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Back in 2019, I would have never imagined my body’s survival into 2021. I expected to have already seen Heaven’s pearly states, a thorough life review, and some final judgment, a curt, quick command, “Away with ye.” Two months into 2021, I can honestly attest that this has been a year of death, just not mine.

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Nearly every person with a significant disease experiences peaks and valleys. One is likely to have weeks or months when everything is fantastic, bringing some level of normalcy. There are other times when you understand what’s coming is damn serious. I would categorize this past Thursday [February 11] as ‘other.’

I had been on a plateau for weeks, a state of neither God awful nor wonderfully great. Suddenly, I felt wet. It turns out I was bleeding. I had uncontrolled rectum bleeding oozed from the rectum and a dull pain emanated from the lower left part of the abdomen, probably either in or near the sigmoid colon. Diverticular bleeding occurs in the colon and produces bright red or maroon bowel movements.

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I first heard Limbaugh in 1988 driving across America. His voice ricocheted across Iowa as if each corn stalk was were a unison of antennas uplifting far-right conservatism from the depths of a relatively unknown chasm. His voice gave marginalized Americans a voice. To some extent, his views paved the way for likes of Fox News, the Tea Party, and Donald Trump. I listened, not because I overtly professed his beliefs or even liked him, more so because I recognized that this form of vitriolic pseudo-hate would likely climb out from American farmlands to impact America. I wanted to understand, but never did. Limbaugh was uncomfortable. He called HIV/AIDs ‘Rock Hudson’s disease,’ asserted ‘environmentalist wackos’ were scientists organized for a political position, women lived longer than men because they had comfortable lives, being liberal was similar to being Nazi, claimed Barack Obama was not born in the US, and argued against the dangers of smoking.

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During my first big job during my 20’s, I overheard my coworker Jamie crying two cuticles away. I could only hear one side of the conversation, his. From the nature of his tears, his father had been diagnosed ‘terminal.’ The same scene repeated over several days, to which, at one point, I thought, “Get over it. Everyone dies.”

I wasn’t as appalled at myself then as I am now. Being ‘terminal’ tends to alter one’s perspective significantly. after surviving life in a military rescue squad, I arrogantly grew to believe I could live forever, that I was invincible. Rescue that person from the edge of a cliff? Sure. No problem. Deactivate that a piece of unexploded World War II ordinance without blowing oneself to bits? Sure. No problem.

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Thank You/Thank You Not

One of the most frequent questions any of us answer nearly every day is “How are you?” Since only a handful of people know that I’m a bald, fat man on a short leash, I clench my teeth, pretend a smile and say something utterly 70’s-ish, “Groovy.” The days could be like today, near frigid conditions, blizzard, the roads suck, and bleeding from a hemorrhoid. But damn it, I still say, “Groovy.” If I want to add sarcasm, I might add ‘F***’n’ just before ‘groovy.’

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Here’s the deal. I have a conundrum of thoughts. These thoughts are in no particular order. As a result, my readers will have to accept a free form of ‘whatever’ today. Blog writer Julie Williams once said she felt brokenly alive. If two words ever summarized my life at this moment, ‘brokenly alive’ would be them.

I know it’s only February, but 2021 has been a crappy year. Not only was I was extremely ill for a large portion of January, but several people I have known and loved have died: My father, several coworkers, and my first wife (whom I loved dearly). And then my ex-mother-in-law suffered a catastrophic stroke. My ex-wife’s death hit hard. So hard that although I am supposed to be dying, I keep living. Survivor’s guilt is shredding my soul. 

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This blog post is difficult to write, and I hardly know how to begin. I am devastated to learn of Karen’s death.

I spiritually carried Karen in my heart for decades. Everywhere traveled, a part of her remained alive in my heart. And throughout all the years, through all my spectacular failures, I am now forced to breathe differently. I am forced to accept the crushing gravity of loss of death. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I (the UB) was supposed to die first.

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Vaccine Purgatory

Pima County, Arizona issued a new system and phone number for COVID-19 vaccination registration. According to the county health department, staff would be available over the weekend and on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, January 18, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. My 83 year-old mother dialed the registration line. “Your call is important to us and will be answered in 9 days, 8 hours, 36 minutes. Press ‘1’ if you like to continue. If you continue, we’ll play really crappy music and hope you’ll eventually beat the crap out of your phone. Press ‘2’ to be disconnected right away. Or do nothing and be disconnected regardless.”

My mother asked of the likelihood of receiving the vaccination prior to the 2024 Presidential Election. “Almost 90%,” I calmly stated. Following up, “However, you are more likely to get hit by a meteorite than receiving the vaccine within the next 60 days.” The Christian Science Monitor reported just that, that some unlucky dude got whacked by a meteor in 2016. To be clear though, a professor at Tulane University calculated the odds of getting killed by a meteorite at about 1 in 250,000. That’s better than death by airplane crash (1 in 30,000) or tornado (1 in 60,000). Sorry, I digress.

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And Your Dream Is?

When you are a walking medical wonder, you tend to take every day as an adventure. Some days will suck; other days do not. I don’t wallow in pain. Most never know I have a specific medical issue, let alone a sandlot’s worth. Flippant of medical problems plaguing my body, I placed a ‘GoFundMe’ request that would allow me to hike both the Appalachian Trail and Continental Divide Trail in consecutive years.

After watching ‘A Walk in the Woods’ and ‘Wild’, I was convinced many would contribute to a self-imposed work sabbatical, fund my opportunity to hike both trails, and allow me the opportunity to write books or articles. A teeny-weeny part even envisioned a blockbuster movie deal. Sixty days later and zero donations, I realized many considered my request akin to the ‘Powerball Reimbursement Fund’ or ‘Let’s Buy The Loin’s’ [as in Detroit Loins]. Having no desire to purchase an NFL team, I do think of those who did something similar.

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Working well into late Friday night, my boss messaged from California. “Why are you online this late on Friday?” I responded by texting that I was working on COVID research. “I thought so,” he said. “I remember you stating you slept 12 hours a day during Christmas break. You perform outstanding work for us, but I need for you to logoff. Get some rest. NOW.” He’s right, I should rest, but the battle is personal.

My boss doesn’t know my father died from COVID. My mother called on a Friday “…Dad was tested for COVID this past Tuesday. His results came back today indicating he had COVID. But there’s good news. The nurse indicates he only has a fever. So, he might be ok. Right?” I knew otherwise. I knew that an 89 year-old man, paralyzed on the left side from stroke, suffering dementia, and possible heart issues would probably not survive. I knew that the eleven days post-COVID infection would be critical. Sure enough, when I received my mother’s 3:15 AM text eight days later, “Call me,” I instinctively knew he passed.

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