My neighbor was telling me yesterday about how the bottom half of his heart has stopped working and that only the top half is pumping now. As his breath at times appeared very heavy and he was just standing there next to me telling me about his life, about his two tours overseas, the boat rides, the first time he say an airplane, growing up on the farm in Wisconsin, how lucky he was to have his wife as a partner for 50 some years. As I listen, my compassion and reality buttons are being pressed as I know full well if I am lucky, some day I will be telling some young guy about my heart getting ready to fail, telling him that “you know I have had a good life”, then elaborating on my life experiences as best my memory can recall. I am sure I will be hoping I am not boring this person. At times I am sure I will be talking as if I was a announcer covering a real event doing a play by play as it happens in my memory.
I don’t ask him about his health much, but felt like I had to ask him. Maybe I was picking up on something sub consciously. He told me “No not so well”, the preceded to tell me about how he had pneumonia a couple weeks ago, and when he went for his checkup afterwards, the doctor told him that the bottom part of his heart was no longer working, would never work again. That only the top part was pumping. That he could not lift more than 30 pounds again in his life or he might die. At that moment tons memories flashed back at me of my neighbor, a tough guy, someone who would shovel his front yard spending hours just shoveling. Almost like he had a burning desire to work, to work hard and saying he was making room for the next snow fall was an excuse. The fact that this guys would not be able to lift more than 30 pounds broke my heart. Then he said to me “You know, I have had a pretty good life though” as if he was admitting he knows it time is not far off to go, but he is at piece what he has had an opportunity to experience. He said he was really lucky to be married so long, to one women. Would do it all over again.
We spoke about his reunion he did for the last 17 years with his WW2 buddies, how it started. Apparently him and a couple others were going to meet in St Louis, well one of the guys said, well hey I know so and so, let’s get him to, and so and so did the same thing and so on until there where about 12 people going. Through the years the event grew to as much as 30 people and frequency changed from every 5 years, to 2 years to 1 years apart. The point of him telling me these stories was the explain how he knew he was lucky. We said many of the men when they got to either Korea or Hawaii they would receive letters from their wife’s explaining that they didn’t need to come home, that they would be remarried by the time they came back. One story that really stuck in his head was about a really smart guy, don’t remember where he was from, but he could fix any electronic device. Think now, 1940’s and he could take a radio, that ran on one type of battery, and convert it to another. First of all Radio’s where pretty new, and batteries were also. Other companies would request that he fix their radios to. He had some money so prior to the war he was pretty well off. He had a beautify wife, boat, nice car. Well he receive a letter from his wife. She had crashed his car, sunk his boat, spent all the money he had saved for them to have a nice house, and left him for another man. My Neighbor Knows he was lucky, I know I am lucky. It can always be so much worse, sure it can always be better if you split hairs but worse is always, always so much deeper and frequent. So count your lucky stars, practice having good character, tell people about your life’s memories and live if you are alive.
Jay D. Walker
Voice: 608 217-4486