A couple of days ago I did something that I almost never do. I did one of those copy and paste things on Facebook.
Unfortunately, this has lead to the exposition of at least one of my life’s most closely guarded secrets. Things I have been afraid to reveal for reasons that – well, read below…
As you can see, I got a few responses from friends and relatives around the country, mostly adhering to the ‘one word’ part of the project, and those that added more didn’t do too badly.
And then this showed up…
I was, to say the least, surprised. Here’s why…
Dear Tom, I love you, man. I have always loved you. I will always love you. But now you have revealed, for all of the world to see, my most closely held secret, and it hurts.
I have never spoken of my heroic deeds within the space program. I have always painted myself as your normal, every day (albeit abnormally handsome) all American guy. I had hoped to have people love me for my “ordinariness” – never suspecting my extraordinary accomplishments on Earth, in space and under the sea.
I wished that my self-sacrificing actions in singlehandedly saving the world from complete and utter destruction at the hands of an, (thus far, known only to the three of us) enemy might stay hidden in the dark recesses of our memories.
But now you have exposed a small hint of my true greatness, and I fear that people will look at me differently… Not loving me for who I pretend to be, but for who I truly am.
Sadly, I will now have to practice making my signature semi-legible for all of the autograph seekers about to invade my space. And then there are the Paparazzi – who knows what to expect from them…
I could request that everybody who reads your description of how we first met take it as a brilliant and successful attempt at humor, however, by the time they get to the end of your post, they will have realized that “there was always something ‘different’ about” me and that your report can only be taken seriously and not as a humorous joke meant to elicit laughter.
As I said in the beginning, I still love you, man…
PS – Your family and friends should know about your own heroics, Tom. Have you told them about the “volcanic surface of Jupiter” incident? I didn’t think so…
Once the catheter was inserted, things were better. For the nurse. She got to leave for a few minutes. Judy stuck around for a couple of minutes and had to go do something with paperwork, or some such thing.
I was back in the room alone again. It was just me and my catheter…
A couple of minutes later, I heard Steve’s voice outside the door asking if he could come in to see me. The wheels started turning in my head and had finished prior to the time he received permission to enter…
He walked in.
He looked at me.
My eyes were open, glazed over, staring into nothingness. My jaw was slack, my mouth a gaping cavern. I was holding my breath…
When the sixty year old man had finished his story, the forty-ish balding nurse stood in silence for a few moments, gazing in admiration. Or was he staring at the clock wondering if the tale had finally ended, or if the sixty year old man was just taking a breath (his first in the telling of the saga) and would continue his story?
Who knows? Whichever the case may be, he made sure the telling was over because he completed his “paperwork” and called for transportation to a treatment room.
The journey from the “check-in” area to the treatment room was rather boring, so Man of Action started telling his tale, again, to the orderly pushing the gurney. He was interrupted about every fifth word by with word “Si” coming from the orderly. Apparently, the gentleman either didn’t speak English, or he was warned not to let me think he did, by the forty-ish balding nurse.
So I just shut up for the balance of the trip.
Once in the treatment room, I was left alone for a few minutes to contemplate my situation. Actually, my condition didn’t seem so bad at the moment, in light of what I could see through the crack the door to the hallway…
There was a foot occupying the end of a gurney just outside the door. On the foot was a big toe. On the big toe was a big toe nail. The unfortunate part of that was that the nail was positioned at a ninety degree angle from the toe.
Warning: This will make you say “owee-ooh-ee-ooh-ooh-oweezowee“. If you are OK with saying “owee-ooh-ee-ooh-ooh-oweezowee” , click here to see a pho-toe of a toe that looks very similar to the one I had to look at for thirty minutes before anybody came in and shut the door all the way.
Fortunately, when someone did come into the room, one of them was Judy.
Unfortunately, the other one was a young nurse.
Normally, that wouldn’t bother me too much except that she had something ominous looking with her. She called it a Foley Catheter.
I knew what a Foley was – it was a guy with the first name of Terry with whom I graduated from high school. I had no problem with that.
My problem was with the “Catheter” part of the equation. I also knew what that was…
Warning: This will make you say “owee-ooh-ee-ooh-ooh-oweezowee“. If you are OK with saying “owee-ooh-ee-ooh-ooh-oweezowee” ,click here to see a photoof what, if you are a guy, at least, you never want to tangle with.
I couldn’t think of anything to say so I said, “what’s that for? “
She responded, “Well, we have to give you a way to eliminate waste from your body.”
I said, “Oh.”
Then, neither one of us said anything for a minute or so. We just looked at each other. Then I looked at Judy. Judy looked at me. The nurse looked at Judy. Judy looked at the nurse. A doctor came into the room. We all looked at the doctor. The doctor looked at the nurse. The doctor looked at Judy. The doctor looked at me.
The doctor said, “Excuse me. Wrong room,” and left.
I looked at Judy. Judy looked at the nurse. The nurse looked at me.
I looked at the nurse and said, “I don’t suppose that thing goes down my throat while I’m under anesthesia, does it?”
The nurse said, “No.”
I said, “Oh.”
The nurse said, “This is going to hurt a bit.”
I said, “How much is a bit?”
The nurse said, “It has been compared to what a woman feels during childbirth.” She continued, “if you are ready, I’ll start.”
Judy grabbed my hand and said , “Breathe.”
The nurse began the procedure.
I said, in my most primal screaming voice, “COWABUNGAHHHHHHHHH!!*$#@!”, and turned to Judy, gritted my teeth, looked her straight in the eye and screeched, “YOU DID THIS TO ME!”
Then everybody started laughing. Like it was funny or something…
I, on the other hand, was just wondering if they could just tear my toenail back ninety degrees and call it a day…
This is part .6. If you would like to catch up, I would suggeststarting at part .5.From there you can come back here, or go to Part 1, which is the first of 8 parts relating to the actual trip up Half Dome and back…
After a couple of whiles, I was having to stop every few hundred feet of downhill progress and get the pressure off my legs and toes. Shawn stuck with me initially, but we finally reached a point where he decided that I needed the motivation to keep going, so when I sat down on a rock, he just Kept going.
I called after him.
He stopped and turned around.
I asked him if he had a knife.
He said “yes”.
I asked him to “please cut off my toes”.
He said “no”.
I explained that I was referring to the tips of my boots, thinking that it might relieve the pressure.
He came back, took out his knife and said, “How about if I just slit the toe of one boot to separate it from the sole and we’ll see how that goes?”
That sounded good to me, so he hacked away. We then proceeded to the next switchback to see how it worked out. It was actually much better, so we stopped and did the other boot.
This really helped a lot, for a couple of whiles. My legs were still a bit stiff, but the toes were better so I just ignored the legs.
Going downhill is actually tougher than going uphill, so in addition to my downhill boots, I always bring a pair of downhill knees in the form of braces. I don’t usually put them on until I am fairly well into the downward trek because the knees don’t bother me initially. This day was no exception.
But we finally got to the point where the knees started giving me problems, and I went ahead and installed the braces. They helped for awhile (which is, actually, just a bit less than “a while”).
By the time we had gone another while, the legs, toes and knees were giving me issues again and I was utilizing two hiking sticks for support and balance. (I cannot tell you how many times my hiking stick has saved my life over the decades. Literally.)
At this point, I had run out of remedies and the only things that were keeping me going were my mantra, “I will go as far as I can and this ain’t it” and Shawn coaxing me on.
My legs hurt. My knees hurt, My toes hurt. My back hurt. My upper torso looked like the spillway of the Hoover Dam because I was sweating as much as ever, and replacing the perspiration with more and more water.
And then Shawn reminded me that I needed electrolytes.
Fortunately, he brought several packets of electrolytes to add to the water. Unfortunately, I didn’t add them to the water, I simply threw them directly into my mouth as he tried to warn me not to do that.
Are you familiar with “Pop Rocks”? Well, that’s what these were like. If you just throw them into your mouth, they start exploding. This causes one’s mouth to foam over rather quickly. It’s kinda like popping an Alka-Seltzer into your mouth.
The problem with doing that is that you cannot swallow the foam fast enough to get it out of your mouth, and if you try to close your mouth to prevent it from escaping and embarrassing you, you will choke to death on the foam being forced down your throat and up into your sinus cavities and out of your nose.
I lovingly refer to this as the “mad dog effect.”
Believe it or not, there are actually benefits to being in such awful physical misery (I’m always looking for the bright side).
One of those benefits manifests itself in one’s ability to completely not give a rip about the multi-colored stains appearing as approximately three and a half gallons of Pop-Rockian/Alka-Seltzerian foam slithers its way out of your gaping mouth, down your chin, traversing the front of your shirt, across your beltline and and taking up permanent residence in the crotch of your favorite hiking shorts.
The chagrin comes later when you discover that the stain doesn’t come out in the wash, but at the time of the event, you’re just happy not to be drowning or, maybe worse, happy that you didn’t just swallow them whole the instant you threw them into your mouth. That would be really bad, I think…
As the day went on, so did we. Shawn be-bopping down the trail and me doing my best “ET” gait imitation.
By the time we finally reached the top of Vernal Falls and approached the Mist Trail, I had lost enough weight that my shorts were slipping badly. And I was out of notches on my belt. The only thing that was keeping them up was my rump, and that was about to give way. This is when I started hearing comments from strangers about a man my age dressing like that…
Luckily, the mist was extremely heavy, and I put on my rain poncho to 1) keep me dry (there’s some sort of irony in there, somewhere) and 2) hide the fact that my pants were about 50% of their way down to my ankles. .
It was extremely slow going down the steps on the trail, but I thought I was doing well enough until, about halfway down, I heard a woman’s voice behind me say, in heavily accented English, “Excuse me prease.” I moved as far as I could to the side and watched – I’m not kidding – a little tiny Japanese lady, who appeared to be in her 80’s, USING A WALKER, glide effortlessly past me.
It was at this point that it began to dawn on me that I might be in trouble…
After slowly making our way downward for what seemed to be an inordinately long period of time (probably because it was), we finally got down to the footbridge:
We decided that I would wait at the footbridge and Shawn would go the rest of the way to the valley (just under a mile further down the trail) and get help. He was gone for some time, and I decided that I would start my way down myself.
A few minutes along the trail, I met Judy coming up the other way. She had met Shawn on the trail (she was coming to see if she could find us – it was getting late) and he told her where I was waiting.
She helped me down the rest of the way to the trail head where we met Shawn – walking a couple of bikes.
He had gone back to camp and got his and Megan’s bikes so that I could ride back to camp and relive the pressure on my body. AWESOME!! (I mean, GROOVY!!!)
It took a minute to get me up on the bike, but when I got on, it was an amazing relief. I was able to pedal back without any problem, and Judy stopped to get me a 50 gallon drum of ice cold root beer and brought it to the camp site.
It was a little after 8:00 PM. Everybody else had made it back by about noon…
I was helped off the bike, carried to a picnic table, sat down and froze in that position for a short time. Donna sat across from me, told me to raise my right hand and swear to never do Half Dome again in my lifetime. At that point, I had no problem doing that (although I kinda regret it, now).
After eating some dinner, Judy and Shawn helped me to the tent and into my sleeping bag. I didn’t even undress, though Judy took my boots and socks off.
And that, dear friends, was as far as I could bloody go.
Saturday morning, July 16, 2011…
I woke up and couldn’t move much. Judy had to help me change my clothes and helped me get out of the tent. We walked around for a few minutes until I got loosened up a bit and was able to hobble around.
We ate breakfast, and I was able to get around a lot better, so we packed up and drove home.
The last four hundred feet of the hike up Half Dome is pretty much vertical. You pull yourself up using cables. Unfortunately, those cables are not visible in this shot because, at that time, the rock was situated inside a cloud.
If you look closely you can see the cables as a dark smudge looking thing running up the center of the rock.
Here we are getting ready to go up the cables. Donna has a better camera than I do…
Once we were all gathered at the base, we were ready to go up. (By the way, the reason I did this hike the first time is that I hate heights. I don’t like high places. I figure if God wanted me to like high places, He would have made me an eagle or a mountain goat. But He made me another kind of animal. He made me a chicken. I did it to conquer my fear of heights. I still hate high places, but I did get over the cables on Half Dome.)
The trek up was uneventful. I didn’t faint, fall or throw up. Once we got to the top, we could relax. Here are some photos…
At one point, the cloud began to dissipate and some pretty spectacular scenery began to poke through. Unfortunately, the camera couldn’t begin to capture the power of the moment, but here it is anyway…
Then the cloud dissipated rather quickly…
It was right about here that the first indication that something was wrong with me made its appearance in the form of three major charley horses in my legs…
I managed to get the pain to settle down and go away. Walked it off.
And then it was time to start back…
The trip down the cables was also pretty uneventful, other than two people who had started up when we were almost down at the bottom who turned around and decided that the climb was not for them…
We reached the bottom and headed back down the way we came, passing a couple of rangers who were asking for ID and checking us off the list of permitted hikers. (In order to do the hike, the National Park Service has instituted the requirement that you register several months ahead of time and reserve the date(s). They want to limit the impact of too many hikers – not a bad thing, I think, and they want to know who’s body they are looking for if you fall.)
We all stayed together until we came to a stream. Shawn had a filter system, and we all filled our water bags. This is a good thing.
Then we all took off back to camp. After a few miles, I, as is typical for me, fell a bit behind. Fortunately Shawn stayed with me. I say fortunately because I would still be up there somewhere if he hadn’t.
While I was starting off correctly by putting the right foot (my left foot) first, I cannot vouch for the proper foot conduct of anyone else in the group. I can, however, say with certainty that nobody in the group was going in the right direction to get us on the right trail to the top of Half Dome.
This was, however, remedied within about five minutes when someone realized that we had walked straight into a cliff. Fortunately, it was the cliff wall that we walked into and not the top edge.
Naturally, this caused a re-evaluation of our collective sense of direction, and we reversed our course.
NOW we were on the road.
Throughout the night, we made our way along the trail. We saw nary a creature along the way and there were no special incidents . Of course, it was dark so we probably wouldn’t see any, would we?
One of the highlights of the journey is reaching the top of Nevada Fall. One of the reasons it’s a highlight is that everybody wants to stop and take it in (translation: let’s wait for Bill to catch up). It’s a great resting point after the arduous climb to get there. And it has some pretty spectacular views, even at 2:30 in the morning:
The hours crawled by, and it was getting a little tough on Man of Action. However, I refused to give up and stop. I have developed a sort of mantra and kept repeating over and over in my head. “I will go as far as I can go and this ain’t it.”
“I should have prepared more for this hike.”
“I will go as far as I can go and this ain’t it.”
“It sure is dark out here.”
“I will go as far as I can go and this ain’t it.”
“I wonder if my sleeping bag back in the tent is comfortable.”
“I will go as far as I can go and this ain’t it.”
“Well, time to stop.”
“I will go as far as I can go and this ain’t it.”
“Are we there, yet?”
“I will go as far as I can go and this ain’t it.”
“Did I leave my guitar turned on back home?”
“I will go as far as I can go and this ain’t it.”
“I wonder what makes my feet hurt.”
“I will go as far as I can go and this ain’t it.”
“Did I remember to turn in my vacation request?”
“I will go as far as I can go and this ain’t it.”
At some point, we came to the “Little Yosemite Valley”. This is always a welcome sight because it means that you are walking on level ground and you will be for a while. Plus, it’s got restrooms, food lockers and tent camping. There is also a river running down the middle of it which eventually becomes Nevada and Vernal Falls.
It really is very beautiful and inspiring.
I took a picture…
After a brief stop, we continued along our way.
Donna, knowing that I was a little slower than the rest of the party, stayed with me along the way and kept me company. I hardly had to use my mantra at all – Thank you Donna!
Eventually, the sun began to show itself, and I began to recognize where we were, having been there a couple of times before in the daylight.
It was time to take another picture…
We weren’t there, yet, but we were approaching the switchback steps. These go on for about three seconds short of an eternity.
Once past the steps, you pass through a couple of large stones and out onto the saddleback. It’s not very wide and it’s about a 5,000 foot drop off either side…
“They” say that the first step in a difficult journey is the hardest one. I would like to go on record and say that I can positively attest to the fact that “They” are living – and smoking something – in Colorado (or maybe Washington State), because they are hallucinating.
It may be just my rigorous Navy Boot Camp “how to start walking” training, but the first step was definitely not the hardest on this particular trip. In fact, with the exception of the last step, which was not actually taken by me, but by the people who carried me to my tent and poured me into my sleeping bag, it was, by far, the easiest.
But enough about that. I’m running out of commas and I don’t want to get caught short later in my story.
Walking in the last position in the single file formation, head lamp in the “off” position, Man of Action made it to the trail head at Happy Isles without incident. And, after a quick final equipment and “Chicken*” check, we proceeded.
*Chicken Check: A last ditch effort to separate the wheat from the chaff – one final chance for a coward to say “Oh wait! I just remembered! I have an appointment with Madame Lulu for a pedicure in the morning and I’ve already rescheduled four times and I can’t reschedule again because if I do they will just cancel me forever so I can’t do this hike with you guys. Sorry for the inconvenience. Have a nice day.”
This is where the actual ascent begins. The first major segment of the the trek is about 1.5 miles to the top of Vernal Falls, with a footbridge about 8/10 of a mile into the hike. It’s about 1000 feet of elevation gain.
We started upward. We continued upward. We kept going upward. We briefly stopped going upward after about a quarter mile to get some night shots of the moon, and take in the view of the Merced River, roaring along a hundred feet, or so, below us.
I took a couple of shots with my Android…
View of the full moon
View looking down at the river
It must have been spectacular. It certainly sounded spectacular. I really couldn’t tell because, it was one O’Clock in the morning and it was dark out. And the moon was hidden behind a thick layer of clouds. And trees. And giant rocks.
We continued on and, after about another half mile, came to the foot bridge below Vernal Falls, the water screaming below beneath our feet as we gazed up at the falls reflected in the moonlight.
We pushed forward, soon coming to the first relatively tough part of the journey – The Steps…
I took a picture…
The Mist Trail and Vernal Falls are famous for many things, three of which stand out…
One: There are a lot of granite steps involved – that’s steps as in ‘stairs’ – around 400 of them, in fact. They are not in the least bit even. Some are a foot tall, some are nearly three feet tall. Not easy on the knees.
*I once ran up these steps – 25 years ago. In the day time. Alone. When I got to the top, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I promised myself that I would never do that again.
So far, I have kept that promise.
Two: Mist. That’s why they call it the Mist Trail. If the falls are running well, it’s really, really wet. Not “umbrella” wet. Not “light rain” wet. Think “I’m standing in the middle of a storm cloud” wet. Bring a rain poncho. And be prepared for slippery footing.
Three: Death. A lot of people die in Yosemite. Most of them die by not being careful on the Mist Trail or by being carried over the top of Vernal Falls because they ignored the warning signs and got into the water above the falls.
Fortunately, all of us on the hike are well experienced in the art of getting to the top of Vernal Falls and not getting into the water. We arrived there without incident.
I took a group shot…
Left to right:
Donna, Brian, Megan, Lauren, Shawn, Nicole (standing next to the tree) (I’m not in this one – I’m taking the picture)
Once at the top of the falls, we regrouped, which is my way of saying that they waited for me to catch up (Once again, I was my own group for a few minutes). We discussed our progress so far, carefully reviewed the next segment, took our bearings and, resuming our walk, headed out.
…During my 13 weeks in bootcamp, I learned such rudimentary life skills as how to fold my underwear, how to guard a clothesline and (for our purposes, here) how to start walking in the correct manner.
Not that I didn’t learn anything else – I did. For one thing, I had a lot of instruction in Language skills, which I never really put to the intended use, but if I ever need them I have them right here in the back of my mind.
For these, and other lessons, I wish to thank my company commander, William F. Pospissil, BM1, USN.
You can imagine my mother’s surprise when, upon my return from San Diego, I not only explained that she had been folding my underwear errantly for the entire previous 19 years of my life, but provided her an educational and exacting demonstration of the proper way of doing so.
Unfortunately, we had no clothesline (or rifle) with which to provide proper instruction, so I was forced to forego that favor.
Additionally, I figured she had already been walking incorrectly for 40 years and it was probably too late to help her with that, so I let that one go, too.
And I sure as hell didn’t try to help her with her language skills…
So why am I telling you all this? So that I can pick up where I left off on the right foot.
With all the confidence I gained in boot camp (in my ability to begin a journey correctly), I lifted my leg, extended it forward about 2 feet, pushed off with my opposing foot and, in true military fashion, started the hike that would change my life forever…
…This whole adventure started sometime early in the Year of My Kidneys, 2011, with a discussion among several family members… Specifically, the ones who regularly do the Half Dome hike at least once a year…
More specifically, the ones who aren’t me (Man of Action)…
Not that I haven’t done the hike before – I have – twice since 2005. Both during the daylight hours (at least in the middle of the hike).
The thing that made this particular chapter of “Hey! Let’s do Half Dome!” particularly attractive (to Man of Action, at least) was the part about “And let’s do it at night by the full moon!”
(One must keep in mind that some of them had done the “full moon” version of the trek before. Man of Action, however, was not among that particular group.)
Always ready to keep up with the younger set (and encouraged by the fact that Donna – a couple of years older than me – had done the hike a total of eight (8) more times than I have), Man of Action eagerly accepted the invitation to, once again, put my life on the line and, this time, do it at night… When nobody could see how stupid I was…
Jump ahead, now, several months… (Begin “jumping ahead” transitional music…)
It has now been several months since the house burned down, taking with it
gobs of recording equipment
1 grand piano
Tons of other stuff including
1 home gym
1 elliptical trainer
1 pair of hiking boots (downhill persuasion)
various weights and other exercise equipment
Loads of camping equipment
And making unavailable
All of our hiking gear
Plus the fact that we were extremely heavily involved with
county building permit departments
And keeping in mind that, for the previous trips, Man of Action
worked up to it way ahead of time – like for 18 months ahead of time…
Add all that together and you come up with a grand total of approximately zero (0) time to train and get ready for the beast…
So, what does Man of Action do to prepare?
6 weeks prior to the big day he decides it might be a good idea to drop a few pounds.
So He did. About 20 of them.
And how did I do it?
Diet. Exercise. Stupidity…
Sadly, emphasis heavily on “Diet and Stupidity” and not enough on “Exercise”.
But Man of Action drank a lot of water – that has to mean something, doesn’t it?
Insert another jump in time here… About 6 weeks worth of the stuff…
July 14, in the Year of My Kidneys, 2011… 11:59 PM… 31 minutes before we embark on the great adventure…
The group, Donna, Shawn, Megan, Brian, Lauren, Nicole and MOA, gather outside the camp site, on the road to Happy Isles – the trail head.
It’s dark, except for the light of the full moon, sort of… Sort of, because it’s also cloudy.
We think we’re ready to go, but we’re not. That’s because Brian informs the group that Lauren may not be able to go because her bladder is leaking..
This raises a concern because there aren’t a lot of restrooms on the 8.5 mile climb to the top of Half Dome.
Happily, though, Lauren makes it clear that Brian is referring to her ‘water’ bladder and not to any physiological parts.
There is still some concern, however, because before joining the group, Brian and Lauren have discussed the matter, and Brian has – somewhat emphatically – stated his belief that nobody in his right mind carries an extra bladder.
“I have an extra bladder, if you want to use it,” says Man of Action.
Brian displays a face covered with egg and not a small amount of shock. Lauren, on the other hand, has the face of an angel that says “Without using my hands, I thumb my nose at you, Brian,” and then continues verbally, “I like your hat, Bill. And I would be happy to use your extra bladder”.
Towhich MOA gallantly responds, “I have cleaned and disinfected it, so you need not worry about becoming 60 years old before the end of the hike.”
Another20 minutes to locate, fill and insert it into her backpack, and we were ready to embark…
The sixty year old man was semi-sitting up on the gurney in the emergency room, after the forty-five mile ambulance ride from the small mountain town of Oakhurst, just seven miles north of his home in Coarsegold. Oh, he didn’t look sixty, true enough, but right then he was feeling it. He didn’t look sick, either, but right then he was feeling that, too. And, in fact, he was sick… really sick…
He had just successfully completed a solid week of vomiting, dry heaves, sleeplessness and generally feeling worse every half hour of life that he had managed to crawl through. It didn’t help that he had not been able to urinate, have a bowel movement or even fart the entire week – he was feeling somewhat full on the inside, even though the only thing he could keep down the last four days was hot chocolate. And, of course, there was the constant taste of ammonia in his mouth.. “Where the heck did that come from?”, he thought to himself.
The x-rays taken in the urgent care facility he had walked into a few hours earlier – for the second time that week – showed massive build up of gases in his abdominal cavity. But the thing that bought him a ride in an ambulance and entrance into the emergency room was the lab report. It was really ugly, and the doctor didn’t even make an attempt to put lipstick on it.
“I’m completely baffled by your lab results – they don’t match what I’m getting from you.”
“What do you mean,” asked the patient, thinking that the doctor thought he might be lying about how he feels.
“Well, I’m looking at you and I see a man who, while he may be feeling under the weather, looks otherwise perfectly healthy and fit.” He continued, “But the lab results show me a man in complete renal failure and ready to have his heart explode at any minute.”
This, naturally, piqued the patient’s curiosity beyond the point where he could shut up.
“You mean I’m dead?”
“No, but I don’t know why not, and you are well on your way.” Then, in an effort to temper the effect of his last statement, he informed the patient that he was being sent to the hospital. Right now. In an ambulance…
The admitting nurse, a large man of about forty with vastly thinning hair, was sitting at a computer typing in information from the forms so nicely provided by Todd, the attending paramedic. He interrupted his flying fingers in an effort to become social for a minute.
“Says here that the patient is sixty years old. You don’t look sixty years old and I want to make sure I have the right guy.”
“So how old are you?”
“Pretty sure. “
The nurse gave him a look that said ‘Alright, I’ll use ‘sixty’ for now,’ and entered the ‘information’ saying “OK, sixty years old”.
“Thank you for your confidence.”
“So why are you in my emergency room?”
“I would like to be sixty-one some day.”
This, actually, caused the nurse to smile, though the smile was followed by another inquiry into how the man came to be applying for residence in his hospital..
I would like to begin by introducing the cast of the main characters involved in the making of this incredible story of companionship, encouragement, achievement and survival…
Donna: #2 Spouse-In-Law, F *
* This classification may require some explanation, so here it is:
I have several sets of married children. Each of their spouses is my son/daughter-in-law.
Carrying through the logic of the “in-law” tradition and extrapolating it out to the respective parents of the in-law in the equation (as I see it, anyway), this gives these particular parents some sort of pseudo-spousal relationship with the parents of the other spouse in the marriage.
Hence, I refer to these parents as “Spouses-In-Law”.
Being as I have several sets of S-I-L, I find it necessary to differentiate each set from the other, and then within each set, from each other.
I just figured that it would be simplest to number them in the order in which we all became related, so, in this case, Donna is the female half of the second set of S-I-L to connect as clan members with Judy and me.
The order number has no reflection on any preference on my part, just on when our kids were married relative to when the others were married.
And, as you may have already discerned, the “F” would normally be associated with an “M” and would indicate the gender of the party in question within that parenthoodship.
Now, you are probably asking “Why don’t you just say Dean’s parents or Megan’s parents or Lacey’s parents?” To that, I would respond, “Think about who is writing this. It’s me – remember?”
To that (at least if you have read anything else I have written on this site), you should respond with something like, “Oh yeah, that makes perfect sense.”
Megan: Shawn’s wife, my daughter-in-law
Brian: Megan’s brother (I have not yet fully developed the relationship classification at this level. And I don’t think you want me to here, but I am thinking something like “#2 Son-In-law, once removed).)
Nicole: Friend of Megan, Shawn, Donna, Brian, Lauren and me (we’re just friends – honest – so that makes it simple)
Shawn: My middle son and third child all around.
Then, of course, there is the supporting cast of
Judy: my wife
Bob: #2 Spouse-In-Law, M
Madeline Rose: Most beautiful baby in the galaxy
*I began writing this on July 16, 2011. It is now October 29, 2011. Lauren has married Brian, which now would (if I go with this convention) make her #2 Daughter-in-law twice removed.
So with all that out of the way, let us move forward…
I completely shattered a record on Friday! I really did! A speed record, no less!
I made the round trip Half Dome hike faster than any human (in the 450 to 550 pound weight class) has ever done it before!
There are, for most people, about 100,000 steps in the round trip, up and back, to and from the very tippy-top of Half Dome. How do I know this? I know this because, 5 years ago, two of my closest friends and I did the Panorama Trail hike. That’s about 8 miles from the top of Glacier Point to the bottom of Yosemite Valley.
Dave and I had just purchased some pretty good quality pedometers, and had them fired up and zeroed out when we began our descent. When we got to the end of the trail, we had piled up 47,000 steps.
Half Dome is a 17 mile round trip, so when you add all of that up it comes out to about 100,000 steps.
For most people…
But, friends, I’m here to tell you that I am not most people. Oh, I keep the same “normal” human being pace as everybody else on the way up, but about two hours into the return trip I begin to walk like ET. For me, you have to add about 50,000 steps.
BUT, and this is important, there are mitigating factors in play here..
For one, I only had my “uphill” boots with me. (Actually, I think I’ll just stick with this one for now. If I need more excuses later on, I’ll throw in as many as I deem necessary to make me not look incompetent.) What the heck is an “uphill” boot and why does it matter? And does it mean that there are also “downhill” boots? And if so, where were mine? And who in their right mind carries two pairs of boots when they go hiking?
In answer to the last question, I would just like to say, “Me”.
In answer to the other questions:
Q: What are “uphill” boots?
A: “Uphill” boots are otherwise normal hiking boots, and have the following qualities:
They look really cool on the shelf and on the trail.
They cost over $150.00.
They grip granite and other natural products with the ferocity of a pit bull with his jaws clenched around a burglar (or a canary, for that matter).
Generally, they will keep your feet dry.
AND they are about two sizes too short for the length of your toes.
It’s this last attribute that makes “uphill” boots phenomenal for going uphill, but absolutely horrifying for the trip back.
Q:Does this mean that there are also “downhill” boots?
A: Yes, there are downhill boots. They have the following attributes:
They don’t look nearly as cool as “uphill” boots. In fact, they are sort of plain.
They usually cost about $50.00 (at least mine did).
They grip granite and other natural products more than well enough to prevent you from killing yourself trying to walk on said products.
Generally, they will keep your feet dry.
They are well broken in and extremely comfortable.
They also make wonderful “uphill” boots.
AND they fit so that your toe nails will not go ramming into the front of the shoe with every step on a decline of more that .0005 degrees.
It’s this last quality that makes “downhill” boots so great for downhill hikes, but also wonderful for going uphill.
Q: Where were my “downhill” boots?
A: They are in “downhill” boot heaven – they went there when the house burned down.
And a special bonus question and answer…
Q: If “downhill boots are great in either direction, why did I even have “uphill” boots?
A: They cost over $150.00. You figure it out from there.
One last thing before we get started here – When I started writing this, I had just survived (pretty much for the third time since July, 2005) the Half Dome trip. Interestingly, shortly after I began writing I spent a few weeks in the hospital because I survived (pretty much for the third time since July, 2005) the Half Dome trip. Had I done what I should have done (die) at the time I should have done it(before I survived it), I would never have started writing this and I wouldn’t have to pick up from where I wouldn’t have left off in the first place.
But, alas, it was not to be. I did, in fact, survive; and I did, in fact, start writing the very day after the survival. That being the case, I need to offer a slight disclosure statement:
Because my kidneys failed, and because I think they are somehow attached directly to my brain, I may not remember everything the way it happened. (I am probably wrong, so you can pretty much accept every word as gospel. I just want to give you an out so you don’t have to feel stupid if you end up believing thatI actually beat everybody down the trail and back to camp.)
OK – so now we have that out of the way and we can get started…
Hmmm.. Well isn’t this embarrassing… After all that build up and ground work laying, I don’t seem to remember anything about that hike right now, except for the words “I’ll go as far as I can go and this ain’t it.”…
Well, let me think about this for awhile and I’ll get back with you…
Well, hello again, readers.. It is me, back for another bout of How To Live A Successful Life. This time, we are going to discuss the special benefits of Action over Words.
You know, you may be one of the very incredibly few people living in this quadrant of the galaxy who realizes that I am not much of a talker. I am, in fact, a man of few, if any, words.
That is because, you see, words do not, in actual reality, accomplish anything, if anything, at all. Really.
“So,” you ask (and if you are not asking, please do so immediately), “of what do you speak in such abbreviated fashion?”
Be still, and I will attempt to put it across to you in the very teensy-tiniest most minute quantity of words as is humanly possible, given the fact that I am, of course, loath to utilize any inordinate amount of verbosity in the explanation of the secrets of shutting up and getting things done.
“Action!” Yes, I say “Action”, my friend…
“Action” is what will get us from the very beginning all the way to the very end…
What world needs is “Action”! “Action” is what we need!
And, that being the case, I must now confess, in as few words a possible, that the reason I am nearly always silent in my demeanor is that, as a matter of fact, I am a…
Man Of Action…
Alas, it is true….
I know, I know.. You thought I was just the quiet type.. Shy, soft spoken and, perhaps, just a bit introverted. Quite possibly you believed that I was, to put it delicately, unable to string together more than two or three letter written statements or responses to questions or statements posed to me in any social or business situation.
Well, I can now come out of the closet and assure you that none of that is, in reality, true at all. Behind all of the “reserved” mannerisms you are accustomed to seeing (or reading, as the case may be) exhibited by me exists a veritable level five hurricane of activity. Always…
That’s because I understand that words without action mean nothing, but action without words means you don’t have to talk a lot to be understood and respected.
Consider this… Have all of the words in the history of human speech and writing ever accomplished anything?
NO! Only when words are backed up with action has anything ever been accomplished.
Words can educate us. Words can inform us. Words can even inspire us. But there is nothing so useless as unused knowledge or inspiration.And there is none so inactive as one who will not act!
And that is why I am a Man Of Action…
You do not believe me? Well let me prove it to you right now by taking action to alleviate your doubts…
One of the finest examples of how I am a constant flurry of activity – a blur of perpetual motion, as it were – that I can think of goes like this:
In stead of talking about taking a nap, I would much rather just spring into action and do it.