The Serious Cardiologist

TheTruthHasNoConscienceSo, the cardiologist and I are having a conversation. He’s brisk, all business in a busy clinic. I get it. There’s a mood.

I’m light with everyone there, from the waiting room right in, and notice a sense of professional dread in the staff. An East Indian woman had accused the office of letting an elderly white woman in front of them because she was white – not, of course, because she was much more old, and and the red on her nose hinted at other issues that would have her with appointments in other offices.

Factor in that this all happened in front of predominantly East Indian people who exchanged looks, embarrassed for the poor elderly lady and the staff, but also for the behavior of the much younger lady. And that my name, at least in Trinidad, is considered East Indian, and there I am making light of things I see other than what everyone’s ignoring. Sleight of mind.

So anyway, I get in and I’m still in that light mood – which, I had forgotten, cardiologists generally hate. Cardiologists are meticulous folk. It’s rare to find the ones that smile or laugh. So this guy – because underneath all of it, he’s a guy – is getting upset with me and I don’t know why. I’m answering questions, giving him what I know on my health history, he’s stressing out, and I can’t see why.

He leans in, I lean in, masked but following his body language. And then it struck me. He’s quite serious about my health – I mean, he’s supposed to be – and he thinks I’m not taking mine seriously.

I start laughing. He’s continuing, and it’s making it worse for me because I know what’s going on, I want to tell him, but I’m laughing and can’t stop long enough to tell him.

Finally, he pauses. I stop laughing. I tell him, “I get that you are very serious about my health, and I also get that you want me to be as serious as you, and because I am not you think I do not understand my condition. Am I correct?”

He looks at me, “Well, Mr. Rampersad, you know… ”

I interrupt, “Am I correct?”

He takes a breath, “Yes, you are correct. With the medical history you have you should be serious.”

“Yes, yes, I understand it completely. But have you considered I live with that knowledge and have grown accustomed to it enough so where it’s simply part of me, who I am, but not what I think defines me?”, I say with a smile.

“I’m still not certain you understand…”

“OK, let me show you. You’re changing my meds because my bp is high, and because of kidney issues it’s an increased dosage. Once we get that under control you’re probably going to want a stress test with ECG and maybe an echocardiogram to line up. Toss in the standard stuff about losing weight, diet, etc. From there you’ll advise the general surgeon that you have cleared me for the other surgery. That’s the plan, right?”

He sits back, visibly relaxing.

I’m not terrified. I’m not screaming and holding onto life like a stolen kiss. I know what’s going on, sometimes better than the medical people around me. The difference is that they are visitors here. Tourists with umbrellas in their drinks.

I live here.

And more sage doctors know that.

Memento Mori. 

Granted

A Parting in the SeamI know we all die.

That jarring reality came early in life. The world, the cultures, everything is designed so that you aren’t supposed to think about it, but if you manage to fit into one of those cracks – the widening cracks – you realize the finality of mortality. Poets, authors… have written so much about it. Religions offer sanctuary from it. Maybe you’ll come back, maybe you’ll go to a better place.

But isn’t there always a better place? Someone always trying to sell you real estate of some form or another? Cash is easy, tears are real.

I’m intelligent. I’m not supposed to be confused. I’m the one people come to when they are confused. I have no faith that reaches further than the tips of my fingers, my toes, and where my mind can go.

I’m confused. The anger has come and went, as it’s supposed to. But it’s not so much ‘went’. There’s a surprising amount of anger there below acceptance.

One woman loved me more than I was comfortable with, and she’s gone. Another woman fought with me because… she loved me more than I was comfortable with. And she, too, is gone.

There is a rhythm there. A pulse, a silent rage that thwacks at reality now and then despite my best efforts. It’s cynical. It’s sarcastic. It seems to feel no pain, and yet it cannot exist without it.

I know we all die.

I plan for it – the unmentionables that people do not discuss. I planned for it years ago, and I may end up planning it years into the future.

But I did not plan for them to die. I should have, I suppose, since I know we all die.

Yet I failed to plan for them to die. One even told me, told me how, and I nodded my head quietly, thinking she was venting. Hoping she was venting.

She wasn’t venting. I failed. It haunts me.

Another died of the flu. How? Had I been there would something else have happened?

There is no solace here. But there is a silent rage at the world, at myself, and those who take it for granted.

 

Mortality

Skull facsimileWe humans have contemplated mortality for as long as we have been conscious – we’ve developed philosophy, and arguably, theology from it. So many do so much to avoid the inevitable, and yet it remains. We have people working right now to squeeze a little more life into our mortal coils. We live longer because of modern medicine, shoveling coal into the engine of society.

But… why? Are our lives so great that we simply have to continue on? How many more years of traffic, of software patches, of reveling in the idiocy of ‘leaders’… do we want more of that, not less? Do we want to work longer toward a retirement that society robs us of through the flawed ponzi scheme of economics that are based on the assumption that a larger population will produce more and thus be able to support a minority of aged people? There’s so much wrong with that assumption.

And yet, when in a hospital bed, being told by someone who casually hangs a stethoscope over their neck, that they will die… there is surprise. There is denial. There are questions of how long. There is almost no question of the quality of life except in movies and television shows. Those who believe in a deity will make urgent requests for more time, more medical bills, more of the same of  life that so few actually get to enjoy before. Those who do not believe may accept or not, they may fight or not, but typically they do not accept (denial), they do fight. Every breath is a battle.

Spoiler: We’re all going to die at some point. Every breath is a battle anyway; nothing has changed other than someone assigning a possible date that is closer than we might have expected. The world continues to spin.

Some of us fight for relevancy beyond our lifetimes – very few are actually remembered. Think of all those dressed so well after they died, over the ages. As of 2016, there were 100.8 billion dead humans. Our global population is roughly 7 billion at this time. How many are remembered? How many stand out? How many dead people can you think of right now? And how many of them will be remembered in a few hundred years?

But societies, cultures, civilizations – we remember those as we are taught, as was recorded by those who bothered. Even the dead ones. Especially the dead ones.

And underneath all of this, underneath all the things in ‘life’, there is this mortality that we deny through our actions, our words… and what we do not deny, we reinvent into another life, as if this one wasn’t quite enough. As if we have some higher purpose defined by people thousands of years ago scribbling into books.

And yet there are some, very few, that accept that they are already dead. Maybe they’re onto something. Maybe we already are, maybe we’re just echoes of society’s demands, the tools of our tools (Thoreau), going through the motions like Sisyphus, our blood turning the wheel of the great engine of society driving us… where?