by Andy Capp
You could call this “Gifts, part II.”
After six years, I was back in the chair. Full circle, back to the beginning, playing a DJ for a week on KELO AM. The whole affair reminded me of an old Spaghetti Western: The Good (working with an old friend/newsman on the air), The Bad (scrambling to deal with my real responsibilities on top of the air shift all week), and The Ugly (the few bits and song parodies I threw together were truly pitiful).
Despite the play in the wheel, I more or less kept things between the ditches. The biggest problem of the week seemed to be that my internal clock needed winding, and there were many moments (years?) of dead air when I was out of the studio running down continuity stuff.
I’m not sure if it was good radio, but I had fun. It was a blast to interact with the listeners during contests, to laugh the afternoon away with my news friend (we’ve always been the funniest guys we knew... you can imagine). That’s entertainment? Well, I felt that I got my money’s worth.
This whole show had actually started several weeks before. The snooze button on my alarm clock has survived the abuse I’ve dished out for a surprising number of years, but that Monday morning at 6:37, it was finally put out of its misery, and for no fault of its own. My Mother, on the phone. My Dad, who has quietly endured countless injuries and illnesses over the years, agreed that he needed to go to the hospital at 2:30 that morning.
They hadn’t decided whether the chest pains actually meant a heart attack yet, but ten doses of morphine had done little to ease his suffering. No, don’t come yet. She would call when they knew more, just go to work.... Ahh, yeah.
The news that came later was better. The vise had loosened. It wasn’t his heart. He’d probably go home that afternoon. The news was better, but I decided to take the afternoon off and head north anyway. It’s amazing how quickly 60 miles can fly by under the influence of relief. It’s amazing how slowly 60 miles can drag by while paralyzed by anxiety. It seemed that I missed the second call, that new tests had confirmed the earlier suspicions, that he was being moved to a hospital in Sioux Falls. If I had been paying more attention, I probably would have noticed his ambulance headed in the other direction half way to Brookings.
The blockage was 90 percent. If I had only seen the before picture, I wouldn’t have guessed an artery even existed there. He would recover, but there was more damage. If he didn’t make some changes, he would be back in months. Give up the smokes. Cut the fat. The usual battle cry. My Mother told me that he would never forget that pain. My Father told me that he wished my Mother hadn’t told the Grandkids that he had stopped smoking.
There was one other little dose of reality this past week that’s still too fresh, too painful to explain now. Let’s just say that a good friend gave me a new perspective on how I’ve been doing my job, a perspective that’s been making me question whether I’ve been doing anything right for some time.
Tough love is hard enough to take when you’ve known all along deep inside that what they’re telling you is true. But I honestly didn’t see this one coming, and it’s shaken my confidence. Now what? Do I suck it up and make the changes that I’m told I need to make, or do I make the changes I need to make? The jury only just left the room. I’ll keep you posted on this one.
It’s the season of gifts, and I’ve already gotten a few: a taste of the excitement that pulled me into radio in the first place, a reminder of how important my Father is to me, the hurt and anger of being told that my baby is ugly, the fear that it might finally be time to break out of my holding pattern, the shock that my Father isn’t immortal, the sobering reality that radio will never be quite the same as it was at the beginning. They may not all be pretty, but they’re all keepers. I’d return none of them.
While you’re plowing through the drifts of holiday spots, while you’re finding the perfect something for everyone else, don’t forget to get yourself a gift or two. Only you know what you really want. Only you know how to get it. It might be getting your desk organized and keeping it that way. It might be putting that tape together and finally trying to make it in the big leagues. Maybe you’ve needed to say, “I’m sorry” to someone you really care about. Maybe you need to finally assert yourself and not let everybody walk all over you. Perhaps you could work at improving your character voices. Perhaps you could get more free-lance work with your character voices if you’d only try.
There are so many things you can afford to give yourself, and time is so short that you can’t afford not to. My Father’s illness reminded me that there are no promises; there is only today. This isn’t morbid; it’s the truth. It’s a wake up call. In this season of giving, consider it my gift to you. Peace!