My oncologist is at least six feet five and has even more letters in his last name than mine. Did that factor into my decision to choose him to battle my rising PSA? Hire a big guy to fight a disease that scares and maims lots of people and sometimes kills a few. Off my champion goes each day to carefully place radioactive tubes into prostate glands to cook the enemy with a power surge and then house the weapon for another days killing. Having received the benefit of his efforts on four separate day long occasions I sometimes spend some of my precious remaining days wondering why my PSA keeps rising. Do I feel lucky or maybe not.
After many years of glaucoma, I still have fairly good vision. I have a new knee that allows me to walk. Lots of other minor stuff but at 75 my life expectancy clock still seems pretty good.
Wondering about these things and waiting for the carpet cleaners to do their thing in the house, I have escaped to marvel at the citizen shoppers at large. What they are wearing, what they are buying and why I am so interested in buying an electric bike. It’s these journeys with limited goals that seem to calm my soul otherwise preoccupied with my impending mortality.
Every Monday I clip on my hospice volunteer badge and face my own and everyone’s futures head on. I am not fascinated with death, just people and their families facing the end. I have met many in the hospice house ready for the end. I met a young woman who lost her battle with breast cancer and a young man and his new wife also dealing with what happens when the hospital says they have done all they can do. (Hospitals would prefer that you don’t die in the facility. It screws up their statistics). I have had a long discussion with a woman pushing one hundred whose mind was still firing all its synapses who had little to say about death except to complain that it was taking too long to finally happen. The guys I have been able to talk to want to let me know that they were really good at their work. None mentioned much about their families. It seems we all feel at the end the need to justify our gift of life?
School was out so the young girls at the outdoor shopping mall were all wearing their summer sweatshirts or tees. Some advertising their college choice. I wonder if they will talk about their SAT scores fifty years from now. Some of my friends still do. How many of these kids worry about whether they will contribute to humanity or more likely whether they will ever be able to pay off their college loans. They are way too young to have a sense of the time line of life.
I was the only one in the e-bike shop. My mission was to learn a little about these new bikes far evolved from my childhood Pee Wee Herman Schwinn and my latest ten speed. There was a new bike vocabulary. Some bikes were pedal assist and some throttle only. A few allowed for both. The tandem was only throttle to avoid the riders not remaining in sync with their pedaling. The sales guy talked in detail about maintenance issues and battery life. There are several battery manufacturers and different motor types allowing for greater or lesser distance range. All the bikes were expensive.
The bike that seemed possibly affordable was a step through and I commented that that style would be a good fit for me since with my new knee it was hard to swing over the middle bar. The salesman said that was his problem as well. He actually had two new hips, a new elbow and a new left knee. And he looked to be in his mid-twenties.
With no one else in the store I was able to hear my GI Joe friend’s army story. Landing on the ground at almost fifty miles per hour when his shoot did not open caused multiple injuries. He was a tough Texas boy and I felt he enjoyed telling me his story. He deserved to be proud of his service and I enjoyed the fact that he was willing to share it with me.
When I left the bike shop, I challenged myself to explain what it was about an electric bike that seemed to be something I needed. I had a perfectly wonderful bike at home that I actually enjoyed pedaling about so long as I didn’t have to wear a biking uniform with special shoes and actually try and pedal up a mountain. It wasn’t transportation. I didn’t really need it to get anywhere. There was no purpose in the activity. And there was in fact no real purpose in any of my afternoon wanderings. Did I want an electric bike to make my wanderings seem more purposeful? I don’t think so, I have long stopped trying to disguise my leisure as purposeful. I think my main intent is to further my life voyeur activity. To see as much as you can even if you can’t always be personally involved. To breathe in all of it. To be a dot in the Seurat landscape of existence.
One of our friend’s father decide to end his life. Although he did not have a terminal illness, he was in pain from a series of hospital stays and strong willed wanted to go out on his own terms. This decision was particularly difficult for his daughter. At her request I visited him as he became close to the end refusing to eat or drink. He considered his plan an exciting adventure. He was fully conscious to the end. I wondered about those who believe our bodies are simply receptors for an external consciousness or whether our brains somehow create consciousness. I am in the first camp of beliefs.
Another one of my new friends living in an assisted living facility is considering the same end. Although he developed many patents for IBM, obviously has a brilliant mind, he has no family and is suffering the effects of Parkinson disease and has limited mobility.. I am hoping he stays among the living so I can share stories with him.
Since few of us will win a Noble price, or a Pulitzer, develop a patentable idea, or leave this life with a fan base can we be comfortable with our time on the planet. Can we say that we counted?
I believe it’s the simple everyday interactions that all of us have that collectively impact the human condition. You never know whether the day you chose to smile at a stranger helped change that person’s life and made you a silent hero for their day. Life is mysterious and I believe all our interactions count. We all count.