I was very taken with a friend’s description of herself as her own archivist.
Of course we are all biographers, color commentators and play-by-play announcers of our own lives. We aren’t Mel Allens or Harry Carays, and don’t go to the studio or sit in a box at the top of the stands. We broadcast (or narrowcast) from unconscious to conscious, and back again. Suddenly I find myself approaching the endgame. Not the biological inevitability but the messy and increasingly medical mud slide towards it. The bitty surrender of autonomy. I am not happy approaching the bottom of my 8th or top of the 9th. I have never given a thought to my last at bat.
In Charing Cross during a pretty tough night I thought, is this going to be it? Death making an appointment? Will I wake up (if I ever get to sleep?) Suddenly I was not in charge of my own narrative. I never felt so mortal. What a little cancer can do even, I am told, when there is no more cancer. The “major” surgery rocked me and continues to bully me into the age of feeble. I’m still in its thrall. I knew the surgery was a bad idea, but so reasonable. You want to live? 9 days afterwards I left the hospital, went home) and fell into bed and the arms of a three-week virus. I would fall asleep through the day and then around 9, and wake up at 11 in the morning. No doctors (they were loathe to bring unwanted guests from the hospital, so no “diagnosis”, but I was obvious. Couldn’t taste anything, couldn’t smell, didn’t like the taste of coffee! I was far too busy being tired. Sex, which had had always been ready for my call, wouldn’t answer. By this time Coronavirus had infiltrated and overwhelmed the hospital. It was everywhere, in fact, in mind and rumor. The cancer, yesterday’s big news, faded into yesterday’s news. It retired in the face of the virus. As did the plan for follow-up radiation. And the plan for more immuno therapy. It was declared much less scary and much less intrusive than first thought.
Abruptly, the meds declared a T2 instead of a T4. No cartilage intrusion.
Much hi-fiving amongst the doctors but surgery was already a fact and had consequences; I wanted to know if I could have avoided the knife. I don’t believe they understand it’s that big a deal: being mute, the hole in your neck leading directly to lungs and daring you to have a shower. I felt trespassed, transgressed. Made vulnerable. I felt taken advantage of. But there’s no use going on about it. The only thing to do is to stop shuffling around and work back into the best shape possible,
These late innings will not last. Must be ready for my last at bat. Meanwhile we have been in lockdown, self-isolating for 12 weeks and more to come. Luckily the house is spacious and has lots of good chairs which Penelope does her best to shame me out of. A friend sent a compilation of AJ Liebling from the New Yorker. I had read the gluttony in Paris piece (Between Meals) and thought it and he wonderful. His boxing essay (The Sweet Science) carried me back to the old Garden on 8th Avenue and Sugar Ray, Kid Gavilan and Rocky Marciano. Now making my way through Southern politics. The Earl of New Orleans is a portrait of Earl Long, an even more fascinating figure than his older brother, Huey, and why the South is the way it is. Liebling is so full of insights and stunning phrases and human observations.
He reminds me it’s why it’s good to be alive.