The death of the old me
I began the day just like I did every other year; constantly complaining while getting dressed. You see, every New year's day for years, we would go out to eat breakfast at a nice restaurant with my wife's family. We never went to church, only out to eat. I never wanted to go, so I would never feel good or if necessary, even fake an illness. Some years it actually worked.
This year, we went to Perkins. After ordering, I began to get sick, and started complaining to my wife again. She said, "Shut up, you pull that stunt every year. But, this year it isn't going to work. You're not leaving!" In fact, I had done it so much, that I wasn't even sure myself. Although, I was dizzy and felt like visiting the rest room, I hung in there. We ate; then went home.
When we got home, I felt much better. I promised my wife that I would spend the day with her, because I rarely did. After an hour or two, I became increasingly bored and started thinking about the week. I was a fairly successful, workaholic sales rep. for a very large international food company.
I was addicted to stress, money, prestige, lifestyle and social status. My salary was straight commission based on sales. I was very similar to a compulsive gambler. Only, I couldn't lose. It was legal, honest, and best of all very rewarding; and besides, we had bills to pay! I had a lot of bookwork to do. So, I went to get some.
Upon returning my wife said, "No you don't mister, you promised."; I replied something to the effect, "I'll sit here on the couch, and work on the piano bench. That way, I can get some work done while being with you." She didn't bother arguing because she knew me.
Then suddenly out of the blue, wham it hit me. I fell off the couch onto the floor wallowing in paper...I was really sick now! I tried to get up, but kept falling. I was trying to get to the hallway where I had two walls to hold me up. But, I couldn't. I kept laughing telling my wife I didn't know what was happening. After a visit to the bathroom, we headed for the emergency room. All of the way there I had a towel over my head because I couldn't tolerate the sunlight.
I could no longer see or walk. I was carried to the emergency room where I was examined. I was told that I had an inner ear infection. "To go home and get to bed and stay there." That, "it would take at least a week to get well" and that "I would get worse before I got better." (At least, he was right about the last part!!)
After a week of living hell, doing exactly as I was told, I woke up in a different hospital, where I was informed that, "I had experienced a severe base of the brain stroke; and should have come in much sooner! On a scale of one to ten, my stroke was an eleven."
Later I heard a doctor tell a nurse that my brain was swelled. So, "tomorrow they may have to drill holes in my head to relieve the pressure to reduce additional brain damage!"
Then I heard the nurse ask, "why they were waiting until tomorrow?" The reply was: "He is in critical condition and needs to stabilize. He may not even live through the night."
That got my attention! A few weeks later, another doctor told me that Richard Nixon died the same week with a stoke, but it was like comparing a peanut to an elephant. He was the peanut. But, I was the one that lived. "I was very lucky to be alive!" I didn't feel lucky! In fact, I was very bitter! Why me?
Years later while seeing Dr. Vincent, my umpteenth psych., still trying to get a respectable answer I asked him the same, simple question that I had been asking preachers and psychs. for years, "Why Me?" He just smiled and softly replied, Why not you? What makes you so special? Do you think that you're the only one with problems? We all have problems. It's our attitudes and choices in life that make the difference. You can continue to blame the first emergency room doctor and take it out on the world for what you have lost: Or, thank God for what you have left. You could be on dialysis or an iron lung, blind, deaf, mute, lost your sense of feel, taste or smell, or even be brain dead! "Not everyone is as lucky as you!!"
He continued "Many people don't get a second chance. We are all given only so much time here on Earth; We need to use it wisely! And that, you of all people should know that! You can continue to waste time wallowing in your pride and self-pity. Or, make the most of the time that you have left. It's your choice; and besides, you are already on rock bottom anyway; and the only way from there is up.
This guy was good! He talked to me, not down at me in a way that I understood. Not like others up until then, or maybe I just wasn't listening. (when the student is ready) Anyway, he struck a nerve! It was then and there, after wasting years at carrying a tremendous grudge, that I finally broke down and let go! (It wasn't pretty; and to this day it is very difficult for me to talk about without getting emotional) I stopped hating, and realized that God, friends, family, health and time here on Earth are the only truly important things in life! (Also, the most abused!) Instantly, life took on a new meaning.
I was warned several years before the incident, I would have a heart attack or stroke within ten years if I didn't slow down and change my ways. Believing that it only happens to someone else and old... Now, I am permanently impaired both mentally and physically, but I have become aware enough to know that I should have listened and considering the possibilities, Yes, I am a very lucky person!