Eclipsing the Eclipse

They said that it was the greatest show under the sun. The solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, billed as the Eclipse of the Century or also referred as the Great American Eclipse was visible within a band across the entire United States. The last solar eclipse that was seen across the contiguous United States was in 1918.

Where I live now, which is in Central Iowa, we only have partial eclipse, but it is still 95% cover. But if I want to see a total solar eclipse, all I need to do is drive about two hours west, or two hours south of me, and I will be in that narrow band of total solar eclipse path. Two hours travel is nothing. When I was still in Manila, it takes two hours just to cross EDSA.

There were places that I know that advertised their town or city as “the destination” for the best viewing area for the total eclipse. Their hotels were fully booked months before the event. I know some friends of mine tried to book a hotel on these popular places but were not able. Though they were still able to find hotels in smaller towns nearby.

In one place, they made their city parks and regional airport as the designated viewing place, but you have to reserve a spot for parking weeks before the event as they expect a wave of visitors. Of course there’s a fee involved. In another place, it was a military base that they assigned to welcome eclipse travelers, but again you need to reserve a slot there. Perhaps all the streets in these prime towns and cities suddenly have parking meters.

Even several weeks before the solar eclipse, I already knew that I am not working that day. It’s because I would be on-call the weekend before, so I am off that Monday. Thus I considered going to those prime viewing places. However, I learned that by that time, summer vacation is over and my children will be back in school already, and so I did not make any early plans.

As the event got nearer, and the hype for the eclipse got hotter, I thought that maybe we don’t even need to stay overnight in those choice places. I could easily drive early morning that day as it is just 2 hours away from us, and the time of the solar eclipse is not until around noontime anyway. And even if I have not made any parking reservation in those viewing areas, I thought I could just park in their town’s Wal-Mart.

Few days before the eclipse, I still have not procured the recommended glasses which is needed to safely view the solar eclipse. I tried to look for the certified eclipse glasses in the stores around our area, but all of them have sold out. I want to see the solar eclipse but I also don’t want to go blind. It was really poor planning on my part.

The weekend of my duty came. I worked and was on-call for an ungodly long time of almost 60 hours straight. Besides being so busy it was depressing too. In one stretch of time, we even had a string of deaths in the ICU that Sunday. I was just glad it’s over.

Solar eclipse by the way, for the superstitious, is regarded as an evil omen. The word “eclipse” comes from the Greek word “ekleipsis,” which means “an abandonment.” Thus it is not a surprise that civilizations throughout history associate it for bad things to happen.

Come Monday, the day of the eclipse, I was awakened by lightning and thunderstorm. I checked on the weather and found out that it will be raining the whole day in our area. Rats! So much for viewing the solar eclipse.

I also checked on those areas where I initially planned on driving to see the totality of the eclipse, and the weather forecast there was cloudy too for the whole day. Suddenly I felt bad for those people who made such elaborate arrangements and plans to view the solar eclipse, only to be disappointed by the cloudy weather.

I end up just visiting my daughter in her university which is also two-hour drive away. But it was north of us and going farther away from the band of the total solar eclipse path. I reasoned, If I’m not able to see the total eclipse due to the weather, at least I’m seeing my daughter.

When we arrived at the university, it was cloudy there too. The university have even arranged an eclipse viewing party. Outside the university campus, in the town center, there were also lots of kids and their parents gathered outside the public library with their lounge chairs and eclipse glasses. But all were disappointed, as the sun can be barely seen due to the cloudy skies.

Below is the best we were able to get a glimpse of the solar eclipse:

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The greatest show on earth was covered not by the moon shadow. But by the dark rain clouds. The eclipse was eclipsed! What a bummer!

Clouds are part of our lives here on earth. And so are disappointments. We can make all the elaborate plans for the future. But there is always that element of unknown that is beyond our control. All we can do is make the best of the situation.

It was still cloudy when we got back home. It even rained some more. But as the sun was about to set, this showed up in the sky:

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Sometimes, those rain clouds that disappoint us can also give us unexpected joy.

 

(*photos taken with iPhone)

The Test

He sat there fidgety in his chair inside our exam room, while I reviewed the test that he just performed.

He was a lanky 18 year-old kid. He just graduated from high school. Full of hope and full of dreams. His whole life is ahead of him.

Perhaps he was really patriotic and wanted to defend the name of this country that he loved so much. Or perhaps he was born to serve and wanted to be a hero. Or perhaps it was really his dream to pursue a career in this field. Or maybe this was his only way out of a difficult life.

Whatever his purpose was, he wanted to join the military.

He already applied and was seen at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). But there was one problem. In his medical history, he had childhood asthma, even though he claimed it was only mild and in fact he said that he had no more asthma attacks since he was 11 years old. An active asthma will most likely disqualify him from entering the service.

And that was what brought him here to our clinic as a referral. He needed to pass a breathing test.

The breathing test is called Methacholine Challenge. It is a sort of breathing “stress test” where we try to induce an “asthma attack” on the subject. We let them inhale an increasing concentration of methacholine, which can cause bronchoconstriction. If we see a reduction (20% or more) from their baseline number after the challenge, the test is considered positive. That signify that they have asthma.

As I examined the kid I could feel the tension in the room. I could almost hear his heartbeat even without placing my stethoscope on his chest. I could sense his anxious sighing. His pleading eyes were looking at me, searching, as I pondered on the result of his test.

His future career hung in a balance. It was me and the result of the test that were standing in the way in his pursuit of his dream.

But why was a dream crushed before it even had a chance to take-off? How do you break a bad news without breaking a heart?

The result of his test was positive.

I laid it down to him as gentle as I could. I knew he was devastated, though he tried not to show it, at least not obviously. But I knew as well that there was no words of encouragement I could muster to change the results of the test.

Maybe someday he would come to know why it was not meant for him to be a soldier. Maybe someday he would find satisfaction in a different career he never dreamed of. Maybe. But today, it was all disappointment.

I swear I saw tears welling in the corner of his eyes as he left our office. Or maybe it was in mine.

tears_of_sadness

(*photo from here)

Heartache Tonight

When we were in highschool, the Eagles, was one of the favorite bands of my friends and I. We spent countless hours listening to their songs, and even singing their songs with our guitars. (No, I don’t know how to play guitar but a couple of my friends are accomplished guitarists.) We even used to sing “Seven Bridges Road” acapella and in harmony too.

Few months ago, when I learned that the Eagles is coming here in Des Moines, I thought, I just cannot miss this opportunity of hearing them live. Yes, I know that they are now old and look like grandpas and may not sound as good as they used to be, but still, they are the Eagles.

So I scouted for 2 concert tickets. And since I want to see them close enough to recognize their faces, though not too close to catch the splattering of their sweat and drivel, I got me a good location. I just closed my eyes when I saw the price of the tickets, and just rationalized to myself that this will be a chance of a lifetime.

Few days later, my ticket arrived through the mail, and I placed it somewhere safe; yes, somewhere…..

The night before the concert, I looked for my tickets. And the “somewhere” I placed it, became “nowhere”! For the life of me I cannot find them nor can I remember where I placed them!

I looked all over our house, my car, and I even went to look in my office. But they were nowhere to be found. I called the ticket center of the arena where the concert will be held,  and the customer service on-line where I got the tickets, but they cannot help me, since I got those tickets through a third party seller. I was doomed!

I know, I don’t believe in “nuno sa punso,” but now I’m thinking that they hid those tickets to avenge me of what I wrote about them in my blog. (Na-nuno ako!)

I stayed awake most of the night before the concert, looking for the tickets, and partly because sleep would not come to me. I was just too upset and would not “Take It Easy.”

As the hours to the concert closed in, I became more “Desperado.” I continued to search for the tickets, but my efforts just became “Wasted Time.” Still no tickets. Finally, I resigned my fate, for I knew it was “Already Gone.”

On the night of the concert, I sang (or cried, is more apt) “Heartache Tonight,” not with the Eagles, not with a cheering crowd, and not in a loud arena……….but in the stillness and loneliness of my room.

It took me a few days to recover from my heartache and disappointment. Why it happened? “I Can’t Tell You Why.” I just charged it to experience; another lesson of dealing and coping with disappointment and loss. But I will be alright……..I’ll “Get Over It.”

Afterword:

Cost of lost tickets: couple of hundred dollars

Cost of lost opportunity to see Eagles live in my lifetime: priceless

Cost of lesson learned to cope with life’s disappointments: more priceless

Cost of blogging my loss: I hope this will amount to something! (Maybe Don Henley will give me a call one of these days…… I wish.)