Cumberland Times-News

Jim Goldsworthy - Anything and Everything

December 21, 2013

Don’t ask ‘Why?’ There may not be an answer

If you’re old enough ... do you remember where you were 50 years ago today? I do.

When a magician saws someone in half, I always chuckle a bit, because that’s pretty much what happened to me.

I have a magnificent scar that starts at my navel and goes clear around to my backbone, making a bit of a zigzag somewhere in the middle.

It is considerably longer now than it was when I got it. Fortunately, scar tissue stretches. Otherwise, I would have a permanent lean to the right.

It was a day or so after the doctors had nearly bisected me that I was lying in my hospital bed in Morgantown, watching television with my parents, on Dec. 22, 1963.

A succession of tormentors in hospital uniforms had been making me get out of bed to walk around, despite my protestations that my guts would erupt through the incision and fall out.

They also made me roll over on my side (an act that in itself hurt badly enough) and cough, not just once but enough times to keep me from developing pneumonia.

So there I am, propped up in bed, trying not to even move. When I sneezed, the resulting sensation was exquisite.

That’s when Bonanza came on, with the episode about Hoss and the Leprechauns who turned out to be circus midgets.

I have watched the reruns a few times since then, and it remains one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen on television or anywhere else.

To say that I screamed with laughter would be appropriate. My parents asked if I wanted them to turn to another station, and I said that after what I’d just been through I could use a good laugh — no matter how much it hurt.

I literally and figuratively was in stitches.

Eventually, they took me home ... minus one of the kidneys I was born with. I had fallen into the bleachers and squashed it five days earlier — on Dec. 17 — while playing basketball. (Ever passed a kidney stone? If so, you can appreciate what this felt like.)

Doctor Bob McCoy from Keyser told me I could get along fine with just one kidney, but I should drink beer to keep it flushed clean — advice I have taken to heart.

This leads me to Andy Smith, the once and future cook at Gettysburg Eddie’s, my friend who got run over by a train and lived to tell about it.

I have told him he got a rare gift: He got his life back; not everyone does.

Andy may not realize it now, but eventually he will notice that he doesn’t look at life the way most people do. Most people don’t know what it’s like to go through life knowing that, except for a miracle from God, they would be dead.

At some point, it will occur to him that he is still here for a reason. What it is, he may never find out.

I told Andy about a friend who was a helicopter door gunner in Vietnam. He was shot down four times, and each time the gunner on the other side of the aircraft was killed.

Today, he is married to a woman whose fiance, a helicopter pilot, was killed during the same war. I will remember his funeral to the end of my days.

My buddy says he doesn’t know why he came home without a scratch, when other guys didn’t.

I finally told him that I know the reason he came home. I see it every time I see him and his bride having a wonderful life together.

“Why?” is a question Andy will start asking one day. I know, because I’ve asked it myself, more times than I can count. Why was Jim Bosley flying that helicopter, and not me?

Several years after the fact, I ran into one of the doctors who took care of me during my spell in the hospital. He recognized me immediately (I had gained 75 pounds by then) and even remembered my name, which I found hard to believe. His name was Orteza.

“We still talk about you,” he told me. “We don’t know why you’re still alive.”

Doctor Orteza said I didn’t just rupture a kidney. After I rolled out of the bleachers and got up off the floor, I ran around the basketball court for another 10 minutes  — until the shock wore off and the pain started — with my aorta completely severed.

The aorta is the biggest blood vessel in a human body. Send water through your garden hose at full blast, then chop it in half with a hatchet and see what happens.

“You should never have gotten up off the floor,” said Dr. Orteza.

Other doctors, nurses, Army medics, Marine corpsmen — you name it — have told me the same thing. They all look at me the same way, and they usually say the same thing if I show them the scar (two words that, depending upon the way you say them, can be either a prayer or a blasphemy).

Why am I still here? I no longer dwell on it. Whatever the reason is, I thank the Lord for every day I’ve had since Dec. 17, 1963, and promise Him I will try to live up to it. He has blessed me with wondrous things since then.

I woke up last Tuesday, got out of bed, looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Happy 50th birthday, Jimmy.”

My mother always said the Christmas of 1963 was the best Christmas she ever had, even though we spent it in a hospital.

It was the Christmas her son didn’t die.

She herself passed away on Dec. 17, 1995 — 32 years to the day after my fling with mortality. She had spent three and a half years in a wheelchair, paralyzed on one side from a stroke.

Mom put up an incredible fight for a long time, but finally she looked at me with eyes I can still see and said in a voice I can still hear, “How much longer, my love? I’ve had a wonderful life, but all I want now is to be with Mother and Daddy and Lohr (her brother) again.”

My dad and I felt this way: No matter how much you love someone, the time likely will come when you have to let go.

It was time to let her go, to a place where our faith told us there is no pain, sorrow or infirmity ... a place far better than anything he or I had ever known or could imagine. Her physical presence was gone, but the love we shared remained very much alive (and still does).

Was that the best Christmas I ever had? Or the worst? That’s not how I look at it.

Christmas to me is about love ... nothing more, nothing less.

Merry Christmas, my friend.

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Jim Goldsworthy - Anything and Everything
  • He means well, and this time they spared his life

    Our pal Phil is the only re-enactor certified in writing by both the Lee and Custis families to portray Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (whose wife was Mary Anna Custis Lee). When he’s in uniform, he generally stops at the bottom of the path that leads to the summit of Little Round Top, salutes Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy and asks permission to join us. (Get it? Generally ... General Lee?) We always return his salute and grant him permission, in part because he’s our friend and also because the real Lee never got to see what it really looks like from up there. (Get it? Grant ... Grant? U.S. Grant? Real Lee ... really? OK. I hear you. That’s enough. Seriouslee.) Phil gets a kick out of being able to sneak up on us while we’re distracted by tourists.

    July 20, 2014

  • They’d have fallen like Autumn leaves

    So there we were, minding our own business (at least momentarily), leaning against the cannon at Little Round Top.

    July 13, 2014

  • Better read that french fry before you eat it

    People give me otherwise-insignificant items they hope will amuse or inspire me. I appreciate this. I’m always glad for free entertainment, which as Goldy’s Rule 33 says is everywhere. All you have to do is wait and it will come to you. Also, I have been writing columns for 37 years and embrace inspiration anywhere I can find it.

    July 6, 2014

  • The moose is loose, and it’s coming for you

    So how would you like to look out your kitchen door window onto your porch and see a moose looking back at you from close range?

    June 28, 2014

  • There are some debts you can never repay

    Today’s column will be relatively short, as my columns go, for reasons that should become apparent, and I thought long and hard before writing it.

    June 21, 2014

  • It could have saved the county a lot of money

    Random thoughts sometimes occur to me when I least expect it, usually when my brain has become tired.
    When I voice these thoughts at work or in other places, people may tell me, “Goldy? It’s time for you to go home.” Yes, ma’am.
    Here are two random thoughts of recent vintage:
    • If Bugs Bunny were an Emergency Medical Technician, would that make him a MedicHare?
    • If Daisy Duck got a job driving for United Parcel Service, would she be an UPS-a-Daisy?
    I wouldn’t blame you if you think that sounds Goofy — or Daffy.

    June 15, 2014

  • These two were part of the Not Top Ten

    Occasionally, at this time of year, I see reference to a “class orator” or a “class speaker.”

    Nothing wrong with that — people can call such things whatever they want, as far as I’m concerned — but it makes me wonder. Have “valedictorian” and “salutatorian” become politically incorrect, and I didn’t notice? It may come as a surprise to you, but I really have not kept up with what is politically correct or incorrect. That’s what people tell me, anyway. With some of them, it actually seems to be a compliment.

    June 8, 2014

  • Coming soon to a highway near you?

    People say to me, “Goldy? Can I ask you a stupid question?”

    In theory — and theory only — the correct response is: “The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.” Not so much. There ARE stupid questions, some of them so stupid that to call them stupid is to damn them with faint praise. Other questions are — on the face of it — legitimate questions, but shouldn’t be treated as such ... not if you subscribe to the same philosophy that I do: Free entertainment is everywhere; all you have to do is wait, and it will come to you.

    June 1, 2014

  • This was a skill that proved very useful

    The Belmont Park stewards have decided to let California Chrome wear his nasal strip during the Run for the Carnations. Nasal strips usually are worn by people who snore and may have saved numerous marriages. It helps the Triple Crown hopeful to breathe, and some twolegged athletes wear nasal strips for the same reason. In this case, Chrome’s nasal strip may keep him from (wait for it) ... losing by a nose.

    May 25, 2014

  • He made a big splash by asking this question

    “I don’t know who you were talking to last night,” said Capt. Gary, “but you were talking and moaning in your sleep. Never heard you do that before.” Neither has anyone else, I said. Besides, I had told him not to be surprised if we had visitors. I wasn’t at the top of my game for a couple of days, and he said some of our friends asked him if I was all right. It’s not the first time for this, so now I’ll know to watch out for it. It can affect you and is not something to play around with — as our friend Cathy found out.

    May 18, 2014

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