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.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

To all the lives I've lived before

 I have been many different people in my years on this Earth. Don't get me wrong; I've always been distinctly me, and at any point in my life you could see... well, me in that life. But you're always a bit different in different stages and areas of your life.  I came across an old photo from about 20 or so year ago of me - I and I remember myself then.  It's amazing when those emotions of who and where you were at that time come back from something like a photo.  Anything can trigger the recall, though, a photo, a song... a particular food, a certain smell.

So you dwell in that moment, with the "old you" and part of you relives that experience in an instant.  I mean, days, weeks, months, years compress into a tiny moment in your conciousness and hit you all like a hammer.  I know I've made plenty of mistakes in my life and that often we look at the past and think of those mistakes and/or things we miss... and some people think about changes.  I do too - of course the big one in me is wondering what life would have been like if my kidney disease was caught before it destroyed my native kidneys.

But it's all moot - all the experiences I had, all the choices, good and bad, have led me up to this moment on this very day. And... well, I like who I am now.  I like me.  I'm not perfect, but I think I'm okay.  And if things happened any differently... I wouldn't be who I am now.  This is who I was meant to be, better or worse.  I think maybe I'm better for it, though.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Life begins at 3AM in the International House of Pancakes

 I wandered into the International House of Pancakes once, a long time ago.  It was getting close to 3AM; we had been up all night drinking in the local watering hole, and had decided that our night wasn't over.  The bars closed at 2 AM but we lingered, of course, finishing a pitcher of the rot-gut beer that was on special.  The bartender, Eddie, seemed only mildly annoyed as we didn't cause a scene like some other of our peers, who were busy trashing not only themselves, but the general area around them as they were ushered out the door.  We, however, lingered back by the rear of the place, in a few stools towards the end of the bar.  We finally drained the pitcher at about 2:30, and Eddie was only too happy for us to leave by that point.  The jukebox had long been turned off, but the echoes of The Allman Brother's "Back to Where It All Begins" still rang in my ears.  Our driver hadn't had a drink since about 10 PM and was pretty pissed at his sobriety - but yet was still game to drive us down to the IHOP.  We chose the IHOP over the Denny's down the road that night for reasons unknown, but sometimes fate steps in to make decisions for you that you can't comprehend.

The old triangular shaped building was hopping that evening; the place was full of post bar revelers like us, but we managed to get a table - I sat down in the far end of the booth, next to the window and that little caddy full of different flavored syrups.  I spent an inordinate amount of time staring at the Strawberry Syrup while my compatriots ordered dishes like "Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity".  I got an omelette. Bacon and cheese.  Nothing too complex.  It was the hashbrowns I was looking forward to, in all honesty. This was the days before such things were outlawed, and cigarettes were broken out over cups of black coffee.  Conversation flowed; we were young, and the world was at our feet. We talked of things that mattered, and mostly things that didn't matter, but we felt so alive doing it. The room was full of such chatter, and it all overlapped each other in a cacophonous symphony of hopes and dreams. There were notes of other emotions in there; relationships on tenuous edges, hearts broken, losses felt.  They all hit my ears, and stuck in my brain even though I didn't know these people.  Except for a few other tables, filled with people I did know, either well or casually.  

 I knew a lot of people at that time in my life, and I often floated between many different and dichotomous groups of friends.  I saw a table with some other friends I knew; I excused myself to use the rest room, and I went to relieve myself of the literal liters of beer I had drank only hours previously. (I'll digress here this was a common and mundane action to me at the time, and it was only years later that I learned how precious an ability it really was to be able to micturate, but if you've read my writing before you know why)  When I was done in the tiny washroom, with the weirdest door lock in existence, I wandered back out to the table of other friends I spied.  They were raucously celebrating the end of their night, which occurred at a different locale than the bar I spent my night in. My presence was celebrated with a lot of warm hellos, and I'm sure I tried to tell a joke or something witty. I don't really recall what I said.  We laughed a bit, the waitress growled at me when I was in her way (I'm still sorry about this years later, servers deal with a lot of shit, especially late night, but I was just a large man blocking her way then...) but I do remember seeing a crew of young folks walk in, presumably after a night similar to all of ours.  It was a mixed group of boys and girls, but of course, I spied one girl who walked in before the others.  She had brown hair and brown eyes, and was wearing an old ripped band t-shirt. Sometimes people just catch your eyes, and in your young lust, you fall in love immediately.  In an instant, I dreamed of talking with her, being witty, charming, saying the right things.  Laughing together.  Sharing a cigarette and talking about the most important things in the world. Holding hands.  Listening to her talk about her life, hopes, dreams. Doing things together.  These all flashed in my mind so quickly - and then, I put them away as quickly as they came.  They walked past on their way to be seated.  I turned away, back to my friends.  We never even looked at each other. I don't know who she was.  

But it's amazing how your young heart can dream up such possibilities and hope in an instant, only to file them away and return to whatever you were previously doing. I went back to my seat, finished my black coffee and ate an omelette at 3:30 in the morning, in the late 20th century. My life went on, confusingly, aimlessly, but with great hope and great expectations. Yet, here I am... over twenty years later, suddenly recalling this moment. This inconsequential night, among a string of many nights and many adventures, and I have to laugh about how my life may have started at 3 AM in an IHOP and I didn't even notice until I was an old man.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

So this is life

 So this is life in January, 2022.  I don't know if it's just me because I've had covid and a bum kidney transplant, but so far this year has just been about me feeling sick all the time.  But more than that, I sort of feel like the world at large is depressed and kind of breaking down.  I watched a movie from 2009 last night - in my mind it didn't seem like it came out that long ago, but it was 13 years ago now.  The world was a different place, at least for me, then.  There's a lot of problems now with the covid pandemic, supply chain problems, income inequality seeming to reach a boiling point.  It's just a different climate in the world overall now, and I just wonder how long I can endure it - and how long others can endure it.  I know I could use a big win right about now, but what pains me is that I think literally millions of others need a big win now too, and we just don't have it in the cards right now.  This is a hard time for everyone - I just hope we can all hold on and maybe get some light back into our lives again.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Nineteen Years

 On New Years Eve, 2002, I was rushed to the ER in an ambulance - with a raging and out of control blood pressure, I had lost vision in my eyes.  I had been sick for quite some time, but had no real idea what was wrong with me.  I'd been diagnosed with so many things in the previous month, most of them being of a mental nature.  It turns out my kidneys were dying, and I was in renal failure.  By the time I got to the ER, they were completely dead and I started kidney dialysis that night.  This changed the entire course of my life, and here I am now - nineteen years later, still alive.  This is kind of a miracle - so many people with ESRD just... die.  Even with dialysis, even with kidney transplants, the life of a person with ESRD is not easy nor normal.  Yet somehow, I have navigated it and been able to live a life.  Some might even say a remarkable life - I know I have looked back at the last 19 years of my life and marveled at some of the things I have done.

My survival has only been able to happen because of the generosity of friends and family.  These people have lifted me up, carried me and made me feel worthy of being alive.  My survival has been the result of an army of people offering up their time, love and care over so many years.  I'll never be able to pay back all I have been given, but I know I try to pay it forward whenever I have the chance.  I think the greatest thing I ever got from losing my kidneys was an absolute tidal wave of love in my life.  I am one of the lucky ones; the fortune in my life has been built with kindness, and generosity, and that is the kind of life I have been happy to live.  I am grateful to be alive to feel the love of my family and my friends, and I am so beyond grateful to be alive to bask in and share in the love with my children.  My Jack and my Josephine are the truest light in my life - they make me laugh and love harder, every day, more than I ever thought I could. Being their father is my greatest joy - and, again, I often think about how I could not be that if it were not for so many people.

So thank you for giving me life and reason to live for nineteen years. People who are close to me, and even those who are strangers who have supported me over the years - I am in your debt, and I mean this is all of my being when I say "I love you."

Saturday, January 8, 2022

It was good

 Sometimes you hear a song, or a piece of music, and your mind and soul are transported back to a time in your life where that music was, perhaps, ubiquitous. Or just the time you associate with that song. That unique, transportative quality of music is something that draws it to me and keeps it near my soul - I was listen to a random playlist recently, and I heard the tune "Good" by Better Than Ezra come on.  The song was a post-grunge one hit wonder, but I remember it being on the radio all the time the summer of 1996 - the year I was 18 years old.  I'd freshly graduated High School by the seat of my pants, and I was eager to start a new life, and becoming the "adult" I always wanted to be.  That kind of promise and hope really only comes with the inexperience of the age, but that summer I had a car, I had a part-time job working at a Roller Hockey Rink, and a pocket full of dreams.  The world was my oyster - and cruising around the little part of the world I lived in with my radio blasting really fueled that.  I still remember the warm breezes of that summer - I'd been accepted to and was going to college in the fall.  I had already made some new friends at college orientation (which took place the day after I graduated High School) and the future seemed so bright.  Some of those friends I made on that one overnight orientation are still some of my best friends today.  But that song... it was always on the radio, and in 1996 - radio was still king.  We still listened to radio, and our collection of CDs.  We even still listened to tapes -  I remember getting to college and meeting kids who had collections of taped Phish and Grateful Dead shows.

But every time I hear that song, I remember that carefree summer - I remember the roller hockey rink, I remember thinking that it was a new start for me.  I could leave the insecurities and weirdness of young High School Steve in the dust, and create a cool new guy for the world to like.  Of course, as time showed me, I was already all I ever needed to be for people to like me, I just had to learn to like myself.  You can lead a mule to water, but you can't make them drink.

But I hear that song - and old 18 year old Steve pops up inside me, and I wonder how so much time has passed.  I don't know how I could be creeping up on 30 years since that moment, and I think of everything I've experienced and endured since that time.  I'm just glad I remember what it was like to be young, dumb and hopeful.  My dreams have changed and shifted; some came true, others never manifested - but I think I've lived a life that I am proud of and thankful for.  I got a lot of things that I never knew I wanted, and I've experienced so much I never thought I would.  Here's to always hearing the music, and may it always remind me of the time in my life that it underscored.  I'd be lost without the musical highway in my wake, the music that has scored my unconventional life.