I have lived a long and healthy life save only for a fairly minor stroke some 13 years ago and the obligatory middle-aged guy hernia repair, but recently had a run of bad luck that left a big hole in the year just passed.
It began back in May when I was walking our brother-sister chocolate Labradors, who weigh about 100 pounds each, on a country road near our mountain retreat. They spotted a neighbor whom they adore and tore off to say howdy. Although I was holding their leather leashes loosely (try saying that three times fast) and I'm a big dude, their rocket-like acceleration lifted me off my feet, spun me around, and I crashed into an embankment, fracturing my left humerus. (That's the arm bone right below the shoulder.)
The good news is that it was a clean break that an orthopedist recommended be allowed to self heal with the temporary use of an arm sling followed by an exercise regimen, as well as his admonition to look out for "banana peels," situations that might get me in trouble before I had fully regained arm strength and balance.
The bad news is that a banana peel in the form of an area rug with an upturned corner presented itself in late July. I took the bait and kicked the corner over, going ass over tea kettle and shattering my left femur (that's the hip bone).
I came home after two weeks in a rehab hospital and began in-home occupational and physical therapy. Then in early October, not more than six hours after being discharged from in-home PT and having discarded a walker and become accustomed to the assistance of a cane, a second banana peel presented itself in the form of an uneven and poorly lit driveway surface. I became tangled up in the cane getting out of a car and went down, refracturing the femur, this time so badly that I initially needed to use a wheelchair to get around.
After three additional weeks in a rehab hospital, I again underwent in-home OT and PT, eventually discarded the wheelchair and then a walker, and am greeting 2014 with my old friend the cane once again in hand, which has prompted pal and inveterate wag Joe Gandelman to comment that, after all, I was "always raising cane, so what's the big deal?"
* * * * *Beyond the obvious -- Look out for banana peels, stoopid! -- I take away a couple three lessons from my experience.
There is nothing quite like having a sense of one's own mortality to put things in perspective, as my fellow blogger Ron Beasley does here with brevity but eloquence.
I was damned fortunate. The injuries could have been worse, I might have liked painkillers and become addicted to them, and could have been among Our Great Country's 45 million uninsured.
(Despite my shame at being one of Mitt Romney's 44 Percenters, in my case a veteran who is sponging off the system despite having loyally contributed to it for 50 fricking years, Medicare has covered almost all of my medical expenses, and what it hasn't -- one measly ambulance ride and wheelchair rental -- has been covered by a reasonably priced AARP supplemental policy.)
And I was reminded of how wonderful my friends are. Beyond the Love Of My Life, who has worked me harder than my excellent therapists on their off days and been endlessly supportive in the face of my mood swings, friends who have had not dissimilar boo-boos have kept reinforcing that I had to work through the pain, dammit!
* * * * *Albert Einstein's genius extended well beyond theoretical physics, of course, and his observations about temporal matters are legendary. My favorite: "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous."
That truth was slammed home in December when in the space of 72 hours two gravely ill sisters of a dear friend passed away, the older sister, we are sure, waiting until her younger sibling was on her deathbed in order to be able to join her. Then a friend of My Love's family for eight decades also left the material world, reminding us in his last Christmas missive with his typical wisdom that "While email is quicker, cards last longer."
We will be grieving for some time.
* * * * *Not that anyone has noticed, but my blogging output in 2013 dropped to a fraction of what it has been in the past, and I won't be setting the world on fire this year, either.
Beyond that banana peel thing, the reason is simple: Having done the writing gig for many years, the feeling of "been there, wrote about that" has become overpowering. Besides which, how many times can you call Republicans feckless nitwits? Or write that Our Once Great Country has gone to hell in a hand basket.
There also is my creeping disenchantment with Barack Obama despite his signal accomplishments, including being reelected in the first place, as well as the Affordable Care Act, advancement of gay rights, courageous if vain fight for meaningful gun control, and vowing to talk to our enemies instead of merely wagging our johnsons at them.
Having told myself and written endlessly that expectations were way too high after Obama's historic 2008 victory, my expectations still were way too high, which makes the disappointments of the last five years -- the president's tepid renouncement of the Bush Torture Regime and endorsement of the NSA's civil liberties gangbang being chief among them -- even more unacceptable.
* * * * *Most Telling Statistic of 2013: Some 70 percent of the laws enacted in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre weakened gun control.
* * * * *Who would have thunk that someone as deeply cynical as I am about the Roman Catholic Church ("the world's largest criminal enterprise," as I have put it), would be applauding the Holy Father, whose scathing putdown of the greedy capitalists who are responsible for so much of what ails our society, is spot on.
Not that Rush Limbaugh and Paul Ryan, let alone the vile banksters for whom ripping off the Have Nots has become the norm, should be shaking in their Louis Vittons over Pope Francis's radical manifesto. Still, their ways will eventually catch up with them, even if it is as belatedly as when St. Peter tells them to take a hike.
But the big story of 2013 was not so much the cage match over the Affordable Care Act than the underlying reason it is so bloody necessary: Our profoundly dysfunctional health-care system, notably the out-of-control pricing that make getting sick twice to three times as costly than in other industrialized nations where care and mortality statistics are much better than ours.
There were two notable journalistic efforts during 2013 to hammer home that reality -- Steven Brill's "Bitter Pill," which took up an entire dead tree edition of Time magazine in March, and a year-long series by Elisabeth Rosenthal in The New York Times, which she summarizes in "Health Care's Road to Ruin."
Both also are reminders of the importance of investigative journalism, something many newspapers and magazines have abandoned because it is not profitable. And tends to piss off advertisers.
* * * * *
Could it be that Barack Obama will be the last so-called common man to serve as president? While that would be an immense downer, it would come as no surprise given how the super rich, their skids greased by Citizens United and other Supreme Court rulings favoring the plutocracy, have pretty much taken over national politics.
* * * * *
That sound you hear is the world's tiniest violin, which I am playing in eulogizing the end of the error . . . er, era of George W. Bush's 2002 Every Child Kicked in the Behind education initiative.
As is beyond apparent, teaching kids to do well on standardized tests, the underlying premise of the initiative, was bound to be a disaster, plunging American students even further behind those in most developed countries in math, science and reading. The Obama administration is now pushing something called Core Curriculum learning, which . . . hold onto your smart phones, kiddies, stresses teaching children how to learn.
* * * * *Finally, I have some advice for capitalists, politicians and mere mortals in the New Year who remain opposed to government-supported and subsidized health care: Go find a banana peel and step on it.