The above is a line from Allen Ginsberg’s collaboration with Philip Glass and Paul McCartney, “The Ballad of the Skeletons,” but I can take it literally, at least for the next year. I spent the first part of this morning at the Ross Heart Hospital.
I saw two cardiologists, which worried me at first. It is always a little disconcerting to be seeing a doctor and for the doctor to call in another one and say, “You should see this.” I worried for nothing. My heart muscle is in good shape, the aneurysm does not seem to have dilated any further, and all the cardiac function is as it should be. I have another CT scan in December–a year from this week–but that seems to be all the proactive work that needs to be done. Yes, my cholesterol level resembles a ZIP code. Yes, heredity is not on my side when it comes to this (Dad died of congestive heart failure, his dad died of a heart attack at age 52), and I could stand to drop some weight, but my heart seems to be holding its own.
My grandfather’s death was the beginning of my dad’s break with Roman Catholicism, as I understand it. Dad was a senior at the Catholic University of America in the fall of 1951 when his dad–two years older than I am now–died unexpectedly in Wheeling. My grandmother had been fixing lunch in the kitchen while my grandfather was in the living room listening to the radio. She heard a “thud” sound, and went into the living room and found him dead. She sent my dad a telegram in Washington, and he was on the next train back to West Virginia.
His crisis of faith (at least with Catholicism) came because, until she died in 1965, his mother always worried about her husband’s soul, since he was unable to receive the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church due to the suddenness of his death. Dad questioned the value of a Church that could bring about such unnecessary worry to one of its own very faithful.
Work has resumed on my memoir re my friendship with Robert Lowry. I began several years ago, and I have been within 20-30 pages of finishing for the past few years, but by now it doesn’t flow in the same voice, and there are parts of it that need to come out and stay out. So, the best thing to do, in my eyes, is to start from the ground up and rewrite.
Part of the lack of progress on this project comes from, I think, my taking Abilify, which is a drug that is supposed to supplement antidepressants that a person already uses (Lamictal, in my case). After about a week or so on the drug, I noticed I was beginning to fidget even more than I usually do (which is saying quite a lot–I never sat “like a little statue” when I was younger, whether in school, church, or a concert), that I cannot sleep for more than four hours at a time (which leads to dozing off at all times and in all situations), and–worst of all–that what manual dexterity I have was suffering. I cannot shuffle cards, I can barely manage to use silverware, and yet I can type 80+ words per minute using only two index fingers. I noticed a sharp decline in my typing skills and accuracy. As much as I pretty much loathe the computer culture (he wrote in his blog which is on the Internet), I was so thankful for computers and word processing these last weeks. I was making one error after another, as if my fingers weren’t going where my brain was directing them, and I shudder to think what a page from my Royal Skylark portable typewriter would look like if I was using it instead of a computer.
I saw my nurse practitioner Monday, and described these symptoms to her. She agreed that the Abilify may be the culprit, so I stopped taking it. Like other psychotropics, it will probably be a little while before it completely clears my system, but I have noticed I am not as fidgety as I was. The restlessness first manifested itself on the bus trip to Washington last month, when I could not get comfortable, and could not sleep, no matter what position I assumed. I also could not concentrate on the two books I had brought with me, The Girl on the Best-Seller List (Gold Medal Books S976) by Vin Packer–a thinly disguised treatment of Grace Metalious and the post-Peyton Place uproar; and William Harrington’s Which the Justice, Which the Thief. (They were in the backpack when I left, the first one since PulpFest last summer.) Also, even though the Pennsylvania Turnpike is quite conducive to dozing, I was unable to sleep at all–the first time that has happened anywhere and at any time in the last two or three years.
We were pelted with more snow Monday night into Tuesday morning. Oddly enough, it made walking much more easy than the trek from hell which I described in the weekend entry. Good packed snow makes for a better walking surface than slick, bumpy ice. The fact that I did not have a laptop causing me to list to one side probably helped as well. The scene outside my front door looked beautiful enough that, despite the fact that I thought I would be running late, I went back inside and got the camera.