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I Had A Half Life And You Didn’t – A True Story

Dial your “way back” machines to high school science class and place yourself back to the time when we all were asked to open our textbooks and turn to the sections that talk about energy and half life. Brings back memories, doesn’t it?
It has been quite a while for me but I still have vivid memories. I recall the wildly geeky teacher standing in front of the class, silhouetted by a chart of the elements mounted on the wall directly behind him, teaching us about nuclear energy. He threw around terms like “decay,” “decomposition,” “radioactive dating,” “percent of isotopes remaining” and “compounding” when describing half life and I had no idea what he meant. It freaked me out. To be clear, the whole idea of something slowly melting away pretty much made me dislike science and the entire concept of energy from that day forward. So much, in fact, that I’m still traumatized by advanced science even today.
Flash back and cue the teacher --- “The half life decay of any radioactive substance does not follow a linear path but rather one that compounds exponentially over a period of time tending toward infinity but never reaching it because mass never totally decomposes. Oh, and by the way, Savicki, wearing safety goggles while we study this won’t help keep you safe from the destructive forces behind this phenomenon.  Like unstable isotopes, you are doomed to decompose.”
Thanks, Professor Creepy.
Because of your morbid half life fascination and desire to share it with us, I now know that the theory behind this whole half life thingy dictates that over certain periods of time, all cool things (like me) basically turn to dust and leave behind nuclear waste that can’t be buried deep enough in the ground to ensure total global safety and a planet void of radioactive waste that could likely make the skin melt from our face like something out of an Indiana Jones movie.
Science has one twisted way of saying all things go from “dust to dust” and the whole process is gonna suck and be painful, doesn’t it? Half life. Bizarre. Still gives me the shivers.
Well, fast forward a few decades and I’ve now got a different definition for half life that I’d like to share. It’s a more personal one that applies to my life. It’s a disability thing.
Here’s my definition. A half life is that period of time in which a disabled person has spent exactly half his/her life in a chair, on crutches, blind, missing a limb or ________ (insert disability name and type here). Got it? Good. Easy enough.
As far as milestones go, having a half life is a big one. Because there are so few time related milestones in life that you can accurately quantify, having a half life is big. Momentous. While a disabled dude like me still remembers walking like it was yesterday, having a half life serves as a vivid reminder that those days were, in fact, quite some time ago and the chair is my quite current reality.
That very thought could suck if you let it.
Not for me though. When I looked on a calendar and realized my half life – yes, I was injured at age 22 and I’m now 44 – was approaching in a few years, I made a pact with myself that I would turn the day into an awesomely awesome celebration and throw a party. What kind? A party of epic proportions.
Here are the top ideas I researched and began planning once I knew the clock was ticking:
- Fly to Vegas and go “Hangover Parts 1 and 2 combined” crazy in honor of my half life day. Make sure Mike Tyson was somehow involved.
- Road trip to Pensacola Beach and finish the day that was cut short by my broken neck helicopter evacuation. This time do it hammered from sunrise to sunset without breaking my neck again. Pass out on the beach with homeless dudes and wake up sunburned two days later. - Invite all the people who were with me on/about that day (let’s see – Bernie, Bill, Jeff, Brian, Andy, Chrissy, Rich, Matt, Brian, Chuck, Bill, etc.) to meet somewhere swanky like a Ritz Carlton or 4 Seasons on Maui and celebrate in style. Toast with crazy expensive champagne. Miss flight home.
But something strange began happening shortly after I finished my list of possible parties. As the weeks, months and years passed, and the date grew closer, my life started changing in special ways. The things that I once thought were important to me suddenly became kind of insignificant. My crazy half life ideas started leaking meaning and merit right in front of my eyes.
Here’s how those ideas ultimately played out:
- I saw The Hangover movies a few times and Vegas lost its appeal. - I went back to Pensacola Beach a few years early for a marathon and made peace with my demons over 26.2 miles, a trip to the Museum of Naval Aviation and a few cold ones plus shared stories with overly tanned retiree listeners on the beach. During the visit, I also tried to go back to see my old apartment but a hurricane had knocked it down a few years earlier. Karma beat me to the scene. The 9+ hour drive home was unemotionally long. - I realized many years had passed and all my “day of injury” friends were spread too far and wide to connect them all in one exotic place. I wasn’t sure they’d be up for the idea either. So I watched a few surf movies to cure my Hawaii longing and drank a cheap bottle of champagne. All that did the trick.
Then things started ramping up even more. New, amazing, wonderful, life changing events began happening. What kind of things? The kind of things that made the above items 1 – 3 seem, well, kind of sophomoric.
Here’s another list that should put these new life events in perspective:
- I met and married an amazing woman. - With her support and encouragement, I launched a business all on my own. - I put together the format for a book of my own and have begun writing it. - I signed contracts for a couple big projects and actually had clients. - My writing took off. - I worked through the first big athletic injury of my life. - The sports I had always kept up with took me to new heights.
And, finally, as the date appeared on the horizon, something miraculous brought it all together. Just a few weeks before the arrival of my actual half life day (it was 11/3/12 if you are wondering) our daughter was born. Talk about a reason to celebrate!
In a snap, my whole life changed once again. My focus shifted away from partying on the actual date that would separate my life into two parts as a new “half” of my life came into focus. The third half of my life – yes, that’s what I’m calling it – had begun without my knowing it.
So how did I celebrate my half life? With my wife sharing a tear with me that morning, I sat with our baby and told her all about the significance of the day. I told her about how Daddy’s life changed after one random event happened on a beach many years ago. I told her what had transpired in the 22 years since that day. And I told her she was the best present ever. I think she smiled and winked but I can’t be sure.
The day continued with a special celebration, too. Sarah bought me a bottle of nice champagne. I opened amazing cards. I blew out a candle and we shared a delicious cake.
And as we turned down the lights for the night, I ended my half life day in a special way. I thanked Caroline her for her cute baby noises, coos, cries and grunts. I thanked her for her big eyes and huge feet. I kissed Caroline and Sarah goodnight and went to sleep with a smile on my face.
They say life is what happens when you are busy making plans to live. Or something like that, I really can’t be sure.
In hindsight, it doesn’t really matter now does it?
Bye.