Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hello Old Friend

Tonight a man in our apartment building passed away after four months of fighting colon cancer. He was a real fighter, not having had a bit of food for a at least four weeks. He told a friend this afternoon he was finally ready to go. And so he did.

I watched solemnly as they took his body away and his mother and daughters looked on from his upstairs apartment. I turned to the guy next to me, we all live here and have varying degrees of friendship with the man that passed, "I don't know if you're religious but this is a good time to say a prayer." He nodded, "yeah, I am. "

I think we are all religious, in that way I meant when I asked my neighbor. We all have a place we go to when our rational mind shrugs and says 'uncle'.

As they were loading him into the mortuary van I realized that he'd been Buddhist. I don't know why I thought that. Somehow I knew it was so and it made me feel okay for him and his family. I know he loved rock and roll, and weed, and dying women's hair and hi tech speakers for his music that he sometimes used to play too loud (but that was before he moved back from Hawaii). And he liked Paul.

I met Danny the year I moved back in with Paul, after our year apart. He had taken the apartment 2 doors away from ours and there were saucy women that would come and go from his place, flouncing there shiny long hair as they sashayed up the steel and cement stairs. He told me they were strippers, some of them, and then he dyed my hair a natural honey color while I was 6 months pregnant. "Girl, you don't want to have unnatural hair when you have a baby, let's take care of this now". So I let him.

There's a lovely picture of me and Paul and 3 day old Alexander sitting beside a large oak dresser my hair the color of it's grain, Paul glowing with sleepy happiness.

This is my informal epistle to you Danny. Rock and roll will never die.

* * *

Paul has been tired lately. Maybe since he's changed rooms, which happened last month. He has a new room mate who seems, similar to him: intelligent enough, capable of sitting up and likes to watch the history channel.

May 19th was Paul's birthday, he turned 62. On his birthday I took him out to lunch and the CNA (certified nurses assistant) said "Oh Paul you look too young to be 62, I thought you were 50s". Then she dressed him for the day.

We brought Paul to the apartment for the afternoon and had some home made cake to Paul's spec's ("vanilla icing, some lemon and white cake" my talented baker friend Christine made it and the lemon curd was to die for). A few friends joined us and we played guitar, harmonica and sang some old songs. Paul sang along on Rainy Day Women. I wonder if he misses getting stoned.

At any rate, a lovely time was had by all.

* * *

I've been feeling called back to life. It's amazing how someones illness, someone dear to you, can just knock the wind out of your sails. Watching them wither, feeling helpless. I realized today it's been nearly a year since Paul moved into the nursing home. A year! And I'm still trying to slap myself out of the drone of daily doing-ness, the over adrenalized business of caring for a quickly aging husband and a vital little boy. Where did I fit into all that.

And so in the past 2 months I've started to run. I'm not sure why I chose running. I guess it came down to this: what can I do to feel good about myself that I can fit into an hour. It would have been familiar and nice if it was performing or recording but those things rely on someone else's participation. But I could go for a run in an hour.

And so I began 'training' to run a 5K (3.1 miles). This weekend I ran my 2nd 5K and my son Alexander ran a kids 1 mile race. We were both thrilled we could make it to the end of our runs and not come in last and share that good feeling with one another.

For me coming back to life is about getting back into this body I was bequeathed. And realizing that my mind and body are not falling apart like Paul's. That as much as I related to/admired Paul, and love Paul, I am not him.

It's time to seize the time we have here, to enjoy this life while we have our health and our minds to think and wonder and cherish.

What are we waiting for?


  1. Dear Cindy,

    It's been good reading your column. A few years back, I interviewed Paul by email for an English Bob Dylan magazine called The Bridge (www.two-riders.co.uk). Paul was very courteous and gave lovingly detailed answers to my questions. We illustrated the piece with a picture of Paul and your boy. I emailed Paul over the years and then suddenly, nothing came back from the States. Sadly, I later realised why.
    I enjoy reading your column, which should really have a second life in a published form.

    All the best,
    Terry Kelly,

  2. your writing is honest, straightforward and so strong.just like you. thanks cindy.