Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dinner With The Stones!

I dropped two of my three sons at Boy Scout Camp Sunday afternoon. Then I, my wife, and oldest son went to a restaurant that we had wanted to try for quite a while. We held off visiting in the past because we had heard that it was on the 'pricey' side. In my world, if a restaurant doesn't have a 'paper sack option', it's pretty much falls automatically into the 'pricey' category.

This evening's trip to Russell's Steak House worked from a couple of perspectives. First, there were three of us versus the five of us that we normally have, and second, my son received an $84 cash 'rebate' from the Boy Scout Trails End Popcorn Sale held this spring. We had CASH (WooHoo!) AND we were missing two-thirds of our kids (this NEVER happens). I'd feel more guilty about leaving kids at camp and eating about $80 worth of food if I didn't know that beginning this Tuesday I will be spending the remainder of the week at camp in a tent lined with spiders, crickets, and some sort of weird 'hatching' cocoons, surrounded by skunks, porcupines, and one old, and near-sighted bear. (This apparently, is the real cost associated with going out to dinner and eating a pretty good Filet Mignon for one night - spending four nights in a tent inhabited with creatures straight out of a Dean Koontz book.)

The restaurant was pretty good, with the only major downside being that the awning outside made it look eerily like the entrance of the 'Haunted Mansion' at Disney World in Orlando. I found myself looking for tombstones that bore the old carvings of, "Here Lies Fred, A Rock Fell On His Head", "I Told You I Was Sick", and my personal favorite, "He Called Jim a Liar". You know, it just struck me that the world (my world, at least) contains profound coincidences and 'interesting relationships', just out of chance. I named this entry "Dinner With the Stones", talked about tombstones, and I have yet to get to the real point of this post. In fact I'm not writing about 'tombstones', but rather, 'kidney stones'.

There was a table of eight next to our table of three at this dark, reserved, and very respectable restaurant. These nice folks arrived, apparently, just before we did (they had just gotten rolls when we received our menus -- I DO pay attention to my surroundings some of the time, no matter what my wife says). They had ordered, and had begun to discuss the topic of the day, which was the fact that the older couple at the head of the table were celebrating their sixtieth wedding anniversary (Writer's Note: These folks deserve an award. They have been married since Harry Truman was President of the United States -- congratulations, that's phenomenal!)

The table provided seating for six other folks who came out to share the special day with this amazing couple. I'm not sure which of the other people at the table started the following series of comments since my back was to them, but someone seated directly behind me happened to mention that, "Yes, I've had kidney stones many times. And they certainly do hurt when they come out...". For future reference, in case YOU are are wondering, I've had fountain drinks many times. Normally soft drinks do NOT hurt. However, they do hurt a great deal when they come out your NOSE and onto the table and the bread plate directly in front of you at an admittedly, nice, restaurant. Don't even ask about my shirt.

But wait, there's more! Someone else at the table chimed in that they had had their 'spleen' removed seven years earlier, and that was NOT a pleasant experience either. Determined not to repeat my prior 'There she blows!' event, I put my drink down moments earlier and avoided a second nasal soft drink expulsion by mere seconds. In an effort not to be outdone, every person seated at the table behind me had their own medical experiences to discuss with the 'group'.

"I think I had to get a shot for Hepatitis one time." A man said.

"Really, how long ago WAS that? And why would you need it?" A woman asked, obviously curious.

"Oh, that was long before I met you, honey." He responded, and then he fell quiet again. Now that I think about it, I don't believe I heard him again over the next hour that we remained in the restaurant.

This was curious to me, so I just looked up the definition of Hepatitis so we could all get 'uncomfortable' with this man together:

hepatitis /hep·a·ti·tis/ (hep?ah-ti´tis) pl. hepati´tides Inflammation of the liver.
hepatitis A a self-limited viral disease of worldwide distribution, usually transmitted by oral ingestion of infected material but sometimes transmitted parenterally; most cases are clinically inapparent or have mild flu-like symptoms; any jaundice is mild. (How bad could it be, it's 'worldwide'?)

anicteric hepatitis viral hepatitis without jaundice. (Oh, NO jaundice, there's a bonus)
hepatitis B an acute viral disease transmitted primarily parenterally, but also orally, by intimate personal contact, and from mother to neonate. Prodromal symptoms of fever, malaise, anorexia, nausea, and vomiting decline with the onset of clinical jaundice, angioedema, urticarial skin lesions, and arthritis. After 3 to 4 months most patients recover completely, but some may become carriers or remain ill chronically. (Okay, so this 'B' one is NOT so good to have since you can remain 'ill chronically' for the REST OF YOUR LIFE.)

hepatitis C a viral disease caused by the hepatitis C virus, commonly occurring after transfusion or parenteral drug abuse; it frequently progresses to a chronic form that is usually asymptomatic but that may involve cirrhosis. (Nope, not digging this one either...)

Okay, so the man's silence is a mystery no more. Personally, I would've tried to keep this little gem to myself rather than sharing it while waiting for dinner in a dark and very quiet restaurant. Not well played, my friend. Your chances of getting to the 60th anniversary with your spouse just went the way of the 10 cent 'pay phone' call (you can 'sort of' remember it, but you can't imagine it really ever happening again.) Sorry dude, next time tell everyone about how your knee hurts just before it rains, it's probably true and it won't raise any pesky follow-up questions.

Other conversations continued, ones about surgeries, ones about mis-diagnosed ailments, ones about loved ones who have 'gone away' due to bad genes, bad dietary habits, bad habits, and even one to 'good habits' (apparently a cousin became a Nun...). The ebb and flow of the conversation was mesmerizing.

Conversation at our table was lighter than typical. At first I thought this was because there were three of us versus the five we normally hang with. But in reality, I don't think we have 'lived enough' of our lives to have had the experiences that these folks have had. We had nothing to speak about when compared to the constant verbal buzz that drifted the three feet from our neighbors' table over to ours (I'm assuming that the decibel level of medical infirmities conversation was due to the age of the speakers, they were not 'quiet folk'. Although none referenced any hearing ailments in their list of illnesses). We sat, we spoke quietly amongst ourselves, we ate our dinners and then we went home.

I have a deep respect for these folks who after sixty years appeared to be still 'very happy' with each other. I wish them and their friends the best, but I need to remember that as I get further down the road into double digit anniversaries not to bring up any medical war stories during the course of our celebration. There might be some 'wise guy' at the table next to me looking for an idea for his next blog post.

God bless you folks. I hope you laugh a lot, love a lot, but by way of 'Free' advice, don't ever admit to the 'Kidney Stones thing' or 'Hepatitis thing' out loud, in public ever again. Regarding your commitment to each other, I am in awe of you folks. Keep the magic going (you wild and crazy 70+ year old kids!)

I hope illness never finds you, and if it does, please don't talk about it at dinner.

To sum up, I learned that Diet Pepsi can burn effectively enough to render my nasal passages useless today, but in spite of my temporary congestion, my hope for mankind has increased exponentially since dinner last night. Good choices, good friends, and good spouses never go out of style.

I also learned however, that kidney stones are NEVER cool. And they hurt a lot. Life gives you 'ups' and 'downs'. It's how we live with each that determines the measure of our lives.

In hindsight, the Diet Pepsi out the nose isn't so bad. In fact, I'm smiling as I type this.
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