Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The birthday I wasn't supposed to have

Yesterday was my 43rd birthday, and in some ways, it was the best birthday I've ever had.
Not because we had a blowout party. We didn't, just a nice cook out where I grilled my favorite foods.
Nor because of the presents (just one from my wife, mother, mentor, and mother-in-law)
but because... I wasn't expected to have it at all.

Many times during the course of this shredding of the boundary between the sane and the insane, the probable and improbable, the earthly and hellish, the grim reaper's shadow fell upon me. Indeed, almost from the start, there was a palpable fear that my broken bone and brutal pain presaged the presence of something dire and terminal such as cancer or a brain tumor.

The fear grew and grew with each test the doctors ordered which seemed to confirm it.

It reached its horrible apex on what we call "the day of death." A scan showed something which we were told indicated stage 4 (the last, terminal, essentially untreatable) cancer.

I'd held off speaking of that horrible day in public because any words I could give it seemed so insufficient. I was lying there counting my remaining minutes, wondering how I could spend as much of them with Tess as possible while also earnestly desiring to shield her from the agonies to come as much as possible.

The next day came a reprieve... a new scan, a new interpretation.

Even after the death sentence was revoked, the fear that something almost as bad was present remained. I had still broken the strongest bone in the body for no apparent reason. I still had excruciating pain without apparent cause.

And of course, the tests continued. All told, I spent close to a day in various machines having every inch, every cell, of my body scanned and rescanned.

It wasn't until the Fibro diagnosis came just in time for our 15th anniversary that the grim reaper's specter finally left us.

That wasn't too long ago, and the time of fear and uncertainty had been- if anything- more agonizing than the pain.

So when I awoke yesterday, it was indeed the most joyous birthday of my life.

About the picture:
I used FotoSketcher (win & mac) to convert one of the photos a dear friend shot for this blog post. The mode used was watercolor. I adjusted the settings to produce a picture which simultaneously had fewer sharp details yet conveyed the over all setting in a very vivid way.

The other thing I was after was to dampen the color intensity.

The net effect I wanted was to convey to you how my mind's eye sees the time there. (I was on a morphine pump after all.)

You on Multiply can see the original below.

You rug folk - yes, I did work rugs, and even tried to teach people how to make them (yes, even on the "Day of Death" since I've always wanted to be remembered for three things: My steadfast love for my wife, parents, and friends, my visual arts, and my rugs.)

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