I was once told by the editor who enlisted me into these pages to “write everything as if it is the last chance you’ll have to write anything at all.” This isn’t always possible, of course, especially if you’re writing for money/survival — but it’s a good thing to keep in mind.
Without going for the melodramatic, I have been given point-blank and professional information that whatever I might scribble in the next 3 to 24 months will fall into this category.
The obvious question is: what is it that I need to write? My traditional answer to this question has been, “Whatever I can sell and some stuff I won’t be able to.” The following will be a gesture of respect — or at least a respectful response to that late editor’s suggestion; one of many that proved wise. I, however, promise no wisdom here.
Having lived (at the moment) just short of six decades by six months — that is, I’m 59 and one half — the above-mentioned 24 months is likely a pipe dream. With aortic stenosis on top of congestive heart failure and cardiomyopothy, I have seen multiple cardiologists shake their heads or raise their eyebrows or (more telling) look at me deadpan as if I were some medical anomaly...more precisely, a zombie: I should not be walking around.
So, as I prepare to exit stage left (always leaned that way) allow me to leave this: I have spent much time in hospitals recently — Mercy, mostly, and I need to plug Dr. Han and especially Dr. Dahm for their help and patience with an uninsured sicko. I was given an opportunity there not only to recover (as much as I’m going to) but find an appropriate residence after discharge. Hospitals are frightening and induce nightmares, but the nursing staff became like long-loved aunts, sisters, or very close friends. One might say this is the manner in which the dying should always be treated, but my bet is that for them, this was business as usual: their nature.
Kindness is what I’m getting at. Sound sappy? Stop reading. It is a value I’ve come to reflect upon in recent years as if in prescience of the end. I was immortal for years and it seemed irrelevant, a nice trait in others but beside the point in an energetic, young writer/musician like me. Now I see it as evidence of God — and I’m hardly a religious maniac. I attend no services, observe no rituals, really, just constantly feel a spiritual tugging I can’t deny. Being kind to others or someone being kind to you is an extraordinary gift that robs me of similes, metaphors, any comparison.
The wasting of time — and I am a master — is its own punishment. One feels it like the metaphorical (here we go) albatross around the neck. It will not go away.
As to what this may have to do with Fridays or “offbeat observations on the weekends,” it was a Friday night years ago that I entered Mercy with chest pains and was operated on early the next morning. I was in ICU over the weekend. As it happened, it was also on two Fridays — months apart — that I was diagnosed with CHF (congestive heart failure) and aortic stenosis a few months later. The combination is deadly. The clock is ticking.
And I hope that satisfies the criteria of the column. I have attempted recently to make the column less about myself and more about others and leisure/entertainment activities around town, but I’m afraid the latter is beyond my ken these days, and I have received more feedback than expected to the effect that my whining is more interesting on the page than the fun exploits of others. So, am I indulging myself? Very well, I am indulging myself.
You may, and should, marvel at the body’s wonderful and miraculous will to live despite what you do with it...but know there is a limit. I have reached mine.
Creativity, productivity, to build or make something, to bring into the world something useful, inspiring, or even of just temporary help to others is of genuine value. I have been told I’ve done a little of this, and I shrug it off but secretly hope it is real because it is in the cast-off light of salvation.
That last word above is an elusive one, but it is what we all seek in one way or another. The street gangster to the CEO wants absolution, benediction for what they have done. It is available. A belief of mine — no doubt influenced by the nuns and priests, but I’ve seen it.