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Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Grand Duchess Abigail Abramova: Royalty in the Personage of a New Cat Deigns To Appear in Our Humble Home

As readers of this blog may know, my husband David and I have two cats: Mama and Barney, both rescued from the wild, and each with amazing stories—for example, Mama Cat once saved my life, no exaggeration [see Related Posts below].  Neither one of us had had much experience with cats in our earlier lives, but we’ve learned fast.  Mama and Barney have been with me since shortly after my heart transplant in 2009, and David and I have been living with them together for over three years.  

Barney, Mama, squirrel

Mama is scary smart (we have to spell words like “food” in front of her, and we suspect she’s beginning to figure that out) and Barney, though small of brains, is very lovable.  He adores us both, but particularly David, who’s patsy enough to succumb to Barney’s loving bats on the nose each morning around sun-up when David, laughing, rises to feed the cats.

Our happy home life changed dramatically last fall when I viewed a Facebook feed in which a kindly woman explained that you should always have three cats.  The reason was that if one dies the survivors can comfort one another if there are two, but the survivor will suffer in solo grief if only one is left.  This led me to propose to David, who (admittedly) was dubious, that we should acquire another cat, so we soon went to Colony Cats (a rescue operation near us, where I had acquired Barney in 2010), and, after various maneuvers, purchased a very black female cat with very soft fur who came to us already answering to the name of “Abby.”  She’d been owned by little old lady who’d had to enter a nursing home and, sadly, give Abby up for possible adoption.

Abby’s label on her cage said that she was “Scared of dogs, but good with other cats.”  I don’t know the truth of the dogs part, but she hissed at poor Mama and Barney from the first moments last October when she arrived until this very morning.

In truth, it seems there’s been a mistake.  Abby is, alas, not an ordinary cat.  Oh, no.  She is in fact the Grand Duchess Abigail Abramova, Russian royalty mysteriously transported to Columbus, Ohio, and forced to battle impossible surroundings, not at all like the palace of her native land.
Barney, ever a go-along-get-along sort of guy, isn’t much of a problem, and the Grand Duchess dismisses him with a flick of her tail, so he (usually) cowers appropriately if she deigns to give him a minor snarl.  The bane of her life, and a major problem, is the other female, the hated “Mama,” who presumes—get this— to rule this household, inexplicably incapable of understanding her humble place in life.  This has led, appallingly from Abby’s point of view, to two declawed cats rolling in fierce battle across the floor while bigger mammals jump about, yelling at them to break it up, damn it! 

Mama and Abby in  Peaceful Moment

After a couple of months of this, a silent peace treaty between the females has been dickered.  In truth, lately these battles seem more like play than serious combat.  At meals Mama and Abby are, happily, “sisters” begging the big mammals (usually David) to feed them, and both are as cute as kittens while achieving this mutual (and damned important) goal.  But, as Oscar Wilde observed in his comedy “The Importance of Being Earnest,” women only call each other “sister” after they’ve called each other a number of other names first.  For the rest of the time they ignore each other, with minimal growls, bored with the conflict and willing to settle for something like a peace treaty.

Supper Time for Mama, Abby, Barney (at bottom)

As for Abby’s relationship with the humans, it’s been very much like that of any Grand Duchess forced into contact with the lower classes (“Don’t know you, don’t know you, don’t know you”).  David’s birthday is in late December so I presented him cards from each of the cats.  Mama compared him to capnip in her affections, and Barney confessed that he couldn’t remember David’s name but nonetheless adored him with all his heart.  Abby’s card was much darker.  It was black themed, and was addressed to “Peasant Number One.”  [I am Peasant Number Two.]  It assured him that when he stopped feeding her he would die.

Ah, but I have discovered another side to the Grand Duchess Abigail Abramova [David’s name for her]. 

Here I have to brag.  I’ve always had some talent at getting into the brains of those I deal with, which had made me a successful teacher, and helped with things like acting, playing bridge, hosting parties, having conversations, and even more intimate matters [see my blog post “Good Sex, Bad Sex: Advice on Making Love;].  When petting cats I try to view the activity from the cat’s point of view, and I enjoy exploring what can happen after a cat first trusts you and then lets you pet him/her in ways no one else ever has done (such as slowly touching the inner ear, or gathering up the neck by the scruff the way mothers carry kittens, or slowly massaging their paws).  I experimented first on Mama, and she loved it, and so did Barney, so I tried it on Abby and was very surprised.

She’s a slut. 

Okay, at first Her Highness felt very uncomfortable in letting an unwashed peasant touch her, but (it must be confessed) she did miss the gentle petting the little old lady gave her, so she reluctantly endured my advances.  After days of the usual sort of petting, Abby was surprised by what it feels like to have a human just barely touch your body when you want more, and then to feel a strong touch, and then a finger moving all around your ear, and then grabbing your neck by the scruff, and well . . . eventually even a royal cat just has to give in and expose her belly to rubbing, while purring for more.  Lady Chatterley had a good time with that gardener.

And thus it came to be that the Grand Duchess Abigail Abramova has become a gentler cat, and a much happier member of our family.  She’s had to give up some of her royal demeanor, but we’ve introduced her to other delights: exploration of the garage, the mysterious red dot that bounces all around the room, and more, particularly catnip, which turns her into a kitten.

Below is a photo of all three cats asleep on the bed. 

We are a family again at last, and we have royalty in our midst.

David and the Grand Duchess

Related Posts:

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

“How To Impress People In a Conversation,” October 10, 2010;

"Two Cat Stories: Mama and Barney in the Wild," July 9, 2011;

“Mama Cat Saves My Life,” October 23, 2011; 
“Barney and the Big Mammal Nightmare,” January 7, 2013;

"Teaching Cats the Rules of the House," July 16, 2013;
“Some Lottery Winners Score $400 Million”—An April Fool’s Day Joke," April 11, 2014;

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A President Born in Canada? Cruz, Lawrence Tribe, Natural Born Citizen, and the Law

In Presidential politics the issue of whether an American citizen born in a foreign country is eligible to become President of the United States under our Constitution arises from time to time.  When George Romney (father of Mitt), who was born in Mexico, ran for President in 1968, and when John McCain (born in the Canal Zone) ran in 2008, and now as Ted Cruz (born in Canada) makes his attempt for the office in 2016, Americans (particularly the oh-so-worried Donald Trump) are asking whether the candidate qualifies under our law for this exalted position. 

Article II, section 1 of the Constitution contains the relevant language:

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

In each of the referenced elections the above-mentioned candidates arguably qualified under the statutes of the United States as eligible because at least one of his parents was a United States citizen at the time of his birth.  In Cruz’s case that would be his mother, who was born in Delaware (his father was Cuban).  But what exactly is the law on the meaning of “natural born citizen”?

The term is not defined in the Constitution, and, as it happens, the question has never been decided by the United States Supreme Court as applied to the presidency (though it has been decided for all other citizens).  Nonetheless the history of the provision and the state of the law at the time it was created gives “natural born citizen” a meaning that leads to an almost definitive answer that Ted Cruz would like.

Let’s go back in time to the drafting of the Constitution.  From 2016’s perspective it’s a given that the document would take the form we now know it to have, but things were very different in 1787 when the Constitutional Convention hammered out its provisions.  You have to appreciate what a startling idea a “republic” was to the people of that time.  In a republic the citizens control the country through elected representatives, a frightening idea when the entire world was almost exclusively run by monarchs, dictators, emperors, or despots of one kind or another.  It was daring to decide that people themselves could take the place of an all-powerful leader, and do things as well as an absolute ruler could.  When it came to choosing the form this new leader would take there were major debates about what to call this individual (as well as what restraints to place upon him).  The title should not sound too much like a king, and “president” (one who “presides”) was chosen as most apt (and limiting) for a democracy.  Article II was written to alleviate the worrying possibility that foreigners would come to the new United States and try to establish a monarchy.  Likely candidates (whose names were bruited about) included Frederick, Duke of York, the second son of George III, who, according to rumors flowing around the Convention, was being invited by some citizens to immigrate and become King of the United States; another possible contender was reported to be Prince Henry of Prussia. 

Frederick, Duke of York

At first glance the words “natural born citizen” seem to mean someone born in the area that became the United States, and, read that way, it would certainly cut out all three of the above contenders (unless “Canal Zone” can be extended to cover some extension of U.S. territory where John McCain was born, saving him). 

Professor Tribe
In an article appearing in the Boston Globe on January 11th of this year [], Harvard Law Professor (and well-known expert on Constitutional Law) Lawrence Tribe, made the argument that Cruz might really have problems being eligible for the office, particularly if the issue reached the United States Supreme Court, where all four of the very conservative Justices are strict constructionalists, not in favor of broad readings of the Constitution that would violate the “original intent” of the drafters (and, we might impishly ask, would the four liberals on the Court stretch to help Ted Cruz become the President?).  Tribe notes the irony of Cruz, a very conservative man, having to argue for a liberal reading, and he adds:

When Cruz was my constitutional law student at Harvard, he aced the course after making a big point of opposing my views in class — arguing stridently for sticking with the “original meaning” against the idea of a more elastic “living Constitution” whenever such ideas came up. I enjoyed jousting with him, but Ted never convinced me — nor did I convince him. At least he was consistent in those days. Now, he seems to be a fair weather originalist, abandoning that method’s narrow constraints when it suits his ambition.

Professor Tribe is a very liberal thinker, a champion of such causes as gay rights, and I have much admired him through the years.  My area of expertise is commercial law, and I rightly hesitate to criticize the good Professor’s statements about Cruz and the “natural born citizen” issue.  But I suspect that Tribe is mostly having some fun at Cruz’s expense.  In the Boston Globe article Tribe touches on the legal issues that are highly likely to prevail in Cruz's favor if the Supreme Court became involved, and he admitted as much while poking the bear with the remote possibility of a bad outcome or at least the cloud that might hang over his head until the Court had cleared up the whole mess.

Tribe well knows what Congress itself concluded in 2011 when it generated a study of the issue by lawyers at the Congressional Research Service and produced at detailed 50 page legal analysis.  That report definitely found that any person born outside the United States who had at least one parent who was a United States citizen by birth qualified as a “natural born citizen” and therefore was eligible to become President [see].

The reason is that “natural born citizen” was a legal term to the founding fathers, and for them it had an established meaning that came from British law.  Britain had had to deal with the question of whether children born to British subjects living abroad were really British citizens and hence “native born” though not birthed on British soil.  The answer, from both common law dating back to the 1300s and by statute, was yes: all those born on British soil were “native born” was well as those born of a British father living abroad.  Thus one could be a “native born citizen” at birth or by birth.  The United State’s first Congress enacted a statute saying the same thing, but not limited to the father only, and subsequent revisions of that statute exist to this day.  

What the term “natural born citizen” excludes are naturalized citizens, thus making damn sure of excluding the progeny of King George and other foreigners.  Under current law, 8 U.S.C. §1401(g), someone born abroad (like Ted Cruz) would be a “natural born citizen” if one parent had been a citizen at birth, had resided in the United States for at least five years, two of which had to occur after the parent was fourteen. Ted satisfies all of that.

This statute would, however, cut out someone like former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, since he was born in Austria of two Austrian parents.

The smart thing to do would be to change the Constitution to make all this clearer, and, in fact, now that there is no fear of King George causing trouble, what would be wrong with naturalized citizens like Schwarzenegger becoming President?  Such an amendment would not likely be controversial, and might sail through even our current Congress and quickly secure the needed votes from the states.

In any event, it seems clear that Ted Cruz is eligible to be President of the United States in the legal sense.  Whether he’s eligible in the minds of the voters is a very iffy question.  He wouldn’t get my vote even if he were the only candidate running, but I’m influenced by things like Ted’s willingness to attend evangelical events at which a pastor urges that all homosexuals be put to death, and then applauds when the pastor is done spewing forth such hatred.

Related Posts:

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

 “Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade,” August 17, 2012;

“Killing the Filibuster and Letting the Majority Rule in the Senate,” December 31, 2013;

“The Shame of Republicans in Congress,” March 23, 2015;


Why I Love Bernie Sanders’ Ideas, But Hope He Won’t Be the Nominee,” October 30, 2015;

“Go, Ben, Go: Why I Want Ben Carson To Win the Republican Nomination,” November 30, 2015;

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A New Motto: “I’ve Ceased To Care”

After we had known each other about two years my husband David and I were talking about some minor news item and he commented, “I’ve ceased to care.”  That sounded familiar to me and I must have looked puzzled because he smiled and added, “You say that all the time.”  Hmm.  That must be why it sounded familiar.

Since then I have noticed myself using it more and more, and it’s a handy little phrase to have at the ready whenever you realized you’re involved in something that’s a waste of time, no matter how promisingly it started.   Mutter “I’ve ceased to care” to yourself and you suddenly have the freedom to move on to something worth exploring.

The problem is that in the 21st century we’re constantly pounded by a blizzard of information in the form of social media, television, apps, news, printing on boxes, music, phone calls—the list is endless.  Much of this is fascinating and addictive.  Facebook, for example, which I used to scorn, can now reel me in like a fish, and hours later I look up and realize I’ve looked at one too many fascinating videos or discussions or startling ideas.  Sure there’s a lot of meaningless crap, but also the wonders of our civilization are presented seriatim until the brain rebels.  I find it very useful to blow the whistle on this by announcing to myself that I’ve ceased to care, at which point I rise stiffly from my current position and see whether my blood still knows how to flow.

But this experience is not limited to the internet.  I’m a longtime subscriber to Time Magazine, and I still find it informative.  But when I start into pithy articles and then realize that the article is going to go on for more pages than I want to read, the words “I’ve ceased to care” give me permission to skip to the next article. Extending this idea I’ve learned to snap off TV programs and even walk out of movies.

We only have so much time on the planet, and we should harvest that time so it is as productive and entertaining as we can make it.  Allowing ourselves to wade knee deep in trivia is messy, tedious, and embarrassing.

Of course you could say a number of other things other than “I’ve ceased to care.”   Some people routinely exclaim, “I couldn’t care less,” which is fine (I suspect it arose as a way of dressing up the simple comment of “I don’t care”).  The problem is that many people—even, alas, learned people—have shortened the phrase to “I could care less,” which means the opposite of what they intend (and annoys listeners who care about the English language).  [I’ve complained about this before; see “Picking Your Battles: The Meaning of Words”;]  The image below explains the difficulty. 

I was playing bridge at a tournament recently and Jane Witherspoon, a terrific partner whom I haven’t known long, between rounds was sitting with two men who were arguing in an animated fashion.  Seeing me coming, she rose to join me.  “What was that about?” I asked her.  “Oh,” she responded, “it was a disagreement on the origin of religion—but I’ve ceased to care.”  Then she smiled at me and we went off to play the next hand.

Related Posts:

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

“Picking Your Battles: The Meaning of Words,” July 3, 2011; 

“Pronouncing ‘2012’,” December 31, 2011;

“How To Stop Saying ‘You Know’,” April 28, 2012;

“Is It Okay Not To Use Proper English?” August 10, 2013;

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Happy Atheist

When I say “happy atheist” in the title of this post I don’t mean that all atheists are happy, but that most atheists are happy about being atheists.  Other than that attitude, atheists may be as happy or as miserable about the other aspects of their life as other human beings.

If you ask the public at large what atheists’ lives are like, you will get a list of adjectives, but I would bet a large amount that “happy” wouldn’t be among them.  If you ask atheists themselves how they feel about being an atheists, most would smile and say they feel fine, and are . . . well, yes, “happy” about it.

This might sound shocking or at least improbable to theists.  In the view of many religious people the only route to happiness is a firm belief in some sort of god or at least a spiritual existence beyond this world.  Asked what life would be like with no such belief, they usually envision bleak and sad drudgery.

From the atheist’s viewpoint the opposite is true.  A religious life is one spent wasting much of one’s limited time on this planet dealing with a fantasy: praying, going to church/synagogue/mosque, Bible/Torah/Quran studies, many meetings discussing various activities designed to buck up the religious model, etc.  Identify yourself as religious and family, neighbors, friends, associates, casual strangers will police you to see if you’re in compliance with the demands of your religion’s requirements for conduct, appearance, utterances, and much, much more.  And all of this—atheists believe—comes with no reward other than conformity with demands of those with similar beliefs and the warm fuzziness that some religious myths provide (your dead loved ones will someday welcome you into heaven, clapping you on the back and handing you a harp).

But when religious people die, atheists contend, the same thing happens to them as happens to nonbelievers: their existence terminates and it’s all over.  No god, no heaven, no harp, nothing.

Yes, theists get some comfort in believing in an afterlife, easing the path to one’s death.  But surely most theists also worry—even if they never articulate the thought—that their beliefs are wrong and maybe there’s nothing after life, so their “comfort” on their deathbed is muddied  by that possibility.  If this were not so why wouldn’t death always be an event to celebrate?  Why would survivors mourn for the dead if they have gone to a “better place”?

Consider then that atheists are free of all this metaphysical angst and can get on with making this life as pleasant as possible.  While doing so atheists have no time-consuming religious duties, so their lives contain more leisure for pursuing things worth enjoying here and now.  I have argued before in this blog that they even die well;

see “When Atheists Die,” October 17, 2010;

This morning’s newspaper contained a letter to the editor commenting that Stalin was a “practicing atheist.”  Hmm.  I don’t know what that means.  How do you “practice” atheism?  The writer is treating atheism as just another sort of religion, something one does.  But that can’t be true.  Atheism, by definition, is not for something, it’s against a belief in a god: a-theism.  Here the “a” is the same “a” as in asymptomatic, arrhythmic, asexual.  It denotes the absence of a belief in god, but doesn’t espouse anything in its place.  Some wag once commented that calling atheism a “religion” is like saying “bald is a hair color.”  I suppose what the writer to the editor meant was that Stalin headed a regime that forbade religious beliefs (hence “atheistic”)—and that, of course, is to be condemned by everyone.  I’m a lawyer and I strongly believe in freedom of religion.  I also believe that right includes freedom from religion.  Our courts have agreed: civil rights laws forbidding discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs protect atheists as well as theists.
The atheist movement doesn’t include a goal of forbidding religion (though it urges all people to think seriously about the wisdom of such beliefs), but instead concentrates on making sure that governments respect all beliefs about religion, including the right not to participate in religious practices.  Thus atheists can’t be fired for their non-belief, nor can their children be forced to pledge allegiance to God, nor can religious rituals (like prayer) be part of governmental ceremonies or public education.  Atheists do bring lawsuits to keep religion from spreading from the private sector into public affairs.  Just as Stalin was wrong to forbid religious practices, religions are wrong to insist that everyone bow their heads and at least pretend to pray in public buildings. I am furious when this happens to me, and even in private non-religious meetings I can fume at the presumption that everyone present is a Christian [see my blog post “Atheists, Christmas, and Public Prayers,” December 9, 2011;]

There are some atheists who do miss the social aspects of church activities, and these folks have begun organizing Sunday meetings for atheists where non-believers can hear talks and meet other atheists and discuss current problems that concern secularists.  I’ve not been to any of these gatherings, and I’m not going either.  I was raised a Catholic (see “Related Posts” below) and, unlike many of my fellows, I hated church, finding it pointless even when I was very young.  I’m told by atheist friends who attend these nonreligious versions of church that, good intentions aside, they are typically pretty dreary affairs.

Most atheists don’t join atheist organizations (though there are a lot of such groups, many doing important work to combat the excesses of religion).  Most atheists don’t even mention their atheism unless pressed, and sometimes even then they’ll lie and pretend to be theistic just to get along with neighbors or family.  Most atheists consider their nonbelief as a very minor part of who they are, but to the extent they think about it at all they’re usually happy they aren’t caught up in the religious trap.

And that’s what I meant by the title of this post.

Related Posts:

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

“Atheists Visit the Creation Museum,” October 4, 2012;

“An Atheist’s Christmas Card,” December 23, 2011;

“An Atheist Interviews God,” May 20, 2010;

“How To Become an Atheist,” May 16, 2010;

Monday, November 30, 2015

Go, Ben, Go: Why I Want Ben Carson To Win the Republican Nomination

[Click To Enlarge]

My husband observed the other day that it looks like Ben Carson is always stoned when he speaks.  That made me laugh because it’s true.  Ben’s soft, measured delivery is perfectly consistent with having just had a couple of deep tokes from a banger joint, and then struggling for coherence as he expresses deep thoughts. 

It would also explain some of those messy musings.  Witness his take on the total absence of homeless people:  “Nobody is starving on the streets.  We’ve always taken care of them.  We take care of our own; we always have.  It is not the government’s responsibility.”  You see?  In Ben’s world there are no starving people, so government shouldn’t create a problem where, by golly, none exists.

Or his take on homosexuality, which he says must be “chosen behavior” since men go into prison straight but come out gay.  And on gay marriage, which he conflates with bestiality and the practices of the National Man/Boy Love Association, which openly advocates pedophilia:  “My thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman. It’s a well-established, fundamental pillar of society, and no group — be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality — it doesn’t matter what they are — they don’t get to change the definition.”  Well, after a drag or two of good weed that all fits together.

[Adapted from a Taylor Jones drawing]

Ben is a man of science, right?  A neurosurgeon ought to understand biology, right?  But Ben doesn’t believe in evolution, nor does he understand even vaguely how evolution is said to work.  It just sounds like gobbeldygook to him, so he laughs and makes fun of anyone who could possibly believe such nonsense.  [Alas, this is true of many of the Republican candidates.]  For Ben Carson God supplies the answers and we need look no further than the Bible for guidance on all issues, evolution thus being clearly wrong.

Ben has also said that Obamacare, which he really hates, is more tragic for the nation than 9/11, and added another apt historical comparison: “You know Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control.”  He then doubled-down on this nonsense by commenting “I think what’s happening with the veterans is a gift from God to show us what happens when you take layers and layers of bureaucracy and place them between the patients and the health care provider. And if we can’t get it right, with the relatively small number of veterans, how in the world are you going to do it with the entire population?”

Strangely enough I do not fault Ben Carson for misremembering his own history (whether he was offered a scholarship to West Point, or met with Westmoreland, etc.).  All Ben is guilty of there is confabulation, a mental trick I’ve written about before that makes all of us mindlessly rewrite our memories and then believe them to the point where we’d pass a lie detector test [see “We All Are Brian Williams: Confabulation Muddles Our Stories,” April 20, 2015;].  Every single candidate running for the Presidency is guilty of this same confusion, as is everyone reading this, so I give Ben a pass on his faulty memory.

This presidential election I’ll confess to being something of a Yellow Dog Democrat.  The phrase refers to someone who’s so partial to voting for Democrats that if the Democrats nominated a yellow dog, they would vote for that dog.  Sure, on the rare occasion in my life I’ve voted for a moderate Republican, but that species has died out so I won’t have a chance to do that again.  And once or twice there’s been a Democratic candidate for some office so bad that I couldn’t pull the lever to support the jerk.  But for the 2016 election the Democrats aren’t running a yellow dog.  They’re going to run Hilary Clinton, and she’ll make a fine president.  I’m sure hoping the Republicans nominate one of the current clowns in the running, and Ben is my very favorite opponent for Hilary.  She’d stomp him flat, probably 90-10 in the final tally.  Hell, a good looking yellow dog would also likely beat him.  So my chant is "Go, Ben, Go!"  

In a future post I’ll switch to “Go, Donald, Go!” with similar (perhaps even greater) enthusiasm.

Related Posts:

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

“Ohio To Put Guns in Baby Strollers,” June 17, 2012;

 “Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade,” August 17, 2012;

“Killing the Filibuster and Letting the Majority Rule in the Senate,” December 31, 2013;

“How To Get Rid of Your Student Loans,” June 13, 2013;

“The Shame of Republicans in Congress,” March 23, 2015;


Why I Love Bernie Sanders’ Ideas, But Hope He Won’t Be the Nominee,” October 30, 2015;

Monday, November 23, 2015

Six Years Ago Today They Cut My Heart From My Chest

Yes, they did, and I assume they threw it away.  That Monday was, just like today, the Monday before Thanksgiving, the November 23rd of 2009.  I was dying of an enlarged heart, and had had atrial fibullation for over a decade, sometimes wondering if the irregularity of my heartbeat would cause me to collapse in front of my law school class. I was of course hoping not, but, you have to admit, it would be a hell of an exit.  However on that Monday I was still up and breathing after ten months on the transplant list, and happily sitting at my computer at 10:30 in the morning when the phone rang.  The pleasant female voice on the other end calmly said, “Mr. Whaley, we have a heart for you.”

Now, readers, that was the most startling sentence I’ve ever heard in my life, and my old heart started thumping in my chest as if it weren’t going to wait for the transplant, but escape immediately, say through the throat.  The doctors had said that I wasn’t likely to get a new heart (if at all) until 2010, some months away.  That seemed far off.  It was one thing to think “next year” and another to realize that TODAY—stay with me here—they were going to cut open my chest!!!!  They were going to cut out my heart!!!!  AND they were going to insert the heart of a stranger!!!!

By midnight I had a new heart and eight days later I was home.  Modern medicine works miracles so casually sometimes.

I have written about this incredible day before [see About “That Heart Transplant,” January 24, 2010;], so I won’t go into the details as I did then.  There are other tales in Recent Posts below that add much to the story.  Suffice it to say that in spite of setbacks [see “Mama Cat Saves My Life,” October 23, 2011;], six years later I’m in great physical shape and so very pleased to be alive as I awake each morning.

As Thanksgiving approaches I have much to be thankful about and many people to thank.  First, let me acknowledge the tremendous medical team (doctors, nurses, staff) who have so kindly and professionally brought this miracle to life, then smile at my wonderful family and friends who have done so much to make this journey both pleasant and exciting, and finally bow my head to my heart donor, Andrew (a mere 27 at the his tragic death the Sunday before transplants were made of five of his organs plus much skin tissue) and his family for whom what was my happiness was their nightmare.  In the photo below Andrew—quite the cook I’m told by his mother—was cleaning up after the feast he’d prepared for Thanksgiving in 2008 (his last Thanksgiving).  I’m not normally sentimental, but cannot look at this photo without instantly tearing up.  Even more amazing is the fact that in his teenage years Andrew had been in plays in Columbus and I’ve been on the stage with numerous actors who knew and remembered him fondly (and who were devastated to hear of his early death—they stare at my chest with a wondrous expression).

The biggest change in my life since 2009 has been my marriage on November 9, 2013, to David Allen Vargo, the wonderful Floridian I met in January of that year when I went to Fort Lauderdale snowbirding.  He’s a true joy, day after day, and we’ve created a very happy life together.  Our original plan was to return to Columbus, which he’d never seen, sell my condo here, and then move back to Fort Lauderdale, but things took a strange turn when he fell in love with Columbus, Ohio, four seasons, the condo, my friends, and our three cats.  In the end we took the condo off the market just as we received a terrific offer, and decided to stay put (to the considerable dismay of his many friends in Florida).  

David and I share many interests, primary among them being a love of theater.  He has, off and on through his life, been a professional actor/director, and in Columbus he’s appeared in numerous plays, lately attracting the attention of professional companies.  He makes his living as a graphic designer (having done that for over 15 years in Florida), working from home and lately returning to school [Columbus State] to absorb new programs and possibilities of the 21st century.  Each year we plan a trip to New York City to see shows and visit old friends, and are scheduled to do that this coming March during Spring Break (I will be teaching a course in Sales Law at Ohio State, and happily our spring breaks are identical).

The best thing about 2015 was the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v.Hodges, which took our New York marriage from being a legally tricky issue to just ordinary (yawn) marriage.  On the day the decision was handed down, by a great coincidence, the wonderful Craig Covey, one of the key players in the creation of Stonewall Columbus, our gay rights organization founded in 1981, happened to be driving to Columbus from his home in Detroit to spend the weekend with David and me, and his participation in the Buckeye Gay Marriage merriment was a special treat.  He and I were young gay warriors long ago.

Craig and Me in the 1980s

So on Thanksgiving this year David and I will climb in the car and drive to Indianapolis to spend the day and night at the home of my ex-wife Charleyne Fitzgerald and her husband.  There will be 14 people there, though, alas, our son and daughter-in-law elected not to fly in from Seattle.  David and I are bringing the pies, and a good time (and doubtless several extra pounds) will be acquired by all.

I wish everyone reading this post a terrific Thanksgiving.  May you have as much to be thankful for as I do.


Related Posts:
“My Heart Belonged to Andrew,” February 17, 2010;

“Another Letter to Andrew's Parents,” March 10, 2010;

 “A Toast to Andrew,” May 2, 2010;

The Aging Gay Rights Activist," March 24, 2010;

“The Aging Gay Rights Activist,” March 24, 2010;

“On Being Lucky: The Second Anniversary of My Heart Transplant,” November 23, 2011;