ANYONE WHO HAS BEEN READING my material for more than a couple of issues is aware of the health battles I’ve been fighting. In June of 2018, I underwent a surgical weight-loss procedure to not only drop weight, but to regain some of my health (and stabilize my body for an eventual kidney transplant).
I’ve since lost 100 pounds, my diabetes, though not in remission, is in better control, and I’m in better overall health. Not only that, I can wear pleated pants and not look weird.
You learn a lot of things when you get better after a long illness. Think about how shocked you are at some of the things you were unaware of when you’re laid up with a stomach flu for two days, and you finally crawl out of bed.
Now, multiply that by four years (the length of time where I was VERY sick), and you can begin to understand. To go a bit further into depth, I offer you a return of my long-absent Random Ramblings.
YOU DON’T REALIZE how much you surrender when you start getting sick. First, I gave up running my own boat, mainly because I seldom had the energy required to put any effort into preparing, launching, running, towing, washing, and stowing the Teacher’s Pet.
First, I began to rely on the generosity of others to let me hop onto their boat (and I’ve tried to display my gratitude as much as possible in those situations). Eventually, when even casting for more than an hour at a stretch became too much, I fished less and less, and relied on the vast library of notes I’ve compiled in 20 years of outdoor journalism. I hit rock bottom in 2017, when I went fishing twice.
I’m back on the water now. For that alone, the surgery was worth it.
SPEAKING OF GIVING up more and more as you get sick, I finally started organizing my fishing room recently. I almost broke down during the task. It dawned on me how much I really did love it when I retreated into the dark tunnel that was my illness.
Thanks to Larry Dahlberg of The Hunt for Big Fish and Mike Fappel at Alumilite, I had begun to teach myself how to design and create my own lures. I was up to my elbows in the practice of what Larry would call “goopology” making masters, throwing molds, and pouring soft plastics and plugs, and loving every minute of it.
Somewhere along the line, however, I started to lack the energy to even do that. The end result was a complete neglect of my newfound hobby. Two brand new gallon jugs of Alumisol raw plastic had separated, congealed, and become useless.
MY FISHING ROOM itself was no longer my room. It was full of baskets of laundry, my wife’s long-abandoned sewing machine, boxes of knick-knacks from my late uncle’s house, and just general clutter. It turned my once-majestic, longhorn-festooned man room into an oversized version of the typical hallway closet.
The more I look at the general chaos scattered in there, I realize it’s time for a yard sale. Maybe if I let my wife keep the proceeds, she’ll be amenable to the idea.
I CAN’T GO any further without telling you about my wife, Sandie. When she vowed, “Through sickness and health,” I really don’t think she bargained for what she got.
I’ve been diabetic for 18 years; the last four years were the worst because it attacked my kidneys (whereas it attacked my older brother’s heart, and one of my best friend’s feet).
I’ve been in and out of medical facilities for surgical procedures, dialysis, scans, check-ups, and doctor visits. She has been unable to spend as much time with her horse as she’d like. She focused a lot of time on me, and worried more than any good woman should have to.
She’s been by my side the entire time with nary a complaint. She has slept on hospital room couches, lost money from being out too many days from school, and loved me the entire time. She, along with my son, Calito, saved my life.
Am I blessed? Oh yes. Sandie is proof that I over-married.
MEANWHILE, MY CIRCLE of friends underscores that I am very blessed. The crowd of supporters, that includes longtime friends such as Anibal Gorena, Gator Dave Rutledge, Blake and Monique Hensler, Sandra Lisa Martinez, Yajaira Lara-Sanchez, Letty Gomez, Linda Davila-Macal and Jen Brewster, along with more others than I have space to name, have propped me up when I needed it most. I love them all.
DOCTORS SUCH AS Rolando Yarritu, Michael Jellinek, Noe Oliveira, and Ben Garza held me together when I was crumbling. Never, never take your doctors for granted.
YOU COULD MARK the exact day I became a wrestling fan on a calendar. I was eight years old. I was watching the Atlanta Braves play my beloved Cincy Reds when a major storm caused a long delay.
To fill up the time, WTBS started airing a re-run of Georgia Championship Wrestling. The first match featured this huge blond Texan who roared into the ring, destroyed the poor schlub opposite him, let out a war whoop, and left the ring.
That was Stan “The Bad Man from Borger, Texas” Hansen, and I was a fan from then on. He was always my favorite. So much so I learned he was a huge star in Japan, where he was called “The Unsinkable Battleship.”
I was a sickly child whose physical frailties would’ve been enough to leave him homebound (for crying out loud, I got the mumps in 8th grade—8th GRADE!!!). The physical toughness Hansen exuded inspired me to adopt the attitude spiritually if not physically.
I was an Unsinkable Battleship, and you couldn’t stop me. You still can’t.
Thanks, Mr. Hansen.
I’ve made it through a longer, darker night than anything Jon Snow or Denarius Targaryan can imagine. If any of you reading this are going through something similar, don’t stop fighting. Be an Unsinkable Battleship and get stronger.
Then, let’s go fishing.
Email Cal Gonzales at [email protected]