26. life’s mysteries.


Christmas lights sit in the attic for 11 months of the year, completely undisturbed. So how is it that half of the strands I need to light our house managed to not be working when I pulled them out today?

3. out of my element.

my car towed

When my Element — my 10-year-old, 245,000-miles-on-it Element — ran into a deer two weeks ago, I was crestfallen. Though I was able to drive it home, the damage was bad, and I assumed that our insurance company would total the best car I’ve ever owned.

But as I found out just a day later, the Element would not only be fixed but that I had a generous allowance for a rental car for the duration of the repairs. Happy that this process would be relatively painless, I called the closest Enterprise office and asked them to hold a small car — appropriate for city driving and, especially, city parking — that I’d pick up after work.

And that’s where this story really begins.

I filled out the paperwork at Enterprise and waited anxiously while the guy disappeared in back to bring my car around. And as it turned out, my request for a small car got me this instead.

fancy car front

Yes. That’s a white 2016 Dodge Charger. And if there was a car that represented the complete opposite of everything that is me, it might be a white 2016 Dodge Charger.

I actually asked the guy at Enterprise if he had … pretty much anything else available. I have to drive in the city, I told him, and finding on-street parking in that thing will pretty much be a nightmare. Sorry, the kid said, that’s what we have.

fancy dash

Still shaking my head, I climbed into the black leather driver’s seat, hit the start button — only push to start for Uncle Crappy from now on, boys and girls — and powered up McKnight Road and through the North Hills.

fancy car 1

To Giant Eagle.

Especially at first, I was conflicted about this car. There is no question: It’s niiiiiiice. Brand new, just 1,100 miles. And man, it wants to go. In short, it’s a fun ride.

But let’s go back to the part about me so not being a white Dodge Charger person. That guy is a bit more of a yinzer than I am. He listens to WDVE. He had a mullet when he was younger, but his hair has grown up (some). He wears camp shirts and nice loafers with no socks. Now that I think of it, he is a younger version of this guy:


And that’s fine. But it’s not me.

I’ve had fun with the Charger — there are some interesting back roads not terribly far from our house is all I’ll say about that — but our time is drawing to a close. It sounds like the Element — my 10-year-old, 245,000-miles-on-it Element — is going to be fixed up, fully inspected and ready to pick up on Wednesday. It’s a different kind of fun, to be sure, but I’m going to be awfully happy to be back in a car that fits me.

2. the wrong kind of crunch.

Free food. It’s a journalism tradition.

All summer long, stuff from the gardens of colleagues shows up at work. There are likely to be doughnuts on random mornings, just because someone was hungry for them. Fresh-baked cookies? Sure. Leftover stunt food that is to illustrate a cooking story or restaurant review? Yep. And there will be free pizza in the newsroom Tuesday night, for those, like me, who are working election night.

But outside of that special duty, this is generally one of the best weeks of the year, in my office and maybe in yours.


Because that’s when people bring in their leftover Halloween candy.

Assorted mini Hershey bars. Reese’s Cups. Oh, man — Butterfingers. They’re pretty much everywhere, all week long.

And for the guy who just found out he has diabetes? You smile. And eat another carrot stick.

hi. wilford. nice to meet you.


Old habits die hard. And I’m still a fan of the network evening news shows, something that have been a staple of my life since I was a kid.

When I was 10 and watching Walter Cronkite, I don’t think I paid much attention to the commercials and what they said about the demographics of the show’s audience (and in those days, when everyone watched, they probably didn’t say much).

These days, though, they’re hard to miss. Who’s watching NBC Nightly News? Old people. Who have diabetes.

Oh, hey. There’s an eye-opener.

As some of you know already, since the previous post, New Doc has confirmed her initial diagnosis of type II diabetes. I take Metformin morning and evening. I give myself insulin injections each night. I constantly think about how many grams of carbohydrates are in pretty much everything I put in my mouth. And I’ve already been told that more meds are likely.

I am one of those old people. Who have diabetes.

It’s not all awful. I’ve lost something like 15 pounds since New Doc and I first talked about this. That’s come from running and not-frequent-enough yoga sessions. Giving up pop. Eating less. Eating vegetarian when I can. And not drinking much at all.

I’ve also let the full beard come back and scheduled a sitting for a second tattoo. Trust me — these things are related.

The dietary restrictions aren’t as bad as I had expected. A discussion with an RN who specializes in treating diabetes was a huge relief; basically, nothing is off limits, as long as I’m mindful about daily intake of carbohydrates. The vegetarian stuff isn’t even necessary, although it will make weight loss easier and that’s the single best thing I can do to keep my sugar levels — and my occasional A1C readings — under control.

It’s the other stuff that’s harder. If I let myself dwell on what I shouldn’t do, it gets depressing. I’m not digging telling our friends what’s going on and seeing them look at me as though I am damaged. I’ve chucked the Chucks, for the most part — I need to take care of my feet, in both the diabetic sense and so I can continue running comfortably — and even though I know it’s a little thing, it feels like a pretty significant concession to age and the disease. And there’s the scary — and very real — possibility that I could do everything right – everything – and still lose a limb, or my sight, or my life.

And finally, there are those fucking Nightly News commercials. Maaaaan, I don’t want that to be me.

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t always handle this well. But when I’m able to step back for a second – when I can see that this doesn’t have to define who I am – I can accept what’s going on. It doesn’t seem as overwhelming as it did back in August. It might even be that I’m OK. Even for an old guy.


FullSizeRender (7)

I’m not ready. But I kind of have to be.

Until very recently, the milestone I’m approaching — that would be turning 50 in almost exactly 14 months — has mostly been a source of comedy for me. It’s easy to joke about the difference in ages between me and pretty much all of my friends and colleagues in Pittsburgh; I’m older than nearly everyone — by two decades or more in some cases — so when I hear you guys gripe about how far away we are from eighties and nineties, a smirk and a glance over the tops of my glasses will almost always get a laugh. And if I can get a cheap laugh, I’ll go for it, nearly every time.

I think I’ve said here before — and I know I’ve talked about this to a bunch of you in person — I have no idea how someone who is almost 50 is supposed to act. I don’t wake up in the morning and think about having survived nearly a half-century on this planet. I supposed it’s possible that I’ll wake up one day and realize that I’m trying to behave like someone ten (or 15, or 20) years younger than me, and that I need to knock it off. But I definitely need more sleep these days, and it takes me longer in the mornings to loosen up to the degree that I’m not shuffling around the house like I’m an old guy.

The upshot: I feel older, but I’ve never felt like I’m almost 50.

And that’s why the discussions I’ve been having with our new doctor are so disconcerting.

Mrs. Crappy and I both took on a new doc at the recommendation of friends who have been seeing her for a while. I like her a lot. Her manner is similar to what I’ve always guessed being a patient of the Coochie Doctor would be: she is positive, energetic, willing to joke a bit while still being matter-of-fact about what we’re doing. I liked our previous doc too (the change in jobs meant a change in insurance carriers and, therefore, a change in doctors), but in retrospect, I think we were too close to being contemporaries to deal with the things I’m going to have to deal with.

And there is a list.

I’ve seen New Doc twice now. The first time I visited, my blood pressure was sky high, something we’re attributing in part to being nervous about that first checkup; on the second visit, it was 125/85, a reading she was very happy about.

The other good thing: between the first and second visits, I had bloodwork done. And in her words, it was perfect — all the cholesterols, all of that stuff, all much better than she expected to see, especially for someone with a family history of heart problems.

Except for one thing. Blood sugar.

There will be another blood draw next week and another appointment the week after that, but New Doc was careful to make sure I understood this: given my family history, diabetes was likely to be a thing for me from here on in.

And man, I am unhappy about this.

The obvious things that could help are going or already gone. There is no more sweetened cereal in the house. Those freaking fruit popsicles that I used to satisfy my powerful sweet tooth. The Pepsi Max-and-Pop Tart breakfasts are a thing of the past. I don’t know what all the rules are now — I’ll see a nutritionist sometime here in the future — but that stuff is easy to figure out.

And then we discussed carbs, and all that entails. New Doc mentioned a list that includes replacements for many of my favorite things, pasta being chief among those. Sweet potatoes instead of those giant baked ones from Idaho. Beer is an issue. I think about how much I love food, trying new restaurants, visiting the homes of friends who are willing to cook — and there are a bunch of you — and I think about having to give up nearly all of that.

And suddenly, life looks pretty gray.

I will do what New Doc and the nutritionist ask me to do. I will do everything I can to control this without insulin, because that’s a complication I don’t want to have to deal with.

And, eventually, I will remember some of the things I’ve heard in the 14 months since I started yoga — setting aside the attachments to the things that brought me here in favor of appreciating what’s in front of me right now. When I’m able to do that consistently, I’ll be in much better shape.

I’m not there now. Acceptance will take some time.

When I was home for my high school reunion in July, I was struck by how many of the people I see only every five years had become old, not so much physically but in action and attitude. I left feeling thankful that I wasn’t there yet.

I’m doubting that now.

This feeling will pass. I will become accustomed to a new routine, a new normal. Sweets will be a rare treat instead of a nightly habit. I will find a brand of whole wheat pasta that doesn’t make me want to cry. I will be healthier and better for the effort.

But for now, I just feel old.