Well, I’m probably still a head case, but not quite the same as I was back in 2014, when this post first ran.  😊

“Hi, I’m Mike, and I’m a head case.”

Okay, I hope that didn’t prompt you to counter with the typical twelve-step response, because if it did, I gotta worry about you.  😊

Tell the truth, we’re probably all head cases when it comes to one thing or another—something from our past, more than likely. With me, it’s an incident that happened nearly five years ago, something that did not get resolved—until now.

In December 2009 I had open-heart, quadruple bypass surgery. No need to get into that; I wrote about it in “A Memorable Date,” if you’re interested. It’s what happened a month or so before the surgery that rendered me a head case. Permettez-moi de vous expliquer.

I walk a lot. I did back then, and I still do. A couple of months before the surgery I started feeling back pain whenever I walked uphill. In my Oceanside neighborhood you’re almost always walking uphill or downhill. Guess that’s why they call the area Ocean Hills. Initially just annoying, the weird pain—not like any back pain I’d ever felt—escalated, and I’d have to stop once in a while to rest, something that I’d never had to do.

A month before the surgery Jacqueline and I drove to our favorite El Pollo Loco on South Melrose Drive for lunch. (El Pollo Loco chicken is a food group; we love the stuff.) Instead of driving back with her, I decided to walk the hilly mile or so to our local supermarket, where we’d meet up after she got some groceries. Actually, only the last third of that portion of Melrose goes up. I would later dub that third of a mile, The Hill.

That day, I had to stop many times on The Hill. At one point I thought the Mother Ship had come, given the severity of the pain. I made it to the supermarket and told my wife that I needed to get to my doctor. He diagnosed angina, and the whole party began.

After a lengthy recovery (seemed like forever anyway) I resumed my walking, and before long I was back doing my three-plus miles a day, and tackling most of the hills that my neighborhood put in front of me. But the memory of that day on The Hill—here’s where the “head case” part comes in—would not let me go, and even though I’d walked it many times before, I could not make myself retrace those steps.

What was I so afraid of? Who knows; I’d probably need counseling for that answer. I mean, over the past five years I’d conquered every other hill that had caused me pain. Hell, I’d even gone over to a nearby wilderness area and climbed a hill that—I swear—is like walking up a wall, it’s that steep! But I could not make myself walk The Hill…

“One day, Mike. But not for a long time.”

…until this past Labor Day weekend. I don’t know why I decided to try it now, after all these years. Maybe Yoda’s classic advice did it: “Try not; do, or do not; there is no try.” I had Jacqueline drive me over to El Pollo Loco and told her that I’d see her at home, three miles away. After covering the easy part I started up The Hill, my eyes on the ground, my brain swirling with other thoughts, as it usually does for distraction, but with more purpose this time. Hmm, this is easy, I thought; probably not up too far yet. So I looked for the first time. The top of The Hill was about twenty steps ahead.

Piece. Of. Cake!

And I waited five years to do this…why? Okay, so I’m no longer a head case…at least on this one issue.

Speaking of head cases, in my next post I’m going to write about one of the all-time greatest head cases in fiction, a whack job named Annie Wilkes. Do you remember from whence she came?

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