This morning, while walking laps around the gym to cool down after my workout at the cardiac center, it occurred to me that I felt great.
I’ve done enough whining and moaning on this site about my experiences with Parkinson’s disease and my heart bypass surgery nearly six months ago. Like most people, I easily get lost in self-pity from time to time and wallow in the “poor me” depths that I frequently sink into. These moments are real and demand to be dealt with, else they become all consuming. But it’s just as important to acknowledge those times, temporary though they might be, when the pain and discomfort subside. It’s these moments, when one’s vision isn’t clouded by disease, that clarity is available. We just need to prod ourselves to look for it.
As I walked my laps, I looked out the big second floor window onto the Kenosha neighborhood below. It’s a modest, older working class neighborhood, with unpretentious two story houses and bungalows, most built in the forties or fifties, the streets lined with mature oak and maple trees. The leaves on the maples are just beginning to change, small bursts of orange that explode and sparkle against the deep green backdrop of the leaves that haven’t changed yet, reminding them that transformation and death awaits. It was a brilliant morning, the sun shining bright and the sky bright blue splashed with specks of white clouds. Through the plate glass window, I could feel the warmth of the sun on my face, and I could see the breeze make the leaves on the trees tremble and shake. It was all perfect, the sun, the sky, the leaves, and the traffic, the cars in the street driven by everyday people living everyday lives, too busy and preoccupied with everyday minutia to be aware of the beauty and wonder that is all around them, and it struck me that that was okay, that there is beauty and wonder in the minutia as well.
My laps complete, I went downstairs and walked outside, where I was greeted by the cool autumn air and the crisp breeze that was blowing out of the north. I drew a breath of fresh air deep into my lungs and marveled at what a wonderful thing it is to breathe, to taste clean and pure air, to feel my lungs expand and contract. I’m alive, and for a moment I knew, I comprehended, what that meant, and it meant everything. I was grateful for everything that had ever happened in the almost fifty seven years I’ve been on the planet, and everything that happened since the dawn of time, all the random circumstance and chance that brought me to the sidewalk outside of Kenosha Memorial hospital at 9:41 this morning. And I was grateful that my heart still beat beneath my chest, and for the moments yet to occur that I will be fortunate enough to experience.
My oldest brother, Mike, took his own life nearly five years ago. I am warmed by his memory, what a great guy he was, and how important of a part of some of my best moments he was. At the same time I am haunted by his absence, and by regret for things that I wish I’d done differently. I wish I’d recognized the pain that drove him to suicide, and more than anything, I wish I’d told him what a beautiful and perfect part he was of a world so beautiful and perfect that one is free to breathe in its essence every minute of every day.