O, BROTHER (Where I Am These Days)

This Getting Old, These Failing Hearts

By Steve Watkins

I called my brother Wayne a while ago to find out how things had gone at the doctor. This might have been back in the spring. It was early morning for him—he lives on Maui—and he was out in his vegetable garden gathering kale. Chickens and roosters screeched in the background. I was in Virginia on my way to Costco, sitting in lunchtime traffic, waiting for the light to change. We’re getting old, him and me, both of us doing hard time in our 60s, though I don’t usually feel it except in those panicky moments when I’m tired and have chest tightness and wonder if my heart’s about to give out. It’s not as if it hasn’t happened before. I also feel it whenever I climb stairs or hike steep hills, “steep” being a word I define much more loosely these days than I did back when I was an endurance athlete and once ran the Pike’s Peak Marathon. 

Wayne, meanwhile, had to have a rail installed on the outside wall of the barn where he and his wife Helen live in an upstairs apartment with a lanai and a view of the Pacific Ocean. The rail is so he can haul himself up on those days when he’s too gassed to make it otherwise. They thought about installing a lift for him several months earlier when he got so fatigued and short of breath that he could barely walk. But then he decided to stop taking all the heart meds they’d put him on—beta blockers and such—and take his chances with chronic a-fib and advanced heart failure, though he did keep in his pacemaker/defibrillator implant. We braced ourselves for the end of him, but instead his energy came back, at least enough for him to return to playing in his band—Uncle Wayne and the Howling Dog Band, a Hawaii institution–and tending to their big market garden on the side of the volcano. Not only that, but his ejection fraction—a measure of heart strength–miraculously improved once he went off the meds–to the point where he was officially no longer in advanced heart failure, just regular heart failure. At least for awhile.

To read more, from PIE & CHAI Magazine:

O, Brother

14 Responses to O, BROTHER (Where I Am These Days)

  1. Jimbo says:

    I love ghosts of war. soooo cool. Anderson is a great character. I hope you will make more books in the series maybe a civil war ghost or Afghanistan war ghost

  2. swatkins says:

    Thanks so much, Jimbo. I actually just finished writing Book #4 of the Ghosts of War, and it is a Civil War ghost book. That will be out probably in March of next year. Book #3, which is also finished, will probably be out in December, and it’s another World War II book–about the war in North Africa. Meanwhile I’m looking into subjects for Books #5 and #6, and was actually thinking one of them might be about the war in Afghanistan or Iraq. We’ll see. Thanks for the suggestions. Have a great summer.

  3. no name says:

    your first two books are fantastic

  4. Cifka T. says:

    My 8 year old son and I love your Ghosts of War series and have read all four of them. It’s a great introduction to history and the fact that “real” people lived those stories that are often very flat, and impersonal in a text book, and that those real people weren’t always generals or presidents; they were often young men, their wives, siblings, parents, etc. We live in Virginia and would like to take a trip to Fredericksburg this summer to see some of the places mentioned in your book, “Fallen in Fredericksburg.” Do you have suggestions for “must-sees” for a day trip?

  5. Brendan says:

    Love your Ghosts Of War series!!! You rock!

  6. swatkins says:

    Thanks a lot, Brendan. Hope your school year is rocking, too!

  7. Alexis Drumm says:

    Sink or swim is a really good story

  8. Alexis Drumm says:

    I love sink or swim the book ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

  9. swatkins says:

    Thanks, Alexis. That’s a lot of question marks!

  10. gabe says:

    love sink or swim so much it has so much acshon

  11. Karim T says:

    Me and my son have only just started Ghost of War Fallen in Fredericksburg but will definitely continue the rest of the series. Cant wait!

  12. swatkins says:

    Thank you. Fallen is the fourth book in the series. Hope you enjoy the others too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *