Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Now and then I get reminded of my mortality, and at 68—young for your age the cardiologist told me yesterday—why wouldn’t I be. My father died five months shy of his 70th birthday, his older brother 18 months later at age 72, and his younger brother only 8 months after that at age 71. Only a few year’s later, my mother’s younger brother died just two months before his 65th birthday. All of these men died of heart failure, and all of them had been treated for heart illness—some more aggressively and extensively than others. Would you say I have a family history?
Next Tuesday I am having a coronary angiogram. “I don’t think your symptoms are cardio related,” the doctor told me after what seemed to me a relatively brief test on the treadmill last week. It could be musculoskeletal. Two days earlier one of the doctors at the urgent care clinic where I had gone—finally giving in to what had been troubling me for two weeks—suggested that my symptoms could even be gastrointestinal related. None of this was news to me. My back is sort of a wreck and medication for gastroesophageal reflux disease has been a part of my life for over a decade. “The pain along your left jaw could even be dental related,” suggested the cardiologist. Hmm, I thought, as I recalled that I had mentioned to my dentist a couple of months ago that the area around the crown he installed last spring is sometimes tender. According to him, though, everything looked fine, based on x-ray and exam.
So I’m having this angiogram, having passed an abbreviated-seeming treadmill test, because the dull ache in my left arm and jaw persists. “Is this,”…”yes, invasive,” the doctor replied, before I could complete my question. My thought—let’s just get it over with—even though the idea of it frightens me at least a little. I’m not a kid anymore. And I don’t want to be one of the unevolved men that Fr. Richard Rohr describes in his various writings, including the book of meditations I started reading in late summer. The doctor doesn’t expect to find anything, but I should come prepared to spend the night, should he discover blockage and need to place a stent or stents to open up the blockage.
Let’s just get it over with, even while I’m thinking about all the loose ends of my life that remain unresolved. There’s that bad condo mortgage in the city different and the merchandise consigned to a couple of different businesses in two different states and the accumulation of treasure here in this house in the land of enchantment that in spite of what I might try to tell myself is not my home—and no last will and testament. The list could go on. These are the things that have been on my mind of late, the things that prompted me to contact my attorney in Texas last week. “Why haven’t you done a will,” he asks. I have a will, technically, but it no longer serves current reality. In it I left everything to my mother, who is deceased now almost five years.
So I’m having this test, and lately I’ve been thinking, again, about the need to get organized— to turn the hand-written list of merchandise consigned in Texas into a file on my computer, a file that I can print out and distribute to all who need to know—all who need to know about my seemingly loose ends. My sisters, a couple of friends here in Albuquerque. All who need to know. Huh, I consider. After our mother died in 2007, I had a short period of wanting to follow through on the t-shirts custom-made for me a few years—t-shirts based on an idea that had cooked in my gut for close to 20 years. “For sale—all of my earthly possessions,” they read. I was ready for a short time to liquidate my accumulation of treasure. I found it wasn’t easy, though. Bad economy, huh. It seems to have been bad or on the way to being bad or coming out of being bad for three decades—for as long as I have been moving treasure in and out of my life. Loose ends.
This morning I had the requisite blood work before my date with the cardiologist next Tuesday. I read this morning that during an angiogram, a thin tube called a catheter is placed into a blood vessel in the groin (femoral artery or vein). Then the catheter is guided to the area to be studied. An iodine dye is injected into the vessel to make the area show clearly on the X-ray pictures. The purpose is to reveal if an aneurysm (bulge in a blood vessel) exists or if blockage in a blood vessel is affecting blood flow. The test can also show if coronary artery disease is present and how bad it is. Three viles of blood were necessary for the three tests needed before my coronary angiogram. I’m squeamish about blood-drawing, even though shots don’t particularly bother me. My long history includes virtually passing out the first time several viles of blood for testing were drawn from my body when I was only in my 20s. At the time, the recounting was funny. I thought about that time many years ago as I sat this morning in a waiting room filled with people there for lab tests. As the technician worked to draw my blood, the flow stopped on the second vile. Thanks for explaining why this is taking too long, I thought, in response to his comment. Eyes closed and head cast upward to the right, I reminded myself to breathe, breathe slowly and calmly.
Loose ends are on my mind. I’ve created that type-written list of merchandise consigned in Texas. That’s a good thing. Now to print it and get into the hands of the people who need to know. A similar report from the gallery here in New Mexico where I also have things consigned is only a phone call away. And my attorney in Texas has told me that an email to him with my wishes will suffice for drafting a will. I guess I’m finally getting around to that, at 68. Although I don’t have any plans to “go anywhere”, as it were—after all, I am young for my age—now and then I get reminded of my mortality.
My Mortality—Albuquerque, New Mexico (November 9, 2011)
R. Harold Hollis