Armen Chakmakjian

On turning 50…

In Random, Uncategorized on August 25, 2014 at 1:13 am

So five weeks ago, I turned 50. Every year since the dawn of the modern social media age, I’ve written a blog post on my birthday.  (When I say modern I mean basically 2007… I avoided that weird era of myspace and Friendster just prior to that, although I was a very early LinkedIn user).  Overall though, the day passed normally as any other day. I went to work, drove home. This year my birthday, while treated with the many, many well wishes, passed in the way that I would have always hoped, with my nearest and dearest together. My wife, sons and I went to a Brazilian Churrascaria and had more meat than I have ever eaten in my life in one sitting.   I had a glass of Caipirinha, which is the Brazilian equivalent of a mojito. Quite an event.  All in all I had not much to say about it as things were churning all around me.

Just prior and subsequent to July 28th 2014, I seemed to be surrounded by friends and family having various health events, some of them bordering on the existential. Then 2 weeks ago it caught up with me, when I got stung by a bee and had my own scare, an event which I recounted in my previous post.

This has been quite a year for me, and not just for some personal accomplishments or changes. I’m watching my boys turn into men and seeing my elders dealing with the difficult side of aging. I had a couple of significant things happen, a job change, a new slightly fancy car, a bucket list trip to Italy. I’ve even kept my two-tone goatee for all of this year, the longest period of facial hair this century (I had a stache for a significant portion of the last quarter of the 20th century). I’ve been asked, “What is with that gray goat, under the dark stache?” My cheeky response, accompanied by hand gesture pointing to the dark then the light, is “It just means my mind is still young, but my body is getting old.” :-)

So with all the change and reminders of our collective mortality that coincided with my passing through the 50, I did ponder a few time in the last couple of weeks about whether there was any philosophical conclusion I could offer anyone.  It took a while, since I have written so much here over the years and I didn’t want to just repeat myself.  Upon contemplating the ups and down of life, I fell back on a mantra that keeps my feet on the ground or resettles me if I feel slighted or hurt by someone. My wife has heard me say this many times, especially if a person has gotten what appears to be their comeuppance, and if I catch myself bordering on Schadenfreude.  This mantra is the verbal equivalent of the nazar bonjuk (the blue eye that people from the middle east sometimes have around…to ward off the evil eye):

I don’t want what they have,
I don’t want what they don’t have,
I don’t want their good luck,
I don’t want their bad luck.
I don’t want anything.
God bless them and I wish them good health.

There’s a lot of handwaving and gesticulating that goes along with that, as if to clear the air around me.

Anyway folks, peace.

When the dog bites, when the bee stings…

In Random on August 10, 2014 at 10:33 pm

I wrote this email to family, friends and fellow church trustees yesterday to describe something that happened to me that afternoon. I hope you are amused…and this also should serve as a warning to my middle-aged contemporaries, that if it feels wrong, you’re not doing anyone any good in trying to tough it out.

So, today I fought an epic battle with a bee that got himself trapped between the tongue of my sneaker and my exposed ankle (due to low cut socks). He was small and vicious. I was able to vanquish my foe but he got in a few swipes before his demise and as you will see later, it turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory for me.

The initial swelling and pain were tolerable and it seemed that it was just a flesh wound. I was pretty upset at my opponent, and even though it lay lifeless on our basement floor, I walked over and stepped on it for good measure and used some colorful English metaphors to describe my true feelings.

Rubbing alcohol, ice and ibuprofen and were administered and things looked ok. A bit later we decided that ikea was a fine destination to distract me and we got going. While driving down 95, almost 2 hrs after Lucha Libre, my lower lip started to feel numb. This was only slightly disconcerting and I played with it the same way I try to wake up my face after Novocain from a dental visit. Then my throat started to feel funny, and then the right side of my chest. Just then, we happened to hit a traffic jam in newton right near the exit for rt. 16. I turned to Esther and said, “I don’t feel right, maybe I should have this checked out.” She noted that we were lucky that we were right near the hospital we normally go to, Newton Wellesley, and encouraged me to go to the emergency room.

I checked in, and when I explained what I was feeling, they put me pretty much ahead of the list including some kid who was in hand cuffs on a stretcher. Of course it was just at that point that my mother, who is visiting my sister in California, decides to call my wife’s cell phone. Mothers are psychic. My wife answered, and by a fortuitous cosmic intervention, the call got disconnected just as the nurse invited me to go to a room and before she would have to explain where we were.

I got taken to a room, they did a bunch of tests and discounted an anaphylactic reaction since it was separated by a couple of hours from my inter-species melee. The PA was a bit concerned, given the symptoms, that I might have had a cardiac incident so she ordered a whole bunch of tests including an EKG and a full set of bloodwork.

In the meantime, they gave me some Benadryl and this seemed to almost immediately lessen my symptoms. I stayed there for a while, and even took a nap while my wife updated family members about the bravery of her warrior. All the test came back great or unremarkable. My prescription is Benadryl for 3 days.

In the end, I’m fine and will be at church tomorrow as long as the Benadryl continues to be effective and it doesn’t make me too sleepy, which it has not yet. Anyway, I figure that I ought to come in and thank God for making this material for a funny story, instead of making it something more serious (especially in light of the more grave health crises that we’ve had with friends and family lately)

My mother wanted me to be a doctor…

In Random on July 12, 2014 at 11:09 pm

 

During my first semester as a freshman year at RIT, in 1982, I had a work-study job in the library, long before I got my job as a computer center lab assistant.  One day, walking down the “quarter-mile”, the raised path from the dorms to the academic side of campus, one of my library co-workers was walking in the opposite direction and waved me down.  “You look like a doctor!” she exclaimed.  I laughed because my mother always wanted me to be a doctor.  Unfortunately for her, I was fascinatedThe last surgery I performed by silicon life forms rather than carbon-based units.  I merely replied, “ha!”

She protested, “No really you do.  How would you like to do a photo shoot as a doctor.”  I’ll note here that RIT was in Rochester, near Kodak, and RIT had a huge photography program.  I said, “Sounds fun.”  So she later sent me an email with all the particulars.

So on a saturday morning I showed up in the Art building, went to a particular studio which was set up as an operating room.  Lots of cameras, sensors and whatnot.  Anyway, I went into a bathroom and changed into the scrubs they provided and this was one of the several pictures taken that day.

Later that academic year in May 1983, my parents drove up to Rochester to pick me up and bring me back to Bridgeport for the summer.  I saw their car pull into the Sol Heumann parking lot from my perch in the 7th floor balcony overlooking it.  I bounded down the stairs and met them and before greeting them with the typical hugging and whatnot, I handed the picture to my mother and said, “Okay Ma, you got your wish. I became a doctor.” She laughed pretty hard about it.

This picture hangs on my mother’s living room wall next to all the other photographs of her children and grandchildren.  Some of those photos are candid, some are action or event like graduations and confirmations, others are portraits.  This is the oddball.

The particular device we were operating on was a DEC GIGI terminal.  It was a computer that could act as an ansi keyboard for a display OR as a Basic computer, depending on what mode you put it in.

Funny people we were back then…

 

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