All charged up for the New Year

When my son was born 13 years ago, my wife and I couldn’t even pay someone large sums of cash we didn’t have to get an invite to a New Year’s Eve party. It was that way for years. People, we concluded, didn’t want a loud baby at their loud party, even though ours never made a sound.

By the time our boy could text, I’d gotten used to quiet New Year’s Eves, even anticipated them.

“What do you mean we got invited to a New Year’s Eve party?” I asked my wife the other day when I heard the bad news. “I spent all holiday season working hard so we could do absolutely nothing on New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Eve is about peace and quiet. I need that peace and quiet. ”

The invitation we received eclipsed the light at the end of the holiday tunnel we were in. Even my wife was bummed, and she likes fun, happy things like loud, overcrowded New Year’s Eve parties.

“We can’t say no,” my wife told me.

“So, you’re saying we should just not show up?” I asked.

This is suburbia—you can’t not show up to a party someone asked you to attend, not even if you had a last-minute emergency where the dog ate the car keys, you used the second set of keys but the car broke down on the one part of the highway with no cell service, you walked to where there was service, but then your cell battery died, so you tried hitch-hiking the rest of the way to the party, but then your neighbor found you on the highway to tell you your dog was coughing up pieces of the car keys he ate earlier, so you needed to go back home and take the poor thing to the all-night pet clinic.

In other words, we were going to the New Year’s Eve party. All of a sudden, the last-minute Christmas shopping, working on Christmas Eve, hosting Christmas Eve dinner, midnight mass, early Christmas morning festivities, the 40-plus-mile drive to my wife’s aunt’s house for Christmas dinner, the cleanup that night and the getting up early the morning after for work seemed exhausting and unattainable to me when previously it was all no biggie.

Just before the storm, I had a cardiologist appointment. Ten years ago, my doctor found that my heart had problems beating at a normal pace (sometimes it even stopped and sent me to the floor). I had to get a pacemaker. The battery in the device was only supposed to last 10 years, so the cardiologist wanted to see me to determine how many more months I had before I needed to undergo the surgery I didn’t really feel like doing to change it.

“Well, we’re not going to make you do the surgery before the holidays,” the cardiologist said.

“Great,” I responded. “So when? Late spring, early summer? Maybe 2028?”

“How about January 10th? In a couple weeks.”

“That’s a tough month for no real reason,” I said. “Would July work out better?”

“I meant to say that January 10th is when we’re doing the surgery.”

Sprinkle my fear of heart surgery all over my holiday stress, and that quiet New Year’s Eve I was previously excited about became more needed than air.

“Maybe the chaos of the holidays and the New year’s Eve party will help you keep your mind off the surgery,” my wife said.

“When your car is overheating,” I told my wife, “you don’t race it up a steep grade in triple-digit weather and expect it to get over the mountain. You pull over and you let the engine rest.

“How about we cancel the New Year’s Eve plans, then,” my wife suggested, “and just enjoy the peace and quiet at home?”

“No,” I said. “Maybe you’re right—I just wanna get over that mountain as quick as possible. Besides, I’ll have plenty of peace and quiet during my week of recovery.”

With the decision to go to the New Year’s Eve party came loads of more work. All of a sudden we’re making side dishes, bringing a game for people to play, putting together costumes . . .

While trying to figure out what to wear to a New Year’s Eve party, my mom called and said she’d be coming from Arizona to be with me after my surgery. Some friends would visit as well. My brother also made plans to come from Idaho. He was going to stay at my house for a few days. I was flattered.

“It’s going to be busy around here come January,” I told my wife. “So much for peace and quiet.”

“Well, there’s always the surgery itself,” she said.

She’s right. While in surgery, I’m guaranteed rest. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel I need. And when I get out, I’ll have a brand-new, fully charged battery to start the very busy New Year.

This story is set to appear in The Acorn Newspapers of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, CA, in January of 2017. You can find other stories like it from Michael Picarella in his book, “Everything Ever After (Confessions of a Family Man),” and at

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