Saturday, October 26, 2013

OCD & the Garage Door Opener

We’ve lived in our first house four years, and that whole time we’ve dealt with temperamental garage doors. This is when garage doors randomly open, or don't close all the way, or come down halfway then reverse course. For me, an OCD sufferer, knowing the doors play this fickle game, I insist on driving around the block before leaving for work, or to the store, or anywhere, to make sure the doors are down and staying. Sometimes I do it twice. Once I circled three times. OCD’s a bitch. Temperamental garage doors are just as bad.

The remote opener has to be angled just right. There’s swearing involved, sometimes pleading. It’s understood going in that making those overhead doors obey is a crap shoot. I often imagine a scenario where a band of Clifton Park street toughs are chasing me, and I make it safely to my driveway and house, only to be caught and beaten bloody while trying to open that damn garage. What a way to go.

Fed up with this faceoff, my wife pulled the old battery from her opener, replaced it, problem solved. You may ask why we didn’t do that earlier. Some guy at Home Depot told us we’d have to reprogram the entire system if we changed batteries. I guess we took his word and settled for this daily battle. Hers was always the most temperamental, and with that opener finally working right, I was willing to occasionally deal. Anything not to reprogram.

On cue, my remote opener went bad to worse. It got so bad I’d have to open the door from the wall switch, back my car out of the garage, jump out of my car, run back inside, hit the wall switch, sprint out under the rolling door. This circus show at 6:30AM every morning. I’m always the first to get home, so I’d have to park halfway down the driveway, get out of the car, press the opener against the sensor and go to work. If that didn’t take, I’d fetch the ladder--in work clothes--climb the rungs, break in through the bedroom window, crash to the inside floor, go downstairs and open the door on the wall. Why don't I just go in the front door? Well, I insist on locking the screen every morning and taking my chances with the garage. OCD. What a way to live.

There's no "detectable" battery in my opener, so I thought. I came to the conclusion that the opener was--um--solar powered, and a lack of sunlight, because of Autumn, was causing the problem. Idiot? New-home owner? Both? I decided to drive home, holding the opener out the window as I went. Why? So it could get sun, of course. The dreaded reprogram. After spending fifteen minutes trying to get in on Friday afternoon, we decided enough is enough.

We took the opener to Home Depot, where another worker popped the top to show us that the battery was a tiny, circle-shaped thing that I had dismissed as a piece of the sensor. I’d been running without a replacement for four years, opening and closing several times a day. A miracle battery if you think about it.

Now it’s easy. If I so much as breathe on the opener, my garage door launches open. Good luck getting me now, Clifton Park Street toughs. It’s a wonder what a working battery can do. As for all that reprogram talk . . . The only bad part is knowing how easy my side opens now. It’s seriously scary for an OCD sufferer. Now I'm going to circle the block four times, maybe five, to make sure the door didn’t fly open when I hit a bump and the remote bounced on the sun visor. Your classic win-win.

Brian Huba

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ten Good Books

10. The Appeal by John Grisham
9. The Associate by John Grisham
8. Orange is the New Black by Pier Kerman
7. Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks
6. The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper
5. Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem
4. July July by Tim O'Brien
3. The Beach by Alex Garland
2. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
1. Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

Get Reading!

Brian Huba

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Turtle

Today I’m going to tell you the story of the Turtle. The Turtle is old and wise, even when it’s young. The Turtle never complains or makes excuse. When faced with a challenge the Turtle never passes the buck or says, ‘That’s not MY job,' or ‘Why should I do that?’ The Turtle never worries about its best interest. The Turtle is totally selfless. The Turtle carries the weight of the world.

Is there a Turtle in your life? There is in mine.

The Turtle I know is my wife’s mother. She is wise and selfless and never makes an excuse when the job needs to be done. When my wife was diagnosed last April, the Turtle dropped her hyper-active life on a dime, rushed to her daughter’s side, never left for the next six months. Once a week, she came from three hours away in a rickety, old van, drove days and nights, fueled on black coffee and yogurt, going from Plattsburgh to Albany to NYC, rinse and repeat. Her existence was in shambles. She was never stronger.

That first week in NYC, when winter became spring, the air thick with new life, we waited for “test results,” huddled like packrats in a Manhattan apartment no bigger than a postage stamp. It was a sneak-preview of what Hell would look like, only this was worse. At least Hell has hot water and dry towels. I broke down 2, 3, 10 times. I couldn’t take it anymore. It was a vice grip to the brain, and every day it turned a little tighter. But the Turtle never weakened or wavered.

From a few feet away, I watched this 70-yr-old woman sleep sideways on a narrow couch, eat candy bars for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and wait, wait, wait for some doctor in some hospital to deliver a potentially-terminal diagnosis against her only daughter. The Turtle never said, ‘Why me?' or ‘I need a break.’ In five days as we waited, hours passing like ice ages, this woman never cracked. Never. Not once. The Turtle carries the weight of the world.

There’s not much out there that can genuinely inspire someone. Maybe inspiration is a lost art, I don’t know. But my wife’s mother was a machine these last six months. She is the reason this fight ended the right way. Without her it simply wouldn’ve happened. She saved her daughter’s life, my wife's life. She saved my life. She put our future plans back on track, and she never once--in six dreary and dark months--said, ‘Sorry, I can’t.' I have never seen anything so purely selfless and incredibly inspiring. My outlook on love has been recalibrated because of what I watched her do. That was true love. The truest.

When it ended, she praised everyone else BUT herself, refused ANY credit for the role of weight carrier, 'Nothing to do with me,' and went home, back to her life, leaving us to resume ours. With a horn beep and goodbye wave, she was gone, and we were a normal couple once again. She’s the Turtle.

When my wife called me from her job with the final results last Weds, the really, really good results, I told her not to call her mother till I got home. Why? I wanted to witness the end in person. I wanted to watch her mother react after living in a shitstorm since April. I found her on the hammock in our yard, on her back, arms and legs spread at her side, lifeless, waiting, lifeless. I asked her to come inside, the results were official. Like a firecracker she came off that hammock, and three seconds later was hunkered over the phone, a kid on Christmas morning. She didn't ask why she wasn't called first. Heck, she'd driven all those miles, waited all those hours, dealt with all those doctors, while hubby #1 watched dogs and went to work. She didn't ask why. She didn't care about that. The Turtle has no ego. I got my wife on the phone, who tearfully reported the results to her mother. Victory...for now.

Off the phone, she asked me to fetch her an ice-cold beer. I imagine that first, frosty sip must’ve been the coldest taste after the longest walk in the world's hottest desert. And that's how the story of the Turtle ends.

Today is my wife’s 32nd birthday.

Is there a Turtle in your life?

Brian Huba

Saturday, October 5, 2013

What's Victory Look Like?

What’s victory look like when the opponent's a terrifying force and the fight’s a slugfest that pummels the heart, crushes the soul? That’s the sized fight I’m talking about here. The kind of fight you never want, when everything is at stake, and victory’s not certain, not by a longshot, daddy-o. In fact I can show you thousands who’ve lost this fight. Just follow that winding road through the gut of St. Agnes. There they are, to the right, to the left, they’re out there. That’s what defeat looks like in this. What’s victory look like?

When I was twenty-five I started my first internship at ^%&*$#@* High School. I was sitting in the main office, waiting for my lead-teacher to arrive and bring me in. As I waited, another student-teacher entered the office. A bell above the door buzzed as she came in: good hair, good curves. I looked up, watched her walk to the secretary’s desk. She’d be working with another teacher there. I’d be interning with her. Finished with the front desk, she walked to the row of chairs where I sat, and my life was about to change.

We have so many ideas about what we’d do if given the chance to touch victory. But the truth is when life presents a fight like this, there’s nothing left but a nub when it’s done. And that nub is the only Earthly evidence that you went the distance, punch for punch, round after round after round, and when the final bell buzzed, you were still there, still here. When you fight the fight of your life the only trophy is your life.

We went together for a year then broke up. I thought I’d be better without her, sure of it. I was twenty-six and ready to be single. So off I went. Within a month, my entire life fell apart. I lost my job, crashed my car, ran out of money, was living in slum housing. The single thing, yeah, not so much fun when you’re unemployed and broke. On Halloween night, she came back to me, like a blessing, saved my life. Two weeks later, I had my car back, a better job, even all my money returned. I was nothing without her. I was everything with her.

Many people believe they’re destined to live cinematic lives, no bad could ever come to them, and they’ll be the hero in every situation. We style our hair and nails and get worked up about what people think of us. We all want the cinematic life. But none of that matters. Life is survival, with the hope of having a few great moments along the way. To stay alive is the great gift, the only gift. That’s what coming through a fight shows you. Ignorance is bliss. Victory is pulling the curtain off Oz. Victory is truth.

A few months after my father died, we got married, bought a house; began a life. We exercised and ate right, did everything possible to improve and elongate our time on Earth. I'd never been happy OR lucky. Now I was both. We’d make a family and be successful in our careers, always happy, always together. We were in great shape, physically, great spirits and full of the bully bully. Ours was going to be a great life. Then it came--IT--and it was time to fight.

Victory is never enjoyed by the victor. That part belongs to everyone else. It’s the circle of friends and family that pumps fist and sips champagne when the big fight’s been fought. We all imagine the great things we can do on the heels of a heroic victory. But the real hero wants no part of that kind of fight. The real hero knows nobody "wins" a fight like this. It’s done because there’s no other choice. The real hero understands that winning back your life will forever change your life. The romance and cinema, finished. Victory is truth.

Last night I watched my wife in the bath. She sat in six inches of water, knees folded to her chest; bald head hung low on her now-sinewy neck. Two wash clothes draped her emaciated shoulders like a boxer's robe, and her wedding ring that once fit snug slides halfway down her fourth finger. She’s twenty pounds lighter and half-blinded by oozing stys in both eyes. A nub. But she’s alive and she’s beautiful. Victory...for now.

Read More:

Brian Huba