The Time Spent To Read This Post, Equals The Time You Have To Save Your Life

Back in 2008 when the shit storm incinerated the first 20 years of my adulthood, I made an oath while dragging what’s left of a . . . of a bespoke walking stick through four inches of gray ash – some sizeable went aloft and rode a breeze – only to land in some other year; this oath was directed at loss, or better, surviving loss which is always, always more painful than the combustion of mortality which is hard-wired to flee extinction.

Appointed to this life: Two tiny, perpendicular scratches amidst millions of other’s noting everyone’s start and finish on (what we’d like to believe) linear straight-edge of time. And my time – time as living – a selfish amalgamation of loneliness, caution, exposure, intimacy, maturity, judgement, patience, learning, strife, letters, confessions, achievement, and the likely propagation of another generation or the unlikely dog-eared page noting a dead end by a period placed unerringly after the last letter of the last name annotating The End, A Willful Extinction.  The simple decision to stop production thus beholden to past generations, or, the decision of propagation thus bound to the future.

We’re putting a stop to this tributary of our bloodline; my older brother never purposely or haphazardly discovered the merits of fatherhood, and I, being of the gay-persuasion fell in-love when fatherhood and matrimony were simply off-limits; thusly denying my partner and I any marginal hope to have children.  My partner yearned to have a child, Jack (because I simply grew tired of our constant referral to “It”), but by the time the stork delivered to same-sex households, I, in all honesty, was too old and too tired and too responsible to entertain my partner’s fundamental need to nurture.  My father was well beyond my reach; that life, that engaging and interested life, was at least a decade before I consciously understood that I was bereft of any gargantuan, mitt-like hand to hold.  And that sadness burrowed deep, deeper than any other heretofore denial ever tunneled.  And honesty foretold of my family’s dearth in the health department by my adult-life diagnosis of a mental illness, a disease, not a sickness or an infection or a fever but a disease, not an alien landing, not a vampire, and not a plague, but a disease nonetheless. Mental illness is handled, not treated but handled by this nation’s body politic.  It’s a dispassionate and treacherous handling, like the negotiating cop that placated the felon’s demands until one, perfectly aimed .32 caliber round stops the demands. “They” know how to dilute the alleged discrimination; the mistreatment of patients in county facilities;  blaming us, the patients, for their on-going ignorance and antiquated seclusion as a “well-informed, empathetic, and public safety response” to the irrational and grossly illogical . . . blah-blah-blah. . . Um, hello, hello? (is this thing on?) mental illness is a disease as bona fide as cancer or chronic kidney failure (except mental illness lacks a “celebrity endorsement).

And yet, we’re not alone: patients-in-general have devolved into a 15-minute generic; that is, the disappearance of importance, the disinterest of ailments, suffering, and cause.  Today’s Western Medicine Patient has become an Accounts Receivable entry in the ledger; a doctor’s statistic of efficiency; appointment number 58.  We as patients have been reduced to a test result followed by a prescription or passed along like a troublesome foster child to a series of specialists and more tests and more prescriptions.

It’s a cold and alienating model of efficiency and profit, and we, the patients, the commodity are fought over by insurers and institutions chanting “To Hell With Life!”

A Patient Physician Waits For My Question . . .

Will this Failure affect my . . .  Durability?

In a broad sense, of course.  I mean, who can possibly predict someone’s . . . permanence, so to speak . . . not that death is, in any way, humorous, but if we did know, one could make plans . . . which is when I trailed off, consciously fleeing The Doctor’s adying1despairing and melancholic answer which, upon delivery, affirmed my inkling and, at first, felt promising, that is until the import of his answer felt as heavy as a saturated woolen coat.

My disquieting understanding was followed by remorse and the physician‘s shifting of weight left right left right; my attention lost to the ticker-tape listing of buoyant memories; then, hailing from afar like a sea boat captain, a nervous cough interrupts my avoidance with sharp and determined finger-snaps by a now brusque and tidy physician whose demeanor is demanding (disguised as cheerful support) takes the tone of an impatient boss, Is There Anything else, then?

adying4That’s when we resumed our assigned roles of patient and doctor.  Long gone was the arm-across-the-back-and-onto-the -other-shoulder fatherly imitation of empathy.  Tucking his humanity neatly in a breast pocket below his blue-stitched name and title like first graders whose names are also stitched but for opposite reasons: The Doctor: To tell you who he is and his department (lest you wonder): And first graders: To remind themselves who they are and what they wore.

Upon empathy’s discharge, a muddy silence quickly appeared swallowing the Doctor and I and filling the tiny room with despair, melancholy, and a dreadful load of confusion.  It reminded me of a time long ago when a generic teen-age girl gave me the sign to try for home, only to be quickly slapped by my host causing my retreat and a kind-of cease-fire and the same shameful silence which the Doctor cast by answering my foolish question:even though I was all-too-aware of the penalty, I asked the question with the same tentative, cautionary, and deliberate way that I behaved with that tart.  And coincidently the responses were eerily similar: the tart with a sharp slap and immediate rejection, and the Doctor with a representational slap and unsettling honesty saying It’s got the moxie, it’s got fervor and doggedness. It’s very rare to be strong and efficient; even rarer still to be too strong and to be too efficient.

His foot steps down the hall seemed to whisper apologies until he turned and they both disappeared.  And there I was, alone, all alone, all-by-myself alone except for the damned answer, of which I’d had some degree of premonition.  But hearing it in your head isn’t official thereby maintaining a small degree of hope.  And then I asked and then he answered and then neither one of us would ever be the same.adying2

Life: A la Carte or Prix Fixe?

I live life à la carte; by à la carte I mean by choice, especially my choice.  My brother for instance, abdicated his causative influence on life, and welcomes whatever life serves at whatever life costs.  In other words I enjoy the risk of tasting uncertainty while my brother prefers a routine cuisine.

When life is à la carte you can select depending on what’s offered, or you can request what you want and risk denial.  There are many people who anticipate rejection and therefore never make the request.  Are they ducking rejection or avoiding the chagrin of wonder.

Part of living life à la carte is the opportunity of choice; to determine things you like and things you don’t like.  For instance:

EXAMPLES OF THINGS I DON’T LIKE (but others of influence intervened)

  1. I don’t like fresh tomatoes; I do like most everything made with tomatoes because 1) It doesn’t look like tomatoes; and, 2) It doesn’t taste like tomatoes.  During the first decade of our relationship, I drove my partner home for the holidays and slept for a few hours before leaving by 5:00 am.  I reluctantly slid from beneath the warmth of the down comforter like a young dawdling duckling suspicious of life outside the nest.  Being atomatounfamiliar with the layout of their home, I was quiet as a church mouse on roller skates in a dark china shop chaperoned by a cat whose moniker was MouseOust.  I felt like a fighter lolling on the ropes desperate to get his footing; my intention of a tippy-toe takeoff was aborted when his mother’s voice encouraged me to eat before departure.  An encouraging mother-in-law at 4:30 a.m. motivated me like a drill Sargeant at boot camp.  She puttered about the kitchen when my partner shuffled to the kitchen table and sat at my side. Your mother insisted I stay for breakfast at which time he leapt from his seat like a cricket and raced to the kitchen.  I could hear them intensely talking in German when my partner walked to the table and whispered, I’m sorry, I tried everything including allergies, but she insisted!  Did you make a lot of noise to wake her?  I made some noise I sheepishly admitted at the exact moment his mother served me a piping hot, dense, and practically impossible to swallow without chewing cup of German Kaffe and a plate covered by a dozen rolling cherry tomatoes.  And then she sat next to me like a demanding nurse hovering over a boy, a tablespoon, and cod liver oil.  The first one exploded in my mouth when bit down; the second I tried to swallow like a gum ball; my partner quickly ate three and the other seven I tucked high inside my cheeks like chipmunks.  I was little more than five feet out the door when the tomato and coffee breakfast reappeared.  Right down the fender of their Plymouth Wagon.
  2. I don’t like dentists; I used to not like the sort of things dentists do, until I realized that dentists chose to do these things like an interrogator and his “talking tools.”  Actually, I’ve never liked dentists sin
    dentistce the age of three when I recall my father dragging me through the front door of Dr. Olson’s Dentistry Office and it’s tagline etched into the front window: “You’ll be happy to talk after just one visit!”  Every adult within a thousand feet knew that I didn’t want to be there; my father had to lift me, then hold me while Dr. Olson wrapped nylon-webbed belts around my shoulders and stomach.  Once I was trussed and couldn’t squirm, Dr. Olson slowly approached with that tiny mirror and that double-ended pick with which he digs cavities to fill.  “Open wide” the doctor ordered.  Nope.  Then came the first of three slaps to the back of my he
    ad, each one harder than the last; the last one produced a prickly feeling inside my head and polka-dots wandered about in front of me.  My father, his Pabst/E&J brandy breath, and the unstable, intimidating tone of his threat, said so close to my ear dampening it, made sure I understood what and how he’d express the embarrassment he’d suffer because of my shenanigans.  Well, I don’t fault my father because I was only three, and intimidation followed by threats of brutality was how he’d handle anyone threatening his authority, even three olds.  He told me to open my mouth followed by another whack.  I complied and the two men actually seemed proud that they’d broken the colt.  Sort of.  My father told me to open my mouth, but he never told me what to do next.  So I waited patiently for Dr. Olson’s right index finger to worm inside my mouth then WHAM!  My jaw snapped shut on Dr. Olson’s finger and the melee that followed can only be described as a fumbled football during the fourth quarter of the Superbowl.  We all know what happened to me, but it was peanuts compared to Dr. Olson who received five stitches in his finger and told my father that I was not welcomed at his practice muttering, “damn little mongrel.”
  3. I don’t care for urologists.  No, that’s not true.  I don’t like a urologist’s index finger every six months.  But enough about that.
  4. I detest liver.  I’ve tried it at my partners prompting but the peculiar gritty texture and the overpowering smell of a dank basement doused any desire.  Perhaps I was a child in a family of cannibals in a past life, and while waiting at the dinner table Mother Cannibal served a steaming platter of liver, to which I exclaimed, “What, Liver again?”
  5. I have an absolute phobia of physical therapists.  Do I doubt their degree of success in eliminating my excruciating pain, or have I become accustomed to Western Medicine‘s preferred method of treatment: Prbackpainescriptions designed to mask the symptoms yet never correcting the reason for my discomfort; I’ve become dependent on prescriptions for that simple reason:  They manipulate your reasoning of treatment asserting that the absence of symptoms infers successful intervention, when it’s really sleight of hand and our assumption that doctors cure our ailments.  Disappear and cure are 
    not synonyms, no matter how persuasive your physician may be.