“I’ve lost control of the situation.”
Last run: March 13, 2016. Jesus. 4 months.
I step on the scale. Hope springs eternal.
Flash. Flash. Flash. Bam: 204.6. Exactly the same weight. Well, that’s something.
I grip the Body Glide cylinder and rub it on the nipples.
There’ll be no breast pads for this Hombre after today’s run.
I pause before setting down the magic wax, and look down at my groins. Are they touching? Can’t be. Must be the way I’m standing. I spread my legs. That’s better, pleased at the separation. Another year or so and you’ll be able to drive a bus between my legs – they’ll be spread that wide.
I’m out the door.
66° F. Cooler today.
Weather App calls for the sun to rise at 5:30 am.
My Goal: Exceed the 5.38 mile distance in March or run to the Sunrise, whichever comes first.
It’s like riding a bike. You don’t forget how to run. Right. A nerve in the upper left shoulder blade pinches. And this slides down to the lower right back achieving beautiful pain symmetry. Sedentary Suit on the move. Jesus.
I’ll say God seems to have a kind of laid-back management style I’m not crazy about. I’m pretty much anti-death. God looks by all accounts to be pro-death. I’m not seeing how we can get together on this issue, he and I.
― David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
I was a sleepwalker as a kid. Always Summer. Always between the late night news and 2 a.m. Walking with spirits. And not friendly ones.
She would scold him. What’s wrong with you. Don’t do it. Don’t take him with you. He shrugged her off. The volunteer Gravedigger would grab three red apples, polish each one to a high gloss, and gently place them in a brown paper sack. He would toss his shovel, his pick axe and his Grandson in his pick-up and off they went.
I would wake, staring at the clock in the kitchen. 1:23 a.m. In rural Canadian stillness. Alone.
I would wake in the front yard, the cool grass between my toes. Full Moon luminous.
I would wake on the gravel road in front of the house, in white briefs and a white tee shirt, in total darkness, the screen door slapping. Shivering. [Read more…]
In his foreword, Dr. Abraham Verghese closes with: “Be ready. Be seated. See what courage sounds like. See how brave it is to reveal yourself in this way… But above all, see what it is to still live, to profoundly influence the lives of others after you are gone, by your words. In a world of asynchronous communication, where we are so often buried in our screens, our gaze rooted to the rectangular objects buzzing in our hands, our attention consumed by ephemera, stop and experience this dialogue with my young departed colleague, now ageless and extant in memory. Listen to Paul. In the silences between his words, listen to what you have to say back. Therein lies his message. I got it. I hope you experience it, too. It is a gift. Let me not stand between you and Paul.”
And here’s Janet Maslin in her NY Times Book Review where she quotes Verghese and continues: “Dr. Verghese suggests not only reading “When Breath Becomes Air” but also listening to the overwhelming response it prompts in you. I guarantee that finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option.”
I completed Paul Kalanithi’s memoir this weekend and agree with Verghese and Maslin – waves of Kalanithi’s words are still lapping my shoreline. And they won’t let me go.
The book is a selection of Amazon’s Best Book of January 2016. “At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality. Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book.”
Here’s an excerpt:
“The morning commuters began to animate the distant South Lake Tahoe roads. But craning your head back, you could see the day’s blue darken halfway across the sky, and to the west, the night remained yet unconquered— pitch-black, stars in full glimmer, the full moon still pinned in the sky. To the east, the full light of day beamed toward you; to the west, night reigned with no hint of surrender. No philosopher can explain the sublime better than this, standing between day and night. It was as if this were the moment God said, “Let there be light!” You could not help but feel your specklike existence against the immensity of the mountain, the earth, the universe, and yet still feel your own two feet on the talus, reaffirming your presence amid the grandeur.”
And another: [Read more…]
When I got to the waiting room I saw your mother perched there with her incurable stare. She was in that place where the high probability of failure intersects with a two percent chance of success. Hope at its most corrosive. […]
How is your boy
She didn’t move or look at me, but there was graciousness in her tone when she said
He’s just not so good
When I returned the next day I peeked in to see my dad and then I darted over to look for those feet of yours. When I didn’t see them I stopped a nurse and said, the boy, the tall one, where is he? It was a nurse I didn’t recognize and she clearly didn’t know that you were supposed to be a big basketball star and live to be eighty, she clearly knew none of that because she did not look up and said flatly that they had taken your body away.
That day was over twenty years ago. I’ve been witness to great tragedy since but I’ve never forgotten you. I created different details to your narrative to go along with what I knew and it never seems like what I assume is inaccurate. I feel like by having some understanding of your latitude I can deduce your center, like quantum gravity, which I can comprehend about as much as I can a mother burying her son, but if certain scientists are correct and it becomes possible to bend time, then I’ll be able to ask you if any of my assumptions were correct. I don’t need answers until then, unless the idea of God becomes willing to explain itself, in which case I am up for that Q& A. Where your story intersects mine is at my refusal to accept things too sad for me to process; my reimagining endings that haunt me. It’s hard to reconcile that God is either entirely too secretive or has a totally deficient ability to prioritize. I hear people say, “It happened for a reason,” or “It’s part of God’s plan,” and I wish that made sense to me but it doesn’t. I carry you around still and who knows why. Perhaps there are no answers for us poor humans, but we know a handful of things. We know there exists a planet with four thousand versions of songbirds. Because that is possible and because on that same planet can exist sentient beings made up almost entirely of stardust, and because bonafide poetry erupts mightily from some of those beings, and there is music, sex, and babies that laugh in their sleep; because we are roaming a universe that may be a hologram, with another dimension consecutively projecting itself outside this construct of relativity and gravity; because of all that, there is no reason why my prayers shouldn’t be able to reach your mother whose name I didn’t even know. There is no reason why not, when nothing is completely harmonious with its description, not really, and there is a flaw in every theory of time and space.
From time to time I picture it. I see her watching while you go flying down that court. I see her shoulders moving almost imperceptibly to mimic your bobs and weaves around the other players. She is going where you go without thinking about it, tied to you, following and winning when you win, until you turn to wave and that puts her on her feet and beaming. I do know that if your mother is alive today she is thinking of you right this minute. I wonder what she prays for, and if you hear her.
~ Mary-Louise Parker, “Dear Mr. Big Feet” from Dear You
In February, I felt I had to be equally open about my cancer — and facing death. I was, in fact, in the hospital when my essay on this, “My Own Life,” was published in this newspaper. In July I wrote another piece for the paper, “My Periodic Table,” in which the physical cosmos, and the elements I loved, took on lives of their own.
And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual, but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life — achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.
~ Oliver Sacks: Sabbath. The Seventh Day of the Week. The Seventh Day of Life
Oliver Sacks died this morning. He was 82 years old. His work here is done and may he now rest in peace.
The story in NY Times: Oliver Sacks Dies at 82; Neurologist and Author Explored the Brain’s Quirks
“Heartbreaking photos show grieving Bird and stray dogs attend funeral of woman who fed them.
These heartbreaking photos prove that a dog’s love knows no bounds as a collection of stray pooches pay tribute at the funeral of a woman who showed them kindness. Lying in the floors and trotting through the aisles, the dogs congregated at the funeral of Margarita Suarez – much to the surprise of the woman’s friends and family. Margarita, from Merida in Mexico, frequently took time out of her day to care for stray dogs and cats by giving them food in the morning. She would also take a bag of food out with her during the day, and treat other stray dogs she passed to a tasty treat. Dogs from all around the area would huddle around the caring woman when she passed them by, but they were evidently left heartbroken after Margarita passed away.
According to Misiones Online, the caring woman, who’s age has not been revealed, died after her health took a poor turn at the beginning of March. The family then began organising the funeral but were stunned when animals began arriving at the parlour where her mother’s body was being kept. Workers at the funeral home denied any knowledge of the animals and said they had never seen them before.
Amazingly, on the day of the funeral, a large number of stray dogs slowly followed the hearse carrying Margarita and even returned to the funeral home. They only left when the body was being prepared for cremation, but not before the family had one final treat. A bird, that was not thought to be native to the area, flew into the service and tweeted away contently. Margarita’s family have told how they believe the animals had an instinct that they wanted to be there to say goodbye to someone who had been so good to them.”