The songs say it to music; If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all. So goes this year for me. Again I am just home from the hospital, managing again to delay my demise a bit longer. An infection that has me eating Moxifloxicin and Prednisone and sucking oxygen through a tube hung over my ears and poking up my nostrils. My life had been one of relative health too, so this just frustrates me all the more.
When I was a squirt I caught some nasty bug that put me into a clinic for two weeks. Remembering that clinic and comparing it to the clinics of today makes me feel like I’m looking at my youth in ancient issues of Life magazine. I even see my memories in black and white and sienna tones. And then in Vietnam I had malaria. Both Falciparum and Vivax strains, I remember little during the high fevers except for certain moments when the medical techs chilled my overheated brain with cold water and alcohol. How enraged it made me, making me fight off the people trying hard to save and help me.
I do remember recuperating and being visited by Raymond Burr, with I such a fan of his for being Perry Mason and always getting the dramatic confession at the end of each program’s conclusion. But I failed to recognize Burr, whose hair was shorn into a burr even shorter than mine at the time. Burr’s burr. I thought it was incredibly cool of his, on his own time and money, to come to visit us troops. He did it without any hoopla or self promotion, it was just him letting us know that we weren’t forgotten and that as we were his fans, he was our fan. In return I’ve never forgotten Raymond Burr, not that I’ve tried –or might want to.
I had three episodes of hospitalization for malaria, one in Vietnam and two back here are home. I was home from the war and out of the army by just six months when my friends found me on their front lawn, sleeping and radiating heat. They could barely rouse me, but managed to long enough I could communicate my problem was malaria and had them take me to Valley Forge Military Hospital in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Twelve days later I was back up and about, none the worse for wear. The next time laid me low in Weir’s Beach, New Hampshire. A policeman found me in shivering sleep next to my motorcycle in a partially wooded lot. Again I was radiating heat and was recognized as sick. But they couldn’t rouse me and found a military driver’s license in my wallet. They called Fort Devens in Massachusetts who identified me as recently discharged and had been previously treated for Malaria. The VA paid for an ambulance to take me to the hospital at Fort Devens and the Laconia, NH police department stored and cared for my bike and possessions as I spent nine days in recovery. Then the Laconia cops sent a car for me to give me a ride back up to Weirs. None of it cost me a dime, all was paid by the gratitude of the Laconia cops, the VA, and Fort Devens hospital. I was lucky and blessed. These memories of healthcare are in color, although the farther back they reach the more yellowed and scratched they display in my mental images. I wonder if that’s my brain copying the way that photos from the past appear to me? Probably, and it’s kind of neat.
Yet for all of the sports and work endeavors and a general kind of recklessness, these are really the only times I was ever sick. The majority of my life was adventurous and sometimes fun and sometimes not. But I was strong and fortunate and so as I slip into sunset, a part of me doesn’t understand what’s happening to me even though I understand my cancer chapter and verse and the problems it entails as collateral hits on my physical welfare.