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The Other Side of This Life

I was born in 1946 in Idaho. My brother was born in 1949 in Oregon. These two facts could give one the impression my parents were a bit, shall we say, nomadic. That impression would be correct.

My dad was a baker and a bit of a free spirit, and Mom was happy to be wherever Dad was. So when the urge struck, Dad would find a job in The Bakery Times, or whatever, in a town that sounded good, and we would move there. At least that was the story we were told, but I have come to believe there was another reason: They were looking for a doctor.

In the late ’40s and early ’50s, there were no hemophilia treatment centers, and finding a doctor who knew more about hemophilia than how to spell it was, shall we say, difficult. Mom and Dad were told by one doctor there was really no such thing as hemophilia; another doctor...

Earlier this month, I passed the first anniversary of my stroke. I hope to make that July 11 bleed a dim memory, but on the one-year anniversary, I reflected on this very strange, usually frightening, new adventure in my life.

I’m busy learning how to live as the person it left me. With any luck, I will be a better man than I was a year ago.

The one thing I do know is that the love and support of my friends and family made my growth and recovery possible. I want to sincerely thank all of them, and I hope I can continue to be worthy of such affection.

Read more Guy Boss at the Missing Factor.

Part three, and the conclusion, to the Alice's restaurant blog post.

After once again being 1-A for a few months, I received orders to report to my Draft Board office at 5 a.m. on a certain date for a physical examination. A week later I received another order canceling the first one. A few weeks later, I received another order to report for a physical, and then another cancellation. The third time was the charm.

At 5 a.m. one sunny, spring morning I was once again standing on the sidewalk in front of the Draft Board office. This time, however, I did not have to skip school, and I was accompanied by about 20 other guys. We were put on an old school bus and started the hour drive to the Army base.

In my pocket was a letter from my doctor stating I had a severe form of hemophilia and really wasn’t what the Army was looking...

Continued from last week's blog post, You Can Get Anything You Want at Alice’s Restaurant.

The next Tuesday I skipped school for the second time in my life (the Army was turning me into a regular truant), and at 7 in the morning, I was standing on the sidewalk in front of the Draft Board office wishing I had worn a heavier sweater. At 7:03 am, according to my watch and 7:06 according to the clock outside the bank at the next corner, the door was unlocked and I was allowed in.

First, it wasn’t really a lobby or reception area, but a short, thoroughly dingy and dimly lighted hallway. The person who had unlocked the door was no longer in sight, which was weird because there was no other door visible. There were no benches or chairs, and no effort had been spared to make you feel uninvited and unwelcome. It smelled of fear and...

In 1967, Arlo Guthrie released “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.” This little hiccup in music history eventually led to 20 of the funniest minutes at Woodstock and, a couple years after that, to a reasonably amusing movie. In the song, Guthrie talks of many things: Thanksgiving and littering and 8x10 glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back, but mostly he talked about his physical exam for the draft. I remember thinking his experience was a lot like mine.

In October 1964, I turned 18. Several weeks before my birthday, I received a large envelope in the mail from the Selective Service with a 9- or 10-page form to fill out and return before said birthday. I really don’t remember much about the form except for thinking, “I haven’t lived long enough for this many questions.” That is the gist of my reaction, which was a very complex mixture of thoughts, emotions and panic that was edited down to something, at the time,...

The other day, the medical supply company came to pick up the wheelchair we had rented while I recovered. I still can’t walk more than a block or so without a 10-minute rest and someone to cushion the fall, but I could use the money that paid for the wheelchair for other things. (I’ve become tragically addicted to this exciting substance with the street name “food.”)

It was, of course, a sleek, modern chair of aluminum and vinyl, and even my wife, who can weigh 100 pounds with only a few layers of wet wool, could lift it in and out of the car trunk with relative ease.
Not so with the wheelchairs of my youth.

They were petite in the same way blue whales are petite, but not so maneuverable. They were made of wood that was harvested just a week or so before it petrified and turned completely to stone. They were one-size-fits-all huge, and came from the factory...

Hemorrhages involving my head were kind of a secret fear of mine when I was growing up, and my recent stroke got me to thinking about previous bleeds on or about the head.

There were, of course, those bleeds caused by using my face to stop a fall, and those that were the result of losing baby teeth or getting permanent teeth, but I didn’t consider them proper head bleeds. The ones I’m talking about were the ones in or near what I rather pompously, and some say erroneously, call my brain.

There were at least two incidents when I was a toddler that caused my parents a few sleepless nights. One was when I fell in a post office and fractured the bone behind my right ear. The other was when I fell off the stairs at my aunt’s and used the right side of my...

As Iron Chef’s Chairman Kaga would say, if my memory serves me correctly, out of the 250-odd times I have been hospitalized (such an strange word—it sounds like I was made into a hospital), I have only been in an ambulance twice. I can come up with several probable reasons.

When I was young, the town’s ambulance was driven by the operator of one of the local funeral homes. Not a screaming endorsement; you were always wondering about the previous passenger’s destination. As dedicated as the mortician probably was, it was still a bit iffy getting in touch with him, and then there was the expense of a 45-mile trip to the University Hospitals. Add to that the fact that my parents, I think correctly, felt they could get me to Ann Arbor far more quickly than an ambulance.

To be honest, there was usually no need for the dramatic speed and siren of an ambulance. The popular press, and...

My latest experiments with intracranial hemorrhaging involved several ambulance rides to other clinics and doctors. This got me thinking about other ambulance rides I have had. Surprisingly, out of the hundreds of times I’ve been to the hospital, I only rode in an ambulance twice.

The last time was just a few weeks after we moved to Arizona. I had been feeling very run down, and after taking my shower that morning, I was so weak I couldn’t even dry myself, and I fell onto the bed exhausted. After a while I called my boss and told her not to expect me that day and then called my doctor. The lady at his office said they would squeeze me in, and I contemplated the monumental task of getting dressed. After resting again I got dressed and my wife drove me to the doctor’s office.

While I was filling out the new patient forms, I was surprised to discover I couldn’t remember how to spell my name or where I lived. While I was still puzzling out those details, they called me...

I had several witty and touching paragraphs written, designed to make you contemplate your place in the universe and marvel at the writer’s almost inhuman bravery. But they fell under a Hummer3 when we stopped for a McFlurry. It was the kind of report that would have had you marveling at a person’s unflagging struggle to survive and wondering how many times he can be asked who the president is and which day of the week it is.

What happened is this: Some of it I have to trust to eyewitness accounts, because I have absolutely no memory of the initial event or the two weeks or so that followed. For that, I am oddly thankful. My wife tells me that around 2 a.m. on July 11, 2010, I woke her and insisted she take me to the hospital. I’ll leave out the gory details that men my age seem to relish, but suffice it to say that I was having a hemorrhagic stroke.

Now, even in times of crisis...