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The I'm not Crying, But I might be Dying sure-fire Diet Plan, Pt. 2

Texas Library Association (TLA) Conference

By the time I stood at a Texas Library Association (TLA) Conference lectern to give a talk which the event programmers entitled, "Discovering Your Roots with Chris Haley," I had visited my general practitioner, Doctor Peter Swaby, unscheduled, about my neck. Dr. Swaby (who had also served as my father's doctor and diagnosed his prostate condition), possessed of a great bedside manner and an impressive understanding of whatever situation I brought to his attention, listened to my concerns and examined my neck, upper shoulders and torso. For a reason I couldn't grasp, he said he was 90% sure that my condition was nothing more than an infection, a benign condition of some kind; yet, he suggested we take additional steps to make sure that it was not more serious. The first of these, completing a week long, twice a day prescription of antibiotics, he firmly believed would treat and eliminate the swelling. I began taking my medicine the day before I boarded the flight to Fort Worth, Texas, 100% hopeful but 70% doubtful that these drugs would solve my problem. You know how sometimes you just know? My intuition told me that this swollen gland sans the companionship of pain and my old friend, "Mr. Sore Throat," would not disappear because of a few pills. By the time I rested my luggage in the luxury king bedroom of the beautiful Ft. Worth Omni Hotel TLA had booked for my stay, I was convinced that this speaking engagement was likely to be one of my last.

There were two elements of this trip I do not know if I can relay strongly enough: the hotel and the room I had in the Omni were so upscale that I felt simultaneously unworthy and a superstar; I also felt that the antibiotics I had been given were doing much more harm than good. Not to be graphic...oh I'll be graphic, the side effects I began experiencing that first night fueled several intense visits to the glamorous bathroom of the glorious room I proudly shared pictures of on Facebook. When I say intense, I mean to say I had to take deep breaths to endure the searing, cutting, ripping sensations my every orange-red bowel movement produced. After a time, I thought that even if this "medicine" tearing through my body was helping me, I had to stop using it, because what I could manage to savor of this trip had already been cruelly suppressed by my well-researched and overly anxious mind.

By the time I tenderly laid my bottom to rest that evening, my clock ticking mind had pieced together a variety of factors into an inescapably perfect mortal puzzle. Some were hard to deny symptoms which exactly matched those on internet medical sites I had become addicted to checking; others were premonitions which past experiences had confirmed I should recognize and prospectively accept. In addition to possessing the painless swollen gland, I had begun to have sleepless nights when I continually woke up drenched in sweat, and my appetite had waned and I had begun to steadily lose weight. Granted, when you've entered a world of constant anxiety, it is unlikely that your eating habits would remain the same, but whether or not one symptom precipitated the other, they were still among prime list of Cancer indicators. As for the omens...

On April 10, 2010, I decided to stay home after I woke up to find my father feeling ill. I drove to the local drug store to pick up Acai Berry juice I hoped would increase his energy and ease his constipation; on the way there I had to pull off to the side of the road to avoid a fast moving, lights flashing, siren blaring, ambulance. I thought "God, please don't let this be a sign." Later that afternoon, I picked up lottery tickets at my father's request and had to wait as a funeral procession passed. At this point, I told myself that these two incidents were too ominous and obvious to be anything but coincidental; I contented myself that I was no psychic and my father would be fine. Nevertheless, around 7 pm that evening my father went into heart failure and died about 2 hours later in the back of an ambulance, waiting to be driven to the Prince George's County Hospital. A week later, I was in the head car of his funeral procession.

On August 26th of 1988, one month after my family had watched me play Finch in "How To Succeed" at the Cortland Repertory Theatre,

How To Succeed at the Cortland Repertory Theatre

I walked by a newspaper machine in downtown Bridgeport. I didn't know why, but I was drawn to a local headline that was as common as any one mindlessly scans and ignores on a daily basis; someone had died. It was someone I did not know at all, but yet I stared and wondered why I was staring, and then went on about my day. Between 5 pm and 6 pm that evening, as I was driving the Monkey Business van to a singing telegram delivery, pain whipped across my chest. The next morning at 8 am my father called to tell me that my mother, who a month earlier while we ate dinner in Cortland had said to my brother and me, "Take care of yourselves; Mom's not going to be around forever," had died in a car accident the previous day...the crash had occurred between 5 and 6 pm. Both these events had occurred years before, but they had cemented a recognition and fear of my premonitions. And past relation to my parents were not all.

I strolled past various library, publishing and education related kiosks and booths in the Fort Worth Convention Center in the moments prior to and following my presentation and replayed words I had said and scenarios I had imagined over the past few months. In the December Theater Lab Honors Class of 2012 recap meeting, I had boldly declared that if the Birth to Death performance I had given in our final showcase was my last ever "I could be fine with that" (Birth to Death was an exercise wherein you mime events in your life accompanied by music; mine was performed to Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror").

Birth to Death Performance

One month prior to this Texas trip, I had driven to North Carolina to surprise one of my young namesakes and nephews, Jacob, whose group was performing a CD release concert. Having last seen him six years before as a boy of ten, I now saw this handsome teen-age man as a miraculous symbol of the love and connection I had started with his entire family the Sunday afternoon I met and trained his father Kevin in the singing telegram business my first day back from work after my mother's death. His father had been 17 at the time. In August of 2012, I had surprised Jacob's 1st cousin (another of my nephews), David, who was 17 and starring in a production of "13." I last saw David when he was 2. On the final day of my trip, I sat at a local bar and restaurant with a father and son, James and Scott Carr, sharing beers and stories of history and family, thinking that the last year had all been a series of me, in many ways, making my closing rounds. And I wasn't angry or depressed; I was nostalgic.

On my flight home one crazy hope flew with me, if I could perform in the public reading of a web-series a friend from the Theater Lab had written and cast me in called SIGHT, perhaps, this time, my prophetic visions might not prove true.

Chris Haley - 8/26/2013 4:16 PM

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