State of the Bunion

My boss is a 63-year old ex-Marine vegan teetotaler who as long as we’ve known each other has given me shit in a (mostly) joshing way about certain habits of mine—mostly the smoking but my diet, too—and a constant theme in this has been his occasionally irritating certainty about what does and doesn’t give a person cancer. So, fine…go ahead and give me shit, I don’t care, just so long as you’re sure to give me a long leash along with it—that was my attitude, and it worked for both of us. Then, some time back, he started having trouble peeing and found out he had bladder cancer. They removed his bladder and he was out for four months, recovering and whatnot, and he finally came back to work two weeks ago. His energy and sense of humor have been remarkably high, but he’s also been  thin and frail since the operation, looking a lot older than his age. (One day I mentioned the irony that of the two of us he should be the one to get sick, and he crowed “I know it! I can’t believe it!”) He was limping around all day today, and it turns out he took a tumble while walking from the train to the office this morning, landing on one of those skinny little hips of his. It was still bugging him this afternoon so he just now took off for home, and to top things off he’s supposed to get the test results today showing whether the cancer’s spread to  his other lymph nodes—a big fat worrisome if  since it already spread to the one by his bladder.

And of course I’m still dealing with my dad, who, when I ask him how he’s doing, simply tends to mutter “Not good. Not good.” (You know you’re talking to your 84 year old father when he asks you if you know who Pat Boone is, and he doesn’t hear you screaming “YES! YES! I KNOW WHO HE IS!” because he’s too busy telling you Boone used to be on the old Arthur Godfrey show.) Dad’s going blind, he’s got emphysema, he has a double hernia that his HMO won’t touch because of his overall condition, his back is giving out, and he has an enlarged heart, plus his skin looks like shit because he doesn’t have enough energy to smear himself down with some moisturizer. And yet he keeps floating the idea of coming to San Francisco for a visit, which is obviously the looniest idea in the world. I pointed out that if making it across the living room is a Herculean labor for him, how the hell does he expect to get to the airport for a two-hour plane ride, keep his energy up for 2-3 days, and so on, all of which only begs the question of why he’d want to travel when he can barely see or move around. I told him it’d make more sense if I visited him again, an idea I’d barely gotten out of my mouth before he was on it like a ton of rocks: “That’d be great!” Then, of course, it was easy to see he really just wants to see me one more, or one last, time.

This bullshit’s giving me the intimations-of-mortality blues, I know that much. Some folks would say it’d be easier if I’d written a great book or had kids so I could feel like I was living on through them, but that just brings to mind Woody Allen’s line “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.” Okay, maybe I don’t need to live forever, but the current system of things leaves a lot to be desired and I keep coming back to the idea that I was just born too early in the evolutionary tide. Sure, it beats where the caveman came in, but you just know that 100 years from now cancer’s going to be a thing of the past, and maybe the Tea Party, too. Maybe people won’t even be dying by then, and they’ll have gotten past all prejudice and superstition, and we’ll all be living on peaches and Irish whiskey. I feel out of touch with most every goddam thing anyhow, and when I go downstairs for a cigarette I spend most of that time staring into the middle distance and wondering “What did I want?” Well, in the immortal words of Elaine Benes, I know it wasn’t this. Just now I was down there and some cute young thang in a classless, clueless star-fucker get-up—Ugg boots, miniskirt and cowboy hat—came moseying up the sidewalk when a second woman appeared, walking in the opposite direction. This one was closer to my age, and she had appealingly scruffy gray hair, a denim jacket, and blue jeans with a hole in the knee, and she was moving like she didn’t give a damn about anything in the world. When the two of them passed each other they seemed to lock into a single human being for one elongated second, and I felt like tilting back my head and baying at the sky.

3 Responses to “State of the Bunion”

  1. mary ann Says:

    yup, I understand ~ you just say it better than I do…

  2. Wylie Says:

    “amen” and then,another “amen!”

  3. “I caught a train to Sheffield…” « Tom Blog Says:

    […] apparent now that I won’t be seeing my boss again. I wrote about his condition back here, and after his surgery and return last year he worked on until the end of April. He was game, but […]

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