Ya Gotta Have a Heart
With a nod to Damn Yankees
And other musical interludes
You’ve gotta have heart
All you really need is heart
When the odds are sayin’ you’ll never win
That’s when the grin should start
You’ve gotta have hope
Mustn’t sit around and mope
Nothin’s half as bad as it may appear
Wait’ll next year and hope
When your luck is battin’ zero
Get your chin up off the floor
Mister you can be a hero
You can open any door, there’s nothin’ to it but to do it
You’ve gotta have heart
Miles ‘n miles n’ miles of heart
Oh, it’s fine to be a genius of course
But keep that old horse
Before the cart
First you’ve gotta have heart
The conversations have been migrating to the morbid of late, too many ill and fading friends and relatives, too much medical melodrama in our own home. It is the path and pattern of the suddenly seniors. It has sprung, seemingly fully formed, out of a never-ending youthful exuberance we considered our life’s-right.
My particular heart, while large enough to encompass all my loves and lives, started sputtering a few years ago. While certainly not the flutter of youthful first romance, it was Flutter none-the-less. Disconcerting, chest pounding, clamminess-inducing…….Flutter, or aFlutter, short for Atrial Flutter. The ventricles, lower chambers of the heart misfire, short circuit as it were, and set up a cyclical, really, really, fast rhythm that the atrial (upper) chambers cannot accommodate. My particular rhythm at the moment is 300 beat per minute. The atrial node, a sort of thermostat in the middle of the heart, works overtime to try and tamp down the beats to a more manageable rate, which for me is normally about 55 bpm. I’m running about twice that so I feel weird, faint, odd.
Now, suddenly, the danger of stroke and heart attack looms large and you automatically start thinking about every heart beat you’ve ever had and realize, somewhat morosely, that the number you have left is temporal, fleeting, maybe even pre-determined? I fixed mine last week. A rewiring, in effect, that gave yet another extension to my life’s contract.
My husband’s sudden heart attack in March of this year threw another iron in the fire that none of us saw coming. This apparent poster child for boundless energy and limitless youth was quite unexpectedly laid low, if only for a moment, by a gut wrenching failure of his arteries to fulfill their intended job description. I was across the country when this drama unfolded. Like the self-reliant person he has always been, he recognized what was occurring, finished walking Bella the dog, sat with his symptoms for a few minutes trying, in vain, to will them away. Eventually, conceding defeat in that regard, he drove himself the 5 minutes down the hill to our local and, upon announcing his raison d’etre, was promptly given 3 arterial stents and pronounced “cured”. After some cardiac rehab which he dutifully performed for weeks, he is back to his normal routine….with a caveat.
He is a tad slower to rise to the task of new projects. Where once he would plot, plan, and engineer each new remodel we had envisioned and then dive, full of intent and energy, into its completion and revel in the satisfaction that he had brought forth into the world the various visions that I, all too frequently, had inspired, I now hear comments like,
“I think I’m done with projects”
This is a sea change. Between us, we have always been the marvel of our friends and neighbors at the sheer amount of “stuff” we get done. We don’t hire contractors. We have no gardener, no housekeeper, no “help”.
Throughout the last decades I have had my share of physical challenges while Dave has remained unscathed. Four hip replacements, multiple foot surgeries as well as other medical interventions and a 30 plus year ongoing war with HIV but throughout it all, with Dave’s calm and steady presence around, I have somehow managed to maintain an equilibrium about movement, aging with grace, and mortality, all the while steadily looking forward to the next set of challenges, albeit many of them have come in medical form. I attribute our collective upbeatness to a mutual understanding and acceptance of “what is…..is”. Get on with it.
But now, looking forward is taking on new dimensions, not all of them exciting or even comfortable. There is less forward than there is back. The rearview mirror is such an alluring temptress. Facebook’s Throw Back Thursdays fling our former selves into crystal clear focus. Our body’s sense memories of how we have lived our daily lives continue to compel movement and action while the facts that they present us with implore us to slow the fuck down. Now.
But how hard is that??? For perpetual motion machines like us, it is a tacit admission of defeat. Every small infraction that our rapidly aging carcasses impose upon us is not just seen as a minor impediment any longer, it is viewed from our perpetually youthful minds as pure betrayal. Some ethereal contract somewhere has been breached.
According to Garth Brooks, “I’m much too young to feel this damned old”
But age we do. Things fall apart, we repair them. Bodies break, we upgrade their software.
And so, I am left with the words of another crooner of another era way long gone. Peggy Lee has always had the right take;
“Is that all there is, is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is”