There's nothing like coming home from a chill campout to hear your mother's voice on your answering maching saying that your step-father "is still hanging in there." After some frantic phone calls home, to her cell phone, and then finally to my sister, I found out that, while I had been drinking beer and lounging in hot tubs, my step-father had had a "massive" heart attack. It was one of those mere minutes situations, where if he hadn't been working with someone who was also an EMT, if the rescue squad hadn't been virtually across the street, if it hadn't been early Saturday morning when there was low traffic, and if the cardiac catheterization unit hadn't been standing by to shove a stent up his femoral artery and open up a blood route to the lower chamber of his heart, he would have been dead. At age 52 . As it was, he just suffered more pain than three shots of morphine could mitigate.
When I was finally able to talk with my Mom on Sunday evening she said that my step-father had made his choices, and now was suffering the consequences. Those choices, specifically, were smoking up to two packs of cigarettes a day for almost forty years, not quitting smoking two years ago when a doctor told him he had a leaky valve, and generally working himself to an early grave and not doing anything to improve his health. Like me, his diet was distinctly redneck, and I guess his fondness for bourbon and Coca-Cola probably didn't help much either. Fortunately, he's now been through the most effective aversion therapy ever for quitting smoking, to the point where even the thought of smoking a cigarette reminds him of the pain and makes him nauseated. Of course, now there's still the heart surgery to get through.
Of course this put me in mind of the many choices I've had to make, and the ones I've seen made by others. As my birthdays have progressed I've had more opportunity to see the consequences of some of those choices, and many have been as grim as those suffered by my stepfather. Funny thing is that a great majority of them seem to involve drugs, from nicotine to alcohol to speed. I've been contemplating many of my own choices lately, and trying to see them more as choices than as the playing out of fate. Too often in the club scene it seems that people are not being guided by the idea that they are making choices in what they do to themselves, how they spend their time, or even who they spend it with; rather, everything seems dictated by the flow of the currents around us. This weekend, in whatever you do, take a moment to think about your own choices, and whatever choice you make, please realize that it is a choice, and has the potential to impact not just yourself, but all your friends and those who love you as well.