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, March 17, 2022

Four Leaf Clover

 When I was a kid, I obsessed with four-leaf clovers.  I grew up in a town with a sizable Irish population, and I came from a family that originated in Scotland, was exiled to Ireland, married up Irish lasses there, and then immigrated to Canada, then somehow made their way down south just far enough to Syracuse, where they said, "There's enough snow, salt and potatoes here to make us all happy."  or something.  Anyway, I grew up in a family where Irish eyes were smiling.  My father's eldest sister, Diane, was a tremendous singer - growing up, I always loved to hear her haunting vibrato as she sang Irish folk songs at family gatherings.  "Can Anybody Tell Me Where the Blarney Roses Grow?" still echoes in my mind in her voice all the time; we lost her almost 28 years ago now, but I still think of her all the time.  She was an early influence on me musically - she was a tremendous musician.  Sold me my first Trumpet, when I took that up in grade school.  But today, especially, her voice rings in my head and my heart remembers. 

But, back to four-leaf clovers - today was unseasonably warm, as St. Patrick's Day can mysteriously do in Central New York, and my son was playing in the back yard, hunting the freshly revealed grass when he exclaimed "A four leaf clover!" It turns out, it wasn't... but I remember the last time I found a four-leaf clover.  It was 2011, I was on dialysis and not doing the greatest.  Feeling kind of down about life, and my position in it.  When, out in my driveway at the house we lived in at the time, I spied one growing in the grass just to the side of the pavement.  I plucked it up, and sure enough - four petals on that clover. I smiled, and wondered what luck it would bring.  I showed it to the folks inside, and I think we all shared in a silly moment of appreciating it.  It's kind of a silly thing, but these little traditions and superstitions can bond us.   All I know is a few weeks after I found that, I had taken my wife into work and then went to Wegmans to get us some milk.  We were out... and while I was shopping for milk, I got a call on my cellphone from my kidney transplant clinic.  Hours later, I was being prepped for what was ultimately my second kidney transplant.

So, maybe there was some luck for me in that little plant I found.  Sometimes it seems like bad luck follows me - but maybe it's just cause the bad times hurt so much they take precedent in the memory banks.  But when I think about it, I've been pretty damn lucky too.  I hope we all find lots more four leaf clovers - and may luck, prosperity, peace and goodwill find us all when we need it.  I know it's found me many times, and I must remind myself of that on days when I am low.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

He's been gone

 The first time I ever met my friend Dan, he was holding court in a local bar during karaoke night. Tall, loud, garrulous and good looking, Dan welcomed us in with a smile.  He was dating my friend Mary at the time - Mary was working on a show at LeMoyne College along with me and my buddy Sean.  She was from Auburn, just a quick half hour or so away from Syracuse, so we piled into a car one night after rehearsal and set out to party in Auburn for the night. College students on an impromptu minor road-trip to go drinking a town over are often an excited, rowdy bunch, and as I recall, we were no different.

We were going to a place Mary and Dan hung out in on the reg, an eclectic bar called "Swaby's Kangaroo Court" in beautiful downtown Auburn, NY.  This place was filled with all kinds of cool bric-a-brac; there was even an alcove that was sealed off with bars, but behind it was the actual old electric chair from Auburn State prison.  It was said that it was the chair that Leon Czolgosz, assassin of president McKinley in 1901, was executed in.  All in all, a very cool place.  Karaoke was in full swing that night - in an unfamilar town, we made our way in.  I don't remember much of that night, honestly, as those nights tend to be a blur in my older age.  I've been through a lot in the interim, and we definitely drank out fair share that evening. But I remember singing songs with my new friends, having fun... and being young.  But most of all, I remember Dan.  It was nice to meet a new friend, and one I ended up having many good times with over the years.  Dan passed away suddenly three years ago, at age 40.  

Sometimes I still can't believe he's gone.  That's life, though.  I always expected to go before so many of my peers, but here I am.  Just one of the ones left behind - so at least I can share this little tale of mine in memory of him.  He was a good person - a fun, smart guy.  He loved to argue, but in good nature, and we had many verbal spars as well as laughs, hugs and the joy that comes with friendship.  Just another person I am so glad to have met along my travels - but someone I definitely miss dearly.  I would have liked to have had one last drink with him.  It's often that way with people you lose, especially people you don't see as much as you once did.  The last time I talked to Dan, it was over text messages.  We talked about the movie The Fifth Element, and how he'd nabbed a reproduction multi-pass on Amazon from that movie.  And he also offered to get tested to see if he could donate a kidney to me, as he knew I was back on dialysis and needed one.  That's the kind of friends I have made in this life.  Friends who have literally offered me kidneys - and followed up and tested to see if it's even possible.  How lucky am I?

Very lucky, I'd venture to say.  Godspeed Dan.  It's been three years and I miss the hell out of you, buddy.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

This means everything

 Every weekday, I get to walk my daughter to the bus to school.  She's in Pre-K and attends the afternoon session, so just before noon every day, I get her ready for school.  We get her shoes on, find her jacket and bookbag, and get ready to go out.  The bus picks her up right at the end of our driveway, but I look forward to that short trek every day.  She didn't start out the year riding the bus; she was scared and shy, so for half the year, I drove her into school every day.  Then one day she came home, and said she was feeling brave and wanted to try riding the bus. She's been getting on ever since - it's been a real joy to watch her grow and do this.  We walk out to the bus; I hold her hand, and she usually hums or sings a little tune.  She loves her music.  We get to the end of the drive, and this is where I leave her to climb onto the stairs of the bus herself. But not without a big hug, every day, without fail. She throws her little arms around me - I kiss the top of her head and I tell her I love her and I hope she has a great day.  She climbs aboard, and the driver helps her to her seat.  She always asks me, "Make sure to wave to me!" as if I would ever forget to linger and not wave to my little girl.  I see her little head poke up from under the bus window and her hand waving vigorously as the buss turns the corner.  I always watch it go away and wave right back to her.  I love this routine - I'm only too aware of how fleeting this moment is.  In a blink to me, this will be gone, and she'll be scooting off to school by herself, absorbed in her own little life.  Years will go by in a flash to me, and she'll be so tall. There won't be the big hug in front of the bus, but I'll always remember. I am just so beyond thankful that I'm here for these moments now. I'm so thankful I get the opportunity to have these moments with my children.  Not everyone gets these blessings - and I know I've been through a lot, I have survived so much just to have such an amazing experience as this. It means everything to me.  It's why I've endured, it's why I've survived.  It's the reason why I've been through every rough hurdle I've had thrown at me, and it's because of the miracle of modern medicine and the tenacity and intelligence of doctors, nurses and many others that let me be here to feel this absolute magic and love in my heart.  I know this moment will end, but it'll live forever in my heart. And it's worth more than anything else I've ever had in this lifetime.

I watch the bus drive off, and I turn around to head back inside. It's cold out now, the wind whips at me, chilling me to the bone.  But somehow I am still warmer than I've ever been in my life.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

The Warmth of The Sun and of Friends Long Gone

 It was unseasonably warm today in Central New York.  Just five days ago, it was well below freezing, but today I saw my thermometer read 74 degrees F at one point.  So, being sunny and warm, I took a little drive out in the country, and listened to some music as some respectably loud volumes. This is a favorite passtime of mine; gives me space to clear my mind and relax a bit, and I always love the sights on some of these old country roads near me. But as I drove by one particular street, my brain wandered - down that street was the home a friend of mine.

He passed away almost two years ago now - cancer got ahold of him, and finally did him in.  Not without a fight from him, for sure. I always admired his struggle - he often talked with me about it, knowing my own struggles with in-center treatments, needles, medicines and doctor's visits.  But he always kept a positive air around him - it was inspiring.  He used to cook and bake a lot, and bring it to the nurses in the oncology center he went to.  Even on his days off.  He cared about the people who cared for him.  He was also an avid local music fan - often seen about town at the hippest gigs, camera in hand, snapping photos of the musical adventures of my peers.  I'd known him for a long time; he was the father of a friend of mine in high school.  He'd seen me grow up, from a bit of a punk to the paunchy, bald old man I'd become.  But he was always a big supporter of me in anything I did.  I always felt the love from him.

One of the last times I saw him, I was playing a gig with some friends of mine at a local bar.  They had a gig, and let me sit in for a few tunes, and they put out a collection jar to help me with the bills incoming from my dialysis treatments and other medical ailments.  There were a lot of folks there, but when I saw him, I lit up.  During a setbreak, I stepped outside to get some air and he was outside - gave me a big hug, and we talked about we were doing respectively.  He played off the worst of it, like usual. But he smiled and told me how great I was, and how he was happy to see me grow up to become who I was. I had to go back in, but he hugged me again and pressed his hand into mine.  Inside his hand was a paper bill.  

"This is for you. Spend it on something for you.  You deserve it."  I thanked him, and shoved it into my pocket to look at later.  I was just happy to see my friend.  The gig went on, we rocked into the night, and though I was exhausted by nights end, I was happy in the support I got and the music I played.  I packed up my stuff, helped the band pack up, and I rolled back home.  Later that night, before bed, I emptied my pockets, and found the now rumbled bill in my pocket.

A hundred dollar bill stared back at me, with "For Steve" written in Sharpie on it.  I'll never forget that - and I'll never forget him. That was Jack - he gave a lot of himself to other people.  I will miss his face when I go out and about, and when I drive past the street where he lived, I will always think of him. We should all be so lucky to have such friends in our lifetimes, and I often wonder how the hell I amassed so many wonderful friends in my time here.  People may be gone, but their warmth certainly lives on, for me, in simple memories.