Tag: death

An incurable affliction

I’M AN OLD MAN, and I don’t like it one bit.

New ImageThis phenomenon sneaks up on you like a rat snake. First, you feel the energy level slipping. I initially noticed that about a decade ago when I was in my mid-60s.

That’s when I quit mowing the yard in summertime.

Then your body begins to jig and jag in various ways, nothing that puts you out of commission (yet), but it’s noticeable. Your balance becomes unreliable. You feel this most on standing from a chair or bed.

What separates the sickness of aging from other afflictions like a bad cold, the flu or injuries from a motorcycle accident is that you can recover from a bad cold or flu and, with luck, from accident injuries of every sort.

But there is no recovering from getting old. There is no pill to take. You will not take an aspirin and feel better in the morning. It’s a downhill skid.

This is rather disturbing, that there is no cure for the first time in your life. But I have been fortunate. I can say there is no cure for the first time in my life because — knock on wood — I’ve never had anything incurable befall me. Others are not so lucky.

I have no vices, and I’m skinny svelte. These things work in my favor. I used to have vices. Smoking, drinking. But I quit smoking about 30 years ago, and I quit drinking on a March evening in Houston, 1996.

I started smoking at age 19 when I was in the Air Force. I smoked pipes like David Niven, cigars like Fidel Castro and cigarettes like millions of people. Oddly, it was not very difficult to stop smoking. I tapered off. No cold turkey for this boy. I recommend that method.

I started drinking in my mid-20s when I was married to my first wife. It was moderate at first, and I favored Southern Comfort, which is ghastly now that I think back on it. Syrupy swill.

After the first divorce at 26, I got serious about drinking, switching to alcohol for adults, and I remained serious about 25 years. I wasn’t a falling-down drunk nor a nasty one. But I did drink daily, every single, solitary day. Then I quit. Life improved immensely.

Oddly again, quitting was easy, easier than stopping smoking.

And I was not always skinny svelte either. I weighed about 55 pounds more than I do now until I was in my early 30s. Heftiness is bad for your health, and you’re less likely to reach an advanced age if you’re a meatball.

I weigh now what I weighed at age 21.

So, no smoking, no drinking and skinny svelte, all positive things if you don’t want to die prematurely, and I will not die prematurely.

It’s too late for that. I can only die via the normal schedule.

I’m hanging in there, but I don’t like it. And there’s no good solution. There is only one cure. And you know what that is.

Noses and gasoline

nose

THIS MORNING, sitting at my computer, reading the news about 7 a.m., I paused to blow my nose. I’ve had a half-assed cold since Sunday.

My right nostril started to bleed … and bleed … and bleed. In a fast moment, it was like I was standing in a slaughterhouse watching the gutting of a hog. It was a torrent, and it would not stop.

After about ten minutes with paper towels and toilet paper, however, I did manage to control the inundation because it coagulated in my nose, and I had a ton of paper pushed up there.

My child bride and I drove to a clinic. An hour later I looked like this. There is lots of gauze up my nostril, and there it will remain till Friday. It’s not very convenient because, as mentioned, I have a cold.

I remember long ago that my mother told me my father had a similar situation one morning, bleeding profusely through the nose.

He was dead a year later.

The doctor prescribed a heavy dose of Vitamin K.

As if the cold weren’t bad enough, there is more.

* * * *

Gas shortage worsens

As mentioned a few days ago, parts of Mexico are suffering a severe shortage of gasoline. Instead of getting better, it’s gotten worse. And, lucky us, it seems the problem is most severe in my state.

gas-lineup

As we drove this morning to the clinic, we passed the Pemex station just up the highway, there was a line of cars at least a half mile long. I stole the above photo off the internet. I don’t know why they are standing there instead of being in their vehicles.

Not a good week hereabouts, neither for noses nor vehicles.

I wish we had bicycles.

Death, a constant presence

THE OLDER you get, the closer to death you are and the more death you witness in one way or another.

In my years here on this Mexican mountaintop, plenty of people I’ve known have died.

The brother-in-law, of course. He killed himself unintentionally with a small-caliber pistol that he aimed too close to his heart.

Long ago, there was an old fellow named Charlie who drove around town in a rattletrap Volkswagen Bug the color of a bluebird. Every time he saw me, he asked: Are you still here?

And I always was.

Once Charlie was having lunch at a sidewalk table outside a restaurant on the main plaza when a car pulled up and thugs got out. They walked by Charlie, went into the restaurant, grabbed a man, tossed him into the car trunk and drove off.

They were rivals from narco gangs. This all happened right next to Charlie who didn’t bat an eye. He later said he thought the guys in the car were cops. But they were not. Charlie is gone now, a natural demise. He’s not here.

But I still am.

There was another fellow. He was quite fond of my child bride, and he often would sit with us Saturday afternoons during the weekly pastry sales that my wife did then and still does now.

He was a nervous man, gay, quite smart, about 50 years old, but very nice. We enjoyed his company. He was a Cárdenas, a descendent of Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas. One day we heard he died under questionable circumstances.

Then there was the wonderful Al Kinnison. I loved that guy. He was almost like a father to me. When he died here in 2005 at the age of 79, I wrote a tribute to him. And I miss him still. His wife, Jean, preceded him into the unknown a year or two before.

Almost two years ago, a nephew died at age 31 of cancer. We had driven him almost weekly for a year to the state capital for chemo treatments, to no avail. He left a wife named Alma (soul) and two small children.

Last May, a second brother-in-law died. A heart attack in his early 50s. He was a younger sibling of my wife. No one had a clue about his health issue, so his death came out of the blue.

And very recently, two more. One was an old man we knew fairly well. The other was a young boy we knew far less well but who had impressed us mightily the last few years.

Almost every Saturday, before heading downtown for our pastry sale, we eat lunch at a very humble, roasted-chicken eatery on the highway near the Hacienda. The family business started about three years ago in exceedingly low-rent surroundings. A small dark room with a couple of metal tables and chairs.

A father, mother, two children and a granny who made the tortillas by hand.

The father roasted the chickens on wooden stakes stuck vertically into glowing coals which were spread directly on the ground outside. He also cooked chorizo and ribs in the same way. He is a very serious young man whom I’ve seen smile just once.

His wife is far more outgoing, a young, happy woman who looks in her late 30s. The husband is about the same age. The children were a daughter about 7 and a son, 16.

They toil seven days a week.

The food they sell is excellent, and the business grew. Last spring they moved a few doors in the other direction to a larger, less gloomy location, but the roof consists of log beams and a plastic cover. That’s what keeps the rain at bay.

My wife and I always noticed the boy. He was tall, good-looking, clean-cut, polite, attentive to the needs of both customers and his parents. He seemed like a great kid, the sort of son anyone would be proud of, and they were proud of him.

He did home deliveries on a small Honda motorcycle. He was killed on that bike two weeks ago. This is what tragedies are made of. We learned of that last Saturday.

Last week, Michael Warshauer died. He and his wife, Susie, came to our house not long after they moved to the mountaintop in 2005. Mike was a superlative cook, and I had mentioned that I missed Vietnamese pho soup, which I often ate in Houston.

Mike and Susie visited, and Mike made pho. It was good. Not quite what the Vietnamese served in Houston due to the lack of some ingredients hereabouts, but it was a stellar effort. The inimitable Jennifer Rose has written an excellent tribute to Mike, which you can see here.

She did it far better than I could have.

R.I.P., Mike, and to all of the others I mentioned or, as it’s written in Spanish, Q.E.P.D.

Perhaps I won’t be far behind you. Have pho prepared, please. Fixings shouldn’t be an issue up there. And I’ve heard good things about your chocolate eclairs. That too would be appreciated. I adore eclairs.

Thanks in advance.

Day of the Dead, Part 2

carlos
Brother Carlos’ grave sits as clean as we could get it, flowered and ready for another year.

YESTERDAY WE did what we always do on November 2. We tossed supplies into a big bucket — bleach, incense, lighter, broom, dustpan, trash bag, candles, plant clippers, etc. — and we headed to the downtown cemetery.

Due to the graves’ being shoulder to shoulder, the traditional Day of the Dead overnight vigils are not held in that cemetery. There simply is not enough room, so families go the next day to clean the tombs and leave flowers.

Outside the cemetery gates, you’ll find vendors selling flowers at inflated prices and painted coffee cans to fill with water and use as vases. You also hire boys, young men and even girls to help scrub the headstones while family members stand nearby and observe.

This year we encountered something quite disturbing. Two tombs to the left, bodies had been removed. In so doing, a metal fence that had surrounded those graves had been tossed willy-nilly atop the abutting grave and the following one, which was ours, brother Carlos who died at age 26 over 30 years ago.

We had not yet hired the helpers to scrub our grave, so my child bride headed out to find two young men, not kids. We needed someone strong enough to move the fencing, and that is what happened. Two young men with dyed blond hair muscled it back atop the empty graves.

I neglected to snap photos until after the fence had been manhandled back to where it came from. Here is where it came from:

cage
It’s quite tacky to empty a grave and toss its fence atop the neighbors’ resting places.

Those empty holes go down about 10 feet, so having the fence around them is a good idea, especially if folks are stumbling about in the dead of night.

I remember who had been buried there before, a narco family. One of the homemade markers had an automatic rifle hand-painted on it. You don’t do that if you’re honest, church-going people. I wonder where they were moved to.

Today we continue our Day of the Dead duties. We’ll drive about 40 minutes southwest to the cemetery in the small town where my child bride spent her earliest years. Buried there are her mother and father.

Mother died at age 31 giving birth to her fifth and final child. Father died many years later at 61 of a heart attack. We’ll tidy up their stones, leave flowers, and go have lunch. Maybe some enchiladas.