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“Why is your nose blue?” asked the nurse outside the operating room. In one minute, I would be wheeled in to the OR where doctors would extract my infected pacemaker. They were prepared to open my chest if they had to — two operating rooms, one for the easy extraction job and the other for the hard one.

“Why is my nose blue?” I responded. “An old photo-sensitive heart medicine made it that way.”

Throughout it all, Nina, my partner, was standing by my gurney. She had always been there for me, holding my hand when I was scared. We had canceled our trip to Korea, a journey to include her son, Bob, and daughter Elvira. We hadn’t always gotten along and Nina wanted a loving family.  I wanted to learn more about the woman with whom I had spent 20 years — about her childhood in Seoul during the Korean War.

Now, the trip was canceled as she worried about losing me.

On the drive to UCSF Medical Center, we had talked about life’s fragile nature. On the radio, announcers were discussing the Boston Marathon bombing. It had just happened and police were frantically searching for the bombers as doctors tended to the wounded.

Nina and I agreed that life could cease at any time for any reason, and it entered my mind that I might be next.

I was lucky and, three days later, Nina drove me home to rest and to take more antibiotics. She had just administered my morning dose that May 1. Then, she grabbed the leash for our little dog and went out for a morning stroll. It was the last time I saw her.

Now, six years after her death in a crosswalk by a passing motorist, I think about how tenderly life can begin and how quickly it can end. Every other love will always be compared to the strong and stubborn woman who ruled my life — sometimes with harsh words and other times with soft touches.

I thought about her as I climbed the steps to the Moose Lodge dance hall. There, every Monday night, sweet people with their own love stories dance beneath swirling lights. They are old tunes, often soft and slow — my style. I was relieved to learn that if I didn’t dance, I wouldn’t have to pay.

Colorful old-timers and I rambled the night away, pointing to friends and discussing their angioplasties. We also recalled Eureka’s old nightlife, those homey hot spots with country flair. One was the Kountry Klub, purposely misspelled as part of its charm. So was the granular substance sprinkled on the floor, making every dance night feel like a barn dance.

One night, they recalled, it became just that, a woman riding her horse bareback into the club. According to a witness, my new old friend Dave, she trotted her horse up to the bar to water him as well as herself.

Satisfied, they trotted out and she was last seen riding him across the Samoa Bridge. There, police stopped her and cited her for DUI. I hadn’t known that covered horses.

I have learned that it is fun to recall old stories, but hard to relive old loves. It is so hard to replicate Nina. That is what I have discovered in the last two years with my Dominican family.

I remember welcoming them two years ago on a blustery December night. They came to be with me, but they also came for instant prosperity. I believe they thought I had a hidden fortune. I do — residing in my heart. That makes me extraordinarily happy, but it can’t be converted to currency.

Leticia, my daughter, and I have forged a strong bond. I am, after all, a father who keeps promises. The rest of my life is somewhat cloudy. But, I have learned one thing from the Caribbean. After the rain has fallen, the air is so much sweeter.

Dave Silverbrand’s columns and other writings are available on his website, http://www.davespeople.com.


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