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my heart broke on valentine’s day
a lesson in living
by robert a. melos

Just about a year ago on February 14th of 2011 I suffered a massive heart attack. I wasn’t dead, but apparently I was close enough to death to be on a first name basis with him. Now this isn’t one of those coming to Jesus columns where I underwent a traumatic scare and realized how short life can be and decided to straighten up and fly right. The internet and the world is full of those heartwarming Oprahesque stories. I’m not an Oprahesque kind of a guy.

The facts are this: I was under a great deal of financial stress. I’m still under a great deal of financial stress. Top that with the emotional stress I’d been under being the sole caretaker for my elderly mother until she died in 2008, which led to the financial stress of 2009, 2010 and 2011 that culminated in my present condition and you get a heart attack.

In all fairness I also must factor in my diet. Not my current diet, or even the diet of the past 10 years, which has consisted mostly of fresh vegetables and heavy on the fish light on the red meats. No, my current diet is doctor approved. My diet of 25 years ago was much less medically approved. Bacon cheeseburgers and French fries, extra crispy, while delicious though they may be, are far from healthy; they too contributed to my need for a double catheterization and four stents in order to keep me alive.

While I lay in the hospital in a blissful state of morphine induced euphoria, I had time to think. One of the things I thought was how much I wish they had a morphine patch to help me get through life. I’m not saying life isn’t just a wonderful barrel of laughs every waking moment of the day without a medically induced happiness, but it’s not.

Now it is true you have to find your own happiness, and I’m working on that. A heart attack can knock the life out of you, literally. After four days in the hospital, without insurance, I was released and told to take it easy and don’t do anything that might be considered overdoing it. The doctors didn’t explain what was considered overdoing it. I remembered when my father had his first heart attack, more than 30 years ago. He was in the hospital for two weeks and couldn’t drive for several weeks after being released. He couldn’t lift heavy things, or essentially do anything other than lay around and watch television. I didn’t have that leisure.

The first thing I received upon returning home was the bill from the hospital to the tune of $258,000.00. I guess the shock of the bill was the hospital’s way of testing my heart. If I could survive opening that bill without my heart stopping then the doctors did a good job. In spite of my weakened condition I was making an effort to improve my stamina. I was walking with a cane because I felt dizzy much of the time I spent on my feet. I spent a lot of time sleeping, and the rest of the time trying to figure out how I was going to deal with my life, being out of work (as a Realtor I could still work, and do still work occasionally, but the economy is not the Realtor’s friend), I was looking for a part time job I could do. This meant finding a job at which I could get a lot of breaks and sit most of the time.

My strength was improving. I could stand being awake for at least 8 hours without napping. I was starting to walk without a cane, and that was all that improved in my life. I was still facing foreclosure, still broke, and had been given a minimal amount of disability. I didn’t really want to be on disability, or have anything to do with our welfare system.

Now it’s not that I’m ungrateful. I did receive some assistance, for a few months. In the meantime I got that part time job, and social services immediately cut me off.

Did I learn that life is short? I already knew that. Did I learn that life is cruel? I already knew that too. It isn’t that life is short or cruel that, or that the universe dealt me a rough hand. That’s all a crock. Life is what it is. You have to make the best of it for yourself and not worry about what others think or do. I’m trying to cope with what has turned out to be a much longer recovery than I expected. The doctor told me each recovery is different, and some take longer than others. Coming to the realization I’m going to live is a hurdle I didn’t expect to have to deal with at 48 years of age. While it’s comforting to know I’m not going to simply drop dead at any moment, at least not this current moment, it brings me back to the thought that I’ve got the rest of my life to live.

Having the rest of my life to live is a scary thought. I’ll cope with it because it’s what I’ve got to do. You can’t do any less than cope with life. That’s the great lesson I learned from my heart attack. As I said, there was no great revelation or walking into the light, or a sudden urge to climb Mount Everest. Leave the great revelations for others. All I came out of this experience with was the knowledge that life goes on and you live it as best you can and make no excuses for who you are or what you do.


Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.

more about robert a. melos


a gay opinion
by robert a. melos
topic: general
published: 3.14.02

suburban summer
summer just outside of the city
by robert a. melos
topic: general
published: 6.26.03


tracey kelley
2.17.12 @ 2:35p

Glad you are here, my dear.

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