By Mike McNair
Nancy and I used wood heat back in the seventies to cut down on the amount of oil our furnace guzzled. I worked long hours in our woods – mainly by myself – cutting, splitting, and hauling wood.
A heart attack hit me when I was fifty-eight years old in 2000. Even though it was severe enough to require quadruple bypass surgery to correct the problem, my heart didn’t even have the decency to provide warning signs. Instead, it tricked me into thinking everything was just fine and then sucker punched me when I wasn’t looking.
Sure, there were warning signs twenty-five years earlier, but, as you’ll see, that doesn’t really count.
Once or twice a day, my heart would go crazy. It’d beat fast and loud and fill my body with frightening vibrations. “Warning signs,” I called them. I’d sit on a log or stretch out on the ground and listen to my mind grumble because it knew I wouldn’t get any work done for the next fifteen minutes. I enjoyed those warning-sign breaks, even though they slowed my wood-gathering progress. I loved the way the breeze caressed my face and turned aspen leaves into synchronized dancers.
I was in my fifth year of having those crazy heartbeat vibrations when Nancy found out about them. We were walking through our woods and had just entered the clearing when my heart went crazy. My eyes searched for a place to sit.
Nancy stopped and listened. “You hear that?”
My heart raced. I’d kept my heartbeat problem a secret for five years so she wouldn’t worry. Now I’d have to confess everything. I placed my hand against my chest. My knees buckled. “You can actually hear it?”
“Sure,” she said. “It’s a grouse beating its wings.”
I stared at her for several seconds, and then I laughed. I laughed because of all the time I wasted taking those warning-sign breaks. I laughed because nature had played a colossal practical joke on me. And I laughed because the relief that spread inside me brought tingles.
Nancy frowned. “Why are you laughing?
I pointed toward a log. “Let’s sit for a few minutes. I have something to tell you that you’re going to find hard to believe.”
Life is strange. Sometimes, it gives you warning signs that mean absolutely nothing. Other times, it gives you absolutely nothing when you need warning signs. It’s just one heartache after another.