Thursday, June 30, 2005

Stayin' Alive

I wholeheartedly recommend modern day helmets for childhood sledding

I know it’s not the same for all of us, but I think there is a good portion of men, who, when we get older, sometimes wonder how we possibly made it this far, given all the physical disasters (and mental too) we experienced in our lifetimes. At 57, I have had my share of broken hearts, failures and disappointments, which sometimes threw me into a mental state, supplying me with plenty of angst and loneliness. But the physical stuff, the potential for some sort of physical tragedy, rising out of one’s male “go for broke” way of being, one’s attitude of invincibility, that’s where I mostly got myself in trouble.

As a kid, maybe 10 years old, a friend and I were sledding down the side of snowy Mt. Tabor, near my childhood home in Southeast Portland, Oregon. We spied a long snow covered downhill run, near one of the several water reservoirs on the hill. I recognized the spot as the usually ivy covered hillside, next to the stairs and handrail, which we would sometimes use as we travelled up the side of the mountain. I do recall having a teeny bit of apprehension, since it was incredibly steep, as I approached with my sled. I thought it might be a little scary, and dangerous, due to it’s steepness, and since, as I recalled it, the ivy patch was quite deep in it’s unsnowy state. I steeled myself for a fast and hairy head first dive into the abyss. GENONIMO!

Dude, what a ride. It was over in just a few short moments. I remember being fully aware that I was totally and completely out of control. And unfortunately, as the ride was coming to an end, I hit something, something that was never really identified, something that, looking back, I am sure nearly killed me.

It was probably a steel post. There was a handrail there, supported by 4” diameter steel posts, back then, along the stairs which meandered up the side of the hill, and cut through the ivy. My wind completely gone, I stood up, unable to gasp, and walked a few steps toward my buddy, my older next door neighbor Mike Hornbeck, and passed out cold. And get this......just the second before I passed out, my life flashed in front of me. I know it sounds weird, but I have heard others speak of this feeling before, and it definitely did happen to me. It's hard to explain, since it is just a quick flash, but as I was passing out, there was a flash of some sort of all knowing feeling about one's existence, a summary of one's life on earth. I have never forgotten that feeling.The next thing I knew, Mike was reviving me by smearing snow on my face, and calling out my name, probably a smart boy scouty kinda thing to do, as I awoke, prone on the snow. He pulled me home on my sled. I was weak.

I soon realized that I had little feeling in my upper left arm, and over the next few weeks, was given a battery of tests, as I recovered, but nothing was ever diagnosed. Ever since then, I have had a numb upper left arm, except if you slug me hard there, when it will sting more than my healthy right upper arm. It’s bizarre. However, it is not a big deal, and I have never really thought of it much.

I could go on and on, how I myself created dangerous situations for myself, especially as a young man, and barely escaped disability or death. And once, travelling the paved and winding back roads of Eastern Oregon with a friend in his maroon 1959 Ford Fairlane, he thought it would be fun to scare the shit out of me by driving, around blind corners, into the oncoming lane of traffic, time and time again, as I begged for mercy. Sheer luck permitted my survival, and allows me to be here today, writing this story. I feel blessed, having endured a lifetime of bein’ a guy, and runnin’ with guys, that I am still alive.

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Pacific Beach, Washington, United States