At several points in my career I was employed by a man of tremendous practical wisdom. He was a consulting engineer with the soul of an artist… a poet… or a musician, and the hard savvy of an accountant. Not that it made him all that much of a good business man… to the contrary, his business was legend in design circles as being something of a functional train wreck. But he loved his work as well as those near to him. And he loved life and the art of living. He would say the most profound things on occasion.
One that sticks in my mind right now was this:
“If a deal sounds too good to be true, then you can pretty much figure that it is just that.”
My younger brother, after years of battling stage 3 lung cancer, was transferred from my sister’s home to the hospice center so they could work out his pain management program. This needed to be done in a controlled environment. To me, that was an obvious conclusion. We discussed this at length via Internet chat. In the process, he went “dark” for a day or two, but re-emerged with a vengeance. Somehow he had found the will and the way to get back online from within the facility. All full of “piss and vinegar” (read: remarkable enthusiasm/ USMC bravado), he was all fired up and desperately awaiting going “home”. So many things on his mind. So many things on mine as well…
The big news was that he was being chauffeur driven back from the hospice facility to my sister’s place. Such exceptional treatment. Very special indeed. Good Lord! He had the vitality of a man fully one-third his age for a moment there. He was on some kind of personal mission regarding a furniture purchase for my sister’s home. We shared seemingly endless Internet searches for this item. It was great fun in what I felt an odd way. The abject focus of it was nothing short of amazing.
By all accounts, this focus was realized at the store and he concluded his “mission” with great enthusiasm and fanatical attention to detail. The pain management program was working! Or so it seemed.
Hours later I got the call from my brother-in-law. He was taken back to the hospice center.
It was too good to be true…
…and that stay was thankfully short lived. Ken departed this world peacefully in his sleep the following morning.
Even during the periods when I did not smoke, I always carried my Zippo so I could “light” other people. Especially ladies. It’s what I do, like walking on the curb side of the pavement, striving to be a proper gentleman.
I enjoy her company and conversation from time to time at the cheapest watering hole in the downtown Center City district. We both drink one of the two least expensive drafts offered, in the small mug version eschewing the 20 ounce pints. Interesting lady. 302’d herself for schizophrenia years ago. Lives at the poverty level. Sells subscriptions by phone for the orchestra. Always dresses in a very dignified way in now stylish vintage clothing. She’s becoming a “cat lady” whether she wants to or not because her heart is so big. Needs a hug now and then. Great stories. Her father wore kilts and smoked Eve cigarettes because he was man enough to do so. Wish I knew him.
She pulled a smoke out of the pack, leaving the nearly empty book of matches on the bar while I readied my Zippo to light it for her. Looking me straight in the eye, she said:
“Sometimes I think I’m just living from cigarette to cigarette.”
I nodded and verbally expressed agreement with that particular sentiment, not quite believing how instantaneous my reaction was. And it scared the Hell out of me.
Want reality? Try a $5.00 haircut!
After the celebrated (reality) bus ride, I moved on to a trolley ride, then to the subway/ elevated train ride for a haircut. One of those days!
The trip took me to an area familiar to me up in the North end of town where a lot of folks I know would never think of going, but their loss… at least in my book. Below the El stop and down the street less than a block are no less than three spots to get a $5.00 haircut. Walking in a Southern direction on the West side of the street is the “original” spot, then the SON OF original spot, then the original spot “School of Beauty” separated by Asian cuisine restaurants. Vietnamese, I think… never been.
Oh, yes, I’ve been to all three somewhere down the line. They seem to be favored by the very young, ex-service guys, the retired, unemployed, welfare recipients, and the very, very frugal. Pay up front, get a pink slip and point at a picture on the wall of what you think you may be interested in and chances (50/50) are you will walk out close to it. I do recall one visit when a very exotic and beautiful Asian lady cut my hair. Yeah- she was all hair and make-up and heels and such. I knew I was in trouble when she started cutting with clippers from the top first with a half-inch comb. Very pleased with the results, she said to me “See- you look good now!”. Thank God I wear hats. It was a very good cut if what I wanted was to be G.I. Joe…
This visit was different. A diminutive lady cut my hair, in a plain smock and Pay Less Shoe Store sneakers. I sat down, she sized up my head and in broken English let me know that she would be using scissors on the top and clean up the sides and back with the clippers. The whole time she was chattering like a mad woman in a language I did not understand. At first I thought that she was conversing with the woman working at the next chair but it became very clear that was not the case. No one was paying any attention to whatever it was she was incessantly talking about. No matter. She was paying attention to all the little grooming points that an older gentleman appreciates in a haircut. And doing a damned fine job of it.
Upon leaving, I donned my outerwear and hat, and pointed to a book sitting on the counter asking her if she was learning Spanish. She proudly let me know that she was learning that language so that she could communicate with some of her customers.
I am reminded of a political cartoon I saw back when in the OP/ED section of The Philadelphia Inquirer. It depicted a caricature of then President Ronald Reagan sprinkling Marines into an over-boiling stove-top pot labeled “World Problems”, wearing a woman’s kitchen apron. I thought the apron was a nice touch. The Marines are always the first to go into any conflict. Always on the ready- anywhere- any time, regardless of circumstance or political climate. They go undaunted and get the job done. A breed apart. They are just wired that way.
My younger brother is a veteran Marine reservist from the Vietnam era. In typical fashion for him, when he went to register for the draft at the county seat, he simply went right across the street and signed up at the USMC recruiting office. When he got back home he explain that not feeling particularly lucky that day regarding his draft chances, he might as well go for a sure thing and join up with the best. Lately he has been fighting the battle of his life in Stage 3 lung cancer. In conversation, I tell people that he has had enough chemotherapy to kill me and whoever I tell it to, whether that be a single person or a group. In typical Marine fashion, he has appropriately named his tumor “Ivan”. He’s just wired that way.
Ivan is winning the war, from the standpoint of his medical team. Enter the hospice program…
The hospice folks arranged a visit from a retired US Air Force officer to present him with gifts of gratitude for service including a pin, flag and framed certificate of thanks. His response to me sounded mildly bewildered: “No one has ever THANKED me before.” That and a regulation salute. He is quite proud of being able to muster that. Remarkable.
Hospice people are the marines of system health care, if you ask me. The role of hospice care is highly misunderstood in this culture. They do the job nobody wants to and face patients’ war on mortality with grace, providing dignity. A breed apart. I’d like to find that cartoon and change the faces and captions. They sprinkled him with something very special…
They are just wired that way.
STEM CELLS FIX HEART 5 YEARS AGO.
The above link is a post from my friend’s blog on adult stem cell (ASC) therapy. He works very hard at promoting awareness of ASC in the United States. I am happy to say that after I filled out a questionnaire I was promptly contacted by a leading ASC center as being a candidate for these therapies. I will know more once I gather all requested information from my cardiologist and primary care provider and get some blood labs done at my clinic and forward it to them.
Beyond that it is a question of money- which I simply do not have. I am however hopeful I will be able to figure something out in that regard, somehow, some way. Having no insurance is not an issue in this- these procedures are not done nor covered here at this time. Whatever the cost, I do know that it will be far less than what was planned with high risk surgery. And far more effective.