The Adventures of Kidney Boy

A Journal About Living With End Stage Renal Disease. Dialysis. Transplants. Love. Family. Friends. The Unsung Donor. This is my life, from the end of a needle to the bottom of a pill bottle.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Old Rope Swing

I can smell the pine needles now, when I close my eyes.  It's amazing how your olfactory sense can be such a powerful memory trigger.  There's no real scent in the air in this room now, but if I think very hard, I can smell them.

I can also smell that musty, mottled and tangled old rope.  Oh yes, two large pieces of it.  Each knot of it, looking almost frayed yet amazingly strong - I can smell that rope.  It held an old slab of wood at the bottom - making a swing that you could seat yourself into on a warm summer day.  I was so small then - skinny, even.  Skinny's not something I was very much in my life, but I was then.  It's the early 80s.  Some cars still used leaded gasoline - I remember how the pumps used to smell.  We stopped at one on the way up to camp - oh so far away, nestled in the trees and hills of the Adirondack Park in New York State.  The journey used to always seem so long to me as a child - it was truly a different work we were getting away to.  We'd get on the freeway, a modern marvel (I was told; it wasn't there when my parents were my age!) and cars would scoot along at speeds designed to make travel across state so much more convenient.  Though the speed limit was capped at 55 mph due to the oil shortages of the 70s, to me - it seemed as if the green rolling hills and rock-cut streams sped by my window in hyperspace.  They were merely blurry lines when I looked at them, but each mile we passed was one more step, for me, towards the bliss of escape.

Camp - or "Up North" as we called it.  When we pulled off the main road, onto that old dirt-road, we pulled ourselves into a place out of space and time.  To my mind, when the large pines began to envelope us, and they let small rays of sunlight spray across the road in dappled patterns, we were in paradise; the world as it was, or meant to be, away from the rest of civilization.

The road winded on for miles - past a sunny stream that flowed over the rich, iron laden rocks, and old hunting camps.  The first stop for us was always an old homestead, known by the name of the family that built it: The Miller Camp.  The Millers had a farm out here once, near the turn of the 19th century to the 20th.  Now, it was a hunting camp, though well maintained and a favorite place for the families to stop and hang out at in these long summer days.  There was a massive tree out front; to me, this tree probably sprang from the center of the Earth and was just as old as it.  To my little, skinny self, that tree could have housed families.  But, instead, off of one sturdy branch hung that old swing.  The seat was such an old, grey piece of wood.  It had seen summers and winters and aged accordingly, but it still held us - we were just little children.  I was young, my brother was younger and many of my cousins were still just dreams in their young parents minds.  Now, as we're all grown, it's funny for me to think of a time when they didn't exist yet, and I ran around in shorts with white trim, and wore track socks with stripes up to my shins.  It was the early 80s, as I said, and such things were the fashion of the day.  So, I'd swing - and I'd swing till I was called away.  We'd have adventures, but that swing was always like the first greeting into that world.

That limb is long gone, now - and the tree, though still a massive and impressive specimen, looks smaller to me now.  Now that I'm older, taller, wider, more bald, more battle scarred from life.  But it remains, and I remain; we've both lost some things along the way, but we stand tall.  Neither of us has the swing anymore, but I'm quite sure that the old tree, like me, can still probably smell the old pine needles and the rope that used to hang off of it - and it can still hear the laughter and feel the love that surrounded that tree, oh so many years ago.  It does my heart well to remember these things - after all we both have been through, we remain. We remain.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Pieces of You

There is a bit of wisdom that says "You are not the things you own." and there really is something to be said for that.  People often have or seek these signs of status or what-have-you to help define their lives - from "designer clothes" to expensive cars or expensive appliances and electronics, people often rely on these things to help define themselves and often use them as a basis of comparison to others.  When you read or think about this, it's easy to see that's foolish.

Yet there are some simple, little things that you remember - just objects you've owned that actually do define you, or moments in your life.  It can be something small - even a pin.  For me, I had a moment today with a couple of old couches we used to have in our family room.

I say "used to" because last night, my brother-in-law and I took them outside and put them to the curb to be collected with the trash.  They were just beat up old couches, yet when I looked at their soft-microplush coverings and comfy pillows, I was reminded of getting them.

My wife and I were young; it was the summer we married.  I was on dialysis, and she was working 12 hour overnight shifts and then coming home to put me on home hemo-dialysis.  We lived in a little ranch house with my brother; we were struggling to make ends meet, and working hard just to exist, but we were stupid happy, young and in love.  We had old furniture in the house; stuff I'd had since I was a dirty bachelor.  But we had a little money from wedding gifts, and we decided we'd get some new couches for the living room.  We went to a local furniture store; a family friend worked there, and told us to come in and pick what we liked.  He'd get us his discount as a gift - so we walked into the expansive store, and just strolled the aisles - looking for something we could afford with our budget.  These little acts seem so silly, but we were so proud of ourselves for being adults - walking into a furniture store and buying something NEW for ourselves!  We looked all over the store, and found a little set - brown microfiber, with comfy pillows and white tubing/trim.  It wasn't ostentatious, but it was nice, it was comfy and it was new - AND we could buy it.  So, that was it, we paid cash for the items, signed some papers, and in a few days, he helped us get it home in my truck.  We loaded the furniture into the house, and spent the day lounging on our new couches that we bought! We couldn't believe it... those couches were with us all through dialysis; I'd often collapse on them after a session.  We cuddled and watched a lot of movies on them; had friends over for parties.  Our little puppies grew up on them, falling asleep on the cushions like little princesses.  They moved with us from the house with my brother, to our first apartment on our own and now to our first house. 

This morning, I watched the trash collectors take my couches, put them in the back of the giant garbage truck, and compress them into the rest of the trash.  It seems silly, but I got a little emotional seeing that part of our lives, our past, go that way.  But such is the way of life - sometimes silly little things become icons of your life - your joys, your struggles, your dreams. It all fades someday, and you move on.  We bought new furniture weeks ago, and while it was nice to buy new furniture, it wasn't as thrilling and as exciting as when we were younger.  I do look forward, however, to spending many a night, watching TV with our son, reading books, and getting older together - all of us.

Farewell, couches.  Thanks for serving us so well.