A year later, the memory lingers

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 29, 2002

You go through life and you don't plan on dying.

"I'm invincible. I'll stay forever young," you believe.

And then you suffer a life-altering experience and everything changes.

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That's what happened to me a year ago. The story is too well-known, but worth repeating.

It was another Saturday at the Herald and a busy one at that. In the afternoon, I raced to Adams for a Sathre wedding photo and later that same afternoon I raced to Brookside Campgrounds for a Halloween in August party at Steve Braaten's place.

Then, I raced back to work to finish up some loose-ends. The annual Best of the Mower County Fair supplement was due out the next day and I was excited.

After all that racing, I decided to relax that Saturday night. My son took me to a movie and let me choose it. I picked the remake of the old "Planet of the Apes" flick. It was not up to the book or the original movie and mid-way through I realized I had made a mistake.

Then, it happened. I felt a chest pain and it hurt. I thought it was heartburn. When I was lying on my back at the hospital emergency room with all those people around me, I realized it wasn't bad movie popcorn.

Darned if it wasn't a genuine stop-everything, hurt-like-a-youknowwhat, where-did-I-put-my -will, Puhleez-God-I'll-try-harder-next-time heart attack.

How bad was it? I got a ride to St. Mary's at Rochester in a helicopter. That's how bad.

Now, everybody my age seems to have had a heart attack or other life-altering experience of some sort. Perfectly healthy people seem to be in the minority.

There's nothing special about mine. It happened and I lived to tell about it.

I'd like to get on with my life, but it's not happening yet.

A year later the heart attack, I can't stop thinking about it. Of course, taking all those medications and the frequent flier miles I'm earning on my constant trips to the hospital are constant reminders it ain't over until the overweight cardiac rehab patient sings. (Or is it a scream?)

Each morning, I ride a bicycle from my home to work. It's a distance of two miles. Lance Armstrong rides that far to put air in his bike tires. To me, it's the Bataan Death March and an around-the-world journey by duck-walking trip that leaves me feeling like the lead dog in the Iditarod sled race.

I'm wasted bicycling to work and coming home at night. I pass Queen of Angels Catholic Church and think to myself: "If it's going to happen again, let it happen right here. They might let a Lutheran inside for his own funeral."

Then, I pedal a little harder and before long I'm cruising pass the Dick Lang for County Commissioner signs and heading for the home stretch.

There's no retreat, no surrender here.

The other day, after a visit to the doctor, I was feeling so good that I decided to play a joke on the guy and crack a corny joke when he came back into the room with my test results.

So while I was pulling up my pants, I said aloud when I heard the door open. "Will I be able to have wild and crazy sex again?"

It was a nurse, who smiled and said the doctor would like to see me again next month.

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at :mailto:lee.bonorden@austindailyherald.com