Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Three Days of Awesome (Living With Cogan's Syndrome)

May 3rd:

When I finished writing my depression-filled entry about The Avengers on Thursday at my in-laws, I crossed my arms and placed them on the table, resting my head on top. I stayed like that for a while as Sarah continued working next to me on her laptop. When she was all done, we ate dinner with her parents and I remained silent—not wishing to entertain any conversation. I didn’t want pity, but I did want to stay upset.

A short time after dinner, I noticed Sarah and her mother being a bit secretive in the kitchen. Still upset with not being able to see the movie, I shrugged it off, wanting to wallow in my despair. A few moments later, Sarah entered the dining room with a rather suspicious look on her face.

“Honey,” she sat down next to me at the table and grabbed my hand, “would you like your anniversary gift now?”

My hearing wasn't too bad that day, so I was shocked by her offer, considering our anniversary wouldn't arrive until the last day of the month.

“It's here?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “It just came in.”

Sarah and I have packages sent to her parent's house because we don't have a way for the delivery person to contact us at our apartment. Every time we try to have something delivered directly to us, we end up never receiving it and having to drive out to Hartford at nighttime in order to pick it up.

“Oh, I don't know,” I said, but every part of me wanted to shout ‘YES!’

“Come on, it will cheer you up,” she said.

“But it's not our anniversary,” I reasoned.

“Max, you are in such a bad mood,” she said. “This will make you happy and you can use it every day this month. It will be our anniversary month!”

“Uhhhhhh,” I said in a high pitched voice—shaking my head—weighing the decision. “I don't know.”

“Look, Max. It is either going to sit here in the wrapping all month or you are going to be enjoying it instead,” she explained.

“Should I?”

“Yes, you should.”

“Really?” I asked.


“I don't know,” I grunted, turning my head to the side with exaggeration.

Sarah laughed.

“Okay,” I said, now sporting a huge grin. “I’ll open it.”

“Yay! I'll be right back,” Sarah announced.

Sarah returned shortly with two wrapped gifts which she placed in front of me.

“Mom, dad,” she shouted, “Max is going to open his present now!”

Her parents rushed in to the room. All three sat in chairs around the table, eagerly awaiting the opening of the gifts. I looked around at them—hesitating for a moment to add to the suspense.

“Open the big one first,” Sarah said.

One last look at my wife and I began to open. My eyes enlarged and my face expressed complete elation as I saw the writing on the box: Kindle Fire.

“Ahhhhh!” I gasped.

I finished tearing the wrapping paper and quickly removed the device from the box. I looked at Sarah—her smile beaming—and thanked her.

“Baby, you are the best! Thank you so much.”

“You're welcome. I knew you would like it,” she said in a playful 'I told you so’ tone.

Her parents were also excited, even though they knew what I would be receiving. I think that they were just happy to see my frown disappear.

“Open the other one,” Sarah said.

I followed my orders and was thrilled to find a red leather case—which happens to be my favorite color—waiting for me under the wrapping.

“I can't believe this. This could quite possibly be the best gift ever!” I said.

I had been torn over the past year or so about whether or not I would in fact desire an e-reader. There is just something about holding a book. Maybe it's the sound of the pages turning—though, I can't hear that these days—or the tranquility of mind while reading a hard copy in the comfort of a quiet place; whatever it may be, having an actual book in hand just seems natural. Regardless, I have researched both The Kindle by Amazon and The Nook by Barnes and Noble, and have grown to appreciate the commodities that both offer and the idea of having easy access to various books at a time. Suffice to say; I had hinted—on likely one hundred occasions—that I would love a Kindle. Never did I suspect, that Sarah would get me the Kindle Fire—the best version that allows access to the internet as well as countless applications as well. With all of the reading that I've been doing, this really was the perfect gift.

I got up from my seat, wrapped my arms around Sarah and gave her a kiss.

“Thank you, Sarah. You made my day,” I said.

“That's what I'm here for.”

I spent the rest of the night searching for free books.

May 4th:

“Wow,” I said. “That was awesome!”

“Yeah, I loved it!” Sarah replied.

“Thanks for finding this theater, sweetie,” I said as I put my arms around her and squeezed her tight on our way back to our car.

“Max, I love you. It was no problem.”

• • •

Earlier that day:

After giving me the Kindle Fire as an early anniversary gift, and while still at her parent's house, Sarah had continued her search for a theater—premiering The Avengers on opening day—that would support my impaired hearing. She looked for almost the whole afternoon, making calls intermittently to different cinemas, only to be disappointed by the answers she received.  A friend of ours had guided Sarah toward a website that lists all theaters with Closed Caption devices. Through that site, Sarah was able to find a theater located within a mall in Hadley, Massachusetts.

“I found one!” she said.

“You did?!” I squealed as tore my eyes away from the Kindle screen and looked at Sarah in pure delight.

“I did,” she said. “They offer individual Closed Caption devices but they only have a limited amount and its first come first serve. We can stay here again tonight and I’ll start work early tomorrow so we can leave and get there well before the movie starts.”

“Have I ever told you how much I love you?”

“Nope,” she smiled and shook her head. She always answers “Nope” to that question.

“I love you more than this much,” I said spreading my arms as wide as I could.

At the end of her work day, we packed up and made the 50 minute trek to Hadley. When we arrived—two hours early—we rushed inside to the ticket sellers. I am still fairly embarrassed about my deafness, so I asked if Sarah would talk to the girl behind the counter about the device for me.

“Hi,” Sarah said. “I was told on the phone that you offer individual Closed Caption devices. Do you still have any available?”

“Oh yeah,” the girl replied.  She moved over to a table that held about eight apparatuses. She then proceeded to show Sarah how to use it, but I was lost the minute the girl began.

When she was all finished explaining, Sarah spoke.

“Don’t worry,” she said, shaking her head in assurance. “I’ll help you turn it on when the movie starts.”

“Thanks, sweetheart.”

“Should we get something to eat? We still have almost two hours before the movie starts,” she asked.

“What did you say?” I asked.

Sarah looked at me and repeated.

“Oh, yeah!” I replied. “Definitely.”

“I just don’t want to take too long and come back to find out that all of the devices are taken.”

“I’m sure it will be fine,” I said. “We’ll just eat fast.”

“Okay,” Sarah said with a worried look.

We sat down at a restaurant directly across from the theater. While there, Sarah and I periodically looked out the window in hopes of catching a glimpse of the table that held the devices. We wanted to make sure that we wouldn't miss our chance.

We ate quickly and when finished, Sarah gave the orders.

“Okay, I’ll stay here and pay the bill while you go procure a device.”

“Sounds good.”

I made a mad dash to the theater. I stumbled through the hall, doing my best to avoid the people that had already formed a line outside the theater's entrance. Thankfully, it looked as though there weren't any being used. Yes, I thought. Nothing can stop me now! 

When Sarah finally met me, we found a place in line and watched the multitudes gather. I tried to contain my excitement. I wanted to look as calm and unexcited as possible amongst all of the comic book nerds. There was only one problem: I, myself, am a comic book nerd. I bit my nails every chance that I could get—hoping that I wouldn’t receive a smack from Sarah for doing so; I repeated the phrase “come on!” in my head over and over again; I went to the bathroom about four times ensuring that I would not miss one second of the movie; but at least I wasn’t wearing my Captain America shirt—which I have owned for at least six years and didn’t buy when the movie came out, I swear! I kept my cool, but I wanted to shout for joy, jump up and down, and clap my hands.

After about an hour of waiting in line, they finally ushered us in. Considering that we had arrived so early, we were among the first ten to enter the theater. Sarah and I walked up the steps of the stadium style room, and found the perfect seats directly in the middle of a row, in the middle of the theater.

The mechanism consisted of a screen about four inches high and ten inches wide. A long, bendable tube was connected to the bottom of the screen with a circular base that fit into the cup holder at my side. I was able to maneuver the machine so that it was precisely in front of me, without hindering the view of anyone else in the room. As we waited in glorious anticipation, I wondered whether or not the closed captions would actually work. What threw me off was the fact that it wasn't working for the previews.

The movie finally began; I grasped Sarah's hand as the opening dialogue came across the tiny screen, and thanked God for the moment. The first movie I had watched in over three months, just so happened to be one that I had waited for almost my entire life.

May 5th:

The first time I went to Free Comic Book Day—a nationally recognized event—was the first Saturday of May in 2005 with my good friend Nathan. We were taking a walk along the streets of New Paltz, causing all sorts of havoc—because that’s just what we do—and decided to make a trip to the comic book store, a place we frequented often. As we closed in on our destination, Nathan and I noticed an awesome sight: Batman was on the side of the road—just outside of the plaza that the comic book store was located in—waving to the cars driving by. When I say “Batman,” I mean it in loose terms. This Batman had aged about twenty years and had gained about a hundred pounds in all of the wrong places. Just next to the Caped Crusader was a sign that read: Free Comic Book Day.

As Nathan and I approached the Dark Knight, Nathan spoke first.

“Free Comic Book Day, huh? What’s this all about?”

“Well,” said the World’s Greatest Detective, “Free Comic Book Day is something that comic book shops all around the country have been participating in since 2002. All of the major publishers as well as some of the independent ones offer free promotional comics of some their main titles, as well as upcoming names. Go in and check it out!”

“I think we will,” Nathan said.

“Can we get a picture with you, Batman?” I asked.

“Of course!”

Nathan pulled out his camera but it wouldn’t turn on.

“Darn it,” he said. “How long will you be here?”

“Oh, for a while,” he replied.

“Great! We’ll be back in a bit.”

Our hearts pounded as Nathan and I scoured the town in search of batteries. We needed to act fast in order to ensure The Bat would still be there when we returned. Thankfully, he had not moved an inch.

“We’re back!” I shouted.

“Great,” said the man behind the dark cowl with a smile that fit only him.

Nathan and I both took pictures with Batsy, while passers-by rolled down their windows, honked their horns, pointed, and laughed. At one point a car drove by and a little girl rolled down the window. Batman was overwhelmed with joy as she began to shout, but his happiness quickly faded as the girl shouted, “Hi, Max!” Poor Batman didn’t realize that I was a camp counselor and knew practically every kid in New Paltz. He would surely need to save a few more people to cater to his reputation in the comics.

We went inside and found a crowd of children picking out free books and we did not hesitate to do the same.

It was a great day in the history of my friendship with Nathan; a day that will live in infamy—well, hopefully not—a tale to tell all of our friends and family for ages to come; and the beginning of an annual tradition: the day we stumbled upon Free Comic Book Day and met the Masked Manhunter—okay, fine…Batman!

Today, marked the first Saturday of May—meaning Free Comic Book Day had once again arrived! I tried to wake Sarah up around 8:30am as she said that she would want to come with me; however, I was quite unsuccessful. She was sleeping soundly. I grabbed the keys and made my way out the door. This was the first time since I began driving that I would be doing so alone.

Physical therapy has been great, and my balance is, without a doubt, getting much better. I still notice that I’m dizzy but it doesn’t affect me like it used to, but walking down the steps is still a struggle. I took my time, holding on to the railing and bracing each step with my feet, making sure I was absolutely steady before moving on to the next. When I finally made it down all three flights, I went outside, got in my car and drove slowly to the comic books store—which, thankfully, is only about a mile from our apartment. As I drive, all sorts of exciting emotions flowed through my body. I felt like a child on his way to Disney World for the first time. What will I find there? How many people will I see? How many comics will they offer me? Should I spend money on other comics while I’m there? No, that’s a bad idea. We can’t afford that. I wonder if anyone will be dressed up. Oh boy! When I arrived I noticed that there was already a line. I parked my car and look at my cell phone for the time: 9:02am. I can’t wait, I thought.

I got out and made my way to the end of the ten person line. One of the employees came out and handed everyone a sticker that read “I Got A Free Comic Today!” I happily placed it on my chest. A half an hour passed by—with about ten more people showing up—before the doors finally opened. I entered the cluttered shop with the rest of the nerdy community of Manchester and browsed around for about 30 minutes, twisting and turning my body to elude the traffic in the store. I picked out my free comics and headed home.

Free Comic Book Day has become one of my favorite days of the year. Unfortunately, Nathan moved to California shortly after our first encounter with the beloved day and now he lives in Michigan. As it nears every May, I long for the experience and hope that one day, Nathan and I will get to enjoy the festivities together again. But for now, I will settle with us texting to wish each other a “Happy Free Comic Book Day!” every year. I’m thrilled to have added today’s adventure to such a fantastic few days.

It’s easy to remain in a depressed state—sometimes I feel like I deserve to be upset with my plight the way it is—but these past few days have reminded me that life is always changing. And sure, good can turn to bad, but bad can also turn to good.

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