Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Death’


It is autumn in the Enchanted Forest — Time to change from Hawaiian shirts to flannel; for hearing the fallen leaves crackle beneath our feet as we walk by; for golden sunlight in the afternoons and early sunsets; for the yellow pollen from the Deodar Cedar trees coating the cars and the sidewalks; and a time for sleeping late in the morning and for reflection.

On Tuesday, I went for my appointment at the office of the surgeon selected to operate on my neck. A very young doctor followed by a female medical student entered the examination room where I had been placed. He appeared to be of South Asian heritage. He examined me briefly and answered my questions. He was thin with limpid sympathetic eyes. He then left with the student trailing in his wake.

After a while, the surgeon himself entered with the young doctor and medical student in tow. He was a small man in a grey-brown suit and sporting a bright blue bow tie. For some reason, his appearance made me recall that I had read somewhere that surgeons have the highest percentage of psychopaths of any profession. Also, again for some unknown reason, I tended to associate bow-ties with psychopathology.

.

He felt around my neck, had the young doctor stick a camera down my nose and into my neck and watched whatever it was he saw on the monitor behind me. He then announced that the proposed operation was dangerous and I would probably die. He followed-up that good news with the observation that almost two months have elapsed since my last PET scan and his examination showed that during that time the tumor had grown substantially and now pressed too close to my carteroid artery to be safely removed by surgery. He then railed about the unwillingness of my health-care group to allow his health-care group to use their follow up organizations thereby limiting his activities only to the surgery. He ordered his assistant to schedule another CT scan. If it confirms his diagnosis, I may be in deep trouble.

A few days before that my oncologist told me that if surgery were unavailable then we may try immunotherapy. At best, immunotherapy, he said, slows the growth and spread of cancer cells. If it does not work, then it is goodbye time for Joey.

I had woken up that morning in reasonably good spirits. By 3PM I may have become a dead man walking. Life is funny sometimes.

For the next day or two, I was very depressed. That little voice in my head, the one that talks all the time and tells you how good you are or how bad you are matters as though your goodness or badness is the most significant goodness or badness of anyone in the world, was worried.

“What does it mean to me for you to die?” it said in that same youthful voice it always had? “I mean, it’s not like sleep,” it added. “When you sleep you anticipate you will wake up in the morning. Isn’t that consciousness? You anticipate something is going to happen next even if you cannot know what.”

I was getting annoyed, even depressed with its musings. “That’s it,” it continued. “You close your eyes like you’re are going to sleep and you never wake .”

“That’s very profound, you idiot,” I said.

“No, you Don’t understand,” it went on. “Without anticipation, there is no life, no consciousness.”

“And this insight is supposed to help me how?” I enquired. It was silent. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I could not hear It. I was afraid, very afraid.

By Thursday I felt a little better — a good dose of valium and a nights sleep allowed me to begin to get things in order. First, I thought, “Write a will” — a wasted gesture. I always wanted to die with nothing. I am pretty close to that — both dying and money. I probably need someone to take my collection of Hawaiian shirts, however. I would rather not send them to Goodwill. Pookies last will and testament: “I leave to______ my Hawaiian shirts. End.”

So here I am typing at my computer, watching MSNBC and CNN and reading Tana French’s latest novel. It is a mystery novel, but so far I am not sure about the mystery. I have read about 1/3 of the book and all that’s happened so far is that the narrator gets beat up and spends a long long time in the hospital worrying about everything except who beat him up and why.

The weekend trundled by. I arranged for the CT scan on Monday that will indicate whether an operation is feasible. On Tuesday, I will watch the election returns. If the Democrats do not retake at least one house of Congress with a substantial majority, then — then what? I am too close to the end for it to make much of a difference to my welfare, but I may be sad for everyone else.

Perhaps, this is where it all may begin to end — in some ways, life has always been, little more than a scramble for scarce resources (money and sex — ok, not so scarce) ending in death.

A computer simulation by Jeremy England and colleagues at MIT showed that a system of particles confined inside a viscous fluid in which the particles are driven by an oscillating force, over time, triggers the formation of more bonds among the particles. In other words, shine enough light and apply enough heat long enough you eventually get life. In general, the function of life is to more efficiently convert matter (resources) to energy (movement). Humans have gotten very good at converting resources to energy and leaving waste and destruction behind — perhaps too good. Maybe the answer to Marconi’s query, “Where are they?” regarding alien civilizations of 40 billion planets in the Milky Way capable of sustaining life, is simply that advanced life-forms a become so efficient in converting resources to waste they destroy the planet before ever making an effective foray into space searching for others.

On Saturday, we had a barbecue and fresh oysters at Naida’s daughter’s home nearby. Sarah’s husband is a nurse. One of his colleagues, another male nurse, was there also. I asked them why they became nurses. Besides liking to help people, they agreed that employment opportunities were a major draw. One said, “I could be fired at my current job and before arriving home I would have a new one.”

Between medical appointments and various episodes of depression, I have not seen HRM all week. That makes me sad. On the other hand, autumn is a pleasant time to walk the dog and stand on the levee watching the river flow by.

The second third of the Tana French book focused on Hugo, the narrator’s beloved uncle, who is dying from inoperable cancer. Hugo surprisingly confesses to the murder and promptly dies the next morning while in police custody. In fact, the murder had been committed by others.

On Sunday Terry, the Cannabis King of the Siskiyou’s dropped by. It was good to see him. He had been looking into some alternative therapies for me. It is good to have friends. I have had some very good friends along the way. When I was very young, in grammar school, I had no friends so I used to pretend that I was sick so I could stay home in bed and read the encyclopedia. That is where I get my fondness for melodrama —pretending I am sick almost to death. Once I recall, I successfully persuaded my parents I was as sick as I had ever been in my life, so they let me stay home. After they both left for work and I was alone, I began to persuade myself that I was, in fact, very sick. I was sure I was going to need help or I was a goner. I slipped out of bed and crawled because I was too weak walk through the apartment to the door where, if I were able to open it, I could call for help and one of my neighbors would undoubtedly save me. I reached for the doorknob but I was too weak to grasp it and I fell motionless to the floor.

After an appropriate amount of time. I got up off the floor and walked back to the bedroom, climbed back into bed and resumed my reading.


On Monday I had my CT scan. More needles stuck into my body and radioactive substances injected into my bloodstream. After that, I drove up to the Golden Hills, ate lunch and walked a bit around the CCD park.

I finished the Tana French book today. Despite everything I found out previously and the resolution, more or less, of the murder that occupied most of the book, it ends with a twist as surprising as any I have read in detective fiction.

Today I have my appointment with the surgeon to review the results of the CT scan and determine if I am dead or not.

Well, the surgeon informed me today that if they operate there is a 90% chance I would die on the operating table. I do not know if that was an evaluation of his abilities or the complexity of my tumor’s location. He followed up that news with the opinion that, absent successful alternative therapies, my remaining lifespan would be somewhere between three and six months. Unfortunately, the only alternative therapy available to me appears to be immunotherapy which the surgeon explained to me would have about a 20% chance of success.

If the situation is as dire as he indicates, I intend to fully indulge myself of whatever unorthodox alternative treatment approach that I may enjoy — mushrooms, cannabis, of course, acupuncture, mood-altering drugs and the like. One of the good things about knowing your days are limited but you are otherwise in good health is that you have few restrictions on pandering to yourself.

In the evening, my sister joined us for dinner. She is down from Mendocino to attend an economic development conference. After dinner we watched the returns come in. I had hoped for better.

That night, I was afraid I would not be able to sleep. I tried all of my little tricks to help me fall asleep including counting my breaths backward from 99 and contemplating the SF 49’s starting lineup all to no avail. So I turned to Naida and said, “I can’t sleep. I am going downstairs so that my twisting and turning will not keep you awake.” She responded, “What are you talking about? It is 5:30 in the morning. You’ve been sleeping peacefully all night.”

The next day, my radiology physician confirmed the surgeon’s diagnosis and opined that under these circumstances immunotherapy was the best alternative — “Sometimes it works,” he added. I said, “It is odd feeling as well as I do but knowing I’m as good as dead.” “Yes,” he responded. “It is like that for cancer patients.” That got me wondering how many people I pass each day with similar problems to mine, that go about their days without complaint. Almost every day I meet someone who asks me how I am doing. As is my want, I tell them. They often tell me that they had gone through similar treatments two or three times already. It always makes me feel worse when I am unable to wallow in the uniqueness of my imagined misery.

I left his office with him promising to think about the possibility of additional radiation therapy should the immunotherapy treatment falter and traveled into the Golden Hills to pick up the Scooter Gang. I dropped them off at Dick’s house. They promised not to get in trouble (follow my rules — don’t hurt yourselves, don’t spill anything on the floor and don’t break anything) while in the house but begged to be able to get into a little trouble when they traveled to Town Center later. While I was leaving, Hayden walked up to the window of the car and said, “Remember Pookie you have got to believe.”

I guess there are no more adventures for Pookie — unless dying itself is an adventure — Pookies last adventure. Dylan Thomas wrote, “Do not go quietly into that dark night.” Well, I am pretty sure I will not go quietly. But instead of “railing against the darkening of the light,” it will be more like bitching and complaining (see my screed on bitching: https://trenzpruca.wordpress.com/2018/02/12/petrillos-commentary-on-bitching/). My mother always said I screamed constantly from shortly after birth until I began to talk and then I complained of everything until I became a teenager and then thankfully I only sulked.

My sister came by again yesterday evening. We laughed a lot. Planned for Thanksgiving and reminisced.

The leaf-fall of autumn has increased since the air has cooled and the Fall breezes grown stronger. They are falling too fast for the ground-keepers with their leaf-blowers to keep up so the Enchanted Forest’s paths and lawns are covered with yellow and brown leaves that in the sunlight look like spilled paint. While walking the dog I like stomping through the leaves, kicking them into the air and watching them fall back again like a 79-year-old child.

Today, we visited my chemotherapist expecting to set the schedule for my immunotherapy. We were surprised. Apparently, he spoke last night with the various doctors involved in my case. He said the radiologist changed his mind and now thought radiation might be possible. Also, my regular oncologist told him he was setting up an appointment for a second opinion at UCSF. He then laid out my treatment schedule. First, I get the second opinion. If that supports the first surgeon’s judgment, then we will begin a new round of radiation therapy, followed by Chemo and if necessary immunotherapy. Although this might appear to be more positive than the other recent medical opinions I have received, it actually seems to me to be simply a change in a treatment plan and not in prognosis. I think they are just trying to make me feel better. Despite their attempts to humor me I intend to continue bitching and wailing, “The end is nigh. Woe is me.” I do so like melodrama.

Yesterday evening, I picked up HRM from his mountain bike team practice. On the way home, after asking me how I felt, he mentioned that at the church youth meeting he attends every Wednesday all the eighth-grade boys, many of whom I know, prayed for Pookie. I may not be someone particularly optimistic about the power of prayer, but I cried nevertheless at the thought of the Scooter Gang praying for me.

On Friday, before returning to Mendocino, my sister came by to take us to a Japanese grocery store to hunt for mushrooms for my new diet. Later we had lunch at the Freeport Inn in the Delta. Following my sister’s departure back to Mendocino, Naida sautéed some of the mushrooms for dinner. They were delicious.

Saturday, we attended the weekly coffee at the Nepenthe clubhouse. It is the season when everyone there was involved in the various charity drives and party planning undertaken by the community. On the way back home while I was busy kicking the leaves about, Naida noticed a sign for a meeting at the small clubhouse of something called “Conscious Community.” We decided to find out what it was all about. We discovered they considered themselves a consciousness-raising group like those of the late ’60s except without the dope.

During the walk, we noticed a mysterious cement ball had appeared in the street in front of our house. It remains there today. Nothing like it exists anywhere else in the neighborhood. What can it be? A portent of something? Alien scat? A hairball from a giant cat?

Pookie with the mysterious orb.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

One day when he was about eight-years-old, Hayden and I were watching television. Rather he was watching and I was playing with my computer. Someone on the show he was watching was crying. Hayden turned to me and said, “He is crying because his grandpa died. Pookie, I don’t want you to die. When are you going to start getting younger?”

Read Full Post »

On May 8, 2017, at about 4 PM my mom passed away peacefully in her sleep. She led a life of great adversity from the moment she was born until the last few years or her life. She met every challenge with implacable determination and good humor never giving an inch to despair and defeat. Even the Grim Reaper eventually gave up and had to sneak up on her while she slept.

IMG_2793

At 84 she took up painting and became quite accomplished at it.

Ruth Galanter wrote the following poem to mark her passing:

Teresa Petrillo departed this earth
Leaving grief and relief among those she gave birth.

To watch someone aging is hard while you do it;
In some ways as hard as yourself going through it.

So much as you’ll miss her, remember she’s free
And keep all her stories in your memory.

Teresa was tough, as her tough life required
To raise her three children. She should be admired!

And so as she passes from this life to next
Let’s think of her life in its broader context:

An immigrant child when few folks had phones,
She lived to see spying conducted by drones!

She had strong opinions, as all of you know,
And it’s likely that she chose the time she would go.

And so as she passes, remember her strength,
Tell others her story, but not at great length,

Be glad that you knew her because there’s no other
Relationship quite like a child with its mother.

Be sure as she’s watching from heaven above
That she sees you with pride and, above all, with love.

We all who knew and loved her will miss her greatly.
IMG_2796_2

Read Full Post »

tumblr_mp7sps2PRe1srvmuoo1_1280

Although I am traveling, I still manage to put in time reading novels. Recently I read Arturo Perez-Reverte’s latest. Perez-Reverte whose taut but lush adventure and mystery novels generally take place in Spain during its long sad decline from world empire until the old order was finally snuffed out by the armies of Napoleon. His series of books, featuring the melancholy but indomitable soldier and peerless swordsman Captain Alatriste, are classics.

The Siege, as its name implies, takes place during the interminable multi-year siege of Cadiz where the armies of Napoleon and his brother Joseph, the imposed King of Spain, had chased the government of the tattered empire and its inconsistent allies, the English. Cadiz, however still had access to the sea and many of its merchants, smugglers and privateers flourished even while the bombs daily rained down on parts of the city. The plot revolves around the attempts by the brutal and corrupt Chief of Police to solve a series of exceedingly vicious murders.

Unfortunately, Perez-Reverte introduces a sub-plot, a bodice ripper straight out of Danielle Steele — A romance between the dashing but crude and dangerous, curly-haired, handsome and muscular captain of a privateer, Pepe Lupo (Joe Wolf) and his employer, the refined, learned, capable, aristocratic, accomplished and almost beautiful owner of one of the city’s premier shipping companies, Lolita Palma. Lolita, virginal from to tip of her leather boots to the top of her lace mantilla, unfortunately, is 32 years old and unmarried. In the Cadiz of that time, at 32, she hovered between the twilight of fuckable and the onset spinsterhood. Perez-Reverte, damn him, shamelessly introduces a scene where Joe confronts Lolita at an elegant ball, causing her to snap open her fan and rapidly cool down the rising warmth of a blush.

“At least,” I thought, “he does not have the poor woman wet her drawers.” Alas, not more than a couple of dozen pages later, as Joe Wolf’s cutter heads off on another venture in legalized piracy, the still virginal Lolita, standing behind the crenellations of the tower above her Palacio and staring at the corsair’s ship as it disappears over the horizon, does just that. Arturo Perez-Reverte, you should be ashamed of yourself

Nevertheless,
Pookie says “check it out.”

“…all things have their allotted time in the suicidal order of things— in life, and in its inexorable outcome, death.”
Perez-Reverte, Arturo. The Siege: A Novel (p. 358). Random House Publishing Group.

Note: Reading this book makes me wonder if getting involved in the shithole that was Spain at that time was not as great a mistake for Napoleon as his march into Russia. It is usually the inability of empires to know their bounds that bring them to ruin. I wonder if that was the genius of Augustus Caesar; to recognize there were limits to the expansion of empire beyond the need to establish secure boundaries. It probably enabled the Roman Empire to survive for another 1000 years until the thugs of the Fourth Crusade finally put it out of its misery.

Read Full Post »

images

Another weekend crept in. For the retired, it promised little different from any other day of the week. On Sunday, however, as I was swimming laps, a beautiful iridescent dragonfly flew by. During its beguilingly aerobatic performance, it dipped too low and splashed into the pool. After making my turn, I swam by again and spotted it entrapped in its aqueous meniscus struggling to rise from the water and failing. I took a few more strokes before I suddenly stopped like I had been netted. A feeling of need to save the dragonfly engulfed me.

“Why?” I thought. “If it were just a fly, I would let it die and a mosquito I would try to kill even before it hit the water.” I felt caught as Tuesday Next would say, “within a dense cloud of moral relativism (Fforde).” Nonetheless, a belief that I had to do something for this particular creature overwhelmed any internal debate on the nature of ethics I may have contemplated. So I cupped it in my hands and brought it to the edge of the pool and placed it where I hoped it could recover.

As I watched it struggle to dry its wings and rise, other thoughts struck me. “It would probably die here too weakened by its dunking; a death perhaps worse than if had it had died in the water. So, what had I accomplished except to prolong its agony?” “What about the possibility one of the many birds in the area would swoop down on it in its weakened state and devour it?” “So,” I inquired of myself and generations of existential and moral philosophers, “why did I do what I did in the first place?” Suddenly everything began to go dim as I found myself standing on the edge of the abyss staring into a solipsistic nightmare.

I jumped out of the pool and rushed home where I buried myself under the covers in the hope they would muffle the screams of dying dragonflies, long dead metaphysicians and legions of moral philosophers.

Read Full Post »

 

It was biopsy day.  Dick drove me to the hospital where I was admitted, placed in the preparation room, laid on a gurney, stuck with needles and subjected to various tests and questionnaires designed to protect the hospital from liability. About four hours or so I lay on that gurney waiting to be taken to the room where the procedure would be performed. During this time, I fell asleep for about three of those hours. When I awoke I noticed that a mob of nurses and technicians milling about. None of the other patients on gurneys like mine had been moved. I asked a nurse what was going on. She said she could only tell me what she was instructed to say which was the doctors were busy on other procedures and would get to us as soon as they can.

By this response I guessed that either the doctor was drunk, stoned or otherwise incapacitated — or the doctor had made a grievous error on another patient and the poor soul was lying on a gurney like a clam oozing out of its broken shell — or, Muslim terrorists had taken over the lobby of the hospital and were methodically moving down the halls shooting everything in sight.

About an hour later the nurse announced she would now take me to the treatment room. She wheeled my gurney from the room and about 20 feet down the hall where she parked me against the wall. I remained there about another hour watching gurneys pass by containing people lying on them in various degrees of wretchedness. Finally, I was wheeled into the room where I was again prodded with needles and subjected to more tests and hooked up to the only thing that day I looked forward to, the narcotics that I was told would be administered just before the procedure began.

Now, I have had needles stuck into my chest before, one for two days while they pumped back up my collapsed lung. I have also had other biopsies, as polyps and bits of ugly skin were snipped off my body for examination. But, for some reason, this time, I was more anxious than I had ever been. Perhaps, given my age and the inevitable approach of the Big Sleep, I was more appreciative of the short span of human life — or, perhaps it was just another bout of hypochondria.

As the table I laid on slid into the machines giant donut hole, I followed the instructions to breathe in, hold my breath and exhale — once, twice, three times. There was a long time between breaths and an even longer time after the third one. Suddenly the doctor stood over me. I could tell he was the doctor because he was young and there was a hint of sadness in his eyes.

“We can’t find the nodule,” he said.

“Say what,” I responded.

“We can’t find the nodule,” he repeated. “It’s disappeared. We’ll set up another CT scan in six months or so and see if it returns.” And, with that he disappeared. I got up. After the various needles and machines were detached from my body and with a sad glance at the bag or narcotics hanging on its hook, I dressed and went home.

I am embarrassed and humiliated.  It’s all Obama’s fault.

Read Full Post »

detectivejpg

Sometime in the late 60’s and continuing for a decade the Swedish husband and wife team of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö embarked on an ambitious scheme to write one mystery book a rear for ten years. The books were to be interconnected in a series called “The Story of Crime.”

Ruth turned me on to the series. Where most modern mystery stories over the past forty years generally feature a brilliant if somewhat odd sleuth who solves the mystery usually by either clever deduction or by the impact of his or her particular psychosis (for example by beating people up or getting drunk), these are stories about Swedish police detectives who solve cases using the routine that is the lot of most public employees. They get bored, sick with colds and have bad marriages. The criminals more often than not are sympathetic, driven to murder by social circumstances they cannot control and now and then they even get away with it.

Despite being over 40 years old, the novels grapple with issues pertinent today such as the militarization of policing, the social desperation that drives people to crime and the impact of replacing personal interaction between the police and the public with impersonal violence that begets even more violence resulting in the collapse of the morale of both.

“More and more often one was obliged to initiate an investigation by trying to sort out what the police had been up to. Not infrequently this proved harder than clearing up the actual case.”
Sjowall, Maj; Wahloo.The Locked Room: A Martin Beck Police Mystery (8).

My two favorite books in the series are The Laughing Policeman and The Abominable man.

Pookie says, “check them out.”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: