Friday, January 20, 2017

Motors and Whales

I like to learn things. Not as an academic. I just like to learn all sorts of different things. I don’t believe I’d have ever made a good college student, simply because I wasn’t necessarily a good high school student. You see, back then and even today, if I find something that interests me, I’m all in. I will go to extreme lengths to learn everything I can about a subject. I’ll even go so far as to memorize as many facts as I can about the subject.

My interests are as wide and eclectic as can be imagined. However; there are things connected to my interests that I have no interest in. Which is odd. For example, as you know, I like trains, a lot. So much so that my primary job is, trains. Toy trains that is. And if you ask me about them, I can talk for hours about them. I also like real trains and how they are made. I also like most modes of transportation. Rail, plane and motorcycle. I’ve almost no interest in four wheel transportation. Matter of fact, I’d say that being in a car or van or suv is barely tolerable for me. Put me on a train, plane or motorcycle… I’m loving every minute of it. Yet, I really enjoyed the years I spent working at a machine shop rebuilding engines. Grinding on the heads, seating the valves, cleaning them, taking them apart, putting them back together and just working with these amazing machines. They’re like a giant working puzzle. 

So, recently, two weeks ago to be factual, I had my appendix out. Which is a vestigial organ. That means our bodies don’t really need them. I’ve known what a vestigial organ is for a while now. After all, I really dug biology at Roncallli Catholic High School as taught by Coach Ron back in the 1980’s. He made learning fun and if I’m to be totally honest, it was the only class where all my pals were with me. We had a blast, especially when we dissected animals.  Which is where we learned about vestigial organs.

So, where was I? Oh yeah, my emergency surgery…

A day after my surgery, one of the many doctors who had a hand… literally… in keeping me alive stopped by to see me. One of the topics that came up was… you guessed it, vestigial organs.

After just a few minutes of talking, the doc realized I knew what they were… so he decided to drop some knowledge on me. That knowledge I’m going to drop on you because it is too cool and something I never learned in school. That being said… I went right on the internet and started to read up on the subject.

Quick warning here. If you don’t believe in evolution, this may upset you.

What the doc said was “Did you know that whales have vestigial leg bones?”

My mind was blown. Seriously. I felt all giddy, excited and the synapsis in my brain started firing at the speed of light. Which is true. That’s how fast they fire. Crazy I know, but true.

When the doc left I picked up my phone and did a quick internet search for whales with legs. Then I clicked the image button and lost myself down the rabbit hole of internet photos of whales walking around on land.

Which is so cool you have to see it to believe it.

Unfortunately the picture that I had in my mind was not one I found on the internet. See, in my head I pictured a giant sperm whale or blue whale crashing through the prehistoric foliage of earth and chomping up everything in sight. You know, one of those “artistic renditions” that NASA uses for out of solar system planets or even some of the pictures of dinosaurs you see in books or museums… yeah that was what I was looking for. Instead, I ended up looking at skeleton pictures, some artist renditions and even directions of whales.

I also ended up reading about a dozen articles on whale legs and the vestigial bones and how they are slowly disappearing. By that I mean they are shrinking because of lack of use. 

You know, maybe I should have gone into marine biology, simply because walking whales is not the only sea creature I dig. I also love the manatee, I think they are cute. Maybe that’s why I like bulldogs so much, because they look like the manatee. 

Anyway, that’s about it for this week. My brain is still happy to learn about walking whale and if I had a time machine, I’d travel back in time to see a  one hundred foot long, one hundred and fifty ton blue whale walking across the continent in search of food. That’d be awesome and probably the last thing I’d ever see because he'd try to eat me.

Have a great week.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A New Year

This year we said goodbye to 2016, which many people say is the worst year ever. Hard for me to argue. Not because of all the influential artists that have left us, but because it really has been a suck ass year personally for me. Sure there were highs, but not many. The lows outweigh them exponentially. Also, since I’ve touched on this topic in my last blog, I shall not repeat myself.

Instead, I’ll tell you a story.

I was standing in the maternity ward room in a surgical gown. I was not alone, no in fact my Father-in-law was there, my Mother-in-law was there and I believe so was my Brother-in-law. I can’t rightfully remember. I was under stress and everything was a bit of a blur.

I remember the room, after all, I’d spent over twenty four hours in there. Nice faux wooden floors, soothing wall paper, matching drapes, soft lighting, a large television, a wardrobe, a dresser, two nightstands, a comfy couch for me to sleep on. Hell, for what it’s worth, I could have been standing in the middle of a nice hotel room. Well, except for the large hospital bed and several medical machines that beeped every now and again. It was quite comfortable.

The place even had a large private bathroom with a shower stall and more importantly, a jacuzzi tub. Which I took advantage of… twice! This was also the place I was told to don the surgical gown, hat and mask, “Over your clothes, Mr. Novak.” the panicky nurse said to me as she damn near threw the stack of clinical clothing at me as they quickly wheeled my very pregnant wife who’d been in labor for over twenty four hours. 

So I did. When I came out of the bathroom I didn’t know what to do. You see, since my bride had been in labor so long and our child had gotten lodged in the birth canal and had remained there for more than several hours and her heart rate had started to become sporadic the Doctor’s decided to perform an emergency Cesarean Section. I was scared, nervous and damn right unsure as to what to do next.

So I just stood there. Waiting to be told what to do. Or for someone to come get me and show me where to go. After all, I’d never been a part of this sort of evolution. Sure, I mean, I know that women give birth everyday and for the most part, as a father, we just stand around looking and acting like we have accomplished world peace and climbed everest in the same day. What else are we supposed to do. We are peacocks by nature.

After an eternity, which was more like ten minutes, the same panicky nurse bursts into the room, grabs me and pushes me down the hallway to the birthing room. Which seemed about as large as a medium size bathroom. Of course that’s just my perspective. There seemed to be ten people in that room, not counting my wife who was strapped down with her arms stretched to her sides, and some anesthesiologist sitting next to her head. There were nurses on each side of her. Two nurses looking at more beeping machines, my wife's gynecologist, a surgeon and who knows who else.

Yet the first thing I saw upon entering the room was not the people, not the machines, not the tubes and needles and various cutting implements…nope the first thing I saw was my wife intestines lying in a pile on her stomach and chest. This freaked me out even more. After all, we see a lot of things in the course of our relationship with our spouse. Mostly it is outside stuff we see, never the ever so intimate abdominal organs. 

Again, I paused trying to decipher in my mind exactly what it was I was looking at… you know, label them as if I were in some sort of advanced biology class… this is when they shuffled me quickly to the head of my wife and made me sit in a stool with wheels. The good thing about this was there was a medical screen about a foot tall that crossed over her neck so I couldn’t see what the doctors were doing.

I reached out with a gloved hand and stroked my wife’s forehead and even bent down to kiss her through my medical mask. Which if you’ve never done, is quite odd and not intimate in any form. I talked to her, made soothing comments and tried to assure her everything was okay and soon we’d have our daughter. She smiled.

Which about the time we heard the doctor say “Congratulations! It’s a girl.”

I tried to get a glimpse of our offspring but there were too many people in the way. Then as quickly as could be a nurse said “Mr. Novak, would you like to hold your daughter?”

I didn’t answer, I just reached out and took ahold of my baby and showed her to her mother. Then I started talking to her. My daughter that is, so much so that while the surgeon was playing tetris with my wife’s internal organs, I was wheeled into the corner of the room with my daughter still in my arms. When a nurse tried to relieve me of my offspring… I growled at her. They let me keep her. Matter of fact they let me carry her back to the birthing room. Which was awesome, well, until my Father-in-law took her out of my arms.

Days later, they wheeled my wife out to our minivan and me walking beside her looking not at my wife but at the bundle of wonder and hope in her arms. We were both stunned. I mean, did the hospital know what sort of goof ups they were entrusting this new life too? I’m sure they didn’t. Hell, we, my wife and I, could barely take care of ourselves, let alone a helpless little baby. We even told them as much, but they insisted we’d be good parents. We just shook our head and walked away with a five pound six ounce new human being.

Once everyone was strapped in and checked out by the nurse, I started to make my way to the drivers door. The nurse stopped me and said “Mr. Novak, your wife is going to need a lot of help the next few weeks. I hope you understand that she will be unable to do a whole lot around the house. She needs to heal. Her stomach needs to heal.”

I assured her I was up to the task of helping my wife and take care of my daughter as well as any household chores and that I had taken six weeks off from work to be at home with my family.

She smiled and patted me on the shoulder.

I was true to my word. I did late night feedings. Bathed our child, clothed her, swaddled her, watched football with her, took her for walks and spent as much time as I could with her. As for my bride, I helped her to the bathroom, helped her give her sponge baths, made food for her, kept her drink cold and full and cleaned her dressing three times a day. When the incision got infected, I took her to the doctor, made sure she took her medicine on time and tried to make her as comfortable as possible.

When she was well enough, we’d go for walks in Olde Town. And when she felt much better, we went to the mall to walk around. With my mother.

It was our first outing there since our daughter had been born. Goose was swaddled up in her stroller and we walked at the pace my spouse was comfortable with. About halfway through our walk we stopped. She sat down on a bench to rest. 

After five maybe ten minutes I got impatient. I wanted to get her and our child home. I tried to encourage her at first but then I got upset. Not angry, just aggravated. I told her she needed to push herself. To power through the pain. To not give up or give in to the pain.

After all, that is what I’d been told all my life and it’s what I do. It’s what most men do. We were told growing up “Pain is just weakness leaving your body.” and if we were injured to “Rub some dirt on it.” We were told that if we didn’t keep going, we would be no better than a girl. (I know, that sounds quite derogatory in this day and age but it’s true.)

So, she did, she limped slowly to the van. He face red with pain and anguish and her eyes desperately trying to hold back the tears. I was proud of her for that. I shouldn’t have been. I should have been getting her a wheelchair or getting the van and moving it to a closer exit. I didn’t. I was an ass.

So, fast forward to last week. When I had severe abdominal pains and went to the emergency room at a local hospital. After six hours of waiting and testing I was diagnosed with acute appendicitis. They quickly scheduled me for an emergency appendectomy and wheeled me off to Pre-op. Then Op. Then Post-op. Then my room.

When I finally woke up last Thursday, with very little pain, thanks to high grade pharmaceuticals,  and a missing vestigial organ, she was sitting in the chair by my side. Some visitors came, some went. Then my mother-in-law showed up. We talked small talk and the story of the mall was told. I felt terrible. Awful in fact. I couldn’t believe what an ass I’d been. 

I thought, “what if it were me in that situation? What if I were berated into walking a half mile with appendicitis by someone that was supposed to be taking care of me?” The answer was simple, I’d have been pissed beyond belief.

So when my mother-in-law left I looked over at my wife and apologized for being an ass. She accepted the apology. We smiled and laughed.

So, right now, to all you women out there who’ve ever had a C-section and some ass of a man unknowingly berates or belittles you into “Powering” through your pain… Well, I apologize for them too. We, and by we I mean men, are pretty stupid when it comes to you ladies. We’ve no idea what you go through before, during or after giving birth, we are ignorant asses. However; if it is anything like what I went through with my acute appendicitis, well, you have nothing but my utmost respect. Once again, I’m sorry for being an ass.

Happy new year and I hope it is a great one.