Sunday, September 2, 2007

A Sunday Morning to Remember

This morning (Sunday) I woke up very early, as I described in my last post. I got up, got dressed, and logged onto the laptop to do some e-mail, blog posting, etc. But about 4:45, I decided to go out for a walk to get some exercise. Of course, it was still quite dark, but I jogged/walked from our motel near the pier, up Ocean Avenue to 6th street, over to the public beach access stairs, down to the beach, then back almost to the pier, but I stopped when I got to our motel.

I finished up just before 6 am, and was interested in getting a coffee and something to eat. I had planned to go to Kelly's Espresso Bar, but when I showed up there a little after 6, they were still closed. As I was walking away from Kelly's, I noticed a man leaning out of a second-story window across the street, talking to a woman in a truck down on the street. So I yelled up to him: "Excuse me sir, do you know when Kelly's opens?" He said they may not open at all today (!!). But then he told me that "O'Neil's" coffee shop was just about 3 blocks down the road, and he knew for sure that it was already open. So I set off for O'Neil's.

As it turned out, it was less than a block from our motel, so it was actually very convenient. I went in, and there were just a few customers at this early hour,
and a woman working behind the counter. I ordered a coffee and a muffin, and sat down at an empty table to look through some of the local newspapers.

But then I noticed a man talking to the person working behind the counter. (They seemed to be old friends, as did most of the people in O'Neil's; maybe there is a confederacy of "6 am coffee drinkers.") I overheard him mention that he had had some health problems, and that they caused him some problems with movement.

That sounded pretty familiar to me, and I wanted to know what the nature of his health problem was, and whether it was anything like mine. So I did something pretty out of character for me: I said to him "Excuse me, sir, but I couldn't help overhearing your conversation about some health problems you have; personally, I have Parkinson's Disease (diagnosed in 1998) and Brain Cancer. Would you mind telling me what your condition(s) are?" I've found that "Brain Cancer" seems to get people's attention, and among others with health issues confers a certain respect or credibility -- this is not the flu we're talking about here!

Without a moment's hesitation, he told me that he had had a couple of strokes, and has continuing movement-related issues as long-term side effects of the strokes. Very soon another customer, who was sitting nearby at another table and seemed to know the first guy very well, told me that he has severe back pain, and is getting Workman's Comp, but has a lot of problems with the "bureaucracy" and rules of the California Workman's Compensation program. For example, he is learning guitar (blues, rock, ...) and is willing to play through considerable pain in order to keep up with his lessons. (I can relate to that...) The problem is "guitar playing" is something that people in his condition aren't supposed to be able to do, according to the Workman's Comp guidelines. So the conclusion is that if he can do this, he must be cheating, and can be kicked out of the program. What the guidelines don't take into account is that he absolutely loves making music, and is willing to put up with considerable pain to do what he loves.

A woman who seemed to be a good friend of his and was sitting at a nearby table told me how happy she was to meet me, and she thought I had a very good, positive attitude about the Brain Cancer. The three of them were all permanent Cayucos residents; I told them that I was not a local, and was only here for 3 days, although we have been to Cayucos every summer for several years. Then she happened to mention that she was originally from Carmichael! Of course, I immediately told her I grew up in Rancho Cordova, and went to Cordova High. (Carmichael and Rancho Cordova are both Sacramento suburbs, not far from one another at all. We often played the teams from Carmichael in high-school football and other sports.) So then we talked a bit about high schools, etc. She graduated in 1969, I graduated from Cordova in 1975, and the other guy graduated from somewhere else not in Sacramento (near Cayucos, I think) in 1977.

All three of the people I talked to had faced health issues themselves, or had had friends with serious health problems. But they all had put aside feelings of depression, or anger, or other negative feelings, and were trying to focus on the positive.

When I had to leave, they gave me a sticker that said "Live in Peace," and had a peace symbol on it. Apparently it had something to do with the 40th commemoration of the "Summer of Love" in San Francisco in 1967 - of course, none of us were old enough to have actually participated in the Summer of Love. (I was 10).

I promptly went back to our motel room, and applied the sticker to my Mac PowerBook.
The people I talked to at O'Neils were very, very nice, and the thing that struck me is that they had all faced significant health-related adversity, but had come through it with a positive, peaceful attitude. It was a real pleasure to meet and talk with them, and they said that they enjoyed meeting me too.

A great way to start the day!

Note: although all 3 introduced themselves to me, I am not using their names because I didn't mention the blog to them (I forgot!), and so don't have their permission to appear in the blog.


Dickie said...

I ddidn't give permission to use my name, any lawyers reading this Blog?

Dave said...

Ok, well if so, we'll tell them that "Dickie" is really a code name, much like "Deep Throat" in the Watergate investigation. After this is all over, we'all be left with only one question: Who is "Dickie?"