Joe Zizzi's childhood in the 1950s had everything a kid could want--pro athlete dad, wonderful mom, cool big bro. When the '60s kick in, this ideal life is violently shaken:
Joe Zizzi's childhood in the 1950s had everything a kid could want--pro athlete dad, wonderful mom, cool big bro. When the '60s kick in, this ideal life is violently shaken: a car crash claims his mother's life and his father's career, and brother Matt becomes distant and disturbed.
Over the years, Joe learns to cope and carves out a niche for himself as a college sports star, and later as a coach and writer, but he can't quite shake the family legacy. Diagnosed with kidney failure, the semi-pro husband and devoted dad has life-and-death decisions to make--and life wins, though perhaps only by a slim margin.
It can’t be possible. I can't possibly have PKD. Dad wasn't symptomatic until he was about seventy or so. Here I am, I'm not much past fifty and here I am. I know with the spring term being on, I had to start coming out with it. I told the players about my condition. I’d done this in the fall also, telling them I wasn't well, but this term I told the kids the first meeting, complete with the official name for the thing. I told Sr. Frances about my condition. I told Father Arsenio about my condition. The word gets around, and the parents are all talking to me. My colleagues are beginning to avoid me. I sense distance once I let them know what was happening and the word starts getting out.
I'm on a low-protein diet, and I'm fatigued, having trouble sleeping. Between the low-protein and the little sleeping, I'm in a lot of trouble. An opposing coach catches me looking like I’m nodding out at the game. The opposing team is snickering. The kids win it for me; I’m the human interest story. They've probably never seen classic movies in their lives, but they're winning for me—the coach needs an operation! The kids are of course involved in normal real-time culture. They've named me J-Ziz and I accept it as the awesome name that it is. They worry about me. They want to know about the food restrictions. Sometimes I'm busted when they catch me eating the bad stuff in my office, which I do on a regular semi-regular basis. My standard speech is, “I'm not going to be one of these ‘do as I say, not as I do’ types with you. I'm on the straight and narrow a lot. But it's taking some getting used to. I gotta fall off the wagon sometimes or else (a) I'm not going to be human, and (b) I'm not gonna be happy." I'm entitled to this dog or murder-burger or whatever.
As a kid growing up in New York, I was always in some stage of writing, even if it was only the making-stuff-up stage. I grew up with long-ago tales of authors strolling into a publisher's office, wowing them with a manuscript, closing the deal over a pricey lunch, and becoming a celebrity--imagine my surprise finding out that it doesn't work like that now, and it hardly ever happened then! After gathering a large enough stack of rejections, I went back to making stuff up, but when I was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, I returned to writing. I wrote I, Kidney to empower people with chronic kidney disease, educate the public, and raise the awareness of health care providers, who can easily lose sight of the patients. I meant to get the book out in 2013, but my transplant put that on hold...until now.