Just Before I Died

By O’Ceallaigh

fl Beach
Anyone who has been following this story line knows that I moved to Florida, for better or worse, arriving here about a month and a half ago. I’ve been enjoying the warmth of the tropical sun and soaking it up whenever I can. When possible, my uniform is a short-sleeved polo shirt and a pair of walking shorts – or cargo pants, depending on the weather.

I still walk every morning and this morning was no different. Well, perhaps that is a mis-statement. It actually was a little different.

Allow me to explain.

Yesterday was the usual day of sunshine and a light breeze with white fleecy clouds providing shade from time to time. Up North the story was different. It was seven degrees in Michigan where my granddaughter is in college. The wind chill factor made it feel like something below -10! People have thick blood up there.

The cold up North was the result of a new term, “Polar Vortex.” I think that’s a fancy name for a winter storm. But, it does sink down into the Southland by virtue of a deep trough. And that is what made today different and unusual!

I went to bed last night with the temperature outside standing at about 63 degrees. Oh, there was a little breeze kicking up from the North but it was still relatively warm and when I awoke at 0600 the house was still comfortable.

I went through the usual routine of drinking water and lemon, taking a handful of pills, wandering about the house for a few minutes until my eyes were at least partly open, then I sought out my hoodie and my white baseball cap, the one that says, “Prairie Mud Service” on the front of it, and grabbed my shillelagh walking stick and opened the door.

I think the “Polar Vortex” had been dislocated!

I grabbed the throat of my hoodie and pulled it in around my neck, yanked the bill of my cap down over my forehead and headed out for my 15 minute, mile walk. It was cold! It seemed like there was no possible way to keep the biting wind from entering between the tight-knit weaves of the hoodie! I put my gloved hand over my face! I quickened my pace! The Chattahoochee stone crunched beneath my feet!

Finally, I made it to the street! I forced my way East on Office Street with the wind billowing the hoodie from the North. Had the shirt been one size larger, I could have used it for a sail and benefited from the slip of the wind!

After the first hour, maybe less, I had progressed to the corner and turned right, to the South. Ahhh! The wind was at my back! I was saved! But it was short-lived! Only 7 seconds, well, maybe a few more, and I had to turn right again! The wind hit me from the right side and my sail was again filled and I was fighting to keep my boat in the middle of the street!

My face was getting numb! My gloved hands were feeling more like clubs! I dropped my walking stick! I was almost afraid to bend over to pick it up for fear I’d never be able to stand up straight again! My mind began to play tricks on me!

I’d heard about people who were about ready to freeze to death, how they would suffer from anoxia, the lack of oxygen, and they would fall into an hallucinogenic state with all sorts of things being imagined! I remembered when I was taking flight training they warned us about getting altitude sickness! You know, that’s when you get so high in the air that there’s no air and you want to go to sleep! The same thing happens when you’re freezing to death!

Stay Awake! I told myself, Stay Awake!! Then I saw the sidewalk that cut cross-lots to my street! I turned right again! Now, I was headed North! I’m headed home! But, this is troubling! I’m facing into the wind! I’m going to have to tack or jibe!! Wait! I’m not sailing a boat! I’m walking!

I’ve got to keep walking! Don’t fall asleep!!

I must have walked 3 miles! I don’t know! I’m not thinking clearly! Steps are starting to slow! Getting tired! – Don’t sleep. Don’t go to sleeeeep….

Finally, just before I died, I saw the steps to my kitchen door. I stepped in to the warmth of the house and looked at the thermometer. It was 43 degrees!coffee fireplace

I made myself a cup of hot Krakus with delicious creamer, settled back into my recliner and reflected on my morning walk.

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