When I lived in Jackson, Mississippi, I endured the 18 longest, lonliest months of my life. I lived in a one-bedroom, third-floor apartment. Bowel-challenged geese cluttered the sidewalk outside. The only thing that really made me want to live on any given day was Homer's BBQ and Little Willie's BBQ. Oh, and the chance that I may someday escape the only real urban landscape in a dirty, Mississippi River delta state. Before I left, the Governor declared me an honorary Mississippian. So, I've got that going for me.
But before that, I discovered belly button cancer.
Some of you have heard this story. I spent an inordinate amount of time laying on a dirty, blue sectional sofa in nothing but my boxer shorts. More and more, I found myself staring into my navel. Before long, I discovered a freckle in my belly button that, over time, I truly believed was some early onset of cancer.
Now, it wasn't cancer. But it wasn't a joke. As a friend of mine who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer will tell you, you don't go joking about the Big C (incidentally, Felicia is getting ready to endure surgery and chemo, so any good thoughts you have, spare a few for her).
I eventually came to refer to the unexplainable, irrational fear of death and/or sickness as Belly Button Cancer. That is, any time you spend too much time staring at something or overexamining something, you're gonna find something wrong with it and you're bound to think it could lead to your eventual demise. My wife is guilty of it with L'il Otis. I'm guilty of it with the dog.
Now, please note, I've never really had a fear of death. I've lived a damned good life already and if I died tomorrow, I'd feel like I've been granted more good fortune than just about anybody I know.
That said, I spent a little time with an attorney today ironing out my will.
Now, I know. I'm 31 years old. I likely ain't going to die anytime soon. I should've died back in 1996 when I rode with an exceptionally drunk friend in the wrong lane of the highway between Columbia and Moberly. I should've died before that when I regularly drove a 1973 Mercury Cougar convertible down Farm Road 135 in Greene County at 125 mph. Hell, I probably should've died in January when I fell off the big fake rock. When I woke up the next day, I sure felt like I'd kissed death's ass a couple of times.
Still, as I sat in the attorney's office today talking about international plane crashes, fiery car wrecks, and unexpected deadly illnesses, I couldn't help but peek up the skirt of my own mortality.
For instance, this afternoon, I was scarfing some fast food and I had a brief series of chest pains that radiated into my left arm. A sure heart attack? Likely eating my food too fast.
My tailbone has been aching quite a bit lately, as has my left femur. Bone cancer? Likely just the remains of my fall in January and the amount of time I spend on my ass at a computer these days.
Just a few minutes ago, the local TV news showed a story about a high school where a man dressed as the Grim Reaper walked around the classrooms all day, pulling out students, and declaring them dead from a drunken driving crash. They had a very real looking funeral and everything. Spooky.
I guess this is the way it goes. I spent thirty years feeling invincable. I did a lot of supid things with the firm belief that ol' Reaper man had better people to kill off.
Now, though, my professional life is coming around to where I want it to be (would you believe I bought stock in MYSELF today?). My family is beautiful and a new joy every day. Even my dog seems to love me a bit more.
And get this...I don't feel invincable anymore.
Now, it's probably just a combination of Felicia's battle, the changes in my life, and the death talk with the attorney. Nonetheless, I'm feeling a little weird.
Of course, I can only do one thing and that's live this perfect little life the best I can and hope it lasts as ong as I want.
Which is forever, by the way.