It Is A Good Day To Live

Forty-eight years ago today, I made my debut at Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, Virginia. My arms may be too short and my back a little stiffer these days, but that building was torn down in the late 70s to make room for a new medical office complex, and I’m still standing. So I guess that’s saying something.

There was a time earlier this year when I wasn’t sure I would be by now, though. You see, I became quite obsessed with the idea of whether or not I was going to make it past 47 years, 118 days because that’s exactly how long Dad lived. So on the day in mid-March when I turned one day older than him, I took some sick leave and skipped down to the local heart center to have a cardiac CT for a mere $99, cash on the barrel head. I really didn’t need a whole day to do that, but mental health counts too, you know.

My pipes were cleaner than a dinner plate full of rib sauce after Amazing Gracie the Wonderdog is done with it (hold it down with both paws, don’t let that sucker run away). I told the cardiac nurse about the history of early death from heart attacks in my family and about how that weighed on my mind a little and he laughed and told me I had a greater chance of dying from getting hit by a Mack truck at the corner of Governors and Whitesburg.

I celebrated with a heart-attacking meal of fries and a double cheeseburger at Sonic. It felt great going down, but hours later when the acid started rising in my esophagus like scalding steam from Old Faithful, I suddenly remembered why I don’t eat meals like that much anymore.

Okay, so I didn’t die that day and I’m not likely to today either. I feel a little like the Indian Chief Old Lodge Skins in that Dustin Hoffman movie Little Big Man who climbed the hill to be gathered to his fathers, laid down, and declared, “It is a good day to die!” only to be pelted by raindrops until he finally gave up and sighed, “Well, sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn’t.” Like him, I would probably be better served by stopping all this obsessing on death (it gets way too much attention on TV and in the papers anyway) and just getting up, putting some food in Gracie’s dish, pouring myself another cup of coffee and getting on with it, for Pete’s sake.

Yes, I started to write a post on death and what all I’ve learned about it this year and entitle it “Happy Deathday To Me,” but it occurred to me that, like the beer commercial says, I need to keep it “not too heavy, not too light.” You’re welcome.

Instead, I decided to try to conjure up my best birthday memory, or at least, my oddest. That would probably be my 7th birthday party in 1968. I think I was supposed to have one when I turned six like all the other kids, but Mom probably realized it too late and then tried to make up for it the next year. Back then you didn’t have a themed birthday party every year, invite a gazillion kids and empty your 401K to do it.  You invited a few friends from school and church and had it in your just-built garage (Chuck E. Cheese was still a glint in some entrepreneur’s eye). You served some ice cream and cake, played a few games, sang “Happy Birthday,” opened presents and then let all the kids run wild in the backyard while the Moms cleaned up and gossiped, er, I mean “caught up.”

I thought all that was simply grand, and even if I had felt jilted and complained Mom would have told me to buck up and wouldn’t have have carted me off to the therapist, crocodile tears notwithstanding. In the 60s, kids were important but not the end-all/be-all. You kept things simple, stupid.

When it came time to play “Pin the Tail on the Donkey,” I went first since I was The Birthday Boy. Mom blind-folded me but only spun me once because she had seen how white as a sheet I turned when I would spin round and round in the front yard all by myself (not sure why I did that; maybe I wanted to see what it was like to be “drunk” like Jack Pruitt who lived down the road a piece), and she didn’t want me to upchuck  birthday cake all over the new cement floor. Still, one spin was enough to send me lurching off toward the circle of kids lining the garage wall, straight toward little Sally Branch (oh, if I had only landed in her lap!) and Dad’s power tools.

Suddenly, as children scattered and chaos loomed, I felt two strong, calloused hands grab my shoulders and start taking over. No, it wasn’t Jesus. It was Mom.

She guided my hand toward the cardboard Donkey posted on the pegboard until the thumbtack and tail landed smack-dab in the middle of his rear end. She made sure she spun the other kids 5 or 6 times. They weaved so wildly that you would have sworn someone spiked the Kool-Aid.  Nobody else even got close. Yeah, it was some real home cookin’, but no one complained because afterward everyone got extra ice cream and a bag full of trinkets anyway.

Looking back, it occurs to me that this incident provides an apt metaphor for how I have lived my life thus far–blind as a bat, stumbling around drunk and disoriented, groping about desperately trying to find the donkey’s ass.

So, as a birthday gift to me, if you see me lurching like that, especially if I’m about to step out in front of a Mack truck at the corner of Governors and Whitesburg, reach out and grab my shoulders like Mom did and give an Eyeguy a little shove  in the right direction, would ya? And sure, say a prayer too, because a little Jesus never hurts either.

Old Lodge Skins had it wrong. It is not a good day to die. It is a good day to live.

  1. CarolinaGirl

    Happy Birthday, ME.  Thanks for keeping-up your blog.  Enjoy your day.

  2. mmlace

    Happy Birthday, Dr. Eyeguy!  Hope it’s incredible!!!!!  Much love!

  3. JRB

    “Looking back, it occurs to me that this incident provides an apt
    metaphor for how I have lived my life thus far–blind as a bat,
    stumbling around drunk and disoriented, groping about desperately
    trying to find the donkey’s ass.”

    That was worth the entire piece.  Happy Birthday, brother. 

  4. laurie

    Happy birthday, Eyeguy!  Here’s to many more blogging years for your readers to enjoy!

  5. Mike the Eyeguy

    Almost got steamrolled by guy doing 15 mph in automatic wheelchair. May
    not make it through my B-day after all. Nice knowing y’all.

  6. Greg "Stoogelover" England

    Good stuff! Hope your birthday was the best yet. Speaking of thinking about death … get in the funeral business! Every time we have a case come through about my age, or younger, I wonder when the curtain call is coming for me. So I made an appointment for a physical on Friday. Just in case.  If nothing else, I want to know that prostate gland is not going cancerous on me.

  7. Mike the Eyeguy

    Greg, dude, I feel your pain. Best wishes with that physical, brother. And the ladies think they’ve got it rough! Sheez, gimmeabreak.

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