Some Thoughts on the Red-Headed Kid

I’m fascinated by him right now. Watching him navigate a world he’s going to get to live in for the next sixty, seventy years. I mean, things could get in the way of that, but they’re unknown things. The whole “dead by thirty” thing is no longer absolutely true. It’s weird, you know, to think that Mrs. Wigglebottom will, of course, be dead by 2018. She doesn’t have five more years in her. And that weighs on me so much, wanting to be sure to do right by her in her last years.

But I don’t think I ever really accepted that the Red-Headed Kid wasn’t going to make it that long. At least, when he first told us he didn’t have that long, thirty seemed so far off for him. We’ve known him for a long time. It seemed like almost half his life away. But it’s a quick half–that sprint between 15 and 30.

Anyway, so here it is for him–a life that goes beyond that.

And it’s so intriguing to see how that’s changing his life. In some ways, not much. As long as I’ve known him, he’s either worked in a grocery store or at Hollywood Video and he works at a grocery store. He’s always been a heavy metal nerd and he’s still a heavy metal nerd.

But he hugged my mom at Christmas and came over to play Apples to Apples with our family. He’s just subtly becoming more gregarious. And he’s always been really funny, but he used to be funny in this way where you almost hated to laugh, because he might think you were laughing AT him, even though he was obviously being intentionally funny. And now, now his stories are all funny with him.

I guess it’s the same as the question this morning. “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” The Red-Headed Kid seems to plan on spending it savoring it.

It’s kind of wild to me, too, how little anger he has. I mean, dude had repeated surgeries–had fucking heart surgery–and had to have a pace maker. And it’s just epilepsy. His heart is fine.

And he treats it like everything else, just something weird. A mistake. Yes, one he bore the brunt of, but a mistake.

Something that happens. And so let’s see what happens next.

3 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on the Red-Headed Kid

  1. Wow, I must have missed a post that explained what was going on. He had been told he had a heart problem that would severely shorten his life, and it turned out to actually be epilepsy?

  2. Yes, to make a long story short. That is exactly it. And I’m talking that the doctors thought for YEARS there was something wrong with his heart and regularly cut him open to try to rectify it.

    i don’t understand all the intricate details, but apparently he’s got a weird form of epilepsy (or it could just be that I didn’t know this about epilepsy in general) that affected the electrical impulses in his heart. And it was only because he saw a new doctor for some reason (I think because they put a pacemaker in his chest and it was giving them weird data?) that the new doctor was like “You know, all your symptoms could also be explained by epilepsy.”

    Anyway, he hasn’t ever had a typical seizure, which is part of why I think they didn’t look for it. He’s passed out a few times but these were all attributed to his heart just randomly deciding not to work. Now they say those are seizures for him.

    My understanding–and again, I’ve not pressed him on this and I don’t understand it, so translate through that–is that his body sometimes has what are basically massive electrical storms. And during that time–like if you had him hooked up to an EKG machine–his heart gives off massively scary data. So, since they found the weird heart shit first, they tried to deal with that, and never stepped back to see that it was part of something going on in the whole body. But my understanding is that the pacemaker is what tipped them off, because that was how the new doctor was able to see that, even when his heart is having these massive electrical issues, it also somehow seems to stay beating just fine.

    I think that’s part of why he’s so okay with it. It’s not like they were utterly wrong. In medicine you treat the most deadly thing first and your heart fucking up is pretty damn deadly. It’s no wonder they focused on that.

    But it’s still weird as hell. To think, since you were fifteen, that you were going to die before you were thirty, and then to learn in your mid-twenties that you are not.

  3. That’s just stunning – I can’t imagine what it would take to reorganize your ideas about yourself and how you want to spend your time in the face of that.

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