Friday, December 18, 2009

Dead Man Writing

I’ve had a few close calls in my life, brushes with death if you will. All of these have happy endings, none of these left me with more than a few scuffs, bruises or in some cases a bit of lost skin or scratched bike or car paint. I’m sure you can say the same, being one hanging out with the living. These are dangerous times in a dangerous world after all. Here are a few of my close calls:

· Trout-fishing, the time the farmer’s prize bull was in the pasture with no fence between him and my fishing buddies and me. (Saved by the bull never actually choosing to charge us, just bawl and stomp as it followed us out of the pasture.)

· Just about run over by a very old, very large car in the alley behind the public library and the Jr. High (Saved by the catlike reflexes of the gray-haired woman peeking over the steering wheel. This was witnessed by an entire math class and resulted in a new school rule against this particular shortcut.)

· Opportunities to drown; Flooded Mississippi river during the mayfly hatch with a crumbling bank that left me neck deep in the swirling current; an exhausting swim with an injured arm in a tranquil gravel pit. (Saved by swimming lessons and my refusal to panic)

· Adventures in youthful ignorance combined with alcohol and a car that felt really good going 100mph on dark river roads. (Saved by? The grace of God? Bacchus? ?)

· Near-collision with a house-sized, orange, industrial dump truck, hauling ass out of a ditch in reverse, almost over the top of my Chevy Berretta. (Saved by my willingness to swerve into the lane of oncoming traffic rather than be flattened by the giant truck).

· Shooting range accident with a .44 caliber bullet fragment hitting me in the face (Per the doctor digging in my face at the time: saved by my steely chin vs. being hit an inch or two higher or lower in something softer and more bleedy.)

· A collapsing 35W bridge. Saved by my choice of the slow route heading to my class at the U of M that night. I ended up arriving in the area about 10 minutes after the bridge had fallen, one bridge over. I have no proof I would have ended up on the bridge had I taken 35W that night, but it would have been a close one.

There are many more incidents I could add to this list and probably many more that have happened I’m not even aware of where bad outcomes including death were a possibility. Didn’t I tell you it’s dangerous out there? As far as “Saved by” I could have also said in all these cases, “good luck, good timing, fate/destiny and/or guardian angel(s)” as the reason why I walked away and continued on living instead of the alternative. And hey, if I get to stay in the land of the living for a while longer, any of the above are good enough explanations for me.

This year the week of Thanksgiving I had my latest near death experience. Now, don’t get me wrong, this WASN’T one of those exciting near death experiences where I was clinically dead for a half hour, saw a tunnel of white light and my dear departed relatives beaconing to me, or fiery angels hovering over my hospital bed, no, none of that—this was routine surgery here in 2009 America (about 5% of us will have this surgery sometimes in our life; about 99.6% will survive it). My appendix in an enflamed fit of rage had decided to go bad and had to come out. Again, only a close call, a minor brush with death. As I was in the excellent care of a surgeon who I had been told had literally done over a thousand operations like mine, maybe this operation wasn’t even that—really nothing more dangerous than a drive on Interstate 494 during one of our Minnesota blizzards?

Yet—when I asked the kind resident prepping me for the operating room, “What are my other options besides surgery?” She replied as nicely as she could (and my recollection may be clouded by the morphine I was on at the time), “None. Left alone your appendix will probably rupture spilling infection and the contents of your digestive system into your abdomen resulting in eventual death.” Hey, I asked. As I was not in favor of the side effect, death, I signed the consent form for the surgery (which did listed DEATH as a possible side effect) and was wheeled off into the operating room. So I was never really close to death, was I? Yet, I have approximately 3 hours of missing time, under anesthesia with a breathing tube down my throat, where my body was not truly breathing only on it’s own. Not breathing for 3 hours could be construed by some people as death.

But everything worked out great, and I have no complaints about my experience. I was released from the hospital on happy pills (sleepy pills, really) the same day I was operated on. I had lunch that same day, I returned to work with a minor pain in my side one week later. All in all, I am quite pleased; dead man writing.

So that’s really my point here. I feel once again I’ve walked away from a close call and get to keep on doing what I like to do: living. I’m trying not to be too melodramatic here, but rather than dying of a burst appendix or a bad reaction to the anesthesia or a flubbed operation or…. I’m still walking, breathing, living, spending time with my friends and family, and writing. Yes. Writing. For a writer that is a big deal. After death I’ve heard you put out fewer pages. After death my 80%+ finished book would stay that way.

My favorite author Ray Bradbury has said, (and once again I’m paraphrasing, although this time, no morphine) that “time is the writer’s enemy” that “every book completed, every story finished is a way in which the writer can thumb his/her nose at death.” Sounds good to me. You’ll have to excuse me now. I’ve got a book to finish.


Brenda said...

Oh, what about the time when you were a wee lad (what, 4 years old?) and decided to go duck hunting in a flooded park by yourself? Near death experience #9.

I cannot tell you how glad I am that someone or something keeps saving your ass.

:) Your biggest fan! B-

Qlaudie said...

From hereon out, I forbid you to leave the house. Wait! Most accidents happen in the home. Well, from hereon out I forbid you to leave your house, which I command you to construct entirely of marshmallows.