Canine joy

Mrs. Happy and I currently rent a house in New York. It has some advantages
over owning, but many disadvantages as well. Perhaps the most painful disadvantage
is that we’re not allowed to have a dog. One of the first things we do when
we move into a house of our own some time in the future will be to invite a
dog (probably a boxer) to live with us. I bring this up not because it has
anything to do with marriage, but because I just got my computer fixed and
I’m feeling lazy enough to recycle quotes from some books that I’ve read as
well as a short essay I once wrote.

Jollyblogger recently
posted a
quote by G.K. Chesterton
that I had never read,
but that makes me want to read more from Chesterton:

But there is something deeper in the matter than all that, only the hour is
late, and both the dog and I are too drowsy to interpret it. He lies in front
of me curled up before the fire, as so many dogs must have lain before so many
fires. I sit on one side of that hearth, as so many men must have sat by so
many hearths. Somehow this creature has completed my manhood; somehow, I cannot
explain why, a man ought to have a dog. A man ought to have six legs; those
other four legs are part of him. Our alliance is older than any of the passing
and priggish explanations that are offered of either of us; before evolution
was, we were. You can find it written in a book that I am a mere survival of
a squabble of anthropoid apes; and perhaps I am. I am sure I have no objection.
But my dog knows I am a man, and you will not find the meaning of that word
written in any book as clearly as it is written in his soul.

I don’t know if Dean
Koontz
is a Christian, but he is without a doubt spiritual.
And he loves dogs. Here’s a quote from his novel One Door Away From Heaven:

Every world has dogs or their equivalent, creatures that thrive on companionship,
creatures that are of a high order of intelligence although not of the highest,
and that therefore are simple enough in their wants and needs to remain innocent.
The combination of the innocence and their intelligence allows them to serve
as a bridge between what is transient and what is eternal, between the finite
and the infinite.

For those who despair that their lives are without meaning and without purpose,
for those who dwell in a loneliness so terrible that it has withered their
hearts, for those who hate because they have no recognition of the destiny
they share with all humanity, for those who would squander their lives in self-pity
and in self-destruction because they have lost the saving wisdom with which
they were born, for all these and many more, hope waits in the dreams of a
dog, where the sacred nature of life may be clearly experienced without the
all but blinding filter of human need, desire, greed, envy, and endless fear.
And here, in dream woods and fields, along the shores of dream seas, with a
profound awareness of the playful Presence [of the Creator] abiding in all
things, Curtis is able to prove to Leilani what she has thus far only dared
to hope is true: that although her mother never loved her, there is One who
always has.

From an essay by Will Rogers in 1934:

I have often thought my friend O.O. McIntyre gave more space in his column
to his little dog than I do to the United States Senate. But it does show
that he knows human nature better than I do. He knows that everybody at heart
loves a dog, while I have to try and make converts to the Senate.

In London, five years ago, old Lord Dewar, a great humorist and character,
and the biggest whiskey maker in the world, gave [my] children a little white
dog, a Sealyham, saying: "If this dog knew how well bred he was, he wouldn’t
speak to any of us."

We have petted him, complained on him, called him a nuisance, but when we
buried him yesterday, we couldn’t think of a wrong thing he’d ever done.
His bravery was his undoing. He lost to a rattlesnake, but his face was towards
it.

From an essay by me in 2001:

I love dogs because they are without a doubt the
most lovable creatures inhabiting this world. Puppies live every day as though
it
were their
first,
rushing around,
playing at every hint of provocation, rejoicing in their lives as if they
remember how it was not to live. As they grow, so does their love. Older dogs
are mellower
than puppies, not out of fatigue or boredom but rather maturity. An older
dog understands the deeper value of life, especially the life of a loved one.
An
older dog has a better understanding of the complexity of human emotions
than many humans do. The very presence of a dog can drain negative feelings
out
of anyone, and their service to mankind has been well documented in literature,
TV, film, and oral tradition. Every single dog that I’ve had for more than
two
weeks left an indelible imprint on my life.

I think that people who don’t like
dogs fall into two broad categories: people who like cats better, and people
who don’t like animals at all. I can only pity
people who don’t like animals. They deprive themselves of the unspeakable
joy of communing with other of God’s creatures. Of people who prefer cats
over
dogs, I hold the opinion that <deleting some nasty comments about
cats and the people who like them more than dogs—I’ve mellowed a little
in the last three years
– Curt>.

Any
other animal, with the possible exception of the horse, requires little
in the way of maintenance, affection, time, and love. And any other animal,
again
excepting the horse and maybe the dolphin, provides nothing like what a
dog
does in the way of loyalty, companionship, and unabashed fun. <deleting
a few more nasty comments
> People who love dogs
understand that the rewards of relationship are far greater than the conveniences
of coexistence.

I think E.B. White also had some wonderful things to say about dogs, and I
know James Thurber did, as well as Fred
First
, but I’ve already exceeded—for
the first time, I think—my self-imposed limit of 1,000 words
per post.
I’ll have to save those for another time.

Marriage advice

Yesterday
I was cleaning out one of our kitchen drawers and I found what appeared to
be a collection of recipes bound together by a single metal ring. I looked
at them
more closely and saw that the first recipe card proclaimed "Recipe for A Wonderful
Christ-Centered Marriage! We All Love You!" It was a party gift from one of
Mrs. Happy’s bridal showers back in March of 1998. All the ladies at the shower
wrote marriage
advice on recipe cards and gave them to her at the end of the shower. Here
are some of the nuggets of wisdom we received early on. (These were all hand-written.
I have tried to preserve all the capitalizations, spellings, and notations
as much as possible.)

Make the big effort to "make memories." Right now it will al
be special, joyful times. In a year or two…it may take more effort~but it
will all be worth it. Have Candlelight dinners once a week! (it makes
it all taste better AND do this once the kids come too :) Surprise Kurt
with notes of love in his lunch box – socks drawer… Ask His mom how
to fix his favorite meal & dessert…then do it! Make every day Precious!

Never go to bed angry with one another.

<this card consisted of a picture of a gingerbread man with the various
body parts labeled
>
• eyes to
always look for the best in each other
• ears to always listen
• arms to give a hug every morning & every evening
• an extra large heart to always forgive and always big enough for growing
love
• feet with no heels, so you can never turn & run away, but always move forward
together

Always remember to keep God first, then each other. Don’t let all the business
of life start to become more of a priority than each other. When children
come along remember they do not come before the husband or the wife. Remember:
God – first
family – second
everything else – third

One word for your stable marriage: forgiveness. It worked for us!

1) Have plenty of laughs. Make lots of jokes especially when circumstances
aren’t perfect. 2) Cook in large quantity and freeze the leftovers.

I can say for sure that this is all good, practical advice. Still, we didn’t
really listen to it or understand it at the time. Having been through six years
of marriage and learning this all from experience, it makes a lot more sense
now.

Marriage links for the week

I learned a new word this week, thanks to Jollyblogger. Uxoriousness:
excessively submissive or devoted to one’s wife; foolishly fond of or submissive
to your wife.
He explains the word
and offers
some thoughts on it
as it applies to Adam, Abraham, and all men who follow
God.

Jollyblogger also expounds on the differences
between guys and men
this
week. He offers a short self-evaluation to discover whether you’re a guy or
a man based on male role models and women you find attractive. I came down
solidly on the man side in the comparison to other men, but solidly
on the guy side in the women I find attractive. I think the latter
has more to do with the women’s age than with my own level of maturity, though.

Lloyd Nichols ponders some issues surrounding sex,
marriage, and lust
(link
via Messy Christian).

IreneQ and her commenters explore the importance of both chemistry
and compatibility
in a romantic relationship.

According to King of Fools, one Texas politician has his own chapter
of supporters
living with him in his house.

Ronald Reagan left behind a legacy of love for his family, and especially
his wife
:

In the written and photographed record of their years together, running
for governor, walking in inaugural parades, strolling Camp David, after the
attempt on his life and her mastectomy, the Reagans always are holding hands,
hers slipped into his. Sometimes, she wanted to hold him with both hands,
and she reached around with her free hand to clasp his wrist as well.

One couple kisses for the first time on
their wedding day
.

I received another Where I’m From poem this week. Check out Where
Deb’s From
.

His and Hers XIII

His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage
that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday (though I didn’t do
that this week). On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the topic.
I invite
other
bloggers to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in celebrating marriage.
This week’s question is:

What is your favorite expression of physical affection from
your spouse?

Mrs. Happy’s response

One of the things that made me fall in love with Curt was the way he hugs
me with abandon, like I’m the only person in the world. I still love the hugs,
but I think my favorite thing now is when he caresses my face.

Curt’s response

When my wife lovingly strokes the back of my head and neck, I think that physical
act makes me feel more loved than any other.

My scary week, epilogue

I rarely saw the man who shared my hospital room due to the privacy curtain
drawn between us, and I never spoke to him. Everything I learned about him
came from
what I heard of the conversations coming from his side of the room. At first,
I thought he was a mean, senile old man
because he yelled a lot and didn’t always make sense. Later, I learned that
he could not hear very well and had probably suffered some kind of stroke.
He had
been in the hospital for a couple of days, and during my time there he began
to slowly regain his senses. During my first night there he shouted angrily
at anyone who came into the room, operating on the (not unfounded) assumption
that
anyone standing at his bedside wanted to stab him with a needle.
He spoke more kindly once the sun rose, especially after his wife arrived to
keep him company.

The first time that his wife visited during my stay, she spoke lovingly to
him and he reciprocated. She was relieved that he finally recognized her, and
she filled him in on all that had happened. At one point he told her, "I must
have been close to death, but honey, I love you
so much
you
make
me
want
to
live." He made a point of telling every nurse, doctor, orderly, lab tech, and
dietary worker he saw that he loved his wife and that they had been married
for 65 years. He also bragged about his children, one of whom owned a local
restaurant and brought him French onion soup for lunch one day.

I can’t testify with any accuracy regarding the state of that 65-year-old
marriage, but the love between them was obvious in the way the two spoke to
each other. The love of their daughter was also obvious during her visit. My
wife and I have been married for six years. While we were sitting in my hospital
bed doing a crossword puzzle together, I couldn’t help but wonder what we would
be like after doing this for another sixty years. I hope and pray that our
love is as obvious at that time as it is in the marriage of my elderly stroke
victim roommate.

My scary week, Part 3

Read Part
1
and Part
2
before going any further.

At some point during the morning, my doctor asked me about tests that my New
York cardiologist had run. She wanted to see the results of the echocardiogram Dr.
NY had administered, but I didn’t have his phone number. So I told her his
name and his city, naively thinking that the hospital would be able to
get ahold of, or at least confirm the existence of, any doctor in the country.
Throughout the morning, a nurse or an aide would ask me to clarify Dr. NY’s
name and city
because they
couldn’t
find him or even any evidence of him. After several hours of this confusion,
my wife called her brother in Austin and asked him to see if he could find
the doctor on the Web. He found Dr. NY’s number while they were on the phone.
That shook my confidence in the hospital a little. I gave my nurse the phone
number, but they still couldn’t get ahold of the doctor.

A cardiologist in the hospital came to visit me at one point while my wife
was there. He told me that he had gone over all the test results and that everything
looked normal. He said I probably had mitral valve prolapse, a heart condition
that can allow a little blood to flow back into the the left atrium once it
has passed into the left ventricle. It can cause symptoms similar to mine
and is fairly common. He said he would know for sure once he was able to look
at my echocardiogram from New York. He also told me that it is nothing to worry
about, that it is relatively harmless, and that it’s better to live with the
symptoms than with the side effects of the medication that would alleviate
the discomfort. Immediately after he left the room, my wife looked at me quizzically
and asked, "Did he just tell you to suck it up?" I think he did.

Anyway, the NY echocardiogram seemed to be a long time coming, so they finally
just administered one themselves. Shortly thereafter, the cardiologist came
back to see me and reported that the test displayed no signs of MVP. However
much my irregular heart beats disturbed me, they appeared to be benign in nature.
The tightness in my chest could have been caused by any of a number of non-cardiac-related
events. He said he would recommend to my attending physician that I be released.
He didn’t say this in so many words, but this is how I interpreted his statements:
"You have a strong, healthy, well-formed heart. You don’t smoke, drink, or
suffer from stress. Your cholesterol level is fine, as is your blood pressure.
You have no family history of heart disease. Exertion does away with your irregular
heartbeats rather than exacerbating them. All the tests we’ve run have
come back negative.
And you’re
only 31 years old. We can’t
figure
out
what’s
wrong
with you, so it’s probably nothing serious. Suck it up." Both my regular doctor
and my cardiologist echoed those thoughts when I later followed up with them
in New York.

So they let me go. The nurse who discharged me assured me I had done the right
thing in coming to the hospital. A lot of people with my symptoms ignore them
and end up dying as a result. She scolded me a little, however, for coming
to the hospital in a car rather than an ambulance. An ambulance has oxygen
tanks, medicines, medical tools, and people trained to use them whereas a grandparent’s
car usually has none of those. Also, people who arrive in an ambulance are
usually fast-tracked and not shunted off to the waiting room for seven hours.
Now I know.

I thought that I would feel silly if I went to the hospital only to find out
there’s nothing wrong with me. Instead, I feel relieved. That pressure lasted
about a week, and I would have been an absolute nervous wreck after half a
day had I not been under the care of doctors. As it is, my mind is now at ease
for the most part. I would have preferred to have a more definitive diagnosis,
but medicine is an inexact science. Whatever the case, I’ll be around for a
good while longer, God willing.

The end?

My scary week, Part 2

If you have not read Part 1, read
it now
.

In the emergency room, I described my symptoms to a triage nurse. She took
down my information and sent me to the waiting room, where I waited a few minutes
before another nurse called my name. Allowing my wife to tag along, he took
me to a room where he asked me exactly the same questions as the triage nurse.
He then administered an EKG,
drew some blood for a test, and sent me to the X-ray lab for a chest X-ray.
After that, we sat in the ER waiting room for six hours. Periodically, a nurse
would emerge to evaluate my pulse and blood pressure and quiz me about my level
of pain/discomfort. To pass the time, the family and I played Word
Mastermind
. It took my mind off the situation and alleviated my feeling
of impending doom, but I think our fun and laughter may have annoyed the sick
and injured people filling up the other seats in the room.

Finally, a little after midnight, a nurse approached and said they were going
to admit me into the hospital as soon as they could get a bed ready. They gave
me a temporary bed in the emergency room where I could have privacy (essential
once they put me into a hospital gown). A nurse gave me an aspirin,
a couple of nitroglycerin
tablets
, a nitroglycerin
skin patch
, and a shot of something (can’t remember what) in my stomach.
She also gave me an IV feed of saline (I think) to counteract the drop in blood
pressure caused by the nitroglycerin, put an oxygen tube in my nose, and hooked
me up to a machine that monitored my blood pressure and my heartbeat, a machine
that squeezed my arm at regular intervals and allowed me to hear as well as
feel the PVCs. I waited in that rolling bed for more than an hour before they
took me to a real room. Mrs. Happy stayed with me and kept me occupied as well
as she could.

The next few hours are too tedious to describe. Lots of talking to nurses
and a doctor, lots of blood-drawing and blood pressure-taking, and lots of
the same questions I had been hearing since the moment I walked through the
door. Once I was settled in my room, they gave me a portable heart monitor
and a bed pan, one of which I found impossible to use (hint: it wasn’t the
heart monitor). Eventually, they told my wife that she had to leave since I
was in a semiprivate room with another male patient. She reluctantly left and
returned to our hotel to get some sleep. Upon her leaving, I immediately drifted
into a state of semi-consciousness, unable to fall completely asleep but too
exhausted to stay fully awake. The night was broken up by periodic visits from
nurses and aids, people yelling at my hard-of-hearing roommate, and a concerned
phone call from a distressed Mrs. Happy.

Morning came and brought with it a combination of boredom and anxiety
the likes of which I had never known. In the past, I have thought that being
in the hospital would be kind of fun, with no responsibilities and all kinds
of people paying close attention to you. I no longer think that. The nitro
pills and patch in the emergency room had alleviated the tightness in my chest,
but it had returned in the night and showed no signs of going away. The PVCs
continued unabated. The oxygen had dried out the inside of my nose, leaving
it feeling uncomfortably raw and a little bloody. The array of diversions available
to me reminded me of the kind of joke I used to perform with my childhood friend
Chris:

Me: I was in the hospital and I had nothing to read.
Chris: That’s bad.
Me: I asked a nurse and she brought me a magazine.
Chris: That’s good.
Me: It was a fashion magazine.
Chris: That’s bad.
Me: She also brought me a Wall Street Journal.
Chris: That’s good.
Me: I couldn’t concentrate well enough to read.
Chris: That’s bad.
Me: There was a TV in the room.
Chris: That’s good.
Me: My roommate had the remote.
Chris: That’s bad.
Me: He watched some interesting shows.
Chris: That’s good.
Me: He also watched five episodes of Full House and
two episodes of a show that resembled Teletubbies
on acid
.
Chris: That’s bad.
Me: He couldn’t hear very well, so he had to keep the
volume really loud.
Chris: That’s good. No, wait. That’s bad.
Me: The TV’s sound came through speakers in the bed rather
than from the TV.
Chris: That’s good.
Me: The speakers in my bed didn’t work.
Chris: Crap.

Fortunately, the food was good(!) and nearly all the hospital employees were
nice. The air conditioner was a north pole/equatorial jungle proposition. My
attending physician spoke to me at length about how I was feeling and what
tests she wanted to run. She said that the X-ray and the blood tests showed
no abnormalities, and that the EKG had recorded my PVCs. Throughout the day,
every three hours, people came up from the hospital’s lab to extract blood
from my arm. Some time in the mid-morning, they wheeled me to another floor
where a woman performed a sonogram on my legs to look for blood clots. She
found none.

My wife showed up around lunch time with her parents, two of her grandparents,
and her brother. We passed the time amicably for about an hour, then the family
went home, leaving Mrs. Happy with me. Our time together was as delightful
as it could be under the circumstances. We sat in the bed together doing crossword
puzzles. We strolled around the hospital floor and made some phone calls to
update family and friends. We talked and laughed and kissed when no one was
looking. Perfectly lovely.

To be continued…

My scary week, Part 1

Imagine you’re riding in a car being driven by your friend Frank. Now imagine
that a drunk driver broadsides your car on Frank’s side so that he’s knocked
unconscious. An ambulance arrives and takes everyone to the hospital. You walk
away with a few bruises. Frank is okay except that he might be a little loopy
for a day or two. When you call Frank’s wife to let her know what happened, it’s
a bad idea to say, "Kelli, we were broadsided by a drunk driver. The doctors
have Frank
under observation right now." It’s better and more sensitive to say, "Kelli,
everything’s okay. Frank and I are both fine, but we were in a car accident.
Frank got knocked on the head, so he’s a little out of it, but the doctors say
he’s going to be perfectly all right." The first statement allows Kelli’s worst
fears to
run wild in her imagination and devastate her emotionally. The second puts the
accident in perspective so that Kelli knows right up front that nothing is seriously
wrong.

In that spirit, I should say right up front that everything’s okay. I’m fine,
but last week I went to the emergency room with symptoms of a heart attack.

My wife and I had been planning a trip to Arizona for a mini-family reunion.
We were set to leave on Saturday, May 29, and return on Wednesday, June 2.
We had one small problem, though, in that I have been experiencing irregular
heartbeats with increasing frequency for the past couple of months. Thursday
night, the premature
ventricular contractions
(as I later learned to call the
irregular beats, or PVCs) were stronger and more frequent than any I had ever
experienced. When a PVC occurs, I feel as though my heart
stops beating for a split second then resumes, sort of like a car engine
missing on a cylinder or two. Thursday night, I developed a fear that my
heart would stop and not be able to start again. The fear wasn’t bad enough
for me to call an ambulance, but it did prompt me to visit my cardiologist’s
office on Friday.

The cardiologist’s assistant said they would order a device that would record
my heartbeats so that they could see the phenomenon and evaluate it. She also
told me I should be okay traveling to Arizona. So Mrs. Happy and I packed
up and got on the plane Saturday morning. I still harbored some fear about
my heart stopping. I also worried that my troubles might stem from a blood
clot
, though I know absolutely nothing about blood clots except that they
can kill and are especially deadly
on airplanes
for some reason.

I reached Phoenix alive, but the PVCs continued to grow in number and intensity.
I fell asleep with them Sunday night and woke up with them early Monday morning.
They stayed with me throughout the day, sometimes pounding my chest with such
violence that they took my breath away or forced me to cough. My wife made
a point of sticking close to me when she could and, when she couldn’t, making
sure I was never alone. Around four o’clock, I began feeling a squeezing sensation
in the middle of my chest. I found a computer and looked up a
Web site
that
listed the symptoms of a heart attack. The tightness in the chest was right
at the top of the list:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the
    chest lasting more than a few minutes.
  • Pain spreading to the shoulders, neck or arms.
    The pain may be mild to intense. It may feel like pressure, tightness,
    burning, or heavy weight. It may be located
    in the chest, upper abdomen, neck, jaw, or inside the arms or shoulders.
  • Chest
    discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness
    of breath.
  • Anxiety, nervousness and/or cold, sweaty skin.
  • Paleness or pallor.
  • Increased or irregular heart rate.
  • Feeling of impending doom.

I felt all of these symptoms to one degree or another, though even at the
time I could attribute most of them to panic and imagination (pressure in my
neck, nervousness, impending doom, etc.) or my natural state (paleness or pallor).
But the tightness was unmistakably real, and it terrified me. Though the tightness
was not painful—just very uncomfortable—the Web site stated that
it is "vital to seek medical attention quickly if
you feel the sort of pressing pain or heaviness described above. There is a
90
percent
probability
that pain of this type is angina. And even if it goes away, the artery blockages
that caused it are still there and will grow progressively worse.
Ignoring this sort of pain because it is not unbearable or because it goes
away is the worst thing you can do. It is the only warning you are likely to
get of a potentially lethal condition."

I made my fears known to the
family as calmly as I could, and everyone agreed that
I
should
get to the nearest emergency room as quickly as possible. So two grandparents,
two parents, my wife, and I all piled into a five-passenger sedan and drove
to what turned out to be one of the top ten heart hospitals in the country.

To be continued

Marriage links for the week

Rebecca writes about her casual
attitude toward wedding anniversaries
has not changed in her husband’s
absence.
Thanks to Rey for the link.

Marla is proud
of her husband
.

One of the strongest proponents of marriage in the country, apparently and
ironically, is a Catholic
priest
who teaches a class called "Christian Marriage"
at the University
of Dayton. His class is so popular, and his impact is so profound, that university
alumni have set up a scholarship fund in his honor. He says the keys to a successful
marriage are "knowing who you are, knowing your spouse and maintaining a focus,
passion and dedication to each other."

I love dogs, and Fred’s young lab looks like a delight for anyone who doesn’t
have to live with him. There are a couple of pictures at Fragments From Floyd
of the pup chasing
a butterfly
and leaping
for joy
in a picturesque creek.