In two weeks Phil will be "cardioverted." It sounds like an optional amenity, something you pay a little extra for, like a sunroof or heated seats. But it’s not a turbo button beside the gears. It’s electric shock via paddles that are taped to his chest. The hope is that they can shock his fluttered heart back into normal rhythm. I like very much the idea of referring to said cardioversion as his "electric shock therapy," inferring that it’s to do with what a head case he can be. The thing is, though, he’s not a head case. He’s not neurotic. He’s rarely anxious. He’s opinionated. Deeply opinionated. Passionate. Stubborn. There’s his way, and ways that aren’t as good. He’s a family man, an immediate family man. He unloads the dishwasher, does laundry, and would manage just fine in life if it was just us. And a few beers.
It’s not the way you imagine health should work, with trial, error, and failed attempts. The ablation got him out of atrial fibrillation, but since certain parts of his heart are "highly diseased," they had to be careful. Which means, since they couldn’t fix it completely, he’s now in atrial flutter. The cardioversion is an attempt to break him free of flutter. Last time he was cardioverted, they discovered he was in complete heart block and had to immediately put in a pacemaker. Also, the "normal" rhythm only lasted a day or so, so the actual cardioversion didn’t keep him in normal rhythm. It got him to normal rhythm, but in a few days, his heart went back to its old ways.
You just grow up thinking it should work until it doesn’t. It shouldn’t be so gradual. So eventual. So, "my sight isn’t what it used to be." When I was younger, I thought aging was something that happened over night, emerging from the shower, drying off, wiping the fog from your mirror and suddenly seeing your mother in your face, neck, and hands. I couldn’t imagine my grandparents young any more than I could imagine myself with a medicine cabinet filled with orange cylinders. I think we always see ourselves as young, trapped in a mutinous body. And I don’t know that most of us can pinpoint the exact moments that made us "old." The day we stopped shopping for spike heels and became women who say to other women in heels, "How do you wear those things? I can’t do that anymore."
You grow up thinking it should just work, this body of yours. Instead it’s "Keep living your life, but don’t go too far away. We need you to come back for more tests." After his surgery, Phil said he understood, now, the people who say, "No more surgeries!" They give up because no one knows if it will even work for sure, and you could spend the rest of your life recovering instead of living. Yes, people will tell you you’re a "fighter," that you have to be strong, "so brave," but I don’t know that it’s giving up, choosing to live instead of choosing to recover.