We, the People……

Strong words to remind us of our responsibility.

What has happened to our country is nothing less than treasonous.

President Obama has committed treason against We, the People.

His administration has continued the abhorrent, and criminal policies of the former president.

This, despite promising to do the exact opposite.

I never imagined I’d feel compelled to say this but…..

I’m deeply ashamed of my government. And I’m beginning to wonder what the hell has happened to the American people.

Who am I?

My name is Shawnna

But that’s not who I AM

I am a mother to Matt and Ryan

But that’s not who I AM

I work hard every day for a non-profit organization committed to assuring access to health care for all

But that’s not who I AM

I have been ‘in love’ a few times, but never really had that deep, spiritual connection one would call ‘true love’

But that’s not who I AM

Who am I? Today, I am an eternal, spiritual Being committed to bringing Love to all

Tomorrow, I hope to feel the same but this mortal body is subject to emotions that take me different places

I am grateful for today

Father’s Day – 2013

My father was a man of integrity and commitment.

He wasn’t passionate about politics, but I know he loved his country because he always put a flag out every legal holiday. And not just any flag; this one was huge and stretched across the front balcony of our converted duplex apartment.

I find myself wanting to talk to him more and more lately about what’s become of the country we both love. It is truly a fascist state-in-the-making and most people are blind to it.

Not only do they not see it; they don’t want to see it. Wrapped up in their every day lives, they refuse to even entertain the idea that our society is quickly drowning in a fascist toilet.

I wonder what my Dad would think of all of this. I love you Dad – you gave me my sense of responsibility and commitment and for that I’m eternally grateful.

dadandMe

Mother’s Day – 2013

Growing up, I never looked forward to Mother’s Day. Being abandoned by one’s mother leaves a very deep wound.

Today I feel incredibly blessed.

I have two wonderful sons and have done my best to give them a sense of purpose and moral compass. When I have failed – and that is more often than not – I have failed miserably.

Hopefully they don’t feel the same way I did about Mother’s Day.

Love you Matt and Ryan – more than you’ll ever know.

Mom-Matt-Sized

momandryan-Sized

christmas1988cropped

What do bunnies and eggs have to do with Easter?

I’ve often wondered about that – we have so many religious holidays peppered over with seemingly irrelevant symbols.

Then the other day I found this.

Ishtar-Easter-Explained

That made a lot of sense to me intuitively.

But my spiritual yearning for community and companionship calls deeply. Why am I so alone year after year? My Vedic astrology reading shows it will be challenging for me until 2019. Yes indeed – it sure looks like things will be quite challenging for me for at least five years going forward given my self-inflicted tax problems. Be that as it may – I will always look for the deeper meaning – in everything. My son wrote to me yesterday:

maybe you going through this right now is supposed to be how i learn my lesson?

Yes – I hope so. I’m glad to have whatever suffering I encounter serve as a Life Lesson for my sons.

Easter has profound meaning for Christians – especially those Christians who choose to follow Jesus’ message of Love. Rabbi Rami Shapiro has given me a wonderful Easter homily via his blog – and the message of letting go of fear strikes at the very heart of what the spiritual journey means.

The Meaning of Easter by Rabbi Rami Shapiro

May each of you let go of your fear and embrace Love.

A Father, a Daughter and a Dog – A True Story

A dear friend at work sent this to me and it brought me to tears as I was riding home on the commuter train. Enjoy!

A Father, a Daughter and a Dog
A true story by Catherine Moore

“Watch out! You nearly broad sided that car!” My father yelled at me.

“Can’t you do anything right?”

Those words hurt worse than blows. I turned my head toward the elderly man in the seat beside me, daring me to challenge him. A lump rose in my throat as I averted my eyes. I wasn’t prepared for another battle.

“I saw the car, Dad. Please don’t yell at me when I’m driving.”

My voice was measured and steady, sounding far calmer than I really felt.

Dad glared at me, then turned away and settled back. At home I left Dad in front of the television and went outside to collect my thoughts….. dark, heavy clouds hung in the air with a promise of rain. The rumble of distant thunder seemed to echo my inner turmoil.

What could I do about him?

Dad had been a lumberjack in Washington and Oregon. He had enjoyed being outdoors and had reveled in pitting his strength against the forces of nature. He had entered grueling lumberjack competitions, and had placed often. The shelves in his house were filled with trophies that attested to his prowess.

The years marched on relentlessly. The first time he couldn’t lift a heavy log, he joked about it; but later that same day I saw him outside alone, straining to lift it. He became irritable whenever anyone teased him about his advancing age, or when he couldn’t do something he had done as a younger man.

Four days after his sixty-seventh birthday, he had a heart attack. An ambulance sped him to the hospital while a paramedic administered CPR to keep blood and oxygen flowing.

At the hospital, Dad was rushed into an operating room. He was lucky; he survived. But something inside Dad died. His zest for life was gone.

He obstinately refused to follow doctor’s orders. Suggestions and offers of help were turned aside with sarcasm and insults. The number of visitors thinned, then finally stopped altogether.

Dad was left alone.

My husband, Dick, and I asked Dad to come live with us on our small farm. We hoped the fresh air and rustic atmosphere would help him adjust.

Within a week after he moved in, I regretted the invitation. It seemed nothing was satisfactory. He criticized everything I did. I became frustrated and moody.

Soon I was taking my pent-up anger out on Dick. We began to bicker and argue.

Alarmed, Dick sought out our pastor and explained the situation.

The clergyman set up weekly counseling appointments for us. At the close of each session he prayed, asking God to soothe Dad’s troubled mind.

But the months wore on and God was silent. Something had to be done and it was up to me to do it.

The next day I sat down with the phone book and methodically called each of the mental health clinics listed in the Yellow Pages. I explained my problem to each of the sympathetic voices that answered in vain.

Just when I was giving up hope, one of the voices suddenly exclaimed, “I just read something that might help you! Let me go get the article.”

I listened as she read. The article described a remarkable study done at a nursing home. All of the patients were under treatment for chronic depression. Yet their attitudes had improved dramatically when they were given responsibility for a dog.

I drove to the animal shelter that afternoon. After I filled out a questionnaire, a uniformed officer led me to the kennels. The odor of disinfectant stung my nostrils as I moved down the row of pens. Each contained five to seven dogs. Long-haired dogs, curly-haired dogs, black dogs, spotted dogs all jumped up, trying to reach me. I studied each one but rejected one after the other for various reasons too big, too small, too much hair. As I neared the last pen a dog in the shadows of the far corner struggled to his feet, walked to the front of the run and sat down. It was a pointer, one of the dog world’s aristocrats. But this was a caricature of the breed.

Years had etched his face and muzzle with shades of gray. His hip bones jutted out in lopsided triangles. But it was his eyes that caught and held my attention. Calm and clear, they beheld me unwaveringly.

I pointed to the dog. “Can you tell me about him?” The officer looked, then shook his head in puzzlement. “He’s a funny one. Appeared out of nowhere and sat in front of the gate. We brought him in, figuring someone would be right down to claim him. That was two weeks ago and we’ve heard nothing. His time is up tomorrow.” He gestured helplessly.

As the words sank in I turned to the man in horror. “You mean you’re going to kill him?”

“Ma’am,” he said gently, “that’s our policy. We don’t have room for every unclaimed dog.”

I looked at the pointer again. The calm brown eyes awaited my decision.

“I’ll take him,” I said.

I drove home with the dog on the front seat beside me. When I reached the house I honked the horn twice. I was helping my prize out of the car when Dad shuffled onto the front porch.

“Ta-da! Look what I got for you, Dad!” I said excitedly.

Dad looked, then wrinkled his face in disgust. “If I had wanted a dog, I would have gotten one. And I would have picked out a better specimen than that bag of bones. Keep it! I don’t want it” Dad waved his arm scornfully and turned back toward the house.

Anger rose inside me. It squeezed together my throat muscles and pounded into my temples. “You’d better get used to him, Dad. He’s staying!”

Dad ignored me. “Did you hear me, Dad?” I screamed.

At those words Dad whirled angrily, his hands clenched at his sides, his eyes narrowed and blazing with hate. We stood glaring at each other like duelists, when suddenly the pointer pulled free from my grasp. He wobbled toward my dad and sat down in front of him. Then slowly, carefully, he raised his paw.

Dad’s lower jaw trembled as he stared at the uplifted paw confusion replaced the anger in his eyes. The pointer waited patiently.

Then Dad was on his knees hugging the animal.

It was the beginning of a warm and intimate friendship. Dad named the pointer Cheyenne. Together he and Cheyenne explored the community. They spent long hours walking down dusty lanes. They spent reflective moments on the banks of streams, angling for tasty trout. They even started to attend Sunday services together, Dad sitting in a pew and Cheyenne lying quietly at his feet.

Dad and Cheyenne were inseparable throughout the next three years.

Dad’s bitterness faded, and he and Cheyenne made many friends. Then late one night I was startled to feel Cheyenne’s cold nose burrowing through our bed covers. He had never before come into our bedroom at night. I woke Dick, put on my robe and ran into my father’s room. Dad lay in his bed, his face serene. But his spirit had left quietly sometime during the night.

Two days later my shock and grief deepened when I discovered Cheyenne lying dead beside Dad’s bed. I wrapped his still form in the rag rug he had slept on. As Dick and I buried him near a favorite fishing hole, I silently thanked the dog for the help he had given me in restoring Dad’s peace of mind.

The morning of Dad’s funeral dawned overcast and dreary. This day looks like the way I feel, I thought, as I walked down the aisle to the pews reserved for family. I was surprised to see the many friends Dad and Cheyenne had made filling the church. The pastor began his eulogy. It was a tribute to both Dad and the dog who had changed his life.

And then the pastor turned to Hebrews 13:2. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

“I’ve often thanked God for sending that angel,” he said.

For me, the past dropped into place, completing a puzzle that I had not seen before: the sympathetic voice that had just read the right article… Cheyenne’s unexpected appearance at the animal shelter ….his calm acceptance and complete devotion to my father…. and the proximity of their deaths.

And suddenly I understood. I knew that God had answered my prayers after all.

Life is too short for drama or petty things, so laugh hard, love truly and forgive quickly.

Live While You Are Alive.

Forgive now those who made you cry. You might not get a second time.

Share this with someone. Lost time can never be found.

Dog-Angel

Square peg trying to fit in

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes…..

You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things…..

They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Often misattributed to Jack Kerouac, this is a perfect description for how I’ve felt my whole life.

In my almost 59 years, I’ve experienced homelessness, as well as being a country club member; I’ve perfected the art of questioning authority; I detest small talk and find those who revel in it to be generally untrustworthy and less-than authentic.

Sometimes I don’t feel like a very likeable person. My sister tells me that pretty much every time she talks to me. Needless to say, I don’t talk to her very much anymore.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed at the beauty of Life; at the incredible compassion and love that surrounds me. These are fleeting feelings that I long for every day.

I think I’m just a square peg trying to fit in.

Heavens-pink

This Is How You Healthcare: American Death in London

This is an amazing story about an American’s death in London. I’m afraid I won’t live long enough to experience this kind of care in the US.

This Is How You Healthcare: American Death in London

And just in case the link above doesn’t work, I’m copying it here.

in-the-icu

From: Sarah C R Bee
TO: The Healthcare Desk
Date: Feb 18th, 2013

This Is How You Healthcare: American Death In London

London, UK: It’s just after 9.30pm on a Tuesday in the intensive care unit of a hospital in south-west London. A vast spaceship dashboard of drug delivery systems is silent, monitors displaying the word ‘Privacy’. I sit by the foot of the bed while the other four crowd around the top. An empty bottle of scotch is propped in the sheets that cover the stricken, thin form of my father, along with a crucifix on a chain and a Dr Seuss book. I gradually become aware that he has died.

My father’s de facto nephew Charlie, a boisterous Irish lad in his mid-twenties, starts up a Hail Mary over the body of an atheist of Jewish extraction as if it might push life back into him. My aunt weeps. My half-sister in a red woolly hat, herself on six different types of medication, is on the phone to her mother, brightly telling her what she had for dinner. (It was stuffed aubergine.)

Charlie’s younger brother Tommy, a sweet skinny boy of 20 who I last saw when he was a six-year-old potential serial killer, dissolves into my arms, sobbing. Positively radiating serenity, I stroke his head and let his grief wash over me. I have a headache from the scotch we’ve all been sneaking around the bed. I hate scotch. It was Bill’s drink. It was Charlie’s idea. I look at my father’s body. He looks very dead, but then he has looked dead to me this last week, from the first time I saw him crumpled in the sheets, plastic tendrils curling from his head, one green eye stuck half-open.

I am quite aware as this is happening that it probably represents the single biggest headfuck and heartfuck of my life, and also that if it were happening in the US, the place of my father’s birth, it would probably be considerably worse.

In the UK, we treat any old fucker for free. This is why that is important.

* * * *

The place of Bill’s death is a foundation hospital, not directed by the government. It’s a beautiful building, with open corridors around a vast central atrium filled with natural light and dotted with sculptures and fish tanks. You can’t get lost in it, nor can you feel that antiseptic claustrophobia you get in hospitals.

The tax-funded UK National Health Service is now 65 years old. Foreign nationals get free treatment when they’ve been here for a year or otherwise have legal residency. A San Francisco native, Bill rocked up and made a home for himself in London in 1976. Since then he’s had three (count ‘em) artificial hips and been treated for cancer of the larynx, and is now spending his final week in intensive care. When I saw him last year for the first time in ten years, to interview him about the election for NSFWCORP, he mused on how much this country has shelled out to keep him upright: “Oh man, if you were to add up what the NHS has spent on me, it’s phenomenal.”

He was a charming, damaged, charismatic, fiercely intelligent, dissolute individual, who lived entirely on his own terms. As a professional gambler, it is unlikely he paid much if any tax in 37 years. He had no will, no funeral plan. He never did fill out the forms necessary to vote in the last election, or the one before that, as I discovered. He just hated forms. I could sympathise. Had he stayed in the US, it is – how you say – dollars to doughnuts he wouldn’t have got it together to fill out the forms, and would have had no health insurance. He considered the US system “absolutely unmanageable”.

* * * *

Bill goes into hospital on Tuesday complaining of dizziness and disorientation. We talk briefly on the phone and he sounds chipper as a chip. Some little heart arrhythmia thing, chest infection, in overnight for observation, no biggie. By Thursday he has plummeted into the subterranean limbo of the gravely ill, having most likely suffered a heart attack. He is being hauled from acute assessment up to the ICU.

Thursday afternoon I sit by his bed. Talk to him, say the nurses, he can probably hear you. With this type of sedation, the hearing is the last thing to go and the first to come back. I try. Hi, Bill. An inveterate gasbag, I find I’ve got nothing. I am accustomed to showers of aphorisms and miles of monologue from him. There’s nothing to respond to.

An hour by a bed in the ICU is long. I bring some Vonnegut to read to him – I figure it’s the sort of thing he might go for. I don’t even open it. I just sit.

Late in the evening the doctor comes to talk to me. I’m the only one here so far. The friend who brought him in has yet to return, my aunt is on her way from Washington.

Bill’s heart is fucked, hammering away at 150, 160, and it’s fucked everything else. The kidneys are fucked. The liver is fucked. This could go on for days or weeks, the doctor says: “But my feeling is that he will pass away tonight.”

So this is how it ends. I had always figured this fighty bastard – whose own father died two months ago almost to the day, aged 96 – was impervious to the usual quotidian sources of bodily doom. He beat cancer, shrugged off booze, swore that “when they come for me, which they will, I’ll get ‘em with my stick”. When he goes, of course he’s going down a manhole, under a Mercedes driven by a coked-up supermodel, into the belly of an escaped jaguar.

I’m prepared for this. I am sad, but ready. The distance from absence to departure doesn’t seem so far, and it sucks, but it’s OK. I go to bed in the small, snug visitors’ room – the existence of which amazes me – in assurance they will wake me when it’s time. Next morning he’s still there. He will cling on for five more days. The notices will say ‘a short illness’, but they don’t give any sense of how long and hard that can be.

* * * *

So after I thought it would end, it starts. There are many phone calls. There is sitting about. There is eating. There is talking and sleeping and a lot of drinking. There is comfort and joy. There is wartime intimacy with people I have met perhaps twice or haven’t seen in 20 years. There is a sudden, completely different way of being.

Occasionally I sit by Bill’s bed. I don’t do small talk even when people are awake, and wittering away to an unconscious form seems too much like praying – addressing a presence you can be almost certain is not there. The return signal, the connection which was only ever faint and intermittent, is offline. There are only the formal, idiot bips of the monitors.

I’m not about to do any big talk either. I’m not going to say things I don’t mean. He would not hold with any sentimental bullshit, and nothing remains unresolved. I told him ten years ago that he hadn’t been the best parent, and his eyes flashed with momentary outrage, and then he nodded meekly. This tiny gesture represented a huge leap of humility and contrition for him, and I appreciated it as such, and always will.

This, and the fact that he taught me to catch ice-cream drips when I was four, and that he was a lonely old man who was overjoyed to see me a few months ago, who left a string of witty and sweetly anxious voice messages when I flew back from New York just after November’s storm (“I’m a little concerned – how are you where are you when are you? Do I have to send the boy scouts out after you?”): these things have brought me here and kept me here. A sense of duty and basic humanity, some fondness and respect, and the desire not to brutally ditch vulnerable friends and relatives and have to live with the idea of myself as a cold-hearted cunt – I mean, I’m not, and I wouldn’t – are what will keep me here after today.

But it will be hard. Processing what is going on, what has gone on, what could happen, and adopting this role and living up to it – that’s going to take everything and possibly more. I can see it.

There’s nothing to say, so I say nothing. I put my hand over his hand for a bit. The skin is cool. It feels like a small lamb joint. I feel ridiculous. I feel ridiculous.

* * * *

This is life in hospital. Within 24 hours, it seems like all there is. You detach and float away from yourself. You start to alter. You start drinking coffee for the first time in years. You can’t think. Exhaustion makes a moron of you. It is a place where intelligent adults sit around trying to figure out the simplest things – dinner plans, medical minutiae that don’t really mean anything and that you can’t control anyway, how to use a mobile phone – and if you wait a few minutes, the original unanswered stupid question that kicked off the whole sorry bollocks will carousel around again, grinning like a peeling painted horse.

You experience periods of blissful calm, explosions of fury and anxiety, tremendous impulses to behave badly in the face of disgusting boredom. You max out, faster than you thought you could. You feel useless to yourself and everyone else, except for when you feel so exactingly in control you could fly a plane. You can’t tie your shoes. You can’t spell ‘shoe’. You can’t fill out forms. You can’t think. You don’t know what money is. You can’t.

* * * *

One of the registrars presents with a comedic instance of medical nominative determinism. He might as well be called Andrew Bedpan. He is the kind of hearty-cute that makes me want to get to know him under other circumstances. For now, I just grin. I grin helplessly when I try to look at him. He tells me terrible things about Bill’s condition – hovering between grievous and hopeless – in a sympathetic tone. I grin. I apologise for grinning. Bedpan is cool. He probably gets it a lot.

* * * *

The nurses, all casually wonderful, call him William. Everyone else calls him Billy.

The doctors are amazing. They are frank, they are kind, they are judicious. They negotiate the treatment of an almost-lost cause deftly and delicately, endlessly tweaking dosages, consulting, tweaking, considering. They operate within uneven medical and ethical restrictions, balancing responsibilities, managing expectations. They respect life and death equally, and they allow death to take over the second they see that inducing life to continue would be abominable.

He is obviously very tough, says the doctor. At this point Bill’s heart is only functioning at 10 percent. They are going to step down the drugs – adrenaline, noradrenaline, and something they rarely use that sounds like ‘leaveusaminute’, much to my amusement – and see if he responds. See if he rises to the challenge of continuing to exist. If he doesn’t, “we’re not going to jump up and down on his chest”.

Bill’s older daughter is here. She asks the doctor if Bill can dream. A great question. The doctor says most likely yes.

I dream, myself, about a blue whale in a vast tank. It is the biggest thing there has ever been.

* * * *

The main things that keep me sane are the airy beauty and peacefulness of the hospital building, messages from friends and family far away on earth, the mundane magnificence of the staff: and the knowledge that all of this is free and taken care of and I do not have to fill in a single fuckforsaken form or bust one precious braincell worrying about how I might have to find money to pay for the futile care of my dying deadbeat dad.

I return to this miraculous fact many times a day, in exactly the same way that I return often to the little visitors’ bedroom, lock the door and curl up on the bed. The knowledge soothes me like clean sheets and heat.

Imagine, I think in the middle of the night. Imagine if I had to worry about that stuff. With what, exactly, would I worry about it?

* * * *

Day whatever in the ICU. Things change minutely. The position of tubes. Numbers and percentages. The shimmying dots of moisture in the breathing tube. The delicate dance of side-effects and counter-effects.

Blood swirls precisely around the dialysis machine. Bags of fluid hang like inert jellyfish. The green numbers show 167, 168.

You look tired, says the nurse. I do. I am. Have some toast. I decline politely. She badgers me. Go on, just one slice.

Tea appears. Sorry, it’s NHS tea, it’s awful. Get out from here, it is delicious. Two slices of toast follow. Little airline pods of butter, and jam. AND JAM.

Bedpan materialises. Hey, Bedpan. Those scrubs really bring out your eyes. He asks me how I am. I am drunk on jam, is how I am. I beam at him over the artificially inflating ribcage of the man who gave me life and then mostly left me to it, and then I swig tea.

“They ask how I am,” said Bill that one time, “and they give me the jam.” He was very funny.

Bill coughs once. His whole torso seems to lurch. For a moment I think he is going to spring off the bed and ask all assembled what the fuck.

* * * *

This is how you healthcare. It’s care of those clinging to life and care of those spinning and reeling in their orbit, struggling to adapt to life in a new airless atmosphere, a place with its own physics. There’s no division. At one end, there is a malfunctioning heart, so you give it the right dose of the right drugs. At the other end is an exhausted relative, so you give her toast.

By now I am convinced that the NHS – and I hyperbolise, but only slightly – is the greatest achievement of humankind, the nearest we get to a benevolent deity, a goddamn superhero. It is an imperfect manifestation of a beautiful ideal – free care based on need, free care for all, without judgement, without reservation.

However long this goes on for, they’ll continue throwing resources at this individual and never show a single sheet of figures to any of his relatives. Not because they’ll get anything back, but because this is what the NHS does. It’s free care for throat cancer sufferers who only gave up smoking four years afterwards, for drinkers who were told 35 years ago that if they didn’t quit drinking they’d die. Free care for American immigrants, for jerks and gents. Free care for parents whether they showed up or not. Free care for guys who tried to try. Free care for the only father I will ever have.

* * * *

With 21 hours of Bill’s life left, though as far as we know he might still be here in March, I get home at midnight to find my dog staggering as if drunk, getting up and crashing to the floor again, one eye twitching madly. At first it appears that the dog has swallowed some meds that fell out of Bill’s overnight bag, which I’d brought home (no PJs in the ICU). My absentee father’s final gift to me is to kill my dog from his own deathbed. I have hardly spent a week without my dog in nearly a decade. I have probably spent no more than a month in the conscious presence of my dad in my entire life (I don’t think my first year or this last week count).

This is when I lose my shit completely.

It transpires the dog has had a kind of canine stroke, a complete coincidence. The dog has health insurance, making him better off than 15.7 percent of Americans at last count. His own hospital stay is covered. This enables me to recoup just enough of my shit to stay in the game and not just tell everything to go fuck itself because fuck it.

As soon as the vet rings off, my aunt calls. They are withdrawing the drugs at last because there is nowhere else to go. It is time to say bye bye to Bill.

* * * *

Bill’s breathing, aided by ventilator, quickens after I arrive. It may be because he wants to say something, says a new nurse. Tell him you’re going to be OK. I literally cannot comprehend what she has just said to me. I say nothing.

Everyone gathers. Paraphernalia accumulates. Drink is taken. For a time it’s just me and Bill and the boys. Charlie sighs and I hear hope bolt through his mouth like a greyhound out of a trap. “Come on, wake up, Billy,” he says, tearfully. He must be saying this to himself, but if Bill really can hear I don’t want him to worry that anything is expected of him.

I lean towards the bed. “Bill,” I say, “don’t listen to these boys. You do what you have to do.”

There’s a slightly shocked silence, some of it my own, but they defer to me. I’m the next of goddamn kin for chrissakes. I’m kind of a big deal around this bed. Surely the old sod would be proud.

* * * *

Bill dies of heart failure, his skin the colour of sand, his mouth open. One of his tear ducts leaks, because none of this is dramatic or absurd or unbelievable enough.

Tommy cries and cries onto my shoulder. “That’s your old man,” he bawls. Yes, it is. The nurses start gently removing tubes. Charlie babbles about making him look nice please, starts trying to get Bill’s mouth closed. The monitors display ‘Standby’. Standby. I feel nothing. I feel something.

* * * *

Whatever Bill meant to me as a person – and I still don’t quite know how that tune goes – I was overwhelmed with awe and gratitude at the infinite care and gentleness shown him (as well as us) as a human being by the health care system of this country. It is nothing less than life-affirming.

I cannot imagine how any civilised country could do better. I cannot see how any country can be truly civilised without it. If my family and I had had to deal with the vagaries of insurance, forms, debt, extra disaster or extra anything, I suspect we would have proceeded directly to becoming burdens on the system ourselves.

Welcome to earth, young man… It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, Joe, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of: Goddamn it, Joe, you’ve got to be kind!