My Birthday Present From Reality

by Matthew Raley So, I've been a little too stressed. On my 39th birthday last Saturday, I discovered I have shingles, as if Someone is underlining the end of my youth.

I do not like shingles.

The doctor who checked me out stopped the examination when he discovered I was pastor, and announced that he had gone to a Jesuit boarding school. He described this at some length, adding a critical analysis of the current papacy.

When by and by he was finished, he said I was extremely contagious. The nurse gave me something to sign, and when I handed back her pen, she refused to take it and said, "It's yours now. You should throw it away."

My right cheek is so swollen that my right eye can see it. There is sharp pain running down my face and neck. There are blisters inside my mouth and on my lips. I drink coffee through a straw.

Vicodin is bad. It keeps me from my scotch.

My boys stare at me. Malcolm (4) is particularly insightful about what I'm going through. This morning, huge blue eyes fixed on my blisters, he declares, "Bumps that make you sick are gross. You have a lot of bumps."

Through it all, I am thankful. At least I'm not yet 40.