sucker wider so that nothing would actually get trapped in it.  Result: a failure from the git-go.  Then came two years of working hard to live with it, only to see it grow more and more demanding, more and more intrusive of my relationship with lobsters, pizza and Elisia’s pulled pork.  It wasn’t that I feared this surgery, but rather that I’d lost faith in medicine’s ability to actually succeed.  While that faith hasn’t been restored, my feeling now is, “What the hell.  They’ve got to earn a living too.  Let’s give this another try before I lose/give up my job and no longer have health insurance that matters.”
  • There’s also great satisfaction in knowing that the paperwork is done: the Living Will, Advance Directive and the pledge of my corpse to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine are written and delivered, and that, in the event of a massive foul-up, all I own or lay claim to will go to Bobbie.
  • I didn’t think of this one before, but I may have been motivated to put my photo book, See All As My Path!, on sale as  a way for folks to have access to some tangible artifact of my having passed through.  Interesting it is, how Buddhism and age and a year studying the foundations of chaplaincy and volunteering in a hospice seem to have taken much of the sting out of thinking and writing of my own death.  Of course this is no guarantee against my coming up to that final moment, bursting into tears and screaming at the then top of my lungs, “NOOOOOO!”  Whatever, we’ll find out then.


Listen, thanks for putting up with this.  I’ve not done a real rant in quite a while.  I’ve also not admitted or–often–even been aware of all I might have been feeling when it came out all of it’s own.  That’s the beauty of writing for an audience you trust.



Now here’s your final challenge: Find Snapper!

Published in: on June 25, 2012 at 9:33 pm  Comments (4)  

Later That Night…

This makes much more sense if you’ve read the blog entry called Mind, New Mind, Another Mind Altogether which is just below this one. 

This is about me and my dad.  This is the last picture I have of him.

He’s standing in front of the produce section of the Grand Union Supermarket in Bloomfield, Connecticut.  Dad kept this job, commuting a couple of hours a day on city busses to and from our flat in Hartford until it was time for him to retire, check into the hospital, live for a while with cancer and then die just before I would be graduated from college and come home wanting and needing to tell him I knew nothing and would he please explain to me what it meant to be a man and where one found the courage to be that.

Now it’s 48 years later.  It’s evening in the Chan Hall, Dharma Drum Retreat Center, Pine Bush, NY.  I’ve had dinner, rested, sat in silent meditation for a while, exercised, sat silently again and now it’s time for walking meditation.  I stand, this time not at all anticipating pains in my hip and feet, not at all feeling anger toward anyone, no fear of death or self-hatred for fearing death.  Just standing up to begin walking meditation.  A quick thought, “Is this me?” comes and goes faster than I can tell it.  We begin to walk at “normal walking” pace.  Something is happening.

No more than 10 steps into walking meditation I am aware of an intense presence at my immediate left.  It is entirely too soon for anyone to be passing me.  I look again.  The space is clearly empty–but it’s not.  There is someone next to me.  Invisible to me as well as to the others, he is my father.  Yes, unmistakably my father.  Without hesitation I reach out my left hand and feel him take it.  Hand in hand we walk in meditation around the Chan Hall for the next 15 minutes.  I talk.  He listens, assuring me all the while that he hears clearly, heart to heart, all I say and don’t say.

I tell him I love him and miss him.  Softly he lets me know that’s not all I want to say.

“Go ahead,” he urges.  “Go ahead.”  I tell him how I hate that he died when I needed him most, that–yeah, I know it was cancer and he didn’t choose it–still he abandoned me, left me to a fear and hopelessness that resulted in 20 years of terror covered over by alcohol, pot and cocaine.

“Yes,” he says.  “But there’s more.  Tell me more.”

“Yes,” I say.  “There is more.”

“Say it,” he encourages without emotion.

“I’ll say it,” my voice growling now.  “Don’t worry, I’ll say it.” My mouth twists and quivers.  My voice chokes, cracks dry.  I clear my throat.  “Even when you were there you WEREN’T there!”  I’m scared now, scared to continue and scared to stop.  “You were at work or eating dinner or reading the Hartford Times or asleep in the easy chair in front of the TV.  On weekends you’d spend Saturdays walking around on Main Street meeting and greeting all your buddies or up in the pool room doing the same damn’ thing.  On Sundays you’d be at Grandma’s or watching a ball game with Uncle Jack or playing rummy or some such shit.  You never had time for me.  You never listened to me or asked me anything about my life.  You never taught me anything.”

I felt his eyes lower.  His hand grew warmer in mine and almost tense, as if he were struggling not to speak.  I started to feel guilty and wanted to take back what I’d said.  But that, of course, was impossible.  Words uttered in silence are not retractable.  Nothing now but silence enveloping us, uniting us.  And then an image so clear of my hand in his, the year perhaps 1950, my fingers still sticky from late night ice cream as we walked home in the chill night air from the bus stop after a Hartford Chiefs night game at Bulkeley Stadium…

…the image of him standing alert at the edge of the water as a friend of his taught me to swim…

…of him in the cafeteria of West Middle School being an assistant Cub Scout leader when he was too tired to stand after a day of work on his feet…

…the image of us in the refrigerated room below the Hartford Market where he would make fancy baskets of fruit to be given as gifts to folks going on cruises or dying in hospitals, him telling me he worked hard so I wouldn’t have to…

…of him sitting on the couch, my mother’s sleeping head on his shoulder when I returned after midnight from my first high school party…

…an image of him walking into the Wooster pool room while I was trying to show everybody there just how cool I was and beating my ass at game after game after game of 8 ball…

…of me all IvyLeagued up and home from my fancy-assed college for the weekend, him telling me to phone my grandmother just to say hello…

For fifteen minutes we walked, me talking and him listening, him making me feel safe and heard.  Tears falling inward, clearing the path so obscured for those 48 years.  Him, I think, feeling a father’s courage to be a father, to hear the truth knowing it will lead to the deeper truth, and, for the two of us, the joy of love flowing freely again.

Published in: on June 10, 2012 at 9:20 pm  Comments (16)