The Count – Part 2

by Mark on December 20, 2009


It is Sunday and I am in my office stacking boxes full of three-plus decades of souvenirs and nick-nacks on to a push cart.   Where did the last 20 working days go?  4 weeks and 160 or more hours in meetings, presentations, back-slapping and a few hugs flew by.  Tomorrow I hand-in my pass, computer, Blackberry, secure ID, and well-worn American Express card.

I push the cart through the building lobby.   It is a magnificent five story atrium of glass and black marble.  It took a year and tens of millions to build the entire structure.   The grand opening included an employee town meeting where I was on the agenda to speak.   On the day of the big opening, my chair was empty.   I was miles away in a hospital surrounded by cardiologists.

It was June of 2002 and during that year I dropped 70 pounds and was in the best shape of my life.  While strolling along a canal in Amsterdam, my chest tightened, like someone grabbed the skin above my breast and twisted.  Upon returning to the states a trip to my physician led to a referral to a cardiologist and a plan for an angiogram.  I requested we move the procedure to the day after the grand opening, but the good doctor laughed and shook his head.  “The only way you will be with an audience that day is at your funeral.” So much for priorities.

The angiogram showed one artery was blocked 98% and another 87%.  A major league pitcher dropped dead on the mound a week earlier with fewer blockages.  My cardiologist and another specialist debated over my drugged-up body the merits of opening my chest or using an angioplasty procedure with stents to solve the problem.   Always counting, I thought about of my Dad, grandparents and several uncles that died of heart attacks, most at young ages.   My mother survived a quadruple by-pass a week earlier.  ‘Dr. Stent’ won the debate and his procedure took less than a half hour.   No zipper scar across the chest.  It took about a month of slow walking and serious thinking to fully recovery.

My cardiologist reminded me several times that I had beaten some tall odds, avoiding sudden death, a debilitating heart attack or multiple by-pass.    How was I going to live this ‘new life?’  There was no Eureka moment.  In the months and years that followed, I was quicker to laugh or to get a tear in the eye.  My weight moves up and down, but my cholesterol is below 120.  I read more, became a serious biker, hiker and finally achieved an Eskimo roll in a kayak.   My edgy business style softened as others climbed over my shoulders and head up the career ladder.   A dear friend offered me several adjunct teaching opportunities during my recovery.   Those days in a college class room captured my joy and passion.  For seven years I imagined a teaching career that actually begins in a few weeks.

I pack six boxes into my wife’s Subaru hoping at least half will help decorate our home.  (Kathy believes 1.5 boxes max).   People ask me how I truly feel about leaving the company after 31.5 years.    Pretty good!  Yes, I will miss the people and keep up with the business on the internet, but I keep in mind some words from my cardiologist/philosopher.

“You know very few words in an obituary are spent around where you worked.  Most of an obituary describes who you loved and who loved you.”

The Subaru is full.    There is no room for my iron coat rack stand, another home decoration debate item with Kathy.  It will wait until tomorrow.  Especially on my last day, I will need a place to hang my hat.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Penelope Pankow January 16, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Hi Mark,
I am just catching up on your older blog entries; this one is particularly special. Your writing is better than ever. Your thoughts affirm a lot of what many of us have experienced but were not articulate enough to put into words. Thank you for sharing yourself as you live this huge life change.
Great seeing you last week.

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