It’s election season, and one question always seems to pierce the thick rhetoric: Are you better off today than you were four years ago?
The answer is a no-brainer for our family. Four years ago Friday, I had a heart attack. I survived. I wrote about it for a previous blog of mine, and I transferred that very long post to its own page for this online journal. Here’s the link. It’s about 3,600 words, but it’s a heck of a tale, and if you really want to know what it was like to go through that incredibly difficult experience, I recommend reading it if you have a spare 20 minutes or so.
As I mentioned, Friday is the four-year anniversary of that life-altering event. I am in great physical health. I eat right and take the meds. I need to exercise more, and I will. I came out of it with absolutely no physical restrictions placed upon me. So, that’s good.
But it doesn’t mean I wasn’t affected. I often contemplate how close I came to actually dying that day. I still have trouble getting my mind around the concept. It could have ended, though. It would have ended, probably, if not for fast action by my wife and the kindness of our neighbors and the skill of the medical staff at University Community Hospital in Tampa (now Florida Hospital).
Sadly, knowing I was that close to death did not transform my personality into that of a sublime, tranquil monk. I still get angry (like, teeth-gnashing angry) when someone blatantly cuts me off in traffic during rush hour. Sometimes I lose my patience when one of the boys just won’t eat his supper or mind me. I still get grumpy on occasion, usually if I haven’t had enough sleep or food (or if the wine is sour). I still haven’t written the novels I have always wanted to write.
Yet, I do have a greater appreciation for the little things that make life so grand. I often allow myself to think about what I would’ve missed over the past four years if I had not made it on Oct. 26, 2008. Here are just a few of those memories I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to build (in no particular order):
- Chris’ first steps/words/potty training triumph/emergence as a little person
- Jay’s first soccer game and all the subsequent seasons
- Jay’s transition from wonderful, vibrant toddler to brilliant and warm-hearted boy
- My 40th birthday
- Beth’s meteoric career growth
- My trip to London for CBS in 2009
- The agony and the ecstasy of an irrational love affair with Tottenham Hotspur Football Club
- Trick or treating with my kids
- Trips to North Carolina, Cape Cod, Disney World, Busch Gardens, Lowry Park Zoo and other great places
- Downton Abbey’s first season (the second season … eh, not so much)
- The final season of LOST (OK … maybe that wasn’t worth sticking around for)
- Our first Tampa Bay Rays game as a family
- Jay and Chris petting a tame fawn during a fall festival last weekend
And all the other little moments of shared time with my family. These were the memories I was so afraid the boys would never have when I lay there in the hospital the night of Oct. 26, 2008, just trying to get through the night. We had those, and I’m still here, so we’ll have more. That’s what I want to think about on this anniversary.
I want to be there for Jay and Chris’ other firsts. Their first Little League games. Their first fishing trip. Their first girlfriends, their high school graduations, their college graduations, their weddings, the birth of their children. It’s not guaranteed. I know that. But I want to be there. More than ever. And every time this date rolls around, I’m reminded how close I came to missing all of it, and I appreciate all over again how very precious it all is, and how precious it will be.
Are we better off today than we were four years ago? Hell, yes. And no matter what happens on election day, as long as we’re all still here, we’ll be better off four years from now.