Monday, November 8, 2010

Hit Me

We spend a third of our day sleeping, and the majority of us spend the second third figuring out how to survive. Then we take another third to make all that sleeping and surviving worth the effort. Maybe we’d have a clearer picture if we didn’t live all the thirds in the same 24 hours. But we do.

Most of us, anyway. I’ve had a few, just a few, friends who were crazy rich. Born with millions of dollars in the hip pocket of their diaper. In the early years we weren’t so different. They’d step and fall, I’d step and fall. The major difference would be in our landing. But I developed cool little calluses on my butt, which would serve it well as I would fall many times thereon.

As would R, a friend who is dying right now. Save for a miracle, he has a few months.

I remember, before he was sick (long, long before), R, G and I discussed how, if one of us had some horrible, debilitating disease, he or she would jump off a cliff. Live fast, die young, etc. I think champagne (at the least!) had a role in our discussion, and as I recall, champagne was something the jumper would carry to the cliff. We made a pact: No heroic measures.

R is taking heroic measures now. He’s absorbing every humiliation a disease can throw at a human being, and he’s willing to try any whiffle ball the medical profession suggests he toss back. As to the lengths R will go to wring every second he can out of life, consider the respirator and the feeding tube somewhere at the starting line.

I think you can compare life to a card game, else why would it still be so popular. You get dealt a hand; you rely on smarts, strategy, looks, and on knowing your opponent. You try to seduce the dealer. And if things go south, and you’ve got guts, you stay at the table while they shuffle the deck. Because you never know. You just never do.

R was born with a pretty rough hand, but he turned things around. G, who took the gun to his mouth, had some aces that he squandered on the way. G walked away from the table; R refuses to leave.

The best R can hope for now is an unlikely, almost impossible draw to an inside straight. I think it’s very courageous he stays in the game. His very conscious will to live gives each of my 24 hours, even the sleeping and working part, a new significance.

Because R is right -- you never know. You just never do.

30 comments:

  1. I would do the same thing R's doing. Will do, if/when I have to. I don't know if it's the courageous thing or not. To me it seems the only thing.

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  2. Oh God. Those champagne pacts. They seem so brilliant when you're healthy, young and drunk.

    I watched Pat wring the last moments out of life. She stayed at the table, too, insisted the dealer keep handing her cards even when she was out of chips.

    I want to kick the shit out of something when I think of my Pat and now your R. And all the Pats and Rs. And all of us who don't recognize the momentary flash that life is, even if we're granted a lot of years.

    Remember Emily's line in Our Town? "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every,every minute?"

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  3. Seduce the dealer.
    Sigh.
    Maybe it's time to watch All That Jazz.
    Life's a fucking drama. Why do we maintain it's something else?

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  4. I am so sorry AH. Losing someone, those last few moments, weeks, months...are hard on those who survive as well.

    I'm with Laurie---kicking the shit out of something works for me. At least it helps you feel better.

    I made those kinds of pacts when I was younger, I thought I'd live forever. A funny thing happened on the way to 40...and in the infusion room, it didn't matter whether you had a silver spoon or not, we were all in it together.

    Some of us are the kind that don't let up..."The Loyalists" from Merrit Malloy is a good reminder of why some of us forget about those champagne promises.

    hugz AH

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  5. It's all well and good to tell ourselves to appreciate and love each day. Some things really sledgehammer it home, though. Hugs to you, KB.

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  6. the six "D's"

    drugs
    driving
    do-it-yourself
    disease

    death

    and a "deck" of cards

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  7. Gee, you've made me think so hard about life with this one. Why am I feeling grumpy about the dirty house, the unsorted files, the wild garden? Why do I beat myself up about mistakes made in the past? Each second of consciousness on this lovely planet is a precious gift and no-one's taking it away from me yet, unlike your poor friend. I'm going to live in the moment and be happy!

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  8. R sounds like a quality human being I would like to meet and know. My heart goes out to you Karin. It's a hard thing to stand behind the shoulder of the one who's currently playing the game of his life and watch the hand he's being dealt.

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  9. I love someone who's angry now and pushing at death. I wish he would demand more cards but the more people hand him the more he refuses. He's got a whole stack of chips he can't or won't see. It makes me feel like I have no arms, no words, no nothing with which to help.

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  10. I'm so glad you guys took this in the spirit in which it was written. Bits of the universe, enjoying our day in the sun, if we're smart about the whole thing, anyway. No less a gift just because it's temporary.

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  11. Yep. I'm going exploring today.

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  12. I'm speechless...wonderfully poignant Hiker...

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  13. Excellent my friend. God bless R and G.
    V

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  14. I hope for the best for your friend. I have always believed that I'll be lucky to make it to 60, and 70 will be a miracle, so I enjoy every single day. My hat's off to R, and to you for offering him moral support.

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  15. Miss J agrees- there's always hope until the last card is played. Stay in the game as long as you can.

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  16. I hope R catches his cards. The last couple days: a friend of a friend is in a coma after choking on food and being without oxygen for 10 minutes - no chance; found out a friend's 8-year-old has been battling some sort of cancer and then 10 days earlier her 55-year-old brother dies after a two-year battle with brain cancer. Is this the World Series of Poker or what?

    One of my best friends battled an impossible cancer and won. He beat some amazing odds. Got a royal flush. Still going strong after 15 years. He didn't accept his fate. Got angry.

    How any of us responds will depend so much on the immediate circumstances that we cannot predict.

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  17. My dad did this. Wouldn't give up and wouldn't stop trying, down to his last, tortured death rattle.

    I thought at the time it was because he had no belief in an afterlife to run toward.

    Now I wonder whether I would do the same as he. One of those poignant questions that we can't answer until we're there.

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  18. Like Petrea, I'm watching someone stubbonly refuse to hope and fight for a chance. I'm angry, but the choice belongs to her. It works both ways--the choice. I hope Rs courage is rewarded.

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  19. AH, my sympathies as you go through this with R. Like others here, I've watched some tough people refuse to let go, no matter the cost.

    I probably think all the options are courageous--accept the degrading treatments, or refuse them, or load the gun. I don't think any of us know what we will or should do till we get there.

    What I don't understand is one group mentioned here, people who seem never to have considered such stuff, seem never to interrogate themselves with the big questions, change their lives accordingly, never try to imagine the other guy's psyche and the life he was born into, and then drift as if they've got forever.

    My daily choices probably look more like a nap than a card game or extreme awareness or other high drama; but they are choices and I'm making them based on experience. Hope the seemingly drugged or numb others are too, hope they're fooling me.

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  20. Well I don't even know what to say to this. It's so darn beautiful I could gag. You're making us all look bad, you know. You and your wisdom.

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  21. "It's so darn beautiful I could gag." Margaret, I love it and I want to use it. I'll credit you.

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  22. Laurie's quote from Our Town says it nicely. You say it so descriptively, too.
    Nicely written, Karin. Very nice.

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  23. I'm so sad for R and so totally glad that he is fighting to the end. My grandmother said that you'd think that after you can't walk and do most things for yourself, you'd wanna check-out, but something in you knows that life is so precious and makes you want to live. That's the way to live all the way.
    To repeat what Kathy said - wonderfully poignant Hiker...

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  24. Our Tash has a great point and Ron as well.
    THis subject is one I can't deal with. I wish I were better but I"m not.
    V

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  25. Funny, your comments are so rich, they leave me inarticulate, as in, "yeah, that's what I was trying to say." That and that and that.

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  26. We just never know how we will respond when the time comes, do we? Many of us talk a lot about no heroic measures. Until the time comes. R reminds us all how important life is. When my mother was near death, confined to a hospital bed in her living room and being medicated with morphine around the clock, she still told my brother, "I don't want to die." I wish your friend R all the best, Karin.

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  27. It's so fleeting and so heartbreaking when it ends. I wish I could keep that in my consciousness with every breath but I don't. This is a poignant reminder. I hope R gets his miracle.

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  28. I guess your friend considers this life and the people he loves in it worth every last measure he can try in the hope it's his turn for luck & a miracle. Prayers go out for him & y'all.

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