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Sunday, March 21, 2004

I was crying when I woke up in the morning... Something about having to change Urologist, feeling vulnerable and let down. I know his decision to "fire me" as a patient is because he thinks it's in my best interest, but something in the back of my mind still thinks it's really in HIS best interest, because he is the one who walks away clean and clear, I am the only one who loses and agonizes.

At this moment in my life, I have the sneaking suspicion I have been trashed by almost every man who has ever been important to me. Nothing like reaching the bottom of the barrel and making a fresh start.

On Friday, someone from my Urologist's office (not any one of the women I have been dealing with regularly for almost seven years, but some stranger, personally unknown to me until now) called to say I had some infection and did I want her to phone in the prescription to my pharmacy? Well, dearie, I am the one who has been saying for a year now that I have an infection, so you are not surprising me at all, and "you" are the ones who have been telling me "you" don't think I have an infection, and heck, the good doctor himself was so surprised I had been on antibiotics for some six months last year, prescribed by my surgeon, to whom "you" , Carol, had sent me, saying "she" did not think I had an infection, "she" thought it was a recurrence of my "other" cancer, and "she" thought I should go and see my surgeon, and no, "she" wouldn't send me a prescrirption.

The problem as I see it with a lot of doctors is that they have what I call "Dragons at the Gate", who think they know more than the doctors and won't let you through. They are more protective of the doctors' limited time than of the patient's interest. They know which side their bread is buttered and it's not yours. They make the executive decisions, they call the shots, they decide how much "treatment" you are going to get.

It's a natural development. Seriously, let's face it, doctors very seldom have time or make time to listen to their patients, and the "Dragons" normally have heard it all, whether they wanted to or not, they are captive audiences both in the office and at the end of the phone. Quite naturally, they feel they are taking better care of the patients than the doctors themselves and it is a fact that by the nature of things they know more of what is going on.

In the case of my Urologist last year, he actually called me to warn me that my surgeon was not a Urologist, and if I had a urological problem, he thought I should be consulting him. Well? That's exactly what I thought too, that's exactly what I had tried to do. That's exactly what "you", Carol, prevented, I had no option to appeal.

I have the strong feeling that "his" Carol has presented the facts in such a way that he has decided to fire me. She wouldn't give me eye contact, when I was there last week. As a matter of fact, her co-worker, Maureen, took me aside into the office kitchenette, plied me with a tuna fish sandwich, baby carrots and grapes, and said: "I am so sorry -- I think Carol is actually being very rude to you."

"I think so too," I agreed, "I was wondering what I might have said or done to provoke her..."

"I don't think it's any of your doing," Maureen said cheerfully, "Sometimes, she is that way, she hates the whole world."

Maybe.

I am girding up my loins to go see the possible new Urologist. I have many concerns: will he accept to take me on, will he listen to me and honor my wishes, will he always frankly tell me the truth, will he be a good stent man, will we be compatible as a doctor/patient team, will he be able to admit me, if necessary, to something other than Kingdom Hospital (Mount Sinai, to the uninitiated). I am gathering for him a precis version of my voluminous, complex and horrifying medical history.

Last, but not least, I hope my medical coverage will suffice to cover his expectations and his expertise! Hehehe!

* * * * *
A further thought on Madrid, which I did not make clear on my previous post.

To say that Al Qaeda won the elections in Spain is, in effect, to side with Al Qaeda. It is to admit to the effectiveness of terrorism and to vindicate it. It vindicates terrorism because it equates it with a political act, instead of recognizing it for the violent, criminal act which it is.

If one were to take a fresh look at the Spanish elections, with their resultant "shift to the left", it might be useful also to have a look at whether voter turnout was greater than expected.

The civilians targeted in Madrid were for the greater part either students going to school, or poor people from poor suburbs and neighborhoods going to work early. In other words, they were more "have nots" than "haves".

Is it conceivable that some "have nots", who normally feel that their opinions don't count for much, suddenly said: "Basta! This time we've had enough and we will be heard", and went to vote, when in the past they might not have thought it worth the detour or the effort?

Everywhere in the world today, where elections are held, it is not so important what parties run, what personalities represent them, what promises they make which they will not keep (remember the old saw: "Promises are only binding on those who listen to them"), what labels and little boxes are set up on the stall of democracy, what pigs in a poke are being offered, what catchy slogans chanted: the real question is "What will the voter turnout be?" I mean to say, if you got 45% of 38% of the voting population, what kind of a majority do you have? What kind of a popular mandate?

Most of the time, for the "have nots", it is just another horse race, of real interest to a limited portion of the population because there is actually no trickle down effect when it comes to power and money.

After 9/11, the whole world had the consciousness "We are all Americans". Bush, by his actions has turned that tide into the greatest worldwide anti-American movement of history, just as he trashed the biggest ever surplus into a historic (and growing all the time) deficit.

Since 3/11, it is time for the whole world to take on the consciousness "We are all Europeans".

For Americans, or any one else, to proclaim that Aznar was punished for joining America in the war on terrorism is divisive. It does nothing but reinforce the notion among the suicide bombers, the death squads, the death cult heroes and heroines, the purveyors of random violence, that if they persist in their bloody actions they can win.

Whadda ya mean, Nobbog? Well, "You're either with us or against us", is divisive. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend", is divisive. If you don't like the word "divisive", try "polarizing".

We could all of us learn from the kitchen: "How do you make tomato soup?"

A lesson in "cooking" from recent history. Poland under Communism.

It was liberated from Russian exploitation by unarmed, peaceful workers who did not take to the streets.

My friend Joe was one of the men who started Solidarity. From the beginning, the emphasis was on containing the testosterone, which wanted to go into the streets. Again and again, gung ho workers had to be persuaded to do it differently, not to be slaughtered like their fathers and grandfathers. Lech Walesa was selected to be the masthead because it was essential, if the movement were to be qualified as a workers' movement, to have a worker heading it, otherwise it would have been all too easy for the Russians to pick off the real leaders, those thinkers and organizers behind the movement.

It required patience, and courage, and going to prison again and again. It included a solidarity beyond patriotism, and it avoided unnecessary violence and killings.

It also required absolute trust between strangers and the postponement of satisfaction, and sometimes a good deal of intuition, and sometimes a good deal of luck (like going home early one evening, to celebrate a kid's birthday, instead of staying at work as usual, to be plucked as a sitting duck when the policemen came to arrest everyone).

In the long run, it brought down the "Evil Empire" (Domino effect, Hehehe!). It was the thin edge of the wedge.

You can disagree with me if you like. Before you do, take another look at what happened in Budapest in 1957, and Prague, in 1967.

* * * * *

My father died, a few minutes after midnight, March 20, 1978. He had announced to me that his widow would not survive him more than six months, "This will break her, this will kill her!" he kept saying. How little he knew her! She still lives to worship at his altar.

There is one such altar on every wall in the house, with a framed portrait of His Holiness taken by yours truly, before which sits a live floral arrangement of some kind, in fresh tribute to old scars.

The reason for evoking my father's death at this time can be found in the recent release of the Sean Penn film "21 Grammes". The title refers to the weight differential between a moribund man and his corpse, and this weight is understood to be the weight of the human soul, which Man has never so far been able either to locate or to prove its existence.

My experience with my father's death is on point because he died at home, and during the final weeks of his life, my stepmother and I took care of him 24/7. Even though he ate full meals almost until his last days, his tall frame was reduced to skin and bones, as all his bodily functions slowly shut down. He was so weak that he could not sit up, or roll over onto his side, without assistance, and during the day, we would prop him up on his pillows, wearing a fresh white shirt, as comfortable as we could make him. Gradually with the passage of time throughout the day, the dead weight of his body would cause him to slump down the bed, and it would take the combined strength of both of us, Yo, Heave Ho!, to bring him one, two, three inches up again. We seriously doubted whether our backs would hold out as long as necessary.

When someone dies a few minutes after midnight in a country house in France, you must wait until at least 9 a.m. to call the undertaker to come and measure the body for a coffin and to organize the funeral arrangements, doctor's certificate, etc. You therefore have a short window of opportunity to dress the corpse for burial before rigor mortis sets in and you can no longer do it without much difficulty.

When my father had quite clearly drawn his last breath and there would not be another, it also was clear to me I was the only person present who could dress him. My stepmother was keening hysterically, her sister had long left the room to go stew in her own personal psychological morass, and the sister's husband had no motivation whatsoever to offer to do the deed for me. I thought that if I gave my stepmother the task of fetching underwear, socks, shirt, suit, tie, shoes, her normal commonsense practicality would return and help her reestablish control.

I had never handled a corpse in my life before. I was doubly squeamish because this was my father, dammit. Besides, I was not at all sure that I could do it singlehandedly: I thought my dead father would be as difficult to budge as my deadweight live father had been.

My father died wearing a pyjama top. The first thing I did was to climb up on the bed beside him, kneeling parallel to his torso, and pull him toward me to release the pyjama top from behind his back.

"Heave Ho!" I thought.

To my horror, the body, all loosy-goosy, flew up into the air and flopped onto me, and his mouth opened and spewed a gush of black vomit all over me, both his arms waving crazily this way and that way through the air.

I felt at the time that my father was cursing me from his grave.

Something weird awakened deep inside me, some warped sense of humor that fought back at this notion of doom, some sort of detached witness started recording the events as if they were not happening to me, as if they were happening to someone else.

Flip, flop, the arms would not go into the sleeves.

Flop, flip, the legs were dodging the trouser pants.

"Bring me a toothpick!"I am the adjutant on the parade ground.

"A toothpick?" The keening has stopped.

"Yes, a toothpick. My father would never go anywhere without a toothpick. Also, please get me a fresh handkerchief."

I work as efficiently as I can. The corpse is like soft rubber, it's almost flying all over the place. My father's soul was not a mere 21 grammes soul, his must have weighed a peck.

"Bring me his tobacco pouch, please!"

"But he stopped smoking thirty years ago..." she protests.

"Sure, but he always kept it, to prove to himself it was a choice he had made, that he could start again any time. While you're about it, please also bring one of his pipes."

The matchbook followed. Then I wanted something that would be from both his official children, and I remembered a small ceramic cat we had bought him with our pocket money in Totnes, many years ago, when we were very young and cycle-touring through Devon as a family.

"My sister is an Egyptian," brother Alain commented when he showed up.

Yes, I buried my father like a pharaoh.

I also spent a huge amount of time putting a pleasant expression on his slack face (for a wild moment, I struggled with the wicked notion of putting a huge grin there instead), tying it up, gently, so very gently, with a silk scarf so that it could set into place as rigor mortis set in.

"He looks so peaceful," everyone said, "He looks at rest."

The body, yes. I could do that for you, Puss, Pop, my Paternal Father, my Old Paludal.

But that peck of soul? Did I affect that at all, as his affected mine and informed me forever?

* * * * *

Doug posted a picture of "Where he blogs from".

I am not equipped to reciprocate, but I have been in a frenzy, since his post, to simplify where I blog from. Just think of this: I have a small white fluffy owl on top of my monitor. Whoooot! The rest of the surroundings really don't bear description. The canals are all silted up, is all I can say. I need to dredge and purge the whole caboodle.

Yup, it's time to spring clean!

Until then, a three dollar bunch of daffodils wafts a so-soft, so-timid scent of a garden right next to my keyboard.
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