I was sitting with my small group in Shores Chapel last week when I got a text message from my mom. “Just got a call that Uncle Spencer has had a stroke,” Mom said. “They are at Unity and transporting him to LR.”
Praise God my uncle is OK, but he will have a long road to recovery. He’s back here in Searcy for recovery and rehabilitation, much to the relief of our family members. If they had refused to send him back this way, I’m convinced he would’ve come on his own, kicking and screaming.
My uncle’s stroke wasn’t the first cardiac blip on our family’s radar this month. The week before last, my grandmother had an appointment with her cardiologist after her heart check-up came back irregular. We found out in her follow-up appointment that the test just had a bad read. Her heart is healthy and clear, but the prospect of a failing heart had my own skipping a beat for several days.
Family health has been on my mind quite a lot lately, and rightfully so, considering the series of unfortunate events that have plagued us. Both sides of my family are riddled with heart problems; we have blockages, heart attacks, strokes, irregular heart beats and A-FIB. We’d have XYZ-FIB if it was a thing. My search history is stacked with health-related Google searches like “when is it too early to have regular cardiologist visits?”
I told my mom last week that between our family’s poor heart health and the stress that this job can sometimes cause, I’m a ticking time bomb. They should’ve had me at the emergency room yesterday. Partly serious but mostly joking, I think I was in a comedic stage of coping and stress management.
My family’s health has had me wondering about my own heart. What preventative measures should I take to keep my heart healthy? And what preventative measures should I take to keep my heart from breaking in two?
The day after my uncle’s stroke and a week removed from my grandmother’s heart scare, I sat in the driver’s seat of a Harding van, driving a group of Bison staff members to a conference in Louisville, Kentucky. The eight-hour drive was donned with gray skies and midwestern scenics — perfect weather for Deep-Thinking and Reflection™. Then, earlier this week, I sat on the Midnight Oil patio, typed away at a news story — Dawes’s “All Your Favorite Bands” playing in my headphones — and watched yellow-red-orange-brown leaves fall from the surrounding trees.
A lot was, and is, on my mind: my family’s health and my senior-year increasing list of lasts. My Gmail tab was open to a GRE score report, which I was glaring at for too long, wondering what steps I must take to increase my scores if graduate school is something I’m seriously interested in.
When I asked the barista to surprise me with a hot coffee drink, I didn’t expect he’d pour me a cappuccino with one too many sprinkles of nostalgia and introspection, but that’s where I found myself.
It occured to me that we get used to the leaves on the Midnight Oil trees being green, and then when they start to turn yellow-red-orange-brown like they have been, we’re surprised.
We get used to there always being a next year — next year’s Club Week, next year’s newspaper deadline, next year’s staff trip to Somewhere Cool, USA — and then when there’s not a next year, we’re surprised.
We get used to our older relatives always being happy and healthy — throwing the baseball around with you in the backyard, cracking a joke at the family holiday gathering, keeping up with the youngest relatives who sprint around the house with ease — and then when they’re not able to keep up any longer, we’re surprised.
I don’t know a whole lot about anything right now (if you know where I’ll be this time next year, send me an email, please), but as the leaves are changing from green to yellow-red-orange-brown, so are a lot of other things in my life — and in my friends’ lives, in my family’s life and yours, too. I don’t know a lot, but I know that I’d like the leaves to be green for just a little bit longer.