Saturday, August 23, 2008

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

Today is a very special day. Travis was born 24 years ago, on his Grandfather and Great-Grandmother's birthday. It was 1984, and living in Los Angeles with us during the end of July and August were the Olympics.

I really dreaded the Olympics coming to LA. Didn't we have enough traffic? Didn't we have enough to do over the summer? Don't they know my Wife is having a baby and I just have to be there? In 1984, there were no cell phones. Beepers. I carried a beeper. Because I had this strange feeling––yeah, here we go again––that I MUST be at the delivery. And Teresa was late. Travis was having a good time staying right where he was. "I'll see ya guys when I'm ready."

Those Olympic Games were great . And I had tickets to all the best stuff––Basketball, Track & Field, Boxing––but I couldn't use them. I was afraid to get caught in the crowd at the Colesium or stuck in traffic. I didn't want to miss Travis. I really needed to be there.

Teresa was not doing well. She was about 10 months pregnant and it was hot as hell that year in Los Angeles. Poor thing. And to top it off, my old college roommate came down from NoCal with a friend and camped out in my living room. Using all my tickets. Be waited on by my overly-pregnant Wife. Be assholes, actually. So after the Games were over, after a pretty exhausting and hot day, Teresa and I went to bed. Watched "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" on TV. And then it started. Contractions. Closer and closer. Harder and harder. It was time to go. The last we went to the hospital for delivery, Ryan came out in about an hour. So we got to the hospital in a flash. And sure enough, 3 hours later Travis is born.

But there was something wrong. He wasn't crying. He wasn't breathing. He was blue. And he was a big baby––9 lbs., 7 ozs., 24" long––so Teresa needed the Doctor's attention. "He's not breathing", I said. The Doc says he's just getting used to being out. Now I know the Doctor has delivered many more babies than I ever had, but my kid is BLUE. Not crying. Not good. I tell the Doctor, without trying to freak Teresa out, "he's not breathing." The Nurse then tells me to grab Travis and bring him over here. "Here" was a table where I had to hold his arms down, while she stuck a tube down his throat. She said she was getting the fluid out. The cord had been wrapped around his shoulder and neck. He needed to get real air. 

Thankfully, the Nurse got the fluid out and Travis was crying. Not as loud as Ryan had, but crying nonetheless. He was breathing. I could finally breath. I don't know why I get those feelings, but I just knew I had to be there. I had to be there to make sure my Son and Wife were going to be alright. I will never forget that day as long as I live.

Crazy, yes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Can You Hear Me Now?

You hear me. But are you listening?

Listening is a wonderful attribute to have. It's a sign of caring. Some even say it's an art form. It's more personal than hearing. We don't need to be able to hear to listen. Huh? What the hell does that mean?

Your body talks to you all the time. As you get older, it talks to you more and more. I remember playing basketball against my younger Brother, Jeff, a few years ago. Jeff came out from Los Angeles with my Dad to visit. I think he was a Sophomore in high school at the time, maybe going to be a Junior. So Jeff was 15-16 at the time. I'm 31 years older than Jeff, so I had to be 46 or 47. And he wanted to show his big brother how good he was at basketball by playing me one-on-one. Probably thought I'll show this old man how we do it, right? I'm no Kobe, but I did play in college and high school (in Los Angeles) and I spent a lot of time playing all around LA growing up––Baker Park, Venice, McCambridge, Maple Park, Pasadena, South Central, Elysian Park––and let's just say that you could pick me out on the court pretty easily.

Jeff was bringing it. I was giving it back to him. In fact, class was in session and I was schoolin' him. But what I remember most that day was trying to make a move that I had made a million times before out of sheer instinct. My mind was saying, "yeah Man. Here, here, bucket." Now my body was telling me something completely different. "No way, dude. You're kidding me, right? You do this and I'll snap your ass back to reality. How old are you? Don't you know I'm in control? Your mind is writing checks your body can't cash." This conversation taking place in the blink of an eye. And I lost the ball.

Before I knew I had cancer, my body was speaking to me. "Do you know why you feel run down? Do you know why you're losing weight all of a sudden? You can't keep going at this pace. This ain't right." And then the strangest, most bizzare voice came to me while I was in the shower one morning. Why do I feel like I have cancer? Yeah, totally out of the blue. Totally freaky. Why do I feel like I have cancer? That's a body language I couldn't explain. It was my body speaking to me. It was trying to make me listen.

I tried to ignore it. Tried to tell myself I was just imagining things. This shit doesn't happen in real life. This isn't a movie. You don't one day wake-up and say "I feel like I have cancer." What does cancer feel like? But I couldn't get it out of my head. I couldn't tell anyone. I couldn't make it go away.

Fortunately––for my sake and for my family, friends and co-workers––I listened. I went on gut feelings, instinct. I said let's end this conversation and get checked. Let the Doctor tell me I'm over-tired, over-worked and imagining things. 

I wasn't. I had cancer. I had a level of understanding that I never had before. My body had it's say. My mind and body got together and said "let's help this guy out."

Thank God I'm a good listener.