Saturday, November 24, 2012


We're supposed to die on our Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) day.  Over 90% do.  It depends on where you are, who is around, how close to defibrillator paddles you happen to be.   Then the luckiest of us come back without significant brain damage.  And we find one another.  We ask each other questions we can't ask anyone else;  we answer the way we can't answer anywhere else.

We are the same and we are not.  And every now and then we find things we can't say even there.   Some things divide even us, even this group of survivors who were supposed to die.  We don't talk about politics, thank god.  And we don't talk much about god.

A few days ago, I was talking with a new-ish friend who asked so many questions about my SCA day.  Including questions about T, the ex-husband who drove me to the ER exactly 10 minutes before my heart stopped.  While we had split yet again, he was still living in my home, working on buying his house - my new-ish friend asked all those questions.

So I re-capped that morning over coffee with my new friend -  my waking up too early with a vague sense that something was wrong.  Spending 30 minutes wandering about the house convincing myself it was nothing.  Then finally yielding to the astonishingly lucky instinct to go to the hospital.  I woke T up, who by then had been banished to a guest room.  But he got up and he took me.  Where my heart stopped.  Dead.  Lucky.  Shocked back to life with three goes of the defibrillator paddles.

Then my friend asked me a new questions:  "So, he - the ex - he saved your life?".  My response was quick and visceral, though happily it was at least a litte short of harsh, but it was "No, he doesn't get that credit.  I don't give him that".   I was surprised, even at myself.   I told my friend and myself that no - I would have gotten to the ER before my last 10 minutes was up.  I wouldn't have called 911; I didn't know my heart was about to stop.  I think I would have driven myself.   The day would have been more complicated, but I think I would have survived.   But the most surprising thing is that even though I have relived that morning dozens and dozens of times, I have never once asked myself if I would have lived if he hadn't been here. Never once.  Not one time.

Should I "give" him the credit?  We survivors are all different in this - who gets the credit for our surviving that day.  Many of them give it to their God.  Other give it to their 'first responders' - the friend or loved one or good Samaritan or EMT who kept them alive until their defibrillator paddles shocked the crap out of their hearts.  I don't participate in those conversations, and I've never heard anyone give the credit to an ex-husband parked in the guest room who was being booted to the curb yet once again.   They all seem infinitely more gracious than I am.

I've hoarded the credit.  I've given it to luck.  That I had a lucky beyond lucky instinct and then another round of dazzling luck to get there in time.  Toss in even more luck that I'd been hooked up to the monitor or whatever it was so that when the nurse left my cubicle in the ER the alarms sounded as my heart stopped.  I've given all that to luck.

What a bitch.  I should probably thank him.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

At the Wrong Table - (SCA)

We survivors of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) come in many stripes.  We are each members of the small 3-7% club who didn't die that day - or at least, we didn't permanently die.   We are young or old, healthy or not, we know why our hearts stopped or we don't and we never will.  We have intact hearts or not;    we suffered permanent brain damage (ABI) from oxygen loss or we did not.   We are annoyed and perplexed that our hearts stopped and every single one of us is dazzled and grateful that we are somehow alive.  Most of us now see life as paradox - this was the unluckiest and luckiest day of our lives.  This was curse and magic.  We become seekers of something.  And in my nearly 3 years, I don't think a full 24 hours has passed without a wave of sheer gratitude - for life, and for my intact brain.  Many are less lucky than I was, and it can break your heart to watch them sort out their new brains.

Last night, in a different circle, I had dinner with a group of 8 - a few I know well and a few I didn't.  I found myself sitting across the table from a bright woman who had worked in healthcare for decades, in both  clinical and business positions.  She is probably around 60, very fit, very bright.  And smug.  Smug about her good health.  If I could have spoken, I'd have been speechless.  She takes full credit for her good health, attributing it entirely to her good eating and exercise habits.  Not just a little attribution - entirely.  Stridently, aggressively smug.  As if she "deserved" her good health, and of course, as if others do not "deserve" it.

We fell into the danger zone;  she doesn't like the new healthcare law.  She doesn't want to have to pay for unhealthy people, particularly when it is "their own fault".  She was smug and  harsh and ungracious.   Appetizers had just arrived; we had a long way to go.  In my youth, I would have argued.  Now, I quietly sit and muse at how a seemingly intelligent person could actually believe that a healthcare system could be modeled on "fault".  Skip the ethics;  one should be stopped cold with the understanding that those lines are impossible to find except in the egregious outlier cases.   Two seats down was a surgeon who had operated on two little kids that day - in my youth, I would have asked Ms. Smugness if an investigation should be done to determine if the babies or their parents had been "at fault" so they could be billed.   But I was quiet.  Told my stock self-deprecating jokes about my aged, now deceased parents.  Such deflection failed.  She returned to it throughout the meal.

I kept flashing between this self-congratulatory person and my SCA friends who woke up one day to learn their hearts had stopped and somehow they - we -  were alive.  In most cases, there is no pre-known cause and often, there is never a reason found.  Our hearts had gone haywire.  They may or may not go haywire again.

As I drove home from dinner - peeved -- I thought "with whom would I trade places"?   Would I rather have a heart that had gone off the rails, live with core uncertainty, and this need to search ----  accompanied by a deep gratitude - or would I prefer to be fit, healthy and smug?

I'll take my broken heart.  I'll take all our broken SCA hearts.  Next time, I'll sit at the other end of the table.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) leaves its survivors a bit shell shocked at first.  So few of us survive and even fewer with intact hearts and brains.   Many of us had no diagnosis before that day, and many will never learn the root cause of our sudden electrical disruption.  We didn't have heart attacks; this was not plumbing; this is not the build up of cholesterol or inflammation in our arteries ---- this is Sudden Cardiac Arrest - this is a heart that simply stops beating.   Most of us had a heart that was deemed "healthy" right up until it stopped beating.

What we all had was an electrical outage.  We definitely all had that.  Bu they can't tell us much.  Often they can't tell us why; they can't tell us the probability of its happening again; they won't give us odds.  Maybe it will stop again, maybe it won't.  Instead, they give many of us defibrillators in our chests.  Because unlike the electrical outage in your house, the one in your heart doesn't just "come back on again" in a few minutes.  And no, CPR won't restart an electrically stopped heart - it just buys a little time.

None of us had warning; we wake up after our SCA and someone tells us our new story.  Electrical outage, heart stopped, we know nothing.  Sorry.   It's a long list of adjustments.  Many have heart or brain damage to contend with.  Most are not permitted to drive, at least for a few months.  We are told not to scuba dive, no MRI's - ever.  Airport security poses some new issues.  We worry about what is safe and what suddenly is unsafe.  Some get implanted defibrillators.  Probably all of us get some medication to take - although in my heart of hearts, I think they're pretty much guessing with that too.  Just in case.   So we struggle to adjust.  We fend off fear on top of fear.  We slowly adapt.
We are scared, we're grateful, we know we are exceptionally lucky and unlucky at the same time.

Mostly, I think what we are is stunned.   This softens over time, but it doesn't go away - this is stunning, this naked fact that our hearts simply up and stopped.   There are some things in life that are meant to be certainties - the sun will rise tomorrow and set tonight.  The sky is blue, clouds are white.  Puppies and children are cute.  Homemade pies and plums are wonderful.  The ocean will take my breath away every single time I see it.  Dolphin and deer raise one's spirits.   Libraries and hardware stores are just the most wonderful places.  A good baseball game is magnificent, particularly one that starts in the late day and ends under the lights.  The Cubs will never ever win the World Series again.    And healthy hearts will continue to beat.  Certainties.

Just like sunrises and dolphin - you should never have to think about whether a 'healthy' heart will keep beating. Of course it will.  We SCA survivors know it's no longer true.  We find one another on the web and we grapple with uncertainty and fear and the joy of our exceptionally good luck.

But each of us knows,  every single day -  that something in there went off the rails.  Our hearts are not normal.  We may still not have a diagnosis, we may still be told our hearts are otherwise 'healthy', but we know ----these hearts are not normal.  They simply stop.  They are not sure things.

So Chicago, take heart - the Cubs may win again one day.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

People We Count On

I miss my uncle.  I miss him often, but particularly on days like this one when I am unsettled, anxious, tense, worried.   For many years, he was my person.  Sometimes I feel guilty that I miss him so much more than I miss either parent, but to be honest, it's not even close.   Bill was my friend, my mentor, my hero, my godfather and my confidante.   I adored him; I loved his company; we made one another laugh --  and I sought his counsel.  I miss him.

Today, I'm better, but yesterday I was rattled, anxious, disturbed.  After a serene 2 1/2 years, after reaching a time when I so rarely thought about him,  my ex-husband (T) zipped back into my life.   After an on-and-off 28 years, his departure and the arrival of my Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) were nearly simultaneous.  So sometimes I may  have trouble sorting out what parts of my new life are due to SCA and Skippy the implanted defibrillator, and what parts are attributable to the post-T life.   Either way, I love this life of mine.  I live where and how I want to live, anxiety pops up only now and then.  For most of my T years, anxiety was nearly constant.  What a state of affairs that the anxiety of an alcoholic ex-husband is more difficult to manage than that of a heart that has taken to stopping, and a defibrillator in my chest wall that may shock the crap out of me one day.  It made me laugh out loud when I realized that.  My happy but so-called life.  

But much less fun was yesterday and the day before - the day the ex zips back in with harsh legal news and facts and worries - this is when I almost literally reach for the phone to call Bill.  It took me over a day to sort out what my reaction and response would be, what I was comfortable doing and what I would not do.  It's difficult to detach totally when the ex's need is this acute and the stakes are this high.  This was my husband; this was 28 years.  It's hard.  I needed Bill.

In the end, I decided I could make one phone call to T.  I could make other calls to some family and former friends.  I called a former sponsor.  I encouraged each of them to call T.  My one phone call to T was to blow out his secret - to tell him everyone knew this current story and to ask that he at least think about taking the call from the wonderful former sponsor.   And to wish him the best.
Predictably, T then called me multiple times, but I have finally learned my lessons. I respect my own boundaries.  I understand my limits.  I wish him well and hope he finds his way.  I did what I can do.  It's as far as I go.  Those lines don't have cracks in them anymore.

Bill would ask if my life were now joyous, free and surrounded by people whom I enjoy and who care about me - yes, yes and then again yes.  Bill would remind me softly that trading in my today life for any part of this past would be a monstrously poor choice - that I have seen that movie and I know how it ends.

So I miss my uncle, but he's here, here in my very sensibility.  I feel like I took my time, sorted out my options, made my choices - and turned to look over my shoulder to see Bill nodding his gentle assent.  Years after his death, I still count on him.  And I remain so grateful for him.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Hearts, Neckties and Ferris Wheels

Who wears a necktie on a Ferris Wheel?  Long ago Dads did.  I saw a photo of a Dad and two sons, probably from the early 60's.  Probably before Kennedy was killed.  It was black and white - the photo.  And the copy was faded and stylized, so detail was lost.  But it was a Dad and two sons. They were on a Ferris Wheel. And the Dad wore a necktie.

Was it the end of a workday?  Or maybe Sunday after church?  Men still wore ties to church back then, I think.  This dad has that look - he was a business man or owner of a certain type of shop or a professional - a lawyer, accountant, doctor.  He was not a stranger to neckties.  Even in this old photo, you could tell he was comfortable in his tie.  He might have been uncomfortable without it.

His two sons flanked him.  The younger probably 5, the older maybe 8.  The older one doesn't want to be there. Probably doesn't want to be hanging around with buttoned-down Dad and surely not with the little brat brother.  This older one - you can't see the eyes rolling, but you just know they are.  He's bored, the Ferris Wheel is probably small, he wants to get it over with.

The Dad is there, but he's not having much fun, he's not engaged with either boy.  His eyes are off in the distance - some high altitude distance.  He's got the young one on his lap, but he's not really even holding onto him.  There is not a seat-belt or restraint in sight, but this boy is more perched than cradled on his dad's knee.  Not like today's Dads.  This Dad is fulfilling his obligation to take the two boys on this dumb amusement park ride.  He is, after all, a man who wears neckties to a fair.  The Ferris Wheel was no doubt foisted upon him by his wife, who may be holding the camera.

And then there is the young one.  He is hanging on to the ride's bars for dear life, and loving every single moment of sheer terror.  Gleeful terror.  Terror with abandon.  The young one is staring straight at the camera. He is so excited he may yet jump right out of the car.  He can barely contain himself.  He cannot believe everyone's feet are off the ground - OFF the ground!!  This is over, over, over the top for him.  This beats Christmas, and it's summer.   He loves being there with the Dad and he loves the thrill of the ride.  You can almost hear him across the decades: "look at me, Look at Me, Look at ME!!!".  You can see in the photo he's a daredevil already.  And not the kind who doesn't know fear - those are the ones who climb Mt. Everest "because it's there".  No, this little boy is the other kind of daredevil.  The one who feels the fear and the adrenalin that accompanies it and just can't get enough.  Already hooked on a thrill.  Doomed by the thrill.

The Dad will die young; he'll be unhappy.  He'll leave those two boys.  The older one grows up to be the white sheep until arrogance gets the better of him. But it's an insipid arrogance.  Like Paul McCartney - too interested in making sure he looks good working;  not interested enough in excellent work.  He drank his own Kool-aid. Insipidly.
And the young one, the little boy.  He'll grow up seeking thrills.  He'll miss the Dad forever; he'll never comprehend his loss.  He'll become alcoholic; he'll be confused why life has so many failures.  He won't understand what happened to the thrills.  When did adrenalin get overtaken by shakes, hangovers and blackouts?  Why can't he get it back?  Where the hell did it go?

I still miss him sometimes.  I wish I'd known the Dad who wore neckties on Ferris Wheels.  And I wish I had the photo to put on this blog.

Photo by Penelopejonze, find her on Flickr

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

SCA Changes Everything - Our Yes and Our No

At first, I thought living through Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) would change nothing. I won't let this change anything.  I am still healthy and strong. I am not old, and this -- this --- this ----event ---won't change me. As if one could will this to be true.

Time goes by, the initial shock, terror and horror pass.  We come to terms with the fact that by all rights, we should have died that day - over 90% die that day.  Then some of us get to come to terms with the joyous but incredible understanding that we had no heart damage and no brain damage - rarity among the rare. We didn't die, our brains and hearts are intact.  Again, I think - I will not let this change me.  Period.  I just won't permit it.

I look back with wonder at how absurd I was.  Every one of us who lives through this is utterly, completely changed. I don't have any substantive physical or mental after-effects.  Oh, sure, I can't walk through a metal detector, I wonder and worry a little about magnets that seem to have become suddenly ubiquitous. And I was bitter about the ban on scuba diving.  But substantively - no physical or mental after-effects.

But nothing is the same.  Everything has changed.  I don't think there is such a thing as an unchanged SCA survivor.  We become seekers - some seek data, some seek a villain to blame, some seek an understanding that will never come, some seek to re-craft our new lives. Pick your poison.  Everything is different.  I say yes when I used to say no; and I say no when I used to say yes.  We are not the same as we were.

I do things I never would have done - ever.  I write this blog and I don't care who reads it. I don't care if it's revealing or embarrassing. Five years ago, I never would have considered a public display such as this.

Last weekend I learned how to make paper.  I love to write; I love paper and pens and ink.  I love fountain pens.  I don't make many things; I made a few hundred jobs, I guess.  I make some contracts now.  But things - I don't make many things.  But I made paper for two days.  Four years ago, I would have scoffed at the idea.  I would have said no to making paper.  I am pragmatic by nature - we can buy paper; there is no point to making it.  After two days of making paper, I have a few sheets I like and one I love.  I don't know exactly what I will do with it, but a fountain pen and some words will be involved.

I made paper.  And a man walking down the beach asked me to leave behind my book and walk with him. I said yes.  He asked for my number and I said yes.  Pre- SCA, I would not have; I would have wanted fingerprints or a mutual friend or some sort of background check, place of employment, license plate - something silly.    Now I just say yes.

I say no to things I don't enjoy. Things I would have continued to do out of a sense of obligation.  Or out of a desire to avoid feeling guilty.   Last year, service on a nonprofit board had become tedious and irritating.  Pre-SCA, I would have continued through my term.  Not now.  I quit mid-term.  My self-induced guilt has lost much of its power since the SCA. If it's not fun or meaningful or gratifying or important, I'm out.  I received a gift on September 5, 2009 and it's mine to keep.

I say yes when I used to say no.  I say no when I used to say yes.  SCA changes everything.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Deep End

Swimming pools have those stencils  around the sides--- "2 ft.", "6 ft",  "14 ft".  I understand these.  If the sign says it's two feet deep,  I know not to dive in.  Fourteen feet - it's safe to dive.  I understand these stencils, these signs.

The mystery is why I sometimes ascribe depth to people when it's not actually there.  I have a history of misreading it in men.  For a long time, I think I believed that if a man were kind, smart, witty, charming, charismatic and a drinker, then the drinking was the stencil - it pointed to depth.  Not to be too hard on myself, but what an idiot.  I've been told,  by one of them, ironically,  that my powers of discernment were less than dazzling.

Of course, we are not swimming pools.  None of us has one depth.  None of us is always at 2 feet or 14 feet.  But some reach for 14 and some stay contentedly or discontentedly in 2.  14 is scarier; the water gets dark; you can drown.  Two feet is two feet.  One of the simplest and most elegant observations came in Clyde Edgerton's wonderful novel "Raney".  One character says "There are three kinds of people in the world: those who talk about themselves, those who talk about other people and those who talk about ideas".  

But as people, we wander about on the spectrum.  The deepest among us will at times watch American Idol or Real Housewives and talk about themselves or other people, but some 2 feet people never seem to aim for 14.  Some can't muster the courage or simply don't see the point; the risk of 14 feet has no obvious reward.

But we are each capable of only what we are capable of.  Most of my friends glide easily along the range of depths; we have superficial days and interests and then glide to the relative depth of examined lives.   (And I will say that among my Sudden Cardiac Arrest survivor friends, I have yet to meet one who is not in the deep.  We are all seekers; our hearts stopped without warning and we didn't die. It gives one pause).

My life would be simpler if the shallow end dwellers could wear those stencils.  Since I stink at sorting out which men are which - particularly among my ridiculously beloved heavy drinkers.  As Hayes Carl put it "you're not a poet, you're a drunk with a pen".  Or a lens.  Or a cab.  A drunk with a pen.

There was a day with one of them.  We were talking about why he had stayed so long in a relationship that had been miserable for years.  And he said "She cooked, she cleaned, she drank".   I was speechless.  Could someone actually be shallow enough that those were the criteria for a relationship???  "She cooked, she cleaned, she drank".  I understood she cooked a lot, cleaned a lot and drank a lot.  Enabling him not to cook,  never to clean and  of course, to drink with abandon.   True to form, I got it wrong.  Instead of admitting that my friend was in fact that shallow, I, ever the idiot, ascribed depth even to that.  He knew the absurdity of the rationale, the criteria -- or he would never have said it. At least not to me.  Me, ever the idiot. The reality is that he saw it that way because he forces himself to live in two feet.  He is terrified to see beyond 2 feet; he drinks to make sure he can stay in 2 feet.  Everything else is simply too uncomfortable to manage sober.  Idiot.

I need the stencils.  I sometimes give too much credit; sometimes people give themselves too little.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Un-Friend, De-Friend, the Shortness of It All

I can't quite keep it straight what Facebook (FB) calls it - unfriending, defriending.  Either way, this is serious business, unfriending.  I did it this morning, for the first time.  While I had good reason (in the simple space that is my own mind), it still made me uncomfortable.  I don't think I'm much of a fan of that level of unbalanced, unilateral power.  When I had the big corporate job, I  thought that the decisions about hiring people were only marginally better than the firing ones.  That level of solo power has never been something I lusted after.  (Though I will admit that I love that same level of power over things - as I contemplate re-doing my aging kitchen, I am in love with the reality that I  need discuss the myriad of choices only with myself;  I do not have to cope with someone else's opinions about counters, edges, cabinets, drawers, whether one can actually "need" a double-oven (yes).  This is a fiefdom where I relish the power).

Unbalanced power re: people, not so much.  But I defriended someone.  Truth be told, we are not actual friends; we were merely FB friends, and we had been childhood friends.   In this, the first 10 years of FB's life, I think we are all still sorting out how to deal with it; what the etiquette is, the right 'tone', etc.  It's new.  The rules are being written in pencil.

So the defriend.  This is either a hard, embarrassing week in North Carolina or a relief, depending on your views on gay marriage.  I understand that some yet remain 'squeamish'; I remember being 'squeamish' when first gaining a consciousness about it all.  I remember trying to sort out if there were lines that society shouldn't cross, etc.   But all that was a while ago for me;  so it confuses me - genuinely and without malice - it confuses me how people with loved ones, friends, family members who are gay and have the simple wish to marry - how does it feel acceptable to deny that?  (I assume, perhaps incorrectly,  that is now all of us - don't we all have loved ones and family members who are openly gay?)  But apparently it still feels acceptable to deny them marriage rights, at least to a majority of North Carolina voters this week.  And while I'm comforted with the certainty that this is the last gasp for the anti-gay marriage crowd, that it will die a natural death in 10-15 years, I doubt that is much comfort to our gay loved ones who wish to marry now or who are simply tired of their trampled civil rights.

So the day after the dark election, I posted a link to a quite irreverent Todd Snider song that mightily skewers the right, on this and other issues.  And somewhat less mightily skewers the left.  That's one reason I like him - multi-directional skewering.
So this childhood friend, let's call her Jane; she wrote on my  wall, on my Todd Snider link.  Something to the effect that this song wrongly maligned and mocked Christians.  Well, maybe, but it's my wall.   I waited a day, then sent Jane a private message suggesting we respect one another's FB walls as our own space.  I aimed for gracious.  I suggested that while we had been childhood pals, our roads were clearly very different, and that perhaps our common ground was that our respective (late) mothers had been fast friends who had been wonderfully kind to one another in their last years.
And that we could avoid falling prey to the rot that passes for 'discourse' these days; that we would let pass without rebuke or comment what we each write on our own FB walls.  My mom would have been proud; there was not a single divisive word in that message; it was a plea for civility and etiquette and grace across our great divide.

But then ----  nothing.  I had hoped she'd remove her offending comment from my wall.  Nothing.  This is the kind of behavior from loudly self-proclaiming "Christians" that makes so many people, including me, uneasy and skeptical at best.  I'm pretty sure that the actual Christ would accept an olive branch and a hope for higher ground.

But  --- nothing.  So I deleted her comment and then found the 'unfriend' button and used it.
As we all know - life is short.  If you've survived Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), you are so cognizant, every single day, that it is shockingly short. Gone in a second short; blink of a flipping eye short.  I've said before SCA changes everything - and one thing for sure:  I won't spend much time in activities that aren't pleasant or gratifying or meaningful in some way - and that includes pointless debate with 'moralists' who are guarding some gates and excluding anyone who makes them uncomfortable.

Comfort is not the only barometer of morality.  Actually, it's not even in the running.

And my un-friend's name is not Jane.  Jane was the name of her lovely, kind, gracious mother.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

I Can Fix That

Every now and then, I forget my utter lack of ability to assemble anything mechanical.  I have a shot if it comes with true instructions (to me, that means that it comes with words of instruction that go something like: First do A with tool B, then do C, and so on).  What I don't mean is anything that comes with "instructions" that consist entirely of a drawing.  I could look at a drawing like that for days, for weeks,  and never ever have any sense of how one begins or ends.  Never.  I know this; I long ago accepted this limitation.  I know that if I try to assemble it without help, failure is certain.  Certain and absolute.  The only question is whom to call on for help.

But every now and then, I forget.  And I buy something that promises "Simple assembly required".  Opening the box, finding only that drawing and perhaps one incomprehensible tool - I remember.  I can't do this.  Not alone.

For decades, I believed I could fix almost anything - "Some fixing required" was not the same to me as "Some assembly required".  My purpose on this earth was to fix, find a better way, see a new chance.  People, situations, work, husband, my own demon - I could fix that.  All it would take was brain power, determination, courage, skills, persistence, creativity, hard work, maybe a little luck.  But everything out there could be fixed.  I believed it - and acted like it  - for decades.

It wasn't pride.  It was merely my purpose.  I was here to fix, to change, to move to new ground.  I was certain of it.  For decade after decade.  There was success and then there were the things I hadn't yet figured out how to fix.  I didn't see any of it as failure - just 'not yet success'.  All I had to do was work harder, be smarter, more creative, braver, more daring --- and it would be fixed or surpassed.    As they say in the mother country --- Idjit.

One does not fix an alcoholic - it only took me about 7 or 8 Alanon years for that one.  And that's only the first.... now the list of what I cannot fix seems endless.  Husband, marriage, son, my demon, anyone else's demons.  I can go to Law School at 50 and learn things no 50 year old brain should even attempt to learn.  Work - yes.  People - no.  Me - no.  Endless list.  Hearts - we cannot fix hearts.

I can't fix or even really understand a buena man, I can't fix my demons, I cannot fix a heart.  I can accept an implanted defibrillator to restart a heart that quits, but that's not quite fixing it, is it?  This week, a 26 year old world champion swimmer from Norway died of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) after a workout.  A seemingly perfectly healthy world-class athlete simply laid down one moment and died.  His heart just up and stopped.  Inexplicably but inexorably.  That crap is not fixable.  95% die that day.

I have finally, after  5+ decades on this earth --- I have finally accepted that I can fix nothing.  My ability to fix any of it is exactly on par with my ability to assemble the damn bookcases I bought that came with only a diagram.  The only question is whom to ask for help.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Stuck in the Why

There are mysteries and there are puzzles and they're not the same thing.   The difference is information: with a mystery, we have all the information we need; what remains is our pondering, our musings,  analysis, effort,  passage of time, insight, but not more data.  A puzzle is different; we can't answer the question until we get some more information. With that one more bit of information, the solution is revealed. (Thank Malcolm Gladwell for the distinction).

 I remember my first significant mystery.  I didn't like it.  Or maybe it was a puzzle.  Or perhaps just an eternally unsolvable mystery.  It was grade school - the nuns presented us with the Trinity:  Father, Son, Holy Spirit (well, it was Holy Ghost back then).  I was probably around 8 years old.  I was raised in a home of "thou shalt question everything", so I said the obvious "I don't understand".   My literal nature goes back a long way, and the Trinity did not compute.  I imagine the nun probably simply repeated herself - it is  three and it is one.  I asked again and got the ultimate nun-response:  "It is a Divine Mystery".   That may have tided me over for a bit, but not long.    Divine Mystery?  I can hear even my child-self saying 'well, that covers an awful lot of ground, now doesn't it, Sister Whoever?   They used the image of a shamrock -  it's three and it's one.   As if that would make it believable.  I don't think I spent much time trying to solve that one, and I never quite accepted it as true.  The nuns see a mystery; I see myth.

 Sometimes I get stuck in "why?" and can't find my way out.   Sometimes I still can't tell if the question, the dilemma  -  is a mystery or is it a puzzle?  Do I need to get more information or just try to unravel the facts I have?  Or worse yet - is it unsolvable?

Why did my heart stop?  Why didn't yours?  If I knew the answer to that, could I tell if mine is going to stop again? Why did I get to the ER in time that day?   Will the same instinct kick in next time?  Or does Skippy the implanted defibrillator make that instinct superfluous?

Why do people do what they do?  I waste so much time acting as if the questions were puzzles.  What makes a kind person behave cruelly?  Why do I continue to care about something I should not care about?   If I can accept a heart that stops, how can you yield to a lesser fear?   Why do all of us engage in destructive behavior?  I'm close to concluding - as my 8 year old self did -- screw it.  Some things are un-knowable.  Maybe Sister Mary Whoever had it right ---- Divine Mystery indeed.

The photo is Rich's Inlet.  Mystery surrounds it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Things We Name

We name hurricanes;  we do not name tornadoes.  Many of us, if not most of us, name our implanted defibrillators.   Their technical and proper name is implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD).  Sigh.  We lighten that up a bit.
I used to think we named hurricanes because each is with us a relatively long time; we watch their development from tropical depression to storm to adulthood.  But if it were just for keeping track, we could simply number them each year.  We name them instead;  I think we have our reasons.

I  think it's essentially the same reason we name our ICD's - to anthropomorphize them, to de-mystify them, and mostly to dis-empower them.  We want to see the ICD's as pets, as family members --- as anything but what they are.  Anything but some foreign object sitting there with wires into my heart.  Wires that will 'defibrillate' if my heart stops beating again.  Translation = shock the crap out of me.

That first day after the Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), it is hard, hard, hard to digest this whole, new story.  To process it into something we can live with without being breathlessly terrified.   (I wish I could say I was proud of how I worked through it, but I believe I lacked grace.)  When I came to and they told me I had SCA, that my heart had stopped and that I was lucky to be alive, that I had gotten three shocks with the big-boy defibrillator paddles to restart it --- when they told me this, I think I gracelessly said something like  "What the F are you talking about?  Are you in the right room?"

We SCA survivors all grapple with it -  "what do you mean my heart just stopped beating?  And had to be shocked back?  Did I die?  Am I going to die again now?".   Then we hear the statistics - 95% + of people who have SCA die that day.  We can't breathe with that one.  We have tests, scans, bad food, terrified visitors.  I had so many questions that I couldn't formulate a single question.  I didn't understand why I didn't feel sick. Those 4 days in the hospital are a haze. I remember pieces, and I'm sure I have the sequence wrong.  Purely one foot in front of the other.  Friday you are a normal healthy person; Saturday your heart stops for no reason.  And somehow you survive that.  You slog through that. One beat at a time.

I gave consent for the ICD I had never heard of before; I gave consent to this thing going into my chest and into my heart.  It's in there forever.  It may or may not shock the stuffing out of me one day.
But on the night it was implanted, all I wanted  - and I wanted it desperately -- all I wanted was for this "it" not to be an "it".  This was a part of my life; I had a new body part.  I needed "it" to be a he or a she or a me. The next morning, I began searching for names --- I wanted a benign name.  Something I could handle, something that might make me smile.  Something that might make other people laugh.  Something I could live with.  Something that wouldn't terrify me.  And Skippy was born.  Skippy doesn't sound like a scary ICD;  Skippy sounds like a puppy.  Skippy will help; Skippy won't ruin me.  Skippy will be like Lassie.   Sort of.  He is my dis-empowered defibrillator.

I have since learned that many, many people feel this same need to humanize their ICD.   I have met (or e-met) people who have come up with an astonishing array of names:  Timex, Elizabeth, Popper --- and my all time favorite - Trigger.  I love these people, and I love the names.

I've got a roommate.  He lives in my chest wall.  Tornadoes are always destructive.  Hurricanes - sometimes they destroy and sometimes they don't.  The named storms are not always ruinous.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


I learned a number of things from a driver, and virtually nothing about driving.  One involved cigarettes and gasoline, but the best may have been the mistletoe.  I'm not sure where I had thought mistletoe came from - I probably assumed it grew on mistletoe trees or mistletoe bulbs or mistletoe shrubs.  I have a shocking lack of curiosity about such things so am not surprised I had never asked anyone or looked it up.  And I had never noticed those odd ball-like things in winter trees - such is life among  the amazingly unobservant.

But I'm educable; I learned what mistletoe was and then more surprisingly, how people retrieve it.  At least here in the south, they shoot it down.  Seriously.  With guns.

So mistletoe is a hemi-parasite.  Our cultural icon of Christmas sweethearts - parasitic.  It lives off its host.  I was shocked to learn that those weird little balls in the trees were mistletoe; the driver was more impressed with the shooting of it.  Figures.

I still wouldn't toss a lit cigarette into a gasoline puddle, no matter what the redneck on YouTube says.  Regardless of his demonstration, or semi-scientific assurances.   Nor would I shoot at mistletoe. But it's been quite a while since I learned that's where mistletoe comes from; I long ago quit trying to understand the driver.   Hemi-parasitic bare-tree balls of Christmas kissing icons that are waiting for their end-by-firearm - they are ever so much easier to understand.


Saturday, March 3, 2012


Some things are simply not right.  What is right is that it’s Spring, though the weather will be on and off for a bit yet.  It’s Spring because the Phillies are playing in Clearwater and college baseball is underway.  What’s right is the ball field grass is green; it gradually becomes somehow impossibly greener under the lights; my heart is still beating and Skippy the implanted defibrillator continues to be quiet.

And then there’s what’s wrong.  Pales in comparison to the harbingers of Spring, heartbeats and Skippy, but still just wrong. 

Designated Hitters.  Pitchers should hit.  As someone said, using a DH is like sending someone else in to a basketball game to shoot free throws.  Wrong.

My thirty-something year old friend who lives with the aftermath of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) and  her version of Skippy.  Too young.  Not right.  Ever.     

I get annoyed when I have to explain that I didn’t have a “Massive heart attack”.  Somehow, I prefer my reality of  the far less common and more dramatic SCA, though that is mighty small of me.  After all, before 9/5/09, I could not credibly have described the difference between a heart attack and SCA.  I’m wrong to get cranky about it, but I can’t seem to help myself.   My cholesterol was never high, thank you very much.  Small.  Small. 

Aluminum bats in college are wrong.  Actually, I think they’re wrong in high school and probably Little League as well.  The sound of a baseball bat should be a crack, not a ping. 

Mitt Romney in worn, broken-in jeans.  Very high ick factor.   And I don’t believe it.  Where is he getting them?

A favorite photo is ever so slightly out of focus.   There’s a new camera just developed (lytros) that will fix that, but too late for my shot. 

The wrong man calls.   Of course, the 'right' man is also a wrong man,  but that's just me.  I was thinking of writing a country song "He was the answer to the wrong question".   Another day.....
Writing a post like this after my extraordinary good fortune is wrong;  my heart stopped and I didn’t die.  This uncharacteristic whining reminds me of one of my favorite birthday cards ever created.  
- -   On the cover are two women.  One grants the other a single wish and the birthday girl says "Thinner thighs".  The wish-granter rages - really, all the problems in the world and that is what you selfishly ask for - thinner thighs??????
- -   And inside the card, the birthday girl responds.  "Okay, okay.  Thinner thighs for everyone".

And there you have it.

P. S. The photo is from;  isn't it perfect?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Worry - Zero to Sixty

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) changes everything.  Even how we worry.  Like they measure acceleration in cars, we SCA survivors can go from zero anxiety to catastrophe in seconds flat.  Sometimes, I think I have forgotten how to worry "in between", in moderation.  It is worry-free or it is the Apocalypse.  Or the SCA version of Apocalypse - hearts stopping without warning or implanted defibrillators (ICD's) shocking the crap out of us, also without warning.

I remind myself almost daily of Mark Twain's admonition that 90% of what he worried about most in his life never actually happened; I try to use his insight and wit to moderate the fear that accompanies post- SCA worry, but I fail more often than I like to admit.

Worrying in the post-SCA life is like the anxiety one feels in the first ragged months after death of a loved one.  Particularly in our youth, before we become skilled at grief.   (never mastery, of course, but there are some skills to be had there).  You know, when you get a late night phone call before the loved one's death, you may have a moment's disorientation, a spot of worry, more spots of annoyance at the interruption, the thought "this better be good".  Then, in the aftermath of the loved one's death, we are so acutely aware that it's possible that someone we love will die; that our people can actually die.  We hear the late night call, and the first thought is someone's death.   In my experience, happily, that level of worry dissipates as the months and then years pass after the loved one's death.

But now I think I may have to accept that the post-SCA zero-to-catastrophe worry is here to stay.  It's been a couple years, and it has not changed.  When I have a sensation in my chest (or really, almost anywhere), my first thought - icy, icy thought - is that it's the ICD and it's going to fire.  Or if the sensation is more of a sensitivity, my first thought - more iciness, is that something is wrong, either with my ICD or with the heart. (there are stories published seemingly constantly about quality issues with ICD's.  I skip most of them).

I have a "blog friend" in the Netherlands; I love hers - "Thoughts of Wonder".  (her link:  She is younger than I am, is raising young children, and has no business having to deal with this SCA nonsense.  Not that any of us should, but certainly not a young mom in her early 30's.  It is even more wrong.

So my friend, Marije, put up a new post "Not So Lovely Days".   A normal person, a pre-SCA me, would have thought she simply had a bad day.  But no, this is post-SCA and it's zero to sixty.  Me and Skippy the defibrillator immediately thought she had arrested again.  Or had a defibrillator shock.  Or something else horrible.  Just from reading those four words "Not So Lovely Days".  My worry is misplaced, in keeping with Mark Twain's 90% maxim -  I'm happy to say Marije was merely dealing with a household of people large and small who are suffering through colds or flu.  It only takes a minute; the anxiety disappears.  But I know it'll be back on another day; I know it's become a fixture.

So there it is again. Our hearts don't work like normal people hearts; something has gone off the rails there, whether we want to admit it or not.  And we no longer worry like normal people.   Zero to 60 in nothing flat.  I need a slower car.  I'm gonna get me a slower car.

(the photo above is my first car.  How it got to the front lawn of the apartment building and why I left it there - well, that is a long, old story for another day).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Whales, NatGeo, Me

I saw whales last week.  Many, many, many whales.  Grey ones (moms and babies), humpbacks, one gigantic blue whale.  And Orcas. And birds I'd never heard of.  Even the birds I was familiar with seemed more magnificent.  I was in the Sea of Cortez on a National Geographic ship.    This is a nerd cruise, not a Carnival Cruise. (If you ever see me on a Carnival-type cruise, you'll know I am being punished for doing something horrid).

This boat housed 55 passengers, a smallish staff/crew, augmented by PhD types on board to educate and help us.  Biologists, a botanist, a couple professional photographers.  There was a small contingent of Yale alums and they brought along their very own academic; I believe his area is biology of fish evolution. Seriously.  He tried to tell a joke one night about the expression "drink like a fish"; one of those excruciatingly awkward moments where someone realizes that outside his normal circle, he really just is not a funny man.  Interesting, yes. Funny - no.

So no, there were no musical acts made up of near would-be has-been almost stars. Well, one evening a couple local fishermen with guitars came on board and played a bit.  Seriously.  There was no casino and no bingo - instead, we had lectures on wetlands, whale migration, John Steinbeck's book "A Log of Sea of Cortez" (by someone who had actually known Steinbeck).  Like I said - this was nerd heaven.

The area is spectacular; the colors are beautiful, the air is unbroken.  Mountains, sand dunes, water,  cacti - somehow they look like they are created with pastels.  I don't remember ever wishing I could paint, but on the first morning, watching the sun come up, I had that wish.

One day, as it turned towards evening, I stopped in the lounge/bar to grab my afternoon cup of tea before heading to the deck for an hour with the Steve Jobs biography --- and I realized - on a 'normal' cruise, at 6PM, the bar would be full of people heading into, or deep into,  cocktail hour.  Here, on this boat, the lounge had maybe 10 people, all spread out in ones and twos, each reading a book.  Nerd heaven.

I learned that I loved seeing the migration and calving of the greys just as much as I thought I would. I learned I love sleeping on a boat.  Some people got very ill our first two sort-of rough nights, but I loved it.  I love dawn on a boat. I saw my first "green flash".  I snorkeled with sea lions (the adults can be big and scary, the babies are like puppies - bumping your head, your butt, chewing on your fins -- you laugh right through the snorkel).
Mexico is still Mexico.  Navigational markers made out of trash line an important channel.  Wonderful meals of local fish I have never heard of.  And the country is still a poor, dirty mess.

I had never done "group travel" before;  it's for people who like their travel safe and controlled.  There is little risk of things going seriously off the rails.  (Unlike my normal style -  two sisters hanging out at the Moscow train station at midnight to catch the overnight train to St. Petersburg... a little nervewracking, but fun.  We like risk).

Oh, and I love the airport scanners.  We don't have them  yet in little Wilmington, NC, but in LA, I get to breeze right through.  Skippy the implanted defibrillator (ICD) won't go through a metal detector, so most travel still involves the charming TSA pat-down.  But not in big, shiny LAX -  I think we with ICD's may be the only people who relish those scanners, but we do.

I loved the trip.  The next travel will probably be back to some scary sister trip (I'm trying to talk one of them into going to Israel).  But this was wonderful.  A lifelong dream - waking up surrounded by grey whales.  Whale after whale after whale; inches away.

Life is short.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Annoying Attribution: Who Gets Credit for Surviving SCA?

We survivors of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) have strong bonds with one another.  We are members of a very small club - over 95% of people who have SCA die that day.  Big number.  Really, really big number.

Strong bonds, yes.  Agreement, no.  I just read another new survivor story - as with all the stories, your heart races a little with the shared fear of that day; you are grateful they survived;  then the fear and gratitude mix together -- and selfishly, above all else, I am glad I survived.  I can't turn away from the stories, but they are not easy, breezy reads.  They come with anxiety - mixed with some empathy, but self-centered anxiety all the same.  Then the last paragraph of this one erased my anxiety and replaced it with silent irritation.  I'd never respond, never offer criticism on that site, but this is my  blog, so here goes....

This person,  we shall call NewOne - this NewOne closed (as many do) with a rousing, ringing, soaring statement of certain knowledge and gratitude that the "Lord Jesus" had provided the expert CPR done by the husband,  had been responsible for the quick response by the EMTs, had guided the quick and effective use of hypothermia to reduce the body's need for oxygen, and so forth.  "Lord Jesus" had directly and purposefully done each and every one of those things ----just to save the life of NewOne.  To take NewOne out of the 95% and into the 5%.

Annoys the hell out of me.  My first thought is shit, I hope that the loved ones of non-survivors who turn to that site for comfort don't read this tripe.  The second thought - really???    Lord Jesus did all that to save you, but Lord Jesus elected to let B*, S*, M* and the other 95% die?  Because why?  Lord Jesus saw something in you, NewOne, that was somehow lacking in those who die?

I understand people have that kind of faith, that rock solid belief in a God who intervenes regularly in their daily lives.  The God who saves them from tripping down the stairs; who saves them from  that car running a red light, who saves them from a runaway train or shopping cart, who enables them to pass that exam (always wondered if he/she worked on a curve for exams?) - they believe in a God who rescues them over and over again on each and every day.  I don't believe that (obviously).  I believe in a Divine, but not one who is messing around haphazardly in daily life - oh, I'll electrocute that one with faulty wiring, but let this one live.  I'll zap that one with a lightening bolt.  Tornado slaughter here, blue skies there.  Oh yeah - don't let's forget Tsunami's - barely anyone gets out of that alive.  I find it fundamentally absurd.  

I am far more comfortable believing in happenstance than I am in a God or "Lord Jesus" who denies life to 95%.  It's my blog and I'll be sacrilegious if I want to.

Irritated.  Annoyed.  Still grateful for and acutely aware of my extraordinary good fortune on September 5, 2009.  The dice rolled my way on that date.

Photo owned by Rosendahl:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

One Year

365 days.  One year.  Too lazy to do the math on number of minutes and seconds.  Gone. Spent. Invested or wasted.  Enjoyed or labored.  No matter how we think of it, it is one year and it is gone.

Post Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), anniversaries are different.  They are better or worse; they are frightening or boundlessly joyous;  they are never the same as before.  This one is different even here in the land of different.  I'm giving myself gifts.  Gifts of joy and peace.  Just a light touch of longing on the side.

I invited friends to dinner tonight to ward off brooding.  Now I realize, I wouldn't have brooded regardless.  I'm happy.  It took me longer than I'd like to admit to get there, but I'm happy.   I've been  aware of the approaching anniversary, sort of subterraneously; it loitered and lurked.  But it didn't haunt; I didn't brood.  I am happy.  One year ago, I'm not sure I was.  I was deluding myself, imagining depth that did not exist, not seeing how far short I was selling myself.  Aiming higher today.  We should all aim higher.

Finally, one year later.  I see that it was shadows and fog.  There is little of substance there.  Or what  might once have been there has been doused, diluted, washed away, done in by fluids, by liquids; some kind of utter submersion had gone on.  But that is not my life; it is someone else's.  It's not mine.  Me -  finally, one entire 365 days later, I can enjoy the time we spent for what it was - it was fun, it was cute, it was safe.  And just one bit more.   It entered the door at exactly the moment I needed fun, cute, safe.  I shiver to think of what I would have done - how would I have found my way through that rough, ragged patch if buena fun, cute, safe had not shown up?  I'll always be grateful for it; always feel fondness.  It will always have a home in my stops-for-no-reason heart.  I will wish nothing but the best.

I aim higher now.  I'm so delighted to be able to say that.
I heard a song today that I adore.  The singer speaks with Cupid about his directional challenges.  Cupid laughs and says "Hah! - I don't take aim.  I only go bang, bang, bang".
I just need to watch out for that aimless guy.

Farewell to that year.  A loving farewell to that which was only very remotely possible.  In the sober light of day; in the light of a sober day I hope finds him.   Stranger things have happened - after all,  my heart stopped and I didn't die.  Fare thee well.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fear and Gratitude - Odd New Bedfellows

Life after Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is so often about coming to terms with fears.  I mean, it gets tiresome at times - one more cold, icy fear rears its head.  Of course, with or without SCA, we all live with fear and we find our way - we each decide which fears are useful and which are not.  Which fears will cause us to behave more prudently and which need to be wrestled to the ground or ignored so they don't stop us from living a brave, rich life.
When SCA happens - there are more fears and our lines between prudence and surrender shift.  Things that passed without notice now produce those blades of fear.   It's a different fear than I ever knew before my SCA.  Our hearts stopped and we didn't die.  Our hearts could stop again and we might die.  Or our hearts may stop again and we may suffer heart or brain injury.  No warning.  It can be terror.

Normal parts of life that were never frightening now are - until we beat them back or park the fear in a place in our lives or adjust to it or whatever choice we make.  Each SCA survivor grapples with the list of "firsts" and the fear that is part of the package with each one - first time exercising hard, first swim in the ocean, driving fast, driving at all, sex, mammogram, leaving home without a cell phone, walking through a metal detector, anesthesia, magnets - whatever. The list goes on and on and we tackle them one at a time.

I keep thinking the list is finite; I will reach the end.  No.  Wrong.  The latest is this week I will have a test, a cardiac test, my first for this test that involves deliberate stress to the heart. It's "routine followup".   I was terrified at the news.  I was moving from anxiety to full blown panic.  I couldn't' breathe.  My normal response to that level of fear is to sort out what I'm afraid of and then seek data, data, more data.   The 'what' is pretty straightforward. I'm afraid my heart will stop; I'm afraid my implanted defibrillator will shock the crap out of me; I'm afraid they'll find something else wrong with my heart (aside from the whole stopping-without-warning thing).  I researched it online and found a manufacturer's warning that the nuclear imaging substance can cause cardiac arrest and "appropriate resuscitation measures should be available".  Great, perfect.

So then I want data to quell those fears and therein lies the rub - there is no data. You want to know "what happens to people like me".  No data.  No people like me.  The cold facts are that over 90% of people who have SCA die that day.  And the pool of survivors is so disparate - we are teenagers and 80 year olds; we have diagnosed heart disease and we don't; we had a heart attack and we didn't; we have heart damage from SCA and we don't; we have brain damage and we don't; we have risk factors and we don't.  No meaningful data.  Nothing useful.  Nothing to fetter the fear.

So to stave off panic; I did what I never do - I turned to people; I asked for help.  I despise asking for help.  Sad, but true.  I am not a support-group type of person.  But I love my online community of SCA survivors.   So for the first time, I posted my call for help - help me, I am scared.
And voila - they are there - I was flooded immediately with responses.  So many of my SCA friends have had the test, survived without problem.  One told me he vomited; I suggested he shut up and have the decency to lie.  (Of course, I am still a data-oriented jackass, so I am cognizant that the dead ones are not responding to my call for help).

Amazing to me - the non-support group girl - the group was astonishing reassuring. I never got all the way to panic; the fear subsided to manageable levels.  I'm still me, so it's still there.  I'm still a nerd, so I've made arrangements for the dog, clarified that my emergency contact person is good that day to get a call if things go off the rails.  And I know me - the house will be tidy Tuesday morning, the will and other documents will be where they should be; I'll throw out or file embarrassing stuff -  I now have an entire "this could be that day drill".  Such a nerd.
But I'll do it calmly, not in a panic.

I've learned to ask for help.  I am amazed by that.  And grateful beyond words.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Harry Crews - Breaking Your Bones with a Whisper

John Zeuli Photography 
I read.  Books.  Generally, I avoid the "murder and mayhem" aisle, but there are a few exceptions, most notably Harry Crews.  Harry is a brutal minimalist.  In shockingly few words, he transports you into the world of his bizarre, dark characters.  The world is grotesque, brutal, hard, harsh yet oddly touching.  The cast is maimed, scarred, emotionally ruined characters, but a few remain somehow adorable or worthy of nurture, at least at times.  (My curse).  These people of Harry's live in tough spheres.  No one grills steaks in the yard for friends, no one drinks a beer or glass of wine for refreshment, lawns are not mowed, cars are towed but not waxed. (well, one is, but even that is frightening).   No one is at peace.  Anywhere.  No one seems to understand that one can even seek peace.

I first was introduced to Crews by a non-reader via Feast of Snakes.  There were snakes, but not much of a feast.  Feast of Snakes - it's mayhem.  It's ruination.   It's ludicrous.  I had to take breaks to breathe some air. Then I waited over a year to pick up my second Crews.  Scar Lover.  I just finished it - I'm happy and sad to report it's a hair milder than Snakes.  Maybe 2 hairs.  The characters are equally confused, damaged, walking in emotional circles.   These are people who get lost in the space between love and hate, between a punch or slap and a caress.
The great difference between Feast of Snakes and Scar Lover is that in Snakes,  ultimately I despised every character.  And when I closed the book after the last page, I never ever wanted to see any of them again.  In Scar Lover, they are still dark and broken, but there are several I rooted for. In fact, most of them.  I still don't want to have them over for dinner anytime soon, but I rooted for them.  Snakes was page after page of being flabbergasted that Crews could create this overpowering sense of impending doom with so few words.  And then manage to surpass the dread.

I don't know if I would have sought out Harry Crews' world (repeatedly it seems) before the Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA).  I've always enjoyed the edginess of edgy people, but I'm not sure I would have wanted to get to know the characters that go so far beyond edgy.  Reading Harry is not for the faint of heart, but my heart is no longer faint.  When my heart stopped beating 2 years ago, I think I lost interest in being faint of heart.  So I found Harry.  And sundry non-readers.
I need to thank a few people who contributed to this post
First, I lifted the title of this blog post from a wonderful writer:  Happy to have e-met you, J. Scott Grand, and his blog post about Harry:
Second - the photo above is courtesy of
Oh, and thank you to the non-reader who introduced me to Harry. (channeling his Moon). Beware the recommendations of those who do not read. 
And here is Harry himself, with a description I adore and could not have managed to write.  He is magnificent:
"I never wanted to be well-rounded.  I do not admire well-rounded people nor their work.  So far as I can see, nothing good in the world has ever been done by well-rounded people.  The good work is done by people with jagged, broken edges, because those edges cut things and leave an imprint, a design".