Thursday, November 20, 2008
Has anyone ever saved your life? I mean seriously rescued you from the certain clutches of death?
If so, did you ever properly THANK them?
This is my THANK YOU note.
Truth: I almost died three times. The first time was as an infant, from pneumonia.
This is all family legend. I was far too young to recall any vivid details. But everyone who was around back then told me I was very close to death.
So, to whichever doctor or team of doctors saved me in my infancy… THANK YOU!
The second time, I was 12 years-old. It was at summer camp. I'd seen all the older kids daring to launch themselves from the high heights of the diving with the skill of seasoned Olympians. And not wanting to be thought a coward, I mustered up the foolish courage to boldly, foolishly jump into the deep end of the pool.
I promptly sunk to the bottom.
Drowning is an almost spiritual thing. First you panic. That panic state seems to last forever.
Then, it occurs that:
No one is going to rescue you. Poor you. Either no one cares, or no one notices, and world just goes on without you.
You stop panicking and something very strange takes over. You begin to float with a kind of slow-motion KNOWING that this is to be your fate. You begin to surrender to it. It becomes almost calming. Mentally, you begin to say silent goodbyes to the people, the faces and places in your life. You’re not afraid of dying anymore. You almost embrace it. There's this slow and blue kind of ballet you dance to; and you dance to it, all alone.
You wonder what people will think, say about you, and if they’ll even
remember that you were here. I mean, how much of an impact could you have
made in a scant 12 years?
But you don’t care, because this new and glorious slow-motion peace has descended
and it feels sooooooooooo placid and calming. You begin to imagine… Heaven.
The reverie ended!
I heard this noise, this fevered sound of slapping water heading towards me… and I KNEW it wasn’t my own fevered sound. And then, something seemed to clutch me up and out of my floating death. And I knew it wasn’t the Hand of God.
It felt oddly like a kind of betrayal that this hand would snatch me from the slow and peaceful place I was entering.
I think I was fighting that hand.
But that hand belonged to a kid I knew, a beige long-legged, long-toed skinny kid,
we used to call “Frog.” Yes, as kids, we were all so creatively cruel.
The lifeguard blew his whistle, and quickly jumped in after the kid. But the Real
Hero was Frog. He’d snatched me up and brought me back to the water’s surface,
back to the land of lifeguards, curious crowds and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation,
back to that morbid fascination and the embarrassment of concern, back to a less
peaceful world of living in black 12 year-old kid skin.
THANK YOU, Frog.
No! THANK YOU, John Holiday, for saving my life that fateful day in my 12th summer of living. Maybe I was too mad, or too embarrassed, or too deeply mortified to give you your due. Maybe, back then, I never properly THANKED YOU. But I’m sending this shout-out to The Universe: THANK YOU!
My third time of near-dying occurred when I was 22. 22 and cool-man-cool, so damn cool, I could party like a new fool, drink, pop strange pills, be disarmingly charming while still drinking at will. I was 22, cool-cool & soaring inside my own skin. 22, & thinking everything was so fine, so ridiculously fly, and I could still party-hardy like it was 1999.
Popping another ‘lude, was like throwing another shrimp on the barby of that night, that hot night, that wild night when I was careless with my existence.
It was a night when my words became slurred and I couldn’t tell. My posture was little more than a junkie’s slouch, but I thought my spine was perfectly erect. I was heading into some deeply dangerous territory, and was way too high to even give a damn.
But someone did give a damn. Someone noticed I was not being myself, and he was my boy and co-worker, Bryan. We’d gone to that club together, and he was by no means, a saint. But,that night, that wild night, he became my sentinel and savior.
Bryan knocked that last drink from my hand. He grabbed me by the elbow and led me through that high, wasted and dancing crowd. Outside, he loudly scolded my leaning smiling ass, and he told how foolish I was acting, and deadly my behavior was that night.
He told me how I could “fuck around and O.D. or die” mixing all those drinks with pharmaceuticals... and I, I just laughed at him.
And he hauled off and smacked me, HARD. And TRUST, White boys just did NOT go around smacking me, HARD or otherwise! But it was the Cold Hard Smack of Reality.
He forced me into his car and drove me home, And suddenly my heart raced, and I felt sick, then more sick, then a panicky gut-clutching, stooped-over, toilet-yodeling kind of sick… that was sicker than I’d ever felt in my entire life! It was then that I knew something was horribly wrong with me.
And Bryan held my head as I vomited up all that was left inside me that night. He stayed w/ me until I was coherent and nearly back to being me again.
Bryan was a better friend to me than I’d been to myself.
Of course, my coolness, my embarrassment precluded me from ever truly thanking him properly.
So THANK YOU, Bryan Zee.
I know we’ve lost touch, but I think of you often. You were a good Friend, and I really hope you’re still breathing air. Maybe you’re somewhere out there, smacking sense back into people who temporarily lose touch with theirs.
Anyway, with it being near Thanksgiving, I've been pondering here on the ponderosa... and I realize that there are some Special People who've made a Real Difference in my life... and without them, I may not even be here today.
So, Thank You From the Depths of my Soul, You Special People.
Whoever reads this, if you’ve ever had someone, some Angel who saved your life, THANK them, in a Real Way… and maybe the Universe will play the postman.
That's it. That's all.
Snatch JOY in living!