2011: My Wife Ends Her Job; Others Find An Occupation
This past year the planet, the world, and my world here at home went through huge contortions.
While many were out of a job, the planet worked overtime. Frankly I’m baffled as to why everyone isn’t in agreement that this is the only story worth talking about. The N.Y. Times piece from last Saturday “Harsh Political Reality Slows Climate Studies Despite Extreme Year” says it all:
“A typical year in this country features three or four weather disasters whose costs exceed $1 billion each. But this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has tallied a dozen such events, including wildfires in the Southwest, floods in multiple regions of the country and a deadly spring tornado season. And the agency has not finished counting. The final costs are certain to exceed $50 billion. ‘I’ve been a meteorologist 30 years and never seen a year that comes close to matching 2011 for the number of astounding, extreme weather events,’ Jeffrey Masters, a co-founder of the popular Web site Weather Underground, said last month.”
Meanwhile, the world is witnessing what I’ve been calling the beginning of a global youthquake. The so-called Arab Spring was merely the start. Does anyone believe that the uprisings this year in the Arab world, and then India, and Israel, and India and now Russia, are coincidental? That the small uprising in Zuccotti Park during this same year, that spawned a wildfire throughout the countryside, is an isolated phenomenon? Are we to observe all the trees but see no forest, or all the dots but not connect them? Something unprecedented has begun.
The Occupy movement is quiet(er) now, but I think you and I know that this is a momentary lull. There’s too much wrong, and too many angry people with too little to lose for us to believe that 2012 will be anything but an uproarious year. And on top of this I hear rumors that there’s a national election coming up as well. Around the globe, young people have different complaints, but seem united — or rather connected — in their determination to upend the status quo, as well as in their experiential reality: They are bound by the electrons that have manifested on their screens and within their imaginations. And they are too young to be afraid.
No, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Meanwhile, here at home, earlier this year I kvetched on these pages about Shelley’s obsession with HGTV and redecorating shows, that resulted in her pushing me to throw out more stuff and us buying all sorts of new furniture.
Little did I know this was just the prep stage.
One day in late July, she calls after a visit to the doctor’s office for (what I thought was just) a check up, and leaves a message: “Didn’t want to alarm you but I’ve been having symptoms the past few weeks, and right now the doctor is sending me to the hospital.” And with these words everything changes. The day before becomes her last day on the job after 39 years. And we trek through a slow blizzard of Angiograms and stents and “balloons”. This fall, we began to mobilize to make the best of it: She applied for permanent disability, and we started looking to move to a place on the ground floor.
“The trick to life,” said a taxi passenger of mine back in the day, “is simply to learn how to turn anything that happens to you to your advantage.” This of course can be daunting at times, but I find just thinking in these terms to be empowering.
And, I can now report, something else happened with us this past year. Shelley came under financial attack from an unscrupulous bully who will remain nameless but bares an uncanny resemblance to her ex-husband. In the past, he’d go into his rain dance, and he’d get what he wanted. This time, however, once again coming after her for money he wasn’t due, he had to deal with her new husband. After one phone call with me that didn’t go as he’d planned, he hung up and immediately called Shelley: “I’m not talking to Charley anymore! This is between you and me!!” Which was perhaps the greatest inadvertent complement a man has ever paid me.
Shelley just said, “If you want anything, speak to my husband!” and hung up on him.
He then even proceeded to take her to court over the matter. But I got on the case, and he didn’t get a dime.
It’s not every day a man gets a chance to suit up the armor and mount the horse and go into battle to defend his lady. Actually I’ve always considered myself more of a lover than a fighter. But when you fuck with Shelley, you fuck with me, and I won’t have it.
More than anything else, however, when I look over 2011, I’m filled with gratitude for another year of life, of life with my wife, and of hanging out with my men’s team and my friends and my family. A year with a healthy body and (a reasonably healthy) mind. Of prosperity (probably my most prosperous year yet) and new challenges. Of crazy parties and a surprisingly wonderful week in Disney World. And of wonderful opportunities to give – to my patients; my lady; my men, and to you.
It’s this that infuses my fleeting time on this sweating planet with meaning. I’m grateful to be able to give, and I give because I’m grateful. And as far as I’m concerned, you can twirl me around in this delicious cycle for the rest of my life.
…And I would have liked to have ended this last post of the year right there. But right now, I just finished talking with Shelley, who’s going in for a stress test in the morning (perhaps as you read this) and I’ll be going with her. She’s scared, as one never knows what the test will do. Simple shortness of breath and they might just stop it. But serious chest pain could send her to the hospital again for another Angiogram. Or she could do fine. I’ll let you know. The last half of this year has often meant living with this kind of uncertainty. I try to be there for her as best as I know how, and I pray. We welcome your prayers as well.