It has been quite some time since my last post, but as the New Year’s Eve year in review has become sort of a tradition, I figured that I would do one for this year as well. The latter part of 2021 was filled with hospitalizations and surgeries for me and I went into 2022 hoping that it would be, at least somewhat, of a better year. But…you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men.
I returned to work for the spring semester in January with more than a little trepidation as the whole world was getting Omicroned at that time. All of the faculty were crammed into small, unventilated classrooms to listen to information that could have been put in an email. Of course, people were coughing and sneezing all over the place. And…big surprise…the next week, when classes started, a very large number of faculty were out with Covid, though the college denies that it was, or ever has been, transmitted on campus. I was not one of the “chosen ones” that time and managed to avoid it.
However, the Saturday after my first week of classes (and her second week of classes), my wife tested positive. She was sick for about a week, but had lingering symptoms that lasted for six months. It wasn’t until June that she finally felt her energy levels returning to normal. We took precautions while she was sick and I evaded it again, but it makes one wonder how long one’s luck will hold out.
The rest of the semester went by fairly well. Right before Spring Break, we had our first annual Saint Patrick’s Day Party on campus. We were actually planning this in Jan and Feb of 2020 to hold that March, not knowing at that time that the whole world would shut down during the second week of March. So with what amounted to two extra years to plan it, we had quite a bash with food, music, games, and me as the Master of Ceremonies/DJ.
I also found out during the spring semester that in the Fall of 2022, I would be teaching a Criminal Justice class for the first time. I do have a second Master’s degree in Criminal Justice, and professional experience in that area, but I had not taught it before. It would be an online class and I knew it was going to be challenging to set up since we were in the process of switching over to a brand new learning management system after having used Blackboard for over ten years. I figured I could use the summer to learn the new system and set up this class, plus my online history classes. My load in the fall was three in person and three online.
I was excited when the baseball lockout ended and spring training started, though with the way the Red Sox played this season, I wonder if they were aware the lockout was over. When the semester ended, I was totally exhausted to the point of near incapacitation. Truthfully, I never recovered from the three surgeries I had in rapid succession, with two on back to back days, in the Fall of 2021. My summer schedule was relatively light. I taught two history classes (online) during the Summer 1 session and had the rest of the summer off.
My wife traveled to Florida right at the end of June and stayed through the 4th of July, so I was left to my own devices. While she was away, my Mashka had a birthday and we celebrated with red velvet cupcakes and I went to the midnight vigil liturgy for the Holy Royal Martyrs. I was the only person there under the age of 70, I think. Usually when she goes out of town, I have a marathon of all the Hornblower movies, and this time was no exception. It filled me with the urge to go around yelling “Damn your impudence, sir!”
Towards the end of the summer, I learned that Molly’s Song won the First In Category prize of the Goethe Awards for historical fiction. It came as a surprise because I honestly had forgotten that the book was entered into the competition. Still, I got a nice ribbon and some stickers. Unfortunately, I was unable to go to the awards banquet due to it being impossible for me to travel due to my health and Covid. But I’m not much on those kind of events anyway, so just winning the award was nice enough for me.
Speaking of health, over the summer I found myself getting short of breath when engaged in the most mundane of daily tasks. I already knew I had fibrosis in both of my lungs owing to my injuries, but this was more pronounced than what I normally deal with. After a few doctor appointments and a pulmonary function test, I was diagnosed with emphysema. It is at an advanced state for someone my age. While it is true that I did smoke for 20 years, that alone would not cause it to be this severe this young. The doctors think it is due to a combination of three factors; me having smoked for 20 years, all of the toxic shit I breathed in as a firefighter/arson investigator, and, following a genetic type test, some kind of gene thing, I can’t remember what, that made me more prone to get it in the first place, and also for it to be more severe.
Considering that one of my grandfather’s died from this same disease, it was bad news, but also not entirely unexpected. That’s not to say that I was specifically expecting this exact disease, but as much as I hate to say it, I’m at the point that every day I wake up expecting something else to be wrong or go wrong with my health. When every day is a struggle, it is hard to remain positive when you know that your body is doing its best to kill you. I already had a reduced life expectancy and now, this has shortened even more.
If I’m lucky, I’ll make it ten years. Maybe fifteen if I am really lucky. I’m okay with that. I’ll keep working for as long as I possibly can, mainly because it gives me an excuse to get out of the house and be around people rather than sitting at home being miserable. And misery is right. The emphysema means that my skeletal muscles are having to work harder for me to be able to breathe which means that it puts tremendous strain on my spine and ribs, which aggravates the spinal issues. I thought I knew what pain was before, but it is far worse now.
The fall semester started with little fanfare. To be honest, for the first time, I wasn’t really looking forward to being back. I am writing the first part of this post on Sunday, Oct. 2nd. I will revisit it on December 31st to finish it up. By writing the first bit today, I am better able to remember what to write about from the previous nine months. I have the sneaking suspicion that another shoe is about to drop on me health wise. I can’t put my finger on it yet, it is just a general feeling. I’ve made it through the first six weeks of the semester without anything sending me to the hospital, but I don’t know how long my luck will hold. I guess when I revisit this in December, I’ll be able to say if my feeling was legitimate or not.
I am writing this next bit at the end of November. My hunch was somewhat correct. At the end of October, I went in for my annual physical. Usually I do it in August, but I couldn’t get to it before the semester started and then I got busy, so November it was. Everything was going okay until they did an EKG. Now, I think it important to note here that despite my lungs not working, my brain not functioning normally, my spine being held together with screws and duct tape, and my intestinal issues, my heart has always been the one organ in my body that worked flawlessly. Well, that is no longer the case. I’m not sure exactly what the issue was, but I was scheduled for a stress test in the middle of the month. Naturally, the day before the test, the doctor called to cancel it…after I had already cancelled my class for the day and taken off work. They’ve rescheduled it for the day after final exams in mid-December, so for now, we wait.
Thanksgiving was a low key affair. My wife and I stayed home. I spent the week watching college basketball mixed in with a little football while my wife lusted after all the players on the German National Team since the World Cup also started that week. She is an obsessive Germany fan while I don’t care who wins, so long as it isn’t England. I just cheer for whoever they are playing. That’s kind of an Irish thing, I guess.
The semester ended with a whimper and not a bang. This was the first time sine I started teaching full time in January of 2018 that I wasn’t beset with dozens of student emails begging, demanding, cajoling, etc, for a great other than the one earned. I had nary an email the week of finals. That was kind of a welcome surprise.
Right before Christmas, we got a visit from a severe cold front. On Friday, Dec. 23rd, the wind chill outside at 0800 was 0 degrees. That’s pretty cold for SE Texas. It was similar to the severe cold spell we had in February of 2021, but this one didn’t last as long. And thankfully, the only pipe that burst was an outside line. We never do anything for Christmas anyway, so my wife flew to Florida on Christmas Day to visit family. Her flight was delayed by four hours, but eventually she got there. She was gone for four days and I stayed home and entertained myself with a combination of the PlayStation and various and sundry Roku Stick options.
I am finishing this on New Year’s Eve and, as has been my tradition since I retired from the FD, I am spending the weekend watching the Twilight Zone marathon on the SyFy Channel. I’ve seen every episode multiple times, but I still enjoy watching the annual marathon. Tonight I’ll sit on my porch (it is very warm today) and enjoy a fine maduro cigar. Yes, I know I have emphysema, but I can’t catch it twice and one cigar a year is far preferable to the two decades where I smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes a day.
I don’t know what the new year will hold for me or anyone else, for that matter. I no longer make long term plans. I just take each day as it comes, for better or worse. And I’ve never really been one for New Year resolutions anyway. Regardless of what the new year may hold for me, I hope that it brings you health and happiness.