For those of us extreme hypochondriacs, life is perpetually moribund.
Mere existence is rarely cause for celebration. However, at infrequent intervals, we do find ourselves drawn to observance of certain milestones.
Don’t get me wrong, I loathe birthdays.
The idea of lauding oneself for the amazing accomplishment of being the product of a biological process has always baffled and annoyed me.
However, it is the cultural norm. Even a middle-age hum-bugger like me recognizes the apparent significance of turning 40.
A glutton always, I decided that if I were to engage in such folly, I may as well give it a good go with what the young people call a “Birthday week.”
Granted, this traditionally has been the kind of thing reserved for Kings of ancient Prussia or Princes of Persia.
But, if some snot-nosed 20-something with accomplishments like pierced junk and shift manager status at Abercrombie gets to eat cake for seven days, then so should I.
Weeks of dreaming and scheming passed, and by the time Jan. 31 arrived, I had nothing.
I awakened that day with no clue as to how to proceed.
Yet, that did not prevent a hastily conceived plan from being hatched.
Looking back, I probably should have discussed the details with the wife.
Nevertheless, a man only reaches the four decade mark once. Well, maybe twice if he lives to 80, but tacos and bourbon know that ain’t happening.
Saturday – midlife crisis begins with purchase of a new assault rifle for home protection … not at all to compensate for anything. Some folks have a problem with the term. However, since it was designed and manufactured for soldiers, and not intended to launch puppies via rainbows into the hands of adorable orphans, I choose to call it what it is. Result: vegetarian, bird-watching, liberal, Jesus freak wife unhappy … Gohs elated.
Sunday – Spent what little time not working on the newspaper by looking at keen accessories for new purchase. You never know when China or Russia or the United Nations is going to attack. Best off to be prepared. The day was pretty uneventful except for a strange feeling in my left ear.
Monday – Ear feeling worse. Reconsidered my gun purchase but justified it by reasoning that it wasn’t nearly as bad as a mistress or a sports car or a sports mistress. And it was certainly way cheaper than those chin implants I’d been eyeing. (Truth is I’ve been cursed with Frank Burns’ chin, and am tired of the wife calling me “Ferret face.”) Besides, with all the gun-toting conservative kooks running around out there, shouldn’t we liberals be armed as well? After all, the answer to every problem is MORE GUNS!
Monday evening – Decide to dip into birthday whiskey a few days early. Half a bottle later and I’m listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and feeling sentimental. Messaged the old man—a former sniper and lifelong gun enthusiast—about my purchase. We don’t talk much, but the conversation went well … until it abruptly ended when the whiskey told my father I loved him. We don’t do that in my family. Well, we don’t do it sober, that’s for damn sure.
Determined to have a good time, me and the whiskey pressed on. Round about midnight or so we realized that, if the Taliban were to suddenly break down the front door, we would be severely outgunned.
Birthday mistake number four: placing an order for a thousand rounds of ammunition.
I’ll recap the birthday mistakes so far for all you pot smokers out there:
- Too much gun for too much money.
- Too much whiskey for too much Benny.
- Too much “Daddy I love you.”
- Too much ammo!
Before I went to sleep, I noticed my ear throbbing and sensitive to sound. Thanks to the whiskey I realized it was a sign I had super hearing. You know, like a dog or maybe even a superhero.
Tuesday – Awaken with whiskey-flavored hangover and noticeable lump on left side of neck just under sore ear. Reviewed and deleted online chat with father.
Wednesday & Thursday – Blur of ear pain and what my brother refers to as “hulk neck” as the mystery illness worsened and something the size of a kumquat developed around my jaw. I was beginning to mutate! Perhaps it really was a sign of super hearing. What better birthday week present than knowing I could finally join the X-Men.
Friday – First of three birthday wishes came true when the wife came home with Taco Bell for dinner. Despite ear pain and hulk neck, Friday went pretty smooth … until approximately 12:36 a.m. (That’s what the time stamp on the photo reads, anyways.) I was half watching a classic movie and half wondering about my ear when I decided to take a picture of it to see how it looked. It was roughly 12:37 a.m. when I identified the large scab on the squiggly part of my outer ear as flesh-eating bacteria. I took only a few moments of breathlessly viewing an internet carnival of medical horror slideshows to confirm my diagnosis.
The wife, of course, was deep in sleep after having spent the day traveling for work conferences. Believe me, I took this into consideration before shoving my phone in her hand and demanding she compare Friday’s photo with the one I forced her to take Tuesday morning. Yeah, that happened.
Following is a transcript of our conversation, with incoherent grunts and coherent swears removed:
The Wife: Are you (…) kidding me? Do you have any mother(…) idea what god(…) time it is, you dumb(…) ?
The me: I know it’s late and I know you’re exhausted but this time it’s really really real.
The Wife: Do you really (…) think you have a mother(…) god(…) case of mother(…) god(…) flesh-eating mother(…) bacteria?
The me: If you’d look at the pictures you’d see the advancement of the necrotizing fasciitis.
The Wife: Necro—what? Were you reading medical journals again?!?
Even locked in the terror of the thought of having half my face surgically removed I realized I needed to let this poor woman sleep.
I took solace in pacing nervously around the dining room until I was too tired to stand. Then I knelt by the bed in “praying child” pose—like I always do when nervous—and stared at the digital photo of my ear on my phone until I passed out.
Saturday – Awakened around 8:35 a.m., still in praying child pose. I must have slept on my hands, because they were both numb from the wrists down. This caused me to jump up and run around the house shouting, “I’m having a stroke! I’m having a stroke!” until the feeling returned. Then I went and made a pot of coffee.
My birthday week ended with a big slice of yellow cake and chocolate frosting but not before I spent an hour studying it for poison.
You see, the daughter had dropped it—topside down—on the grocery store parking lot, and I was concerned about the toxicity of an area routinely contaminated by gasoline, brake and transmission fluids, anti-freeze, motor oil, road salt and more.
Eventually, we cut the pastry. But, due to pure exhaustion from the week’s events, we forwent song and candles and retired to separate rooms to eat our cake in silence.
The gun, which has never been fired, is now covered in cobwebs. I have also decided I will not be celebrating any more birthdays unless I reach 80.
I am happy to report that my case of hulk neck has disappeared and the ear has mostly returned to normal. Though I kinda think I can hear the future now.