carpe diem
There it is again, that odd sound. In what way odd? The repetitiveness; the same sound over and over again. What is he doing in there?
When I don't get the reassurance of his voice, adrenaline takes over. I go for the door. It gives, then stops; pushing against something. I break in.
He stares at me; comatose, yet moving like an animal caught in a trap. Arms repeatedly hitting the wall. Legs still wedged against the door.
We'd been warned that if he had another one it could be fatal. Put him on his side and get the phone; call 911.
He'd been seizure-free for three years, leading us to think that what had occurred precisely one day after his 60th birthday was a fluke. Out of the healthy-blue, an unprecedented sequence of three violent seizures.
Five days in intensive care on a respirator, during which time everything went wrong with his wildly disordered body. The scene in his room during that period was one of an unending inundation of new problems complicating the maddingly elusive old ones. Unable to put a dent in Franco's combative agitation, the fear spread that Franco would succumb to pure exhaustion. He seemed impervious to the vast amount of sedatives being pumped into him. Then came the stomach bleeding and the pneumonia.
Send for the family; call a priest. I'd been advised to start thinking about nursing homes in the unlikely event that he would live. To be a vegetable. What is one supposed to wish for? For what is ordained, perhaps.
On the sixth day, his odyssey over, Franco swam to the surface of his sea of suffering and rejoined the world; a sapient being once more.
Many neurologists and MRIs later, we still haven't a clue. Brain tumor, stroke, allergy; all those conventional possibilities ruled out. Definitive etiology precluded, it was simply referred to as a "neurological event." Whatever you call it, it changed our lives.
And now it's here again.
Where are they? What's taking them so long?
I call again.
Easy now; quiet down, just go and unlock the front door so they can get in.
Thus we waited for another ten minutes, on the floor of the bathroom, making it a total of twenty five minutes from the first call to their arrival. Our house was a mile, at most, from the place of dispatch.
Franco lived, because this was a mild, self-limiting seizure, although there was no way of knowing that then.
By the time the men ran up the stairs, Franco was starting to take in his surroundings, but not his situation. From his seat on the tile floor, he looked up at the newly arrived faces and asked me who "these people" were. They tried to maneuver him on to the stretcher, but Franco insisted on going to his bed. He looked like a scared little boy, and clearly he had not yet reconstituted his faculties. He continued to refuse the stretcher and kept straining to look at the bed.
All of a sudden he capitulated and agreed to the stretcher if someone would hand him his box of kleenex, which could be seen on the night table. And so he was whisked away to the hospital. And we were, once again, drawn into the quagmire of another inexplicable "neurological event."

caveat diem
picture of sunDriving in back of the ambulance, I recalled the night thirty-five years before, when Franco had arrived home in a big tow truck with its whirling lights intruding upon the rainy night darkness. He had emerged from the machine, his shirt aglitter with shattered windshield glass. Absurdly, he held a white square pastry box in his hands. He had held on to the treats he had brought back from his trip, even though he had been unconscious for some time after the impact had sent his car into the ditch. The other car, going too fast from the opposite direction, had jumped the median and crashed into Franco's vehicle.
In typical minimizing fashion, Franco went to work the next day; the concussion undiagnosed. Dizziness and nausea later in the day brought the attention that he needed.
It is speculated that this might be the gremlin in Franco's wiring. This explanation and anything else we can come up with will remain unavailable for clarification. Only one thing is certain; the previous joy of accepting life readily as each day dawns has been substantially subdued. Even after stabilizing on the fog-producing anti-seizure medication, and making peace with the idea that a disorder exists, there is an eating away of confidence and a loss of essential significance. Carpe Diem is transposed now to Caveat Diem.
Life, however, goes on and we take it on any terms we can get. All right, so we no longer seize life and think to make it our own; the more-modulated mortal that we all eventually become is less demanding and more grateful. Hopefully, though, the sense of humor stays intact.
Feeling feisty on one of his visits to the doctor, Franco probably was behaving like a horse's ass, giving the specialist a hard time--insisting on some sort of certainty vis a vis why all this was happening to him. The neurologist pounced on him with a terrible pun and said with all the cadence and tonality of a Shakespearean actor "Allow me, my dear fellow, to SEIZE this opportunity to point out to you that the only way to know for sure is to do an autopsy!"
Franco retorted; "Well, then, my dear doctor, go ahead and order it, but I seriously doubt my insurance will cover it."


Copyright 1997 The Courage of Our Confusion. All Rights Reserved. Comments? E-mail
to table of contents Back to Table of Contents