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The Zen of


My Daughter's Wedding
(Part One - Teresa's Arm)

After nearly five years of living with the most wonderful man, my daughter is getting married one week from today. Very exciting!

I live up in Oregon these days (always wanted to, since I first read about the Oregon Trail in elementary school) but my daughter is still down in Southern California. So, its a road trip for me this week!

Teresa and I were going to take the plane, but that is WAY too expensive, especially when you own your own business and are fighting with this shrinking economy tooth and nail every day! So, we then thought we'd save a little bit and take the train. But, not only is that almost as much, but it take 30 hours from here, with all the stops along the way!

Only other option is driving. But, another "but"....

Teresa injured her arm a few months ago and can't take the jostling of car, train, or even plane, without being in absoltue agony.

Here's what happened. We were both down in So. Cal for Christmas with my kids (and Mary, to whom I am still married, though I have been living with Teresa for over ten years now). Teresa was driving. We had just gotten on the freeway having left our friends' place up in the nearby mountains where we had been staying for the trip and were not even five minutes back on the road, heading North toward home when....

Teresa glances in the the rear view mirror and yells, "Oh, Noo!" I didn't even have the time to turn around to look when we were hit from behind with a God Awful slam/bang. The whole back end of the car was lifted up in the air, fell back down to the road, and somehow, Teresa managed to stay in our lane and then gradually bring the car to the side of the freeway and slow to a halt.

Here's the short of it - a guy who was heading up to San Jose from San Diego to be by his son in the hospital (the son having suffered a brain anurism) zoned out on the freeway and hit us (who were going 68 mph) at almost thirty miles per hour faster!

(Afterward he said he hadn't seen us at all, which is why we know he was zoning, since it was early on a weekend morning and there were virtually no other cars on the four lane freeway on a straight section in the full sun with a cloudless sky).

Well anyway, there were no apparent injuries, save minor concussions for T & Me (which took a couple months to subside) - the front of his car was crumpled, but our trusty Saturn (the good Saturns before they switched factories and started using metal outer skin instead of the plastic flex-back skin like ours) - our trusty Saturn only needed the bumper replaced, which had absorbed the entire impact so well that it was still attached to the car, just a two inch gap where it had been pushed down below the trunk, and the flex covering popped back out and didn't even show the damage!

AAA is such great insurance. We could drive the car, so we still made the two day trip home. I called AAA on the cell phone and within an hour after the accident (for which we also called 911 and had an officer make out a report on the scene) I already had a claim number and the name of a repair place at home that would handle it all through AAA.

In fact, I didn't even have to sign any paperwork. We went in for the estimate and three days later the car was in and out of the shop in a couple of days, good as new (even better really, as there had been some previous scratches on the bumper) and they handled all the paperwork electronically with AAA on our behalf. All I needed was the claim number! Man, things have gotten better since when I was first married back in 1976! (Which reminds me of another story for another day about how Mary and I got broadsided by a loaded pick-up truck on the way to a Father's Day celebration at my parents' place in 1978, just a few months before my son was conceived. We always figured it shook something loose!)

Well, all this talk of marriage brings us back to my daughter's wedding, or actually back to Teresa's hurt arm.....

Teresa had originally injured her arm in 1989 in a motorcycle accident. It was a torn rotator cuff (among other things) and at that time it had taken months in a sling to heal enough to use it normally again.

Well, she's had problems with it on and off over the years, but nothing too major. That is, until the car accident. Apparently the reason we weren't pushed out of the lane and rolled on the freeway was that in seeing the car coming a split second before impact, Teresa had instinctively tensed her arm muscles and held the car on a straight trajectory. Problem is, that wrenched her bad shoulder!

Now she didn't know it was tweaked during the whole trip back. (Teresa likes to do the driving whenever she can). But, it began to bother her a bit shortly after we returned. She had gotten a couple of Cortisone shots directly into the joint previous to the car accident (as she had most recently re-injured the arm carrying heavy boxes when we move up here from Northern California about a year and a half ago). If she watched her activity, she could still drive and carry things and such.

But after this accident, it just got steadily worse. And that was complicated by her having always been an active person (sailing, subsistance living in Alaska for a year, hiking the John Muir Trail with me for a week at a time in the back country, etc.) So, she had trouble playing the invalid or admitting she was 51 years old. (She had worked construction as a teenager, though you'd never know it to look at her, then or now - scrawny little girlish teenager and on the slender side even these days, the weight of age notwithstanding).

So, even after the car accident, she was still trying to lift planter pots with trees in them in and out of the bathtub where she waters them in our apartment, carry groceries, and move furniture around. There's litterally no stopping her unless she GETS stopped, which is what happened here.

In time, the pain got so bad, she couldn't even lift her arm and corisone shots didn't work. Plus, she had two other injuries on top of it. First, I have acid reflux. Now I know you are wondering how that could injure Teresa. Read on, then....

Sometimes, despite taking Prilosec, I wake up from a dead sleep in the middle of the night unable to breath. The stomach acid comes up my throat, down the air passage, and makes my wind pipe close up completely - no air in or out. (Now isn't that disgusting?)

If I try to breath in, it just closes worse, so the only hope of not dying is to breathe out what little air is in my lungs to create enough inner pressure to be able to suck one tiny constricted gasp back in to keep me from passing out until the next gasp.

Now, as you may imagine, this is rather terrifying. But I've learned to control the fear instantly upon waking. The first thing I do is roll over so that I am on all fours and any acid remainging in my windpipe drips out while I gasp and almost pass out.

Problem is, this last time I rolled over right on top of Teresa. And though her bad shoulder was away from me on the mattress, in gasping I bounced up and down so hard I kept slamming her shoulder into the matress for a couple of minutes, re-injuring the shoulder in fact worse than it had ever been!

Can't feel guilty - what else could I have done, die? But it did cause a major tear the muscle. Still that is not as bad as what happened to her next....

She had been keeping her arm in a sling for weeks, and finally got it well enough that she thought she could take a trip with me to the store. So, we hustled out to Wal Mart and had a bearable shopping experience (from her physical experience) and got back in the car to go home.

I loaded the trunk, then took the cart back. But, unlike what I normally do, I left the driver's side door open. Then, I was delayed by a lady who saw me with the can of Pringle's chips I had liberated from one of the bags and was carrying. This stranger needed to tell me what her favorite flavors were and that I should try them (people are just that friendly here in Oregon). I was all happy and looking forward to telling Teresa about what an unusual experience that was. But when I returned, she was writing in pain in the passenger seat!

I asked her what had happened, and she explained that an SUV started to pull into the space next to my side of the car and hadn't seen the open door and would have snapped it off, so she had reached across and yanked it shut with her bad arm!

Well, that was it. From that point forward, her arm has been so painful that many days she can't even type a word on the computer, and has taken to eating and brushing her teeth (and even using toilet paper) left-handed. In fact, I have to cut her meat for her at dinner!

She's just about to run out of her refill on the generic Vicodin a doctor gave her, but since she has no health insurance since she quit her job to have facial surgery, there's nothing more to be done about it but hope it heals in time.

All of which finally brings us back to why Teresa can't ride down with me to my daughter's wedding. (We figure the lady in the parking lot must've been an angel or something, making sure Teresa couldn't come with me, perhaps to prevent an even greater problem like one of us dying or something).

So, the car it is for me. I'm actually looking forward to two days alone on the road. Haven't done anything like that in ten years. It will be a good opportunity to just let my thoughts drift and reorganize my view of life and my priorities. Two days down, wedding (including rehearsal and a couple days to visit friends) and then two days back.

Ah, the open road!


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