Regular and long-time readers of my blog will know about my friend Jon. A friend since kindergarten, best man at my wedding, he died of a heart attack the summer of his 30th year. One of the issues was that the ER personnel didn’t make him a priority when he came in because he was young and healthy. That didn’t turn out so well for Jon.
Fast forward about 25 years and I need to go down a different path for a moment.
I’ve written occasionally about PowerLine, the right wing blog I’ve read and commented on for years. 99% of the responses my comments received were personal attacks. I no longer comment there because I was banned for calling somebody an empty suit. That’s besides the point.
The main reason I started commenting there was to try to find conservatives to have a rational conversation with. After about ten years of futile efforts, I had given up hope. Until a few months ago, when one of the right-wing commenters reached out to me because he had googled me and discovered I wrote fiction. Understand this — this commenter was one of the most consistent in his attacks on me. We rarely actually had reasonable exchanges built around substance. It was name calling and snark. Endless and repetitive.
But when he saw that I wrote and had published a few things, he bought my novel, read it, and realized that I was actually a human being, and not some vile, fire-breathing, raging communist who hated America. Ever since, we have carried on a conversation via email about a lot of things. Only in the last week or two have we been brave enough to include political issues in the mix. Turns out that this right-wing conservative is … pro-choice, pro gay marriage, anti-death penalty, and supportive of DACA and the Dreamers. I’ve suggested he should stop referring to himself as a right-wing conservative.
We’ve talked a lot about books. Through his recommendations, I’ve read a few Ivan Doig books, just recently finished The Siege of Vukovar by Ante Nazor and Anica Maric. This past week, I’ve been reading another of his recommendations — The Soul of Baseball by Joe Posnanski, who followed Buck O’Neill for a year when Buck was 94 years old and still trying keep the history of the Negro Leagues alive.
So … back to Jon.
Yesterday at about 3:40, the Queen Midget called me. Our younger son, who is 21, was being sent to the ER with heart issues. He saw an allergist who listened to his heart and was concerned, they did an EKG, his concerns were confirmed. “You need to go to the ER,” they told him.
As I drove to the hospital, I couldn’t help thinking about what had happened to Jon. I was ready to scream and throw things if they weren’t treating my son by the time I got there. Fortunately, I didn’t need to. The Queen told me that as soon as he got there, he was swarmed by doctors and nurses.
But I still couldn’t stop thinking about Jon and my son. And life and death. And how fragile these things are. For the first couple of hours, I was a wreck. I tweeted about it at one point, crying as I typed the words on my phone. I had to keep stepping out of the room to keep my composure, or to let it go for a moment or two without my family seeing. Because, you know, the dad is supposed to be the strong one.
The issue was that my son’s heart beat was elevated. It went as high as 160 at one point. They gave him beta blockers and magnesium to slow it down. Those things brought his rate down to about 112-115. Not normal, but much better. They ran a few tests, none of which revealed anything wrong. Plus, he had no apparent symptoms of anything being wrong. He was released after about three hours, with a bottle of beta blockers and a cardiology appointment tomorrow.
I’m hoping they will be able to identify a cause and a path to health for him. I’m not optimstic. I’m in the midst of my own medical situation. Since January, I’ve had rashes, and hives, and inflammation for which my doctor and an allergist have both said, “No idea what’s causing it and really won’t be able to figure it out unless you get sicker.” The last few weeks have been really bad. Every day, I’ve had something. Swollen lips, swollen eyelids, swollen tongue. Hives here. Hives there. Rashes in more places than you want to know. My hands get swollen. At the moment, fortunately, my hands are normal and I don’t have any inflammation in my face, but I’ve got a line of rash on my left forearm, a raised spot on the inside of my right elbow, and other spots scattered around my body.
And the medical community’s response — can’t help you.
The collective wisdom of all the doctors and nurses in the ER yesterday was essentially the same “who knows?” that my doctors are giving to me. The cardiologist better have a better answer for my son. A 21-year-old on beta blockers is not normal.
Back to The Soul of Baseball and my new friend from PowerLine. My conversation with him is an almost daily reminder of how important real human interactions are. How important honest conversations are. How important it is to respect and acknowledge others. How much humanity we are losing behind social media, and the anonymity of internet. A place where it is easier to categorize, generalize, and dehumanize than it is to listen, understand, and accept.
And when you look at your son in a hospital bed in the ER and don’t know whether he will be okay or not, it all becomes so much more important than you thought it could be. Life is too short, too fragile, too much of so many things, for us to let this dehumanization and anger and rage control our interactions with others. Life is too short, too fragile, too much of so many things, to forget about real human interactions and instead spend so much damn time on our phones and our devices.
Once we knew our son would be discharged, I left and stopped at Round Table to get some pizza and salads for when he got home. (Topic for another post: two medium pizzas, two small salads, and one beer. Total cost? $67.) We ate, I shared some of my feelings and concerns with my son and went to bed. I read the final chapter of The Soul of Baseball, and there was something in the words of that chapter that helped me. I don’t want to describe it here. What I want to do is recommend that you read the book. You don’t necessarily need to know baseball to understand Buck O’Neill and his view of life.
And what I want to say also is this … stop the madness. This hate that is dividing this country needs to end. Stop the technology. Look up from your phone, see the sun shining, smell the flowers, talk to somebody. Do that more and more every day. Put your phone away. Be a human being again. And love those around you — even the strangers who cross your path. Because they are humans too and they have stories and pain and loss.
(I want to thank the people who responded to my tweet yesterday either on Twitter or more directly via text or phone call. Simple words of thought and prayer can be pretty powerful. Thank you.)