"Why me?" he asked the guard. The guard shoved him back in the ranks. "Vy you, vy anybody?" he said.
-- Kurt Vonnegut Jr., "Slaughterhouse Five"
I had this fantasy that, for my last couple months, I'd write thoughtful columns reflecting 64 years wandering the planet, 43 years in journalism, 18 years writing a column.
"I must have learned much," was my thinking. "Time to teach."
Life had something to teach me instead.
That thing was: "Think you're smart? Think you've lived a good life and can just walk away? Think again."
It certainly wasn't my idea to catch pneumonia, have it develop empyema and end up in a hospital having pods of gunk scraped off my lung.
It wasn't my plan to spend a week in that hospital with tubes, wires and so forth. I was plugged in, wired up, monitored, suctioned, measured and analyzed.
(May I take a second here to say the nurses in the CVTU Unit at McKay-Dee Hospital are the nicest people I've ever had plug, wire and suction me? Those men and women are saints, seriously.)
None of this was my plan, but before anyone goes blaming some deity for sending me educational hardship or punishing me, I seriously doubt it was anyone else's plan either.
"Why did this happen to me?" I asked my doctor. "I'm kind to puppies. I give to all the right charities, eat right and exercise. What did I do wrong?"
"You're here," he said. "That's it."
People like to blame others for being poor or unhealthy. I have to admit, I am often guilty of this. "Put down the Twinkies" has been known to cross my mind upon seeing a very large person. "You could get a better job if you wanted," is a thought that has also passed my mind at times.
While those things are sometimes true, more often than not they aren't. People have a lot less control over their lives than others like to think.
This lack of control can have devastating consequences. What happened to me was random and yet its cost -- I am guessing $40,000 -- could throw a hardworking, God-fearing and conservatively living family into medical bankruptcy unless it has the limited version of socialized medicine we call medical insurance.
By which I mean, "You don't think I'm handing over 40 grand, do you?" Nope, thanks to all of you paying your monthly premiums.
This is why I think the Legislature's continued obstruction of Obamacare is not just wrong, but hypocritical and unfair. The lawmakers get their medical bills paid, some for life, by taxes from the same folks they say don't have insurance through some fault of their own.
People have asked me, "Are you retiring because you got sick?"
I made the decision to retire last May. But getting sick and needing surgery have taught me that I made the right decision.
So, work to make this a kinder society. Keep in mind how lucky you are.
And if you want to make a life switch, and can, don't wait. All the clean living in the world won't keep you healthy, or wealthy or wise.
SPEAKING OF RETIRING: I hope you can come to a reception the Standard-Examiner is holding for me, my boss Dave Greiling, who is also retiring, and our new publisher, Charles Horton III. The reception is noon to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Standard-Examiner, 332 Standard Way, in Business Depot Ogden.
I would especially like our new publisher to meet as many of you as possible. He's a nice guy, so are you, and I want you to get along.