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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My L.A. Odyssey Part 4: Life Lessons of the LaBrea Tar Pits

When I am discharged Monday evening Karry picks me up at the hospital and we take my prescription to a CVS Pharmacy.  While it’s being filled we kill time by driving around L.A. and I get to see the downtown skyline lit up at night.  It’s easier for me to see the builidngs that way, without the glare of the sun.

I’m feeling pretty drained and disconnected to reality.  Here I am, just out of the hospital over a thousand miles from home, in a big city where I’ve never been before.  I’ve lost weight from the nausea and little to eat after that.  I feel like a refugee.

Karry, who started out as a friend of a friend, turns out to be one in a million.  His dry sense of humor and Texas accent put me at ease.

My arms have four or five pieces of gauze taped to them where IVs were removed and blood draws (or failed attempts) took place.  After chemo last year, my veins are shriveled.  It often takes several tries to start an IV or draw blood.  There are a few purple spots not covered by bandages. 

“I must have scared some of those people in CVS,” I say.

Without missing a beat, Karry says, “I just mouthed the word ‘cutter’ when anyone stared at you.”  It’s the first good laugh I have in days.

“This is the Museum District,” he tells me.  “Over there are the LaBrea Tar Pits.”

“What exactly is that?” I ask.  I first heard of the tar pits when I was a little kid and pictured a big hole full of tar.  I always wondered why people would want to look at that.

He explains the tar pits have been there a very long time.  It's loaded with fossils and people still dig dinosaur bones out of the ground.  “They got mired in the tar and died.”

That must have been a horrible way to die, getting stuck in tar and not being able to move, gradually starving to death.

When we pick up the insulin at CVS they’ve given me vials and syringes.  “It’s supposed to be in the pen,” I tell the pharmacist.  It doesn’t take him long to correct the error.  If I’m going to be diabetic again, I’m going to do it the modern way.  This time it will be different—as different as I can possibly make it be.

That night, on a folded-out day bed in the spare bedroom/office, I don’t sleep well.  It’s a residential area, but definitely more urban than the funky maze of narrow one-way streets of my secluded little oasis in Fayetteville.  There’s more traffic and I hear people talking on the sidewalk until very late.  My mind is too cluttered for sleep, anyway.

“They got mired down in it and died.”

I realize that’s the lesson I needed at that moment.  Maybe it was worth missing my flight home the day before so I could hear that phrase and take something from it.  If I let myself get mired down by this latest development, I won’t survive.  That’s true of anything.  To survive, we have to be able to keep going, to move beyond the things in life that would mire us down.

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