Be thankful every day for small ‘commas of life’

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Gold Standard Acting Editor

Recently, I’ve had several reminders of how fragile life is; I was cruising along with the near-boredom of a humdrum existence—doing the same things day after day. I complained about little things like the folks at McDonald’s taking 90 seconds to fill my order instead of 60 seconds, waiting a few extra moments for someone to move through the crosswalk or take off at a green light.
I was cranky about the everyday sameness of my life and fussed about minor things like my husband leaving his dirty glass on a coffee table, a visitor parking her car in “my” space or the daily calls I get from people asking for information that is routinely available in other places.
Granted, as an editor, I spend a good deal of time weighing items that many would consider picayune: semi-colons or commas? quotation marks or underscore? serif or san serif fonts? Even when I’m reading for my own pleasure, I get bogged down sometimes because an author used the wrong tense or a publisher used a homonym for the correct word.
And don’t even get me started on my pet peeve—misplaced modifiers! My co-workers can attest to the fits I throw when I discover a misplaced modifier in submitted copy. I can get so distracted I may even miss the meat and potatoes of good information in the text.
In my defense, I get paid to catch the sort of errors others may think are silly. That’s my expertise.
But last year, a dear friend drowned mysteriously while scuba diving and no explanation has been proffered. He was a retired military pilot, a seasoned boater and a very experienced diver. He was always safety conscious, was diving with a partner and doing everything right. He got separated from his dive buddy and disappeared; his body washed up on shore hours later. His autopsy found no evidence of stroke, heart attack or other plausible reason for a sudden cessation of respirations. His equipment was intact, his tanks had air and everything was operating correctly.
But he is gone nevertheless.
Another friend’s husband was diagnosed with cancer and died a few short months later.
As much as I empathized with those wives whose husbands were suddenly gone, I have to admit that neither event drastically altered my day-to-day routine. I still complained about slow service, inconsiderate drivers and clueless customers.
Until mid-December when it was my husband who was suddenly faced with a diagnosis that could have proven fatal without prompt intervention.
Even though I had known for years he might face dialysis, when his kidneys failed and decisions had to be made quickly, I felt like the world was spinning way too fast. It had been so easy to toss around information, quote stats and discuss treatment options when it was an intellectual, no-personal-stake conversation. It was a whole ‘nother thing when it was my life, my security, my partner’s health deteriorating quickly.
Once decisions were made, more events followed closely on the heels of the first crisis. Surgery was effected, a catheter established and healing began; then it was time to learn how to perform home peritoneal dialysis.
A month later, his health is improving while my stamina is flagging due to sleep deprivation. The nine-hour treatments often involve alarms from the cycler machine and they must be resolved before the dialysis can continue. It’s a lot like getting up for 3 a.m. feedings with infants.
On top of it, many of the tasks involved in the daily treatment must be accomplished under sterile conditions to prevent a life-threatening infection. So I’ve learned proper handwashing technique, how to don surgical gloves and masks and make tubing connections with very limited exposure to air.
Initially, I was tempted to say ‘this is too hard’ but quickly I remembered my recently widowed friends and began counting my blessings.
I am so fortunate that the technology is available to artificially perform the functions of healthy kidneys. I am so fortunate that intervention came in time.
I am so fortunate that my spouse of 44 years is still alive and kicking (even if he is occasionally a pain in the butt).  
I am so fortunate that I have the opportunity to wait an extra 30 seconds for my food, to be patient with inconsiderate drivers and help others looking for information.
I’ve decided that while my humdrum life is gone for good, dialysis is a pretty small price to pay for the life I can still share with the big lug who gets my birthday wrong, forgets Valentine’s Day, and steals the covers.
But those are just the commas of life—and I’m promising to focus on the wonderful text!