The irony of life…

noodles

He stops, amid the last chew of his most delicious spaghetti dinner, realizing…he has suddenly, finally, figured it all out, his meaning to life, his purpose for living!!! He takes a huge gasp of inspiration, chokes on the noodles…and dies.

 

 

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ALS it is…

Yes, Bill has ALS. He tried to convince the doctor that his SEVEN falls in the past two years were due to his dog pulling him over during walks. Well, convincing, because Bill had a young “King Poodle” until a couple months ago. That dog almost pulled ME over the few times that I went up to visit Bill while he was still living close to me. “Would you mind taking Jimmy out for a walk?” he used to ask. Sure, I said. Damn dog tried to take ME for a walk until I smacked him on the snout and told him who was the boss.

Anyway, after the doctors appointment yesterday, which I was able to sit in on to listen, Bill acquiesced and agree that the doctor must be right (after the doctor said he was 99.9% certain that Bill has ALS, and added, “Oh by the way, Bill, I’m a ALS specialist”). Ok, I threw my two cents worth in there two to help Bill SEE the full picture.

Marvelous human nature! Bill still left the office optimistic, because the doc said he was referring him to an ALS clinic where they would be able to fix him up with a brace for his leg that would most assuredly help him to keep walking more steadily, for a while…

We went for lunch afterwards, as planned. Bill enjoyed the Dry Ribs and several of the beers.

Today, I got up early and hustled my arse around the building until about 3. Then I drove out to our swimming pool supply place and picked up all of the pool chemicals that we would need for the season and then stopped by the Red Cross Equipment supply place to pick up a 2 inch riser for Bills toilet seat that he really needed. I got to his place about 5, with a nice cold 6-pack of beer to celebrate the toilet-rising! It was a grand event.

Thank God for lifes simple blessings.

Old Bill…

Today I take my elderly (compared to me; he’s 75) friend, Bill, for his follow-up appointment with the Neurologist. I took him to his first appointment about 3 weeks ago. Surprisingly, the doctor invited me in then to “hear the news”. It wasn’t good news. He said, “I don’t have good news for you, Bill. In fact it’s very bad news. You have ALS, Bill”. Bill looked confused. “I thought I had Sciatica?” was all he could sputter, surely, amidst his overwhelming clouds of emotion, with a very confused, searching type of look on his face Meanwhile, I’m trying to remember what the fuck ALS is. I should have asked the doctor. I thought Bill might know. I’d ask him when we leave. He didn’t know. We had to Google it, right there in the bloody elevator as we were going down….

The doc said he wanted to run some tests to rule out “other things” that can mask as ALS, like AIDS. AIDS??? Bill??? Hardly!!! Then the doc said he was going on vacation for 6 weeks and wouldn’t be able to see Bill again until June 7th. That’s today. Meanwhile, two days after that appointment, Bill’s back feels better. He calls to tell me “good news”. No back pain, to Bill, means he doesn’t really has ALS. It’s Sciatica afterall! “Oh that’s great, Bill”. “Ya,” he says with childish delight. Post-script: I can still hear his desperately hopeful voice saying that to me now as I re-read this. (Feb 2018).

I know all the “Stages of Grief“. I first learned all that when I was a cop, then later at university in the plethora of Psychology and Sociology courses I took. Bill classically launched  into the “Denial” stage, and has stayed there for the last three weeks. At least he has been able to relax and have some hope for the last three weeks…

I think I’m more nervous this morning than Bill is. Assuming the doctor asks me in again, I know what I’m going to hear. The doctor didn’t say that Bill “might” have ALS a few weeks ago. He said, most definitively that he “HAS” ALS, but wanted to run those other tests, you know, to “rule out AIDS” and the like.

In the meantime I gotta say I’ve been struggling with my own mortality. ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) usually strikes people in their prime. Think Lou Gehrig or Stephen Hawking. Bill’s actually lucky to be getting it so late in life. Once diagnosed, you have a 2 to 5 year lifespan left. There is no cure and sweet all medications to help with it. Not that I’m assuming that I will get it, or God knows what else. There are a host of diseases running around out there. But hey, I’m 57 and very healthy these days–since my near-death experience at 50. But seeing all this happen with my friend Bill really isn’t easy, for Bill especially, of course. I’m ok. At 11:30 this morning Bill isn’t going to be ok. I’ll take him for lunch afterwards to his favourite spot. They serve good beer there too, which I’m sure he will be far more interested in today than the food…

I realized this morning that I’ve lived a very sheltered life. Nevermind that I saw a boat-load of life for the short time that I was in the police department. Since then, I really have been insulated. I don’t know why. Well, our society seems to be built that way. We hide all of the nasty stuff, in sanitoriums or hospitals or rest homes. And I think the police department may have shocked me so much that I unconsciously insulated myself and closed my eyes to many of life’s vagaries and vicissitudes. Surprisingly, I think, in some weird sense, I’ve been missing something important. Time to open my eyes again me thinks, look-see, and write about it, starting this morning with Bill.

Post-script: Bill died in November 2017.

Summer Heat

Fir tree paintingHardly a lovely, cool evening like I last described. Today it’s really hot. Every summer we usually get a few weeks of hot, hot weather. Ok, hot for us here on the West Coast; high 70’s to upper 80’s. But we’re not used to the heat. My spoiled bag of bones finds it unpleasant. I can’t imagine other countries where the heat soars easily into the 90’s or above 100 even, for months.

I had the luxury of going for a run earlier, before the heat set right in. I hit the wooded trails not far from here, in the University of British Columbia endowment lands. Simply glorious. Cooler in the forest, protected by the tree tops. I ran with a special joy today — really seeing, smelling and feeling the beauty around me. Reflecting on my ability, at 55 years of age, a major health scare behind me, to still be able to go out to run, to pound my way throughout the welcoming trails, to fully, completely breath in the pine scents and sweet soil — has to be a miracle. I started running when I was about 8! Oh, gratitude! Life — God — has truly blessed me with these leg’s that can still run, with these these lungs that continue to breath, with this heart that knows and feels and appreciates my real fortune. Indeed, I am a fortunate man. May you find and realize the same…

AA ramblings.

At an AA meeting today. An old guy rambled on, just like he does every day. He sits close to the front so he’ll be asked to speak. I sit at the back to avoid it. But the guy next to me, after 5 minutes of complaining about being “back home” (from Mexico) says in a humph that “No-one at AA should be allowed to speak until they have at least 30 days sober. This guy has been coming here for 25 years and hasn’t gone for more than a week”.

I humph back my agreement, which is why I’m sitting way back at the Alano Club’s everyday 2PM meeting, so I won’t be seen or asked to speak. How can I? I’m going without even a day’s worth of absitence. Not yet. But I think this guy has it right. His name is Jim, a huge hand attached to an equally large body, suntanned—he shakes and say’s HELLO. After Mr. Rambler is finished rambling he gets up and say’s, “Well, this is a meeting I won’t be talking about for day’s to come!” then sticks out his hand and say’s goodbye. I join his shadow about 30 seconds later. We both leave the meeting at the half time, aka “smoke break”. Him for a smoke and easy leave of absence. Me, so that I won’t be tempted to stop off at the ol’ watering-hole for a drink before 5. Mission successful.

“Another day in paradise”, I almost said to someone later, but stopped myself, thinking, ruminating quickly; “What’s paradise for me might not be paradise for him”. Nevertheless, to me to live another day IS paradise, a gift, especially while I am still drinking. Yesterday I was screaming down the highway at ridiculous speeds (totally sober–not 5 yet!) to catch the 3:15 ferry-ride back to the mainland, back to my home and love. A stearing-wheel gripping ride back to my paradise. Indeed. Thank God, I made it, so that I can now, just as I have today, live and enjoy yet another day in it.

I swore that I would never write after drinking, but in the last few days have realized that then I might leave this paradise without being heard from again. Now, I feel that I owe it to myself and my loved ones to keep talking, regardless. At least an incenses ashes are still traces of the flame.