When My Heart Sticks in My Throat

I remember the first time I remember the feeling.  We, my siblings and mom and I, were driving to my dad’s clinic.  Once there, we would endure physicals and at the end — receive a polio booster.  Before Jonas Salk, that meant a needle resembling the Holland Tunnel administered by a nurse, who had more starch than empathy. 

Just before reaching the clinic, mom rocketed over a high train track, where my heart and stomach rose at the top and stayed there as mom crashed down the other side. 

Even dreading the booster shot, I loved that sensation. 

I loved it when riding a roller coaster, executing an aerobatic maneuver with dad, and standing to read my biography report in high school, sophomore English.  I got a 96 on the report, and did not have to turn in the completely blank pieces of paper I had shuffled at the podium and offered to my teacher. 

I have enjoyed it when dropping away from the crest of a hill on skis, jumping and diving from great heights into deep water, and taking on challenges: doctoral oral exam, oral defense of the dissertation, and getting a job or investors for businesses.

Mostly I loved it when Jill said, “Yes” and we began our sojourn together; when each boy was born, and when dad and then mom passed so clearly by Grace that I saw God’s hand. 

Some of us love risk; even after failing.   We may dread all the work, and all of the tension, and especially all of the drama, but we are addicted to the victory, the release, the it-was-all-worth-it second when we succeed or see something astounding. 

Like the time dad and I were flying, being tossed like flotsam in the driving rain, and descending in our little twin engine Cessna 320 through lightning and crashing thunder to break out into a well with the airport at the bottom and be able to land and taxi into a hangar before that riotous chaos of light and driving rain descended on the airport. 

It makes being alive, if possible, even more of a miracle.  Even if your heart and hand trembled for a second or two. 

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