Montaigne calls it a children’s story, the death of Croesus, his final plea to Solon. Myself, I didn’t hear this one when I was a tyke, and mostly I think today’s youth don’t know it. I do remember the urban myth of the black boy, strapped to The Big Chair, whispering Help me Joe Louis, help me and my dad’s stories of the Brown Bomber, punch drunk and broke, paid by wiseguys to walk them into court. The legend goes that only at the end did Croesus feel what philosophers had always preached: you cannot judge a life until it’s through. Our late stoic, Yogi Berra, said In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; in practice, there is. Today, we have the anodyne “he died doing what he loved” and use it when the diver gets eaten by a shark or comes crashing through the Sol-a-tube. It’s a question of timing really: you are “doing what you love,” livin’ the life, as t-shirts say, and then: wham. Three-ish tons and 20-plus feet of “Deep Blue,” a postmortem report that’s all bite radius and blunt force trauma. Yogi: It ain’t over ‘til it’s over, and when it is, it fits into a shoebox. Kids will lick cupcakes, because cooties, they know, say I AM, like revenge, like pox sent to Europe, like Instagram photos of that last jump, that one last dip. Montaigne, again: few men know when they’ve reached their final hour. Yogi: It gets late early out here.
In the evening of our third day on with little more to do than play games of cat and mouse with Lonnie, the old janitor, Jeffrey, the other CNA, and I took to harassing Martha the nurse. In the night, anyway, there were few emergencies in Palliative—it was only a mausoleum for the decrepit little husks on the DNR list, and there was a collective death rattle that blended terribly with the overtones of country radio. There were the occasional bleeding delinquents who were transferred from the ER, victims of massive heart attacks or car wrecks. And sometimes a poor hopeless case from Oncology whose body had nearly given up was rushed into the Palliative Care unit on an expedited basis, suddenly, inexplicably, often the product of a bureaucratic oversight wherein the patient had been dying in the wrong place. Working in Palliative was about being a witness to a continuous losing battle. It was as Lonnie had spouted to us in one of his many religious adages—death is certain; life is not. Though I think that it was an oversimplification of the Biblical prose.
It was on this night, the final one in our rotation, as I was emptying the catheter bag of a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma patient, that they wheeled old Thaddeus in. He came with an entire legion of country folks. You see them often—crawling out of Oldsmobiles, big ambling men wearing denim worn to a patchwork of near confetti. And Thaddeus came with an army of family, barking and bellowing their way down the hall.
“Look at this old whip,” Jeffrey said, nudging me in the arm. I recognized the alkaline smell on his breath: morphine. “This guy probably fought in the Civil War.”
“Can you please help get him admitted?” Martha barked at us. She was being barraged with questions from the dozen or so family members who had come in with the old man. They were mostly acrimonious questions about next of kin.
We had just hours ago moved the corpse of a leukemia patient from the room in the southeast corner, with the view of the creek, and this is the room we wheeled Thaddeus into, breaking the stillness of the death as we spread out his tubes and got him catheterized. He smiled slightly when we got the tube in, his lips dry little creek beds on a hatchet-cut face.
“I ain’t even know why they brought me in here,” he said, his knuckles like wooden beads beneath his skin, groping at the wads of sheet. Evidently he was entirely blind, but somehow he managed to look me in the eyes with his milky, roving pupils. “Jesus already tried to get me once and he couldn’t because they moved me. Did they tell you all that?”
Continue Reading . . .
Markets softened when China shut factories down to create cleaner air
for the Olympics.
FUTURE MARKETS COMMONS CIRCLES HISTORY ECOLOGY POLITICS
All my friends’ fathers
and my father
and yours. “There are always
winners and losers,”
my father writes.
Has he ever been afraid
of being right? Once
a professional idealist,
now a lover of beauty, art
and culture. Rejoice
for a season. Foolishness
has obvious advantage.
Belief in more things
rather than less.
I thought this erasure was about my father, how strange to say dad’s arc, I’ve barely even called him dad. I thought reading my father’s columns I would understand him. I do, I question: dad as character in story, alchemy and dad as story dad as story with The End. I can go to the website, look up new hire (less new every day), see the magazine share his byline, content classification: influencer, industry leader, opinionated. Arc and ark.
If you are reading this you are not reading my father’s columns.
Continue Reading . . .