The Year of the Clot
Suffering builds character. In 2005, I had plenty of character building moments.
JANUARY: I'm scheduled to teach two computer classes at Ozarka College once again. The Ozarka facility in Ash Flat is finally up and running. The computer lab is great, the students are enthusiastic and I'm already looking forward to summer vacation. My dog, Blackjack, follows a female dog over the hill and never returns.
FEBRUARY: After 6-7 weeks, it's clear that Blackjack is no longer in my life. I suspect he may have roamed too far from home and sealed his fate. Cattle and stray dogs don't mix. I go to Horseshoe Bend for a dental appointment and stop by the animal shelter. Buddy, a friendly dog of unknown breed, catches my eye. He's too small to chase cattle and hangs out mostly indoors. I adopt the critter and change his name to Buddy Lee.
MARCH: Buddy Lee quickly adjusts to my idiosyncrasies and vice versa. The last day of the month I go to Mountain Home for a routine medical checkup with my VA doctor. He suspects I may have some blood clots and sends me to the emergency room at Baxter Regional Medical Center where I'm examined and admitted.
APRIL: I spend nine days in the hospital, including four days in intensive care hooked up to various machines and breathing through an oxygen tube. Apparently, I have blood clots in both lungs. They seem to think it's a life threatening situation but I'm not worried; life is all about suffering and I haven't suffered nearly enough yet.
MAY: Spring semester at Ozarka comes to a merciful end. I had missed two weeks of work and it was tough finishing the courses in my weakened condition. Sleeping 12 hours per night quickly became the norm. I was unable to start my garden this year so my mother came over on a regular basis and did most of the work.
JUNE: I was very short of breath all the time. I had been informed that the blood thinners I was taking daily would prevent future blood clots but it would take about six months for the existing clots to dissolve.
JULY: It was a hot, dry summer. My pond, like my energy level and zest for life, was extremely low.
AUGUST: I had another birthday. At my age, it didn't really seem to matter. Toward the end of the month, I started to teach the same two classes in the fall semester at Ozarka College. I had 18 students in my microcomputer applications class, all female. Not too unexpectedly, a room full of women seemed to perk me up.
SEPTEMBER: After months of inactivity, I mowed the lawn. It felt real good to finally get some physical exercise. Buddy Lee was amazed. He had been under the impression that I was basically just a blob of jelly.
OCTOBER: Good news and bad news often go hand in hand. The bad news was that a woman had acquired the land across the road and planned to build a house there. As a professional hermit, I cherish my privacy. The good news was that she turned out to be a very nice person who also appreciates privacy. If I had to have a neighbor, she would be an ideal candidate. Buddy Lee liked her too and enjoyed playing with her two dogs.
NOVEMBER: My mother and her dog came over for a visit. I introduced her to the new neighbor who was across the road clearing brush. Suddenly, one of the new neighbor's dogs attacked my mother's dog. It was a serious confrontation, with my mother's smaller dog getting the worst of it. I managed to pull the neighbor's dog off in the nick of time. Peace on earth often depends on friendly attitudes and good fencing.
DECEMBER: I had another checkup with my VA doctor. He set up three appointments (March, May and June) in his clinic in Mountain Home and two appointments (June and July) at the VA Hospital in Little Rock as follow-ups to my blood clotting problem. Plus, I have to go to Mountain Home once every month to monitor the blood viscosity level. Professional hermits don't like to wander far from home but the suffering must continue.
Character building may be good for the soul but I could use a break.
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Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels, which are available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.