The Sick President Wanted to Get Out of That Hospital

The really sick President really wanted to get out of that hospital. I don’t blame him. I hate hospitals. They stink of disease and death no matter how much they try to cover it up with all manner of stinking disinfectants. And if you have to share a room you have to share the TV with some stranger. The food is atrocious, and they keep waking you up at night. My brother, who died of brain cancer, really complained about them never letting him sleep. What can you say about a place, he said, that commodifies compassion.

So I understand why the Sick President wanted to go home. It’s much nicer there, in your own bed, all snuggly, with your own remote, and some servant to bring you a nice cup of tea. And why shouldn’t he go home, what with the servants there. He has also his own little hospital room in the White House where he can lie around and tweet while they give him fluids intravenously. All at the taxpayers expense.

After all he is the President. He is not one of those all bent over and smelly little old ladies that you see creeping around the halls of the hospital and that are hard even to look at. (For God’s sake, can’t they keep them out of sight!) Who, you know, can’t breath and have a tube stuck down their throats, and who die completely alone because their children and grandchildren can’t get in the hospital.

So hell, yes, I understand why the sick President wanted to get out of that hospital. And he could because He is The President.

The Sick President Endorses COVID

Isn’t the Sick President endorsing COVID when he proclaims, in yet another buffoonish chest pounding moment, that he has not felt better in 20 years. Apparently, getting COVID is a good thing, not something to be afraid of at all.

I guess I should rush right out and get it. Perhaps I will go to a crowded bar with no ventilation and nobody wearing a mask and I too, with any luck, will get the bug and feel better than I have in 20 years. Maybe they should bottle the stuff as a life giving elixir; you too can take 20 years off your age, just like the sick President.

Maybe I would take it. Given how miserable I feel at this moment I would welcome feeling like 54 rather than my aching and anxiety ridden 74. With my luck, though, I would probably die. I don’t have the doctors he has to give all the drugs he has taken.

Maybe the steroids the doctors gave him led him to this overly exuberant assessment of his health. You would think somebody might have told him that steroids could do that to a person. I mean make them embarrassingly over exuberant. But then I get the feeling that nobody can tell this guy anything he doesn’t want to hear.

My Fellow Septuagenarian: The Sick President

Well, the President is in the hospital.  And I am forced to sit and wait for updates on his condition.  This makes me edgy because, while I think he has been an incompetent and destructive “leader,” I can’t help but identify with him a little.  We are the same age, both born in 1945, both 74 years old.  He is my fellow septuagenarian. There is something to that connection; not everybody gets to be one. So hearing about his condition and how he is doing seems a bit like a forecast of how I might do under similar circumstances.

I mean from the beginning of his pandemic thing, I have been made acutely aware that I belong to the group most vulnerable to death by this plague.  Over and over again, I see that 70 percent of the people who die from COVID are over 65, and the older you get the worse your chances are.  So I identify with the President on this score, and quite irrationally feel that if he being well over 65 and obese on top of that,  manages to recover from this attack of the plague, I too over 65 years of age, but not obese, may also recover should I catch it.  Somehow the thought of his getting well gives me a feeling of hope.

But, as I said, this is all irrational.  Were I to get this plague I would not have the best medical minds of the age on my case.  His getting better will not magically increase my chances of getting better.  And this failure of identification reminds me that I would probably not have to be as anxious as I am about this plague if he and his atrocious crew had not been so completely incompetent and deluded in their handling of the plague in the first place.

So I remain edgy and waiting for the next update.

Inconclusive Updates about the Sick President

According to my phone the Sick President has been in the hospital for three days. During that time a number of medical people and persons on his staff have given updates regarding his condition. Unfortunately, the updates have not been satisfying because of their lack of clarity and at times internal contradictions. They say, for example, the President is only mildly ill, and we are giving him a steroid usually administered to persons whose case is–how to say?–well beyond mild. Or we did administer oxygen though we are sure exactly when. And so on and so forth.

Some of these odd statements were made by doctors, persons with much education and, one would hope, some ethical sense. They nonetheless could not give a clear yes or no to the question about whether the President’s oxygen level had fallen below 80. These doctors were under orders I supposed to obfuscate and not to clarify. Still, one would hope a doctor might have the integrity either to refuse such an order or, instead, tell the truth.

I remain hopelessly naïve.

Old and Anxious in the Age of Anxiety

A while back Rollo May wrote a book called, as I remember, The Age of Anxiety.  In my mind, this is a sort of 60’s book, like One Dimensional Man, that cast a critical eye on the ills of our society.  His argument, in brief, was that as rules and conventions, governing, say, sex roles became ambiguous, and as religion lost its hold in our secular age, more and more responsibility would be put on the individual to determine his or her course in life or the contours of his or her “life-style.”  And this increased sense of responsibility, along with having lost the automatic pilot of rules, regulations, and traditional values, would lead almost necessarily to an increase in anxiety.  Or, yes, we are now freer than we once were, but we are also more lost.

I think this line of reasoning might be applied not just to our age but to “age” or aging period.  In retirement, at 72 years of age, I find that most of the rules that once governed and determined my daily routine are gone.  And they have gone, not because something as abstract as ‘the age’ has taken them away, but because the very material processes by which I might support and maintain those rules and routines have dramatically altered.  I can no longer run without endangering my ankles, and I can no longer jump because my knees swell up.  Sure, I could do these things I suppose, but then I would really pay for it, by becoming immobilized.  There are quite a few things—some of them very important—that I can no longer do, not because I don’t want to, but because I can’t.

It’s the strangest thing to watch young men playing basketball.  They run for hours flowing effortlessly, forwards and backwards and sideways, up and down the court.  And I remember and can feel somewhere in my bones that once upon a time I could do that and I enjoyed doing it too, but I no longer can. It hurts to watch.  I don’t know if it is worth it.  I didn’t understand before when people would say, “That was another lifetime.”  Now I do.  I look at those young men and I think of things I did when I was twenty and I can’t imagine how I ever did them.  That must have been another lifetime.

It isn’t just that “the age” is riven with anxiety—I think it is—but that anxiety is, as they say, baked into the process of aging.  It’s a sort of double whammy.  Living in an age of ambiguity at an age that itself is ambiguous.  I mean old people don’t even know what to call ourselves. I happened to mention that, according to an organization for seniors, people over 70 years old are “elderly.”  And one of the people sitting nearby said she was over 70 and be damned if she was “elderly.”  People over 80, she said, were elderly.  And identity concerns like this are small potatoes when contrasted with the really important ones like what are the rules and traditions for determining how long one should live (when in the past, not that long ago, one would have been dead already).  Or what the hell should I indicate in my DNR’s?

Counting the Dead

                                         Keeping Track

The flu seems pretty bad this year.  According to the paper, over 30 people here in California have died.  But, inevitably, it seems, the paper goes on to report that these 30 people are all under the age of 65.  And that probably the number of dead is much greater than 30 because of all the people over 65 who died of it.  But they don’t know how many of those people that might be because they only count the number of people under 65 who die of the disease and not the number over 65.

Frankly, I don’t understand this practice.  There must be some reason for it.  Is the number of people over 65 so enormous that they just can’t be counted?  Or could the paperwork produced by their deaths be too burdensome to doctors, clinics, and hospitals?  If this is the case—and I am not saying it is—surely there should be at least some reporting, some attempts to keeps tabs, on the massive number of people over 65 who die from the disease.  I really believe people, like me, who are over 65 might be interested.  Or maybe, they do know the number over 65, but they don’t report it because it would be just too depressing for words.

In any case, I am confused, and really wish they would clear up the matter.  I mean because I just can’t shake the impression that they don’t count the people over 65 who die because—I don’t know how else to say it—people over 65 just don’t count.  Isn’t that generally the case in all such matters: those who don’t count go uncounted?  Counting counts, if you know what I mean.

I am hard pressed not to infer that this is the case, especially when the headline to the article blares: 10 children dead while those over 65 who have died go not only unmentioned but also actually uncounted.  But the children clearly have been counted.  Somebody somewhere took the time and the effort to tally that score.  Of course, having a child die is a horrible thing, and, maybe, having an elderly person (somebody over 65) die is just not as horrible.  Still, would it take that much effort to count them?  Or maybe the elderly tend to die alone and penurious in their tacky apartments and nobody is there to count.  While people do tend to keep track of their children though occasionally they do get lost at the circus or something like that.

The Mind Object: Writing 7

The Brain as Mind Object

Once upon a time, I read a lot of psychoanalysis.  I liked especially a form of it called “object relations.”  The basic idea is pretty simple; one’s mental health is in part dependent on one’s ability to form strong and stable relations with one’s objects.  An object might, for example, be another person, like one’s mother or father, or it might even be an object: like a car.  These relations stabilize us in the ongoing flux of experience.

One object relations theorist, the great D.W. Winnicott, wrote about the “mind object” or the mind as object. Took me a while to figure that out because, while most of the objects we attach to are outside us, in some sense, the mind seems to me something inside me.  Or maybe I couldn’t figure it out because I didn’t like what he seemed to be saying.  Some people, more than others, take their mind as an object.  For example, he wonders about people who think about such things as: if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound.  I am such a person.  I find it hard to believe that there are people who have not taken this question seriously.  I am consternated when I think about that.  Even though I know many people couldn’t give a hoot about such a question.  And many people haven’t even heard this question and have no opinion on it, consequently, whatsoever.

So I am heavily invested, perhaps even over invested, in my mind object.  But then I have never claimed to be balanced.  It’s just that at this point in my life I find myself more and more troubled by the state of my mind. It ain’t what it used to be.  I can’t concentrate all that much anymore, and I forget all sorts of things.  And I just can’t “cognate” like I used to.  When I was teaching, I would read something, think about it, and write up a whole lecture in my head.  I didn’t usually use this lecture, but it was there, if I needed it, but not anymore.  I can’t do that.  And I used to have some fun at it—at putting those thoughts together in some coherent form—and now that source of fun is gone.

When my mind object was working, I could be my own best company.  Now I am rotten company because my mind isn’t working.  I start trying to think something and I forget what I am doing.  “Words, words, words,” I think.  And they don’t add up to anything.  I just read an article about how stress can cause the brain to shrink.  I think maybe my mind object is shrinking….

The Paper Arrived! Writing 6

 

                                                 Mud on 101

My paper was there this morning all neatly folded and wrapped with a rubber band.  That was comforting because it seemed to prove the claim, made yesterday, that the freeway, previously blocked for two weeks, is now open for business.  That’s why, as previously indicated, I thought the paper was late.  It’s the LA Times and comes up from LA on the road that was blocked by the recent floods.  So I figured they had to drive the paper up the long way taking about four and a half hours, so by the time the contractor got it to deliver to my place it was necessarily late.  But now things are back in order because the paper was there waiting for me when I opened the door.

Still the headlines were not all that reassuring, and another body was recovered so now officially, I think, 21 people died in the flood.  And at the club, where I work out daily, the flood remains the topic of conversation.  One of the guys there was driven from his home by the flood.  And he can’t get back in because they still have no electricity, or water, or gas.  He goes around spreading paranoia, since, he says, he has talked to experts and other people who have walked the mountain trails, and they say (he says) that the recent fires have destabilized the peaks, and come the next big rain the whole area will be buried in errant boulders the size of Volkswagens.

I discussed this possibility with my wife and we agreed that probably boulders would not get to us since they would have to travel a real long distance, and then they would have to cross a freeway, and then they would have to go through a shopping center and the walls of a Costco before they got to us.  Living as we do about a mile and half from the Pacific, we are in far more danger from a tsunami—a danger that recently increased, when over the last two years, the nine hole golf course behind our place was dug up and replaced by a huge hole—intended to be the site, we have been told, for a bird refuge.  Right now there is water in it—from the flood—and some birds.  But it will make a perfect channel up to our door for the tsunami when it comes.

And, of course, this is California, and there is always the possibility of earthquake.  So while getting the daily paper again in a daily way was somewhat reassuring, I am evidently quite a ways from feeling completely secure in my current circumstances.

                                          Errant Boulder

 

Where’s My Paper?–Writing 5

Well, at this point, my writing experiment or, at least, the attempt to make it a daily practice is not going so well.  I missed yesterday though I am not sure why.  Something got in the way.  I could do it easily, in terms of a daily practice, if I thought of what I am writing here as a diary—a daily record of events.  But I set a higher bar for this experiment.  I want what I write to have some sort of point beyond a mere detailing and recording of how many times I fart in a day (already done in obsessive detail by Samuel Beckett).  Though, I must say, at this point I have no idea what the point of this entry might be except to detail and record my frustration. The idea of having a point would seem to assume that there is some larger point to everything that is.  And I am not sure about that.  What the larger point might be.

Perhaps things like the recent fire and the recent flood rocks the foundations of our daily lives, our stability.  As long as things are stable we assume there is a point.  But when things become unstable, we see through the cracks in the daily routine…and what do we see there.  Nothing.   All of which is a roundabout way of saying I am not getting my daily paper on time.  Before the flood and fires my paper would arrive around 6.  In any case, it would be there when I opened the front door.  That is no longer the case.  I open the door around 730 and there is nothing there but naked concrete.

Usually, when I looked out around 10, the paper is there.  Some person has brought it and left it.  So I do get the paper, but not when I want it.  And this is upsetting.  I have been getting this paper for over twenty years.  Mostly, it appeared when it was supposed to over that time, surprisingly so in fact.  But not now.  I tried to contact the newspaper people about this problem, but I received some sort of generic reply about my contractor having been contacted that did not answer my question:  “is the paper delayed because the freeway is closed?”  I assume the answer to this question would be “yes” if I could ever find a person to answer it.

 

 

Fire! Writing 4

Hmmm.  I don’t think this writing experiment is turning out so hot.  I had thought that maybe the activity would add an iota of the positive to my day.  But now I think that, not only is it not therapeutic, it may be making things worse.  Or maybe this feeling of things being worse has nothing to do with the writing per se, but with events and conditions that gave rise to this idea that I should write something every day in the first place.  I find it a bit odd, at any rate, that I should decide to exercise my brain in this way right in the middle of a local disaster.

Briefly, starting in early December, 2017, a fire broke out that raged for weeks in the hills and on the mountains nearby.  Looking back, in retrospect, it’s clear my wife and I were never in any immediate danger.  But at the time, things were not so clear.  Yes, the fire remained miles away, but it was also moving quickly.  So while I calmed myself by thinking it was far away, I was panicked by the idea that it could and might move very quickly.  Big winds were coming, they said, offshore sundowners, I think they were called, and the tension in the voices of officials made it clear to me at least that they didn’t know what might happen when the winds hit.  This was a big fire they said; they hadn’t seen anything like it in recent memory.

Many homes had burned and many people had died in a fast moving, out of nowhere fire, up North, in Napa.  One old couple had been trapped by the fire, taken refuge in a swimming pool, and been suffocated by the smoke.  Our fire, though, seemed a bit different.  Yes, it might move very quickly, but, unlike the fire up north, it was not coming out-of-nowhere.  We were prepared or at least know it was coming.  And it was day light, we could see the smoke.  The people up North had been asleep when the fire struck.

These thoughts or ones like them circled the edges of my consciousness with varying degrees of intensity for nearly two weeks.  They might all be summed up by the question: are we going to be told to evacuate. Many people had already done that.  The motels in town were filling up with displaced persons.  Others were getting ready, putting together bags or suitcases with their most valuable possessions.  And putting those right by the front door.  And making sure they knew where their car keys were because if they had to evacuate in the dark (with no electricity likely) they might have a hard time locating their keys.

Every time I thought about this, about having to evacuate, about having to gather belongings, and credit cards, and cell phone chargers and so on and so for, and getting in a car, and driving somewhere, and trying to find a place to stay, I was overcome with an immense sense of fatigue.  I just didn’t know if I could do it.  I just didn’t know if maybe I was too damn tired to do it anymore.