And On This Day

I made a torte yesterday. I'm a little unclear as to why, but I did. Here it is.


Tortes were on my mind, I guess. I wanted to bake one last February for my wife's birthday, but ended up being seduced by the dark side of cheesecakes. I'm pretty much done with cheesecakes now.

And really, I'm just interested in chocolate. I'm not sure how deep I want to dive here, but tortes are easy, essentially just chocolate and eggs. Some sugar. A tiny bit of flour, but flourless tortes are also a thing. I'm not all that interested in cake, but tortes offered maybe the possibility of intense flavor and an opportunity to pair some chili peppers with chocolate, which is really where I'm headed.

Anyway. I made a torte. It was easy. I think it burned a little. None of this is a big deal.


I've decided to call July 6th Gratitude Day. I just now decided that. On July 7th, which is funny, I suppose, but not intentionally.

I'm just aware that it was July 6, 2011 when we got our trifecta. The previous August, my wife's vision problems had reached the point that she needed intervention of an expensive sort, even though for the past year or so she'd been surfing through life without the benefit of health insurance. A transition at work, status only, removed her insurance benefit, and eventually she was denied coverage because of a preexisting condition. You might recall such a thing.

So, after finally getting the diagnostics and understanding that this was a brain tumor that was blinding her, she underwent neurosurgery in September. It was rough but she made it, and then in May she had a heart attack, bang. While working her up for that, doctors discovered some troubling spots on routine mammograms.


On July 6, then, we found out that she had bilateral breast cancer, which felt unfair after the past nine months but whatcha gonna do? Get lumpectomies. Get more radiation. Deal.

That's why it's Gratitude Day. Not because we're grateful for that shitty year, or how shitty it made our lives from that point on. Just because we survived, and we learned how to do that, or that we could, same thing.

And it's more personal than that. It's a personal sort of gratitude. We all had our journeys to make, back then, and they were different. Mine was personal. Obviously.

Not all good, either. I mean, I wrote a whole book about this, how somebody can get into trouble with booze and then recover from that, and then get hit with crisis after crisis and manage to stay sober. I thought that was good news, and worth spreading around a bit. I still do. You don't have to drink.

But I don't trust people, not nearly the way I used to. I don't count on them, and that's an odd result because there was really a lot of support. It's more of a realization that in the end, we're all we've got. I was all she had, in other words. It made me a better husband and partner to understand that. I'm grateful.

It didn't make me a better person, though. That would have been nice, but no. I think, eventually, it just broke me into a million little pieces and I was on my own. We've all got our journeys, as I believe I said.

I'm still calling it Gratitude Day, though. Dammit. Yesterday was great.


When Julie was recovering from her various surgeries, I walked a lot. A lot of hills, too. Hills were important. It was important to remember that I could do hard things.

I've had a rough three years. I don't need to tell you that.

So they did this construction, are still doing it, and my fence finally went up and I got a look at what we ended up with. I'd let that area just go wild, the job too daunting, apparently. Or maybe I had other jobs to focus on, dunno.

It's been fun, then. And these guys made it easier, particularly by removing large chunks of brush that really would have required several chainsaws and a crew, etc. Large earth-moving machines change the equation. Much easier.

And yesterday I took on the other fence and the trees, unwinding that chain link as I went and digging all damn day. Even with the fence gone, it was cramped, but then these weren't really trees. Baby trees. Saplings. Stuff just grows here, including trees if you let them.


I really thought a chainsaw would be necessary, too. But the ground was soft, and I yanked and broke and dug and pretty much personally deforested a small section of my backyard, and it felt good. I think you can imagine. Two of those trees took me over an hour, each, and that final push with the shovel, that last effort that frees the roots and pulls the entire thing clear? That there is a good feeling. That, and hauling this 12-foot length of Pacific Northwest alder or whatever (I really don't know trees) across the yard to toss it on the pile.

A couple of years ago, my doctor checked my testosterone level just to see if that was playing a part with my problems at the time with appetite and mood. It was fine, perfectly normal. I don't seem to have a testosterone deficiency, whatever that means, although I don't spend my days growling or fornicating or thinking much about either.

But dragging those branches released a little inner caveman, you betcha. I came into the house and immediately stole from Dr. Seuss:

And what happened then?
Well, now, some people say
That the old feller's dick
Grew three sizes that day...

I was just in a mood. I'm not usually that guy.


Ibuprofen is on board, and has been. I take lots of breaks. I apply sunscreen and re-apply, although it's so nice here and the rest of the country is burning up, and I'm not going to say more. Sunscreen was appropriate.

And it's just lawn work. Really. I feel more of an obligation to new neighbors, true, but I could have considered the old neighbors and I didn't. My yard could be as messy as I wanted it to be. Nobody really had to stare at it.

But it's something, it's active, it's moving. Apparently I took 13,000 steps yesterday, and I didn't take a walk. Just lots of little ones. I'm telling you, just reading the convenient data my Fitbit has for me in terms of calories burned and heart rate, etc., we should all be farmers. Seriously, we should just work the land and we could eat whatever we want.


Including tortes, which are pretty dense in terms of calories. You don't want to eat tortes all day. That would be a pretty good day, actually, but let's just say not to do it.

And I don't really know why the torte. It was a whim. I'm not a cake guy, never have been. Just a notion.

Because--and I really should know this by now--if you start moving and keep moving, everybody eventually joins in. The neurotransmitters start pumping out. The imagination, released by virtue of repetitive, mindless work, heads off in interesting directions. I got inspired while perspiring, which, really, is the way it's always been. I know this. Sometimes I need to just get started.

And by the time I dug out the last tree, really just a stalk that was sticking up and annoying me, it was nearly 8pm. My torte was done, my day was done, and I decided it shall be known henceforth as Gratitude Day.

Not because of the trees. Or the torte. Because I did it, because I could, because we're still here. Because my wife is still here, still beautiful, still alive, brain still working fine. Blind in one eye, and wanting to lose a few pounds this summer, but otherwise alive.

As am I, so yeah. I'm grateful. Adversity didn't kill me but it didn't make me stronger, I think. It just made me still alive, and that's why I'm grateful. For the reminder.

I don't feel 60. I don't know what I'm supposed to feel. But I don't. I feel fine. I'm about to go dig some more, and then maybe I'll bake another torte, who knows? My back aches a tiny bit, my arms are covered with lacerations from the brambles, and I really need a shower, but I'm still here. The yard looks better, chocolate is always good, and my dick is fine, thanks for asking.

Chuck Sigars1 Comment