the things we never say
On Ritual, Excess, and Sustenance (+ a recipe)
Last week, I failed a stress test.
Ironic, because I’m under a lot of stress, like most of us over the age of eight. I’m currently writing another book, my fourth, about permission and what it means to allow ourselves to create and to do so without shame in a world that demands our silence. (This is good stress, this book writing thing.) I have an elderly mother with a pu-pu platter of psychiatric issues, I’m an only child, and she’s living in another state; her memory is beginning to falter, so she sometimes calls me eight times in an hour, forgetting that we’ve just spoken. (She used to call me eight times in an hour before her memory started to flag, so it’s sometimes hard for me to know what’s what.) Inflation has directly struck my household, and our budget is tight as a drum. I’m fully into the whole invisible-after-fifty thing; I was never one of the cool kids in the often cutthroat writing community anyway, and now I’m like Michael J. Fox in that scene in Back to the Future, where his body begins to disappear bit by bit, threatening to erase his character from history. My wife had melanoma surgery last month; she’s okay, thank God. The government, to whom I pay insane taxes in proportion to my tiny income, is making noises about not letting her be my wife anymore, after twenty-two years of love and devotion. I won’t be visiting my cousins in Florida any time soon because it is now illegal to use the word gay there. (People are starving on the streets, gun violence is a daily occurrence, where the hell are the Border Children, over a million Americans died of Covid, the planet is dying, and saying gay is what they’re focused on. Really? WWJD? Not this.)
So I failed the stress test, when I should have scored off-the-charts because my stress is terrific. There was a flurry of activity as my wonderful cardiologist pulled me off the treadmill. It was a nuclear stress test, meaning that I had been injected with a radioactive isotope before it all began, which would allow the technicians and the doctor to clearly see my heart in action. What they saw: evidence of ischemia (you don’t want this). During the test, my blood pressure shot through the roof to 200 over 84. Determination: I might have had a silent heart attack at some point between my last pre-Covid visit, and last week. In August, I get to have another test, which will determine whether I need another test, which will determine whether I need surgical intervention. I am exactly the age my father was when he had his first heart “incident,” resulting in a quadruple by-pass, both his carotid arteries roto-rootered, and a lifestyle overhaul to try and heal his (literally) broken heart, which he ultimately did.
My beloved father, my best friend, the man who taught me to love Tchaikovsky, Chet Baker, Bill Monroe, Yma Sumac, apricot palascinta, and very dry gin Gibsons. My father, who secreted me away as a child to La Cote Basque on Saturday afternoons in the Sixties while my food-hating mother was out having her hair done. My father, who, having moved me in to his (long dead) mother’s Coney Island apartment after I went through my first serious breakup, deposited a large bottle of Bombay Sapphire on the kitchen counter before leaving.
My father; my best friend. What would he say?
I can hear him: Like father, like daughter, honey.
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