From an e-mail to friends in May 2005.
A little known secret about me is that I have an undiagnosed, mild case of hypochondria. Technically, it may not actually be hypochondria but some other form of neurosis. Of course, this neurosis could all be in my head.
Whatever it is, I’ve been aware of it since I was a kid. Any tiny little ailment that I experience is going to turn into a full blown, life threatening situation for me. Doctors won’t know what it is and will name it for me after I die. In every case the ailment goes away after a few days and it’s back to status quo for me. Thankfully, I’ve never embarrassed myself or my family by going to the doctor and having my stupidity exposed to the world.
Over time I recognized what was going on and learned to calm my fears and give the ailment more than a few days. If it lingered I would go in for a diagnosis. So far, no disease bears my name.
Along with that neurotic behavior, I used to fear death. Not the normal “I don’t want to die just yet” feeling that I suspect most people have, but a deep down fear of death. I would sit and ponder what it’s like to die, how I would die and when. I was certain that the Grim Reaper would visit me before I hit thirty. Why that age was so significant is beyond me, but once it passed so too did my fear of death. I still don’t want to die just yet, I just don’t fear it like I used to.
The only time these two things become a real problem now is prior to the release of a new Star Wars movie. As silly as it sounds, I am afraid that something dire is going to happen that prevents me from seeing the latest installment of the saga. What’s even sillier is that it’s not the dire circumstance of death that scares me. It’s the grim possibility of not seeing the latest installment that truly frightens me now.
A week or two prior to the release of The Empire Strikes Back, I was rummaging around for something in my mom’s kitchen. I moved a can of oven cleaner underneath the sink to get to something else. The can had some kind of sticky residue on it and I got some of it on my hand. Deep in thought as I continued to look for whatever the hell I was looking for, I rubbed my hand across my mouth and chin. Realizing what I had just done, I read the directions on the can of oven cleaner and found that the cleaner was as deadly as I feared. I ran to the bathroom to wash my face and hands of the offending material. I washed my mouth out several times and even considered inducing vomiting. I kept this to myself, realizing that there was probably nothing to fear. But, just in case, I stayed alert the rest of the day, watching for signs that something horrible was going on inside my body.
When Return of the Jedi came out I was going through a strange relationship with a young woman I knew at Ball State. The feelings I was going through with that were too overwhelming for any kind of thoughts of disease or death to bother me. Looking back, a dread disease or death might have been a welcome relief.
Before The Phantom Menace came out I experienced a series of chronic headaches. They were probably just allergy related, but I was convinced for a few days that I had a brain tumor. The tumor was going to be the size of a tennis ball and the doctors would have to excise a huge portion of my brain. It was going to be the cognitive part of my brain and I wouldn’t be able to understand or enjoy the new movie. I kept this to myself, realizing there was probably nothing to fear. The headaches lasted for about five days then went away.
Just before the release of Attack of the Clones, my nephew Brady had his eleventh birthday. Our family got together at my parents’ house for the celebration. Mom made Brady’s favorite birthday cake, red velvet. Mom makes this cake just three times a year – Christmas, Brady’s birthday and my birthday. It takes several bottles of red food coloring to give the cake its deep red color. Typically there is lots of cake left over at the end of the day and this birthday party was no exception.
Mom sent the remainder of the cake, easily half of it, home with me. Her red velvet cake is the best and is one of my biggest weaknesses. I finished that cake off in just a couple of days. What I experienced in the next few days gave me quite a scare.
[Warning! The next paragraph gets a little graphic]
I noticed a red coloration in my stool. Judging by the amount of redness, my first thought was some type of colon cancer that was going to be incurable and deadly in just a matter of days. I was going to miss the new movie! Once I calmed down I realized it was probably just the huge amount of red coloring that was in the cake. Sure enough, a day or two later everything passed without incident; things went back to normal. I kept this incident to myself to save myself the embarrassment.
Now we come to Revenge of the Sith, the biggest Star Wars event in twenty-eight years. You would think that the biggest Star Wars event would call for the biggest, deadliest scare of my life. That hasn’t happened. What I have experienced is a couple of small events, no doubt designed to scare the bejeebers out of me.
A few weeks ago I started wearing my seatbelt everywhere I went, even between my driveway and the mailbox down the street. (Save the slings and arrows. I know I should wear it all the time anyway.) As if to tell me they were aware of what I was doing, the Fates threw a curve at me one day last week. I was on my way to a nearby gas station to buy some fuel for my lawn mower. As I was crossing a bridge on my way there, I was met by an unusually long line of cars coming towards me. One of the vehicles in that line began to cross the center line and come into my lane. Where the hell could I go? Being on a bridge there was no ditch or driveway I could swerve into to avoid a collision. Visions of a horrible head-on collision I witnessed a few years ago flashed through my head. Thankfully, the idiot in the vehicle didn’t get as far into my lane as I thought and actually made it back into their lane before we would have collided. I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I finally crossed the bridge.
Last weekend I stopped at Burger King on my way home from work to get something that passed for dinner. Burger King is the fast food chain promoting Revenge of the Sith. Their promotion is a scratch off game with a grand prize of one million dollars. They are also selling what are called Super D toys. The D stands for deformed. The toys are given away with an upgrade of any adult value meal to a Jedi Meal. How could I resist that?
They were already out of the Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker toy so I took the Luke Skywalker and Han Solo toys instead. As I drove home admiring my new toys, I began to choke on a french fry. The bitter irony of it all struck me first. Distracted by toys promoting the second biggest movie of my life, I was going to choke to death on a fry from the fast food eatery promoting that movie that I would now never see. What a cruel, cruel fate. Sanity quickly came back to me. I coughed up the offending fry, threw it out the window and finished the rest of my meal.
And now it’s less than forty-eight hours before I get to see the culmination of a journey that began for me twenty-eight years ago. Tonight I feel no headaches, haven’t handled any deadly chemicals and have no other ailments that I can perceive.
What I did do this evening was eat some heated up sauerkraut and sausage.
Now that I think about it, my stomach is starting to feel a little funny.
The final preparations