A year ago during a routine allergy checkup, a requirement to renew a prescription to the magic nose potion that ended almost four decades of allergy shots two years ago, the wide-eyed nurse wagged her finger and said my blood pressure was out of control.
It was the latest in a string of increasingly unpleasant pressure reports that continued inching me closer to medical intervention.
Life’s circumstances and crushing stress, I believed, had conspired to turn my blood flow into a Schlitterbahn ride. Proper diet, exercise and a 30-pound weight loss in the preceding year had failed to turn the tide.
A week earlier, stress spiked upon the news that a lightning bolt struck my Beaumont rental property, frying appliances and ceiling fans, downing a tree and briefly driving out the tenant, I needed to avoid shouldering a full mortgage.
August might be known as Happiness Happens month, but it was anything but that past year. My kind of “happens” was more like something unfit to put in a family newspaper.
By the time I arrived the next week at the allergist’s office, the blood pressure had achieved an all-time high, putting me close to medication territory. The nurse ticked off a list of horrifying possible long-term effects such as exploding arteries and organ rebellion.
But I did nothing, believing that time’s healing of wounds and stress reduction would serve as the best medicines for blood-pressure relief.
I believed in the old saying about there being darkness before the dawn, with something better waiting around a corner.
And then there she was.
Having exchanged a few pleasantries through Facebook, my now-wife Beth and I met Aug. 31, 2012, on a night of a spectacular blue moon. She was out with some mutual friends and, of course, enjoying a Blue Moon beer when I arrived. We chatted and danced, and I walked her to her car and asked permission to download her phone number from her Facebook page.
I was smitten from the get-go after having spent a few weeks watching her life play out on Facebook. Little did I know that she, out in the real world, had seen me before I'd seen her, before I threw out a Facebook friend request.
The dating mold was broken from the start. Against the rules, our first outing involved the children (with mine acting quite rotten). A whiny hike around the Tyler State Park lake was followed by a weed-flinging frolic on an overcrowded paddleboat.
Nothing like kicking off things with a dose of reality, sans any traces of grandiose delusions, but we did have ice cream.
Relationship development took its natural course in the months that followed. One thing led to another, and we found ourselves a blended family this year in a big house on a huge patch of land in the country. There is a swimming pool, where my two boys, Curt, 11, and Luke, 9, and Beth’s son, Beau, 12, spend hours swimming, chasing each other, creating games and, well, squabbling like siblings are biologically predisposed to do.
Since Aug. 31, 2012, the crushing stress, whose foundation dates back years, has lifted from my shoulders. But having avoided doctors and even those testing machines in grocery stores during the past year, I didn’t know where things stood on the blood-pressure front.
It came time to visit the allergist in order to renew the nasal-spray prescription and maintain that shield against fall’s sinus-pounding pollens.
On Tuesday, after the grind of morning school dropoff, I arrived at the clinic 30 minutes early, hoping to get the appointment done sooner than later. A nurse led me to the same room where I’d received the grim report a year earlier.
Pump. Pump. Pump. Pump. Pump. Pump. Pump.
As the band around the right bicep tightened, I tried to remain calm, feet flat on the floor, braced for the verdict.
Then there it was, in little red digital letters: perfect blood pressure, well out of hypertension turf.
“You have the blood pressure of a very young man!” the nurse exclaimed as my 50-year-old heart skipped a beat.
A Vietnam vet once told me that the only way to survive an ambush is to fight through it.
This is how we should see adversity in life, as ambushes that demand a frontal assault to survive.
This weekend, Beth and I will celebrate the one-year anniversary of our meeting and all the wonderful things that have happened in the past 12 months, of adventures large and small, of ups to embrace and minor ambushes quickly brushed aside.
We will drink a couple of Blue Moon beers, toast to our lives together and dream of wonderful new things to come.
And when it comes time to visit the allergist next August, I won’t spend another fearful month with my finger on the appointment-cancelation trigger.