I woke up this morning at 5:15 Santa Fe time, the clock next to
my bed said 4:15. Thats because I was in Las Vegas, Nevada,
where there is a one-hour time difference. But my body was still
running on Santa Fe time. I tried to go back to sleep but couldnt,
and finally stopped trying. Since Las Vegas is a city that never
sleeps, I decided to go on and get up, go for my morning walk
and then maybe hit the crap tables. The walk was a good idea.
The crap tables? I never tell!
A few weeks ago in
this space I wrote about my dear friend Tom Smith, with whom
I grew up in Santa Fe, succumbing to cancer. He passed away
in Montana, and after having a memorial for him there, his wife
planned another one in Santa Fe last Saturday. She asked me
to say a few words about the friendship Tom and I had shared,
and I said I would.
A few weeks before
the memorial was arranged, my wife and I had made plans to accompany
our daughter and her best friend to Las Vegas, where they are
moving, and help them find living accommodations there. Our
flight was scheduled for the same Saturday that the memorial
was to be held. So while my wife and daughter caught their early-morning
plane as planned, I changed my reservations to an afternoon
flight and told Linda I would join them at the hotel that evening.
About 11 on Saturday
morning, I started feeling a strange sensation at the right
corner of my lips. I thought maybe I was allergic to the wine
I had consumed the previous evening, even though I had never
been allergic to wine before. Then around noon I started feeling
something wrong with my right eye. I couldnt close it.
I wondered if maybe I had suffered a minor stroke. My mother
and an uncle both had one at just about the same age I am now.
But other than these odd symptoms, I felt OK.
The memorial was
set for 2 p.m., and I felt I should keep my commitment to speak
despite my strange condition. My mother was going with me, and
I picked her up at 1:30. I decided not to mention my strange
condition, and see if my mother noticed something wrong. But
as we drove to the Inn at Loretto for the memorial, she didnt
say anything. I tried to relax a bit.
We got to the Inn
and visited with the friends and family members assembled there.
As the minutes passed, the odd feeling in my lips increased,
and my eye began to burn because it was not blinking. I grew
worried that I might get another small stroke while speaking
at the podium. If I can just get through my moment of reckoning,
I said to myself, I can leave right afterward if necessary.
The crowd was summoned
to enter the main room for the ceremony. After we were seated,
a priest, who was a longtime family friend, began the program.
In a few minutes, my turn would come. The priest spoke my name,
and called me to the front of the room. The podium was on a
slightly elevated platform. As I stepped onto it, my legs felt
like they weighed a ton. It seemed to take forever to get behind
the podium, and when I finally did, I took my customary moment
to look at the audience and bond with it. But this time the
feeling of connectedness did not come.
My talk didn't require
any difficult memory work, because it was all about the wonderful
times Tom and I and our other friends had enjoyed as kids. As
I began to speak, I felt that I was not articulating very well,
that I was masticating each word into pulp. A sense of failure
came over me. Seconds seemed like hours. Light stories about
the two of us growing up weighed down on me like tired old jokes,
and my right eye was burning worse than ever. By the time I
finished, my knees were weak. But at least I got through it.
I decided to stay
for the rest of the program. When it was over I asked some friends
if they felt I had botched my talk, due to a weird allergic
reaction I was having to some wine from the night before. My
mother grew concerned, and asked me a few questions. She too
suspected I had had a stroke, and wanted to take me to the hospital
emergency room. I said I felt good enough to catch my plane,
but promised to go to a hospital in Las Vegas as soon as I got
As I drove to Albuquerque,
my mind started working on me. The feeling of things left undone
kept gnawing. I made a vow to accomplish all the things I needed
to accomplish before my demise, if only I could survive this
time around. The flight provided even more time to contemplate
undone things. Topping the list was the feeling I had not told
my family enough how much I love them.
I finally landed
in Las Vegas and took a taxi to the hotel where my family was
staying. When they opened the room door to let me in, a wonderful
sense of good fortune washed over me. Effusively I told Linda
and Kylene that I loved them. Then I told them of my strange
condition. My wife took me to a hospital, and there a doctor
told me I had Bells Palsy. Nothing serious, she said,
just a virus that would eventually go away. Her words were a
Im still determined
to all the things I need to do before St. Peter comes knocking
at my door. But if I dont finish them all, the one thing
I will not forget to do is to tell my family that I love them.
You do the same.
Have a good day.