By Al Coon
Written June 12th, the day before...
Last night Dotti took an Ambien to help her sleep and still she was up most of the night in terrible pain. The past few weeks have been a jumble of pain, misdirection and stumbling towards that light that appears in the tunnel, up ahead somewhere. Pain saps the joy out of life, like a high vacuum pump pulls the atoms out of a vacuum chamber. It is hard to smile when your brain is crying out that something terrible is going on in your body, something you can do nothing about.
Sandwiched in between what has been going on over the past months, with Dotti suffering pain and mental anguish over what is here already, and over what is to come tomorrow, we squeezed in a little celebration. June 10th marked the 35th anniversary of a much happier time, our wedding day. We celebrated by reliving memories, of our days on Midway Island, and the birth of our son LeRoy and many other things. The videos we watched showed two very young people starting out on an adventure. There were no thoughts of a day that would come when arthritis would destroy Dotti's hips. It was so wonderful then, that there was joy enough to spill over and wash our hearts anew today. We smiled and often said,"Oh, remember that? Wasn't it fun?" We laughed and hugged, and I must have thanked her at least a dozen times that day for being my wife. Thirty-five years have passed by, and still I can't believe how lucky I am to have such a wonderful woman sharing my life. Thank you Dotti!
Today, is the day before. "The sun'll come out tomorrow," Annie tells us. Unfortunately, we never know. Life is lived like driving on a curvy mountain road. You never know what lies around the bend until you get there. It may be a nice long clear stretch of road, a wide passing lane where you can get around those slow moving cars, and get back to a nice smooth trip. It may be just another curve ahead that you need to get around, or it might be a closed road due to an accident or landslide. You never know.
Even worse, on some days you know that something momentous will happen, but you have no idea if it will be wonderful, or too horrible to face. Tomorrow is such a day for me. The odds are stacked in our favor. Well over 90% of hip replacements go just fine. Great improvement, or even full recovery is likely. There is an 80% chance that loss of blood will be small enough to avoid any transfusions. (And even with a transfusion the odds of catching anything dangerous is less than 1 in 600,000.) They have procedures in place to avoid blood clots (a major concern with this surgery) and infections are attacked with antibiotics before they even get a chance to get started. Everything is in place to make it work well.
The problem with statistics, is the fact that they tell you nothing about an individual. If things should go horribly wrong, the statistics are still correct, and all the good ones outweigh your one bad one. But then, none of that matters. Statistics are merely a way of making you feel safe in the dark, as the lightening is striking and thunder slamming against your windows, and shaking the ground. Sure, you are PROBABLY going to be okay. And it is true, you probably are. So, you look at what probably will be a wonderful outcome and turn your mind completely off the other smaller likelihood. You lock it up inside your head somewhere, like a jack-in-the-box with a padlock, that only the god of Fate can unlock against your will.
So, here I sit, with that lock in place, but the box making too much noise to completely ignore. I will search for happy things to dwell on to hide the noise. And the myriad of things to choose from is exceedingly large. I think of our first date, in September of 1974, when we climbed to the top of Multnomah Falls, and banging our heads together when we both tried to pick up something that fell to the floor of the car, and our laughing about it. Dotti and I climbing to the top of Hamilton Mountain on a foggy, rainy day. We found a little space by the trail, that was covered by trees to hold off the rain as we ate our lunch, and laughed together. Or the time we walked up to the Pool of Winds with our friends Tom and Barb.
We have always laughed a lot together. I call Dotti "my fun girl" because she is the most fun person to be around, whom I have ever known.
Picture of Dotti
I took in 1977
The September day in 1974, when we first met, I was standing watch on the quarterdeck of the USS Ozbourn, and the most beautiful girl I had ever seen came across the gangway, flashing a dimpled smile that melted my heart into a little puddle at my feet. Things too wonderful to put into words, and things too private to share, all flood my mind. Life with Dotti has been beyond my wildest dreams, and has filled my life to the brim, and flowed over the top. It is this wonderful aspect of life that makes facing, even the smallest chance of something taking it all away, too horrible to consider, even for a moment. So, I will not.
Therefore, bright thoughts only. Dotti is going to have a new hip tomorrow. It is an early surgery, so they will probably have her up and walking on it by tomorrow afternoon, as incredible as that may seem. Her pain level will be less than it is today in a very short time, and she will be home before the weekend comes. She will have clear pathways to walk with her walker, and I will be at her beck and call to makes sure all her needs are met, including her daily injection, and her daily exercises. In just a few weeks she will be walking with a cane, and then all on her own. No more screaming out when she gets into the car, or into bed. Annie is right, the sun indeed will come out tomorrow, and shine a joyous light on a better life for my lovely wife and me.
I have had so much joy, living with an angel, with so many days feeling so good that I was certain I had already died and gone to heaven, it has alas made me greedy for 35 more, or better yet, 135 more years with my lady. I admit it, when it comes to Dotti, I am very selfish.
It seems secondary really, at this point, but Dotti has been doing very, very well on her eating, and was down to 224 the last few days on the scale. With all the pain and the running around getting ready for her surgery, she has not lost track of her eating goals. Once the surgery is behind us, we will only be starting to focus on healthy eating, exercise, and creating the best possible health within our power to create.
All negativity be gone! I believe that one year from today, both Dotti and I will be healthier and trimmer than we have been for years. It is not a pipe dream, or wish, but a goal with steps in place to bring us to it. We have to overcome the whims of Fate to be sure, but if the two upcoming surgeries go well, and the path is clear, we will be walking to better health and happier times ahead. Next summer I expect a hike to the top of Mount St. Helens. I expect a DWLZ VI conference, and a lot of other events that our new lifestyle will be bringing us, and hopefully you as well! Maybe next year we can see you face to face, you never know! If we have a conference, it will be to the east somewhere, and that should open the door to many more people who have never had a chance to participate.
If this feels a bit like rambling, that is because, well, it probably is. My emotions are running very high at this moment. But it is not pointless rambling.
I have learned something by living through this terrible situation. If you let things run on their own, entropy will always increase. Chaos is the natural state of things, unless you use your mind to plan for something else, and then act to make it happen. The old Forestry motto, placed in the mouth of the lovable "Smokey the Bear" that "only you can prevent forest fires" is just as true for other areas in life.
Only YOU can prevent unhealthy living in your life, and only YOU can create that blush of health in your cheek, that low blood pressure, and strong cardiovascular system. Only YOU can prevent heart attack and diabetes.
Yes, only YOU, but YOU CAN DO IT! YOU have the power to do it. YOU are special and you have all it takes to make it happen.
And while only YOU can do these things, at the same time, it is not only you who is operating on your behalf. There are friends, there are organizations, doctors, and a plethora of other sources of help to assist you once YOU decide that you are going to do it.
Dotti's Weight Loss Zone was built originally to help YOU, believe it or not. It is not perfect, but it was built with the hope that your Journey could be assisted in some small way by its existence. Dotti loves people, and she has a heart that sings with joy when others do well. She wants you to do well! And so do I!
So, tomorrow is the big day, and beyond that lies a bright new future for the most wonderful woman I have ever known, and her extremely lucky husband of now over 35 years! Grab on to the magic of the moment and create your own bright future too!