I awoke next to a woman that would eventually become my wife. We’d spent the night dining, drinking and smoking too many cigarettes. I lay on my back contemplating how badly my mouth tasted when I heard her stirring. I said, “I’m going to kill that cat.”
“What cat?” she asked sleepily.
“The one that peed in my mouth.”
We laughed harder than the joke deserved, I think because it broke the morning-after tension. Thirty-nine years later and we still laugh at the memory.
(c) 2016 By David P. Cantrell
Robinette and I celebrated our thirty-ninth wedding anniversary yesterday. I know that thirty-nine years isn’t all that special, after all, lace is the traditional gift. And many other marriages have existed longer—Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter celebrated their sixty-ninth this year for example. Still from my perspective, thirty-nine is downright amazing.
Think about it, since 1976 so much has changed. The first true Apple personal computer was introduced (the IBM PC didn’t arrive until 1981). Gerald Ford, who had been appointed by Congress to succeed Richard Nixon, was succeeded by Jimmy Carter in January 1977. Carter, an outsider peanut farmer from Georgia, was elected as a rebuke to the establishment. Sound familiar? No one had heard of Adele, LED’s, global warming, HIV, or gluten. It was a time of innocence.
We’ve raised a beautiful daughter who’s married to a great guy and raising her own beautiful daughter. Is there any more important purpose to life than procreation? Perhaps there are many, but it’s certainly in the top percentile.
We’ve had a good life together, not perfect mind you. No one has a perfect life after all. Well, maybe Prince William and Kate do, but no one I’ve met does. To recognize the importance of our special day I offered to make dinner.
Some of you may have read my blog post a couple of weeks ago about my Thanksgiving travesty. I’m very pleased to say that yesterday’s culinary endeavor was quite successful, if I do say so, myself, which I do say so.
Pan seared New York steaks seasoned with garlic pepper, baked potatoes with crispy skin and creamy centers, plus lightly cheesed broccoli made up our simple menu. Simplicity was the key to my success.
A well cooked meal wasn’t enough to recognize our thirty-ninth anniversary, so I gave Robinette a beautiful lace inspired paper-napkin to go with her dinner.
© David P. Cantrell 2015
The remainder of the meal was less spectacular.
Many of you know that I’m a tetraplegic (a.k.a. quadriplegic). My situation is not as bad as you may think. Many spinal cord injuries result in much more debilitating restrictions than the ones I have. On the other hand, there are day-to-day challenges.
My wonderful wife, Robinette, has been my primary caregiver since the injury. She, and time, have helped me recover many abilities, some more successfully than others. For example, I can’t do the Vulcan V-salute any longer. I can, however, do the middle finger salute, not as quickly as my preinjury days, but the effect is the same.
Recently there’s been a role reversal of sorts. Robinette sustained a painful back injury, which has been slow to heal. It’s so bad, that she needs a walker and can’t be on her feet for long. To salt the wound, she came down with a nasty virus that’s had her miserable for weeks. All of a sudden, I’m more capable than she is in some respects—it’s my time to shine.
Meal preparation and clean-up, plus setting up the morning coffee are now my responsibility. Admittedly I don’t do these things as well as she does, but beggars can’t be choosers. We’ve been eating pretty simple fare under my watch: cereal, sandwiches and soups. Anticipating Thanksgiving, I’d hoped to raise the bar and present a traditional meal.
The result of my culinary effort was oven roasted yams and Brussel sprouts seasoned with garlic pepper, stuffing and turkey breast with gravy, accompanied with a very nice French Rosé. A picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps, but in this case it’s a poor witness to the truth.
My experience with rosés’ has been limited to White Zin and Boone’s Farm. If given the opportunity don’t hesitate to sample Chateaue d’Esclans Domaines Sacha Lichine’s Provence rosé. The wine, a gift from our daughter, was spectacular.
The remainder of the meal was less spectacular.
I’d wanted to buy a turkey breast but none was in stock when Christina, a longtime caregiver and friend, took me shopping last week. So I’d purchased a prepackaged turkey loaf with gravy in its own pan—the pictures looked good. The product had more in common with Spam than turkey breast. Actually that’s not fair. Spam’s better. My Stove Top stuffing texture lay between uncooked French toast and wet Playdough, but saltier. Not as salty as the gravy though. The Brussel sprouts were under cooked and barely edible. I’m proud of the yams—they weren’t revolting.
Robinette gave me an A for effort, but left a full plate. She always gives me an A for effort and I appreciated this one as much as all the others. But, just between you and me, I hope she’s in charge of next year’s Thanksgiving. If she isn’t, Domino’s will hear from me.
I’m thankful Thanksgiving is past.
© 2015 David P. Cantrell
Being a quadriplegic (aka tetraplegic) is a learning opportunity. I found my opportunity when a confluence of events left me prostrate. Actually, I don’t remember being on the floor, I learned it later from my wife. She also told me I repeatedly asked if I’d had a heart attack while in the local ER. I don’t remember that either, but I’m not surprised. After all, I was an overweight, hypertensive, diabetic, chain-smoking CPA working on a deadline.
The first thing I clearly remember is the voice of an EMT talking to his ambulance driver as we arrived at a bigger hospital. I wasn’t sure why I was in the ambulance, but I knew something very strange was happening. I learned a good deal about myself over the following months.
I shared a room with three others. They were para’s. At quiet times, we talked, at first about how we got there, and then about the inane things all people discuss at social gatherings. I sensed a feeling of pity from the others.
Roommates changed over the weeks. But feeling pitied continued, it was as if every sentence ended with “Poor bastard!” I understood that attitude from the able-bodied, but not from these guys.
A new roommate joined us. He had suffered an injury the previous year and was recovering from several surgeries. He was anxious to start Rehab as soon as a bedsore healed. A few days later, he was transferred to a convalescent hospital because the bedsore refused to heal.
As I said goodbye, I thought, “Poor bastard!” Suddenly, I understood the whole caste system. I felt pity for his plight, and as a result, felt better about my own.
People said I was an inspiration to them. I said thank you, and to be honest felt proud. But I didn’t understand how I could be an inspiration. All I did was to be positive about the future and not focus on the negative of the past.
A fellow physical therapy patient recently greeted me with, “How are you?” I responded, “I’m good, actually I’m great.” She said, “You’re so happy?” she said. I said, “I’d rather be happy than not. There’s no joy in the alterative.” Then it dawned on me. It wasn’t inspiration I was instilling; it was awe at being happy.
So, I think the most important thing I’ve learned as a quadriplegic is: I’d rather be happy. Don’t expect others to create it for you. Don’t expect good fortune to bring it to you. Happiness is within you. If you need help finding it, ask for it. When you find it, you won’t be disappointed.
David P. Cantrell is an author and member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff.