Today is the 4th anniversary of my heart attack. I wish I could forget it. I wish I could just cleanse my memory of that unbelievably scary day. But Labor Day weekend 2008 will never go away for me – as the time I almost died.
The Republican Convention of 2008 was about to take place, with John McCain making his fateful call to Sarah Palin, which probably cost him the 2008 election. The Cubs were playing the Houston Astros, which I remember because the doctors had it on when I reached the operating room for bypass surgery. It’s odd that I remember that because I was taking amnesiac drugs to blot out the memories of being totally tube tied.
I’ve since had four years of good health and I am grateful for every one of those 1460 days. Some days I am amazed that I had a heart attack, and other days I wonder how I ever lived through it. I still tear up when I connect with the trauma. It’s my way of tapping into the raw emotion of the experience that never goes away. Sometimes I think it intensifies with time, especially during the damn anniversaries.
The moments that always open the tears of emotion are when I hold my wife Risa’s right hand in my left hand in bed. When I was in the netherworld of the recovery room after the heart surgery, Risa and my daughter Sarah held that hand for hours and their touch restored my life force. In my semi-conscious state (I shunned narcotics) I heard the night nurse talking about pneumonia. Nurses think patients are always sleeping and that they can say anything about a patient, but in my case I was often aware of what was going on, even if I could not talk with the intubation tube down my throat. Risa and Sarah’s gentle touch got me through that terrifying night of trauma and fog. But the connection to that night is still a hot circuit.
I am grateful that the circuit is still live, even though touching it makes me hurt. Even writing about it turns on the tears. It reassures me because it tells me so directly that I am a living, breathing beast – wounded – but still feeling.
I wish I could say Labor Day weekend is a summer celebration for me. For the moment it is a weekend of endurance – of getting through. Maybe that will change one day. But for now, I’ll take what I can get. I’m grateful to still feel the pain.