It has been thirty-three months since four doctors told me I had ninety days to live. I guess I fooled them, didn’t I? They have no explanation for my apparent reprieve. They just shake their heads, throw up their hands, and say things like “medicine is an art and people are unpredictable.” Gee, I would never have guessed that! I know why I continue to live and I could tell them, but they wouldn’t put in stock in what I would tell them, so why bother?
Being sick with cancer with the attendant radiation, chemotherapy, and related drugs has a tendency to slow me down. I am tired most of the time. I would also say that the tiredness is not the same as if I had run a race or worked really hard. It is a completely pervasive fatigue that is bone-deep and long-lasting. It has to be experienced to be understood.
Nonetheless, the constant fatigue has brought with it some good things. It has forced me to slow down and has given me the opportunity to appreciate what is around me. There are many little things that we each experience that slip by unnoticed most of the time. For me, this is a brand new, enlightening experience. Let me give you a quick example.
Back when I was playing lawyer, it was not unusual for me to be on the road to court in four different counties in a single day. There was no time for breakfast, lunch or anything else, for that matter. I got skilled at driving with my knee, while looking at a file, and talking with a client or one of the secretaries on the cell phone. Stopping for lunch was out of the question. You may not believe this, but in thirty-three years, I never stopped one time to have lunch while on the road. Really stupid. This obsessive behavior became a habit.
A few months ago I had business in Warsaw. I drove there in my truck, took care of the matter and headed home. About fifteen miles from Warsaw is the small farm town of Silver Lake. On the corner is a tiny mom-and-pop diner called Keisling’s Iron Skillet. It looks like my kind of place. Quiet, good food, you will be left alone to read, and reasonable prices. Fine dining it is not. Comforting it is.
So I rolled into Silver Lake about noon… hungry…and rolled right on through… because I needed to get back to Kokomo. About three miles out of Silver Lake it dawned on my tiny brain that I was not working anymore, there was no office to go to no appointments to keep and I had no reason at all not to stop and enjoy a leisurely lunch. I will not tell you I turned around and went back to Keisling’s, but I did stop for lunch at The Red Apple diner five miles up the road, where I enjoyed a cheeseburger, fries, cole slaw and Coke, followed by apple pie and ice cream for dessert. I spent an hour having lunch and reading a book. That is the first time I have ever stopped for lunch.
So where am I going with this? I am learning to slow down and sometimes even stop to enjoy little things that I used to blow right on by and not notice. I am working on making this an art form. Consequently, I thought I would make a partial list of some of these little things that I have noticed, so you get the idea. Acknowledging these little events make life better, even if you are sick.
1. A long, hot shower, followed by crawling into fresh sheets on my bed and opening a new book to the first page.
2. One frozen peach wine cooler in bed at night.
3. The clatter of my Ducati’s dry clutch and the shriek and snort of its motor at nine thousand rpms.
4. Peach salsa and Tostito chips.
5. Any road trip in my Silverado with the Iverson and Lynne, providing it ends at a dog-friendly Hampton Inn for the night.
6. The sound of river water slipping by the hull of my handmade wooden kayak.
7. Eating a roasted chicken cooked on my Ron Popeil rotisserie.
8. Waking up in the morning and celebrating with Iverson (or Lynne) that we have new day to goof off together
9. Meeting up unexpectedly with a friend and having lunch or dinner together.
10Playing anything written by Mississippi John Hurt.
11. The sound of my razor sharp plane as it slices off a ribbon of wood.
12. Watching any sunset from my pier on Winona Lake with Lynne and Iverson.
13. Listening to my son, Zack, play his guitars.
14. Driving by any courthouse or my old office and laughing, because I do not have to do that stuff anymore.
15. Playing music in the band at Oakbrook Church.
16. Watching the coots land on Winona Lake in the late fall.
17. Seeing a hawk on a telephone line anywhere in Indiana.
18. Looking up and seeing a perfectly trimmed sail on my sailboat.
19. Being inverted on the forty-five degree down line on the backside of a Cuban-eight, followed by a loop and roll in a Decathlon.
20. Puttering along at 80 kts five hundred feet above the ground, watching cars, cows, people and land go by.
21. Asparagus cooked in soy sauce with lots of salt and butter.
22. Any peach ice cream anytime. Or strawberry.
23. Any barbecue joint with pulled pork, cold slaw, baked beans, cornbread and sweet tea.
24. Gymnopedie No. One played on my Martin guitar through a Fender amp with slight chorus effect.
25. The curve of Lynne’s waist.
26. 19 kts in my wooden hydroplane.
27. Talking with my mom, when she remembers who I am.
28. Lunch with Tommy D.
29. The stock market over 12000.
30. Walking out of a church service determined to try to do better.
31. Giving Iverson a bath.
32. Any song by Leonard Cohen.
33. Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.
34. “52 Vincent” by Richard Thompson.
35. Cooking dinner for friends.
36. The smell of lilacs blooming.
37. Seeing my daughter, who will always be two years old, anytime.
38. Taking off our shoes, and walking ashore on Omaha Beach with my son, Zach.
39. My oncologist saying that nothing is showing up in the CT scans and “come back in three months.”
40. Any new story from anyone about my dad.
41. Waking up in a sleeping bag on the Appalachian Trail and fixing oatmeal over a backpacking stove.
This is a partial list. I could go on all day. I never used to notice these things. Not so nowadays. I would urge you to make your own list. You would be surprised how much good it does you.
I have still not had lunch at Keisling’s, but I swear I will get that done.
Slow down. Life is short. Enjoy the little things. Share them when you can.