Monday, September 14, 2009

Ed Lowe, Himself

How Am I Doing?

Here’s how I am (and by the way, I do appreciate the inquiry, so if was pure patronizing, please keep it a secret from me.).

I fell asleep January 5, 2008. I was in girl’s dorm room (first time—hey, class of ’67, we still wore ties and jackets) with my daughter, Colleen, who was to read from a work of her fiction, culminating a long and tough course of work, including creative writing, critical thinking and criticism.

Colleen turned 40 this Aug. 8.

I had just arrived, after 6 hours of driving from Long Island to someplace near Burlington, Vt., a ride that included some snow, near the end, which I did not know was not snow, but an early, ominous sign from one system of my body to another. I guess I didn’t get it. The idea of snow falling in Northern Vermont on January 5 was too subtle a hint for me, at least it was that night.
Doctors who much later let go some information that they shared only with Susan, my trusted Health Care Trustee, whom I designated only a month earlier, said that I had a bad case of pneumonia. But that was just a detail. As if I showed some poison ivy on my heel during the autopsy of third degree burns.

Colleen and her boyfriend, Chris, arrived, and we chatted while I finished a hamburger. I think we waited for a fourth member—a big, funny friend of theirs—before I then followed them to the campus.

I remember a stairs, a room, and a really welcoming bed.

I entered the room, met a few young writers, felt a little dizzy, asked if I could rest on the bed, and matter-of-factly said, “I think I’m having a stroke.”

That was it.

I’ve never before had a stroke, and don’t know what made me say that, but it worked out to be an accurate diagnosis. I didn’t pick up the pneumonia. Didn’t even hear it about until around May.

So, without knowing about the pneumonia, I lost consciousness until late March.

I never heard Colleen do the reading. She did it, I am told, in tears. One of my more cynical acquaintances asked if she thought it improved her grade. I think newspaper people, by and large, are not nice, and after 40 years, I keep only a few as friends.

A series of stories follow that incident, and I am learning them yet, and probably will until I re-visit whatever…places, if you can call them that...I then toured in Purgatory. The stories all are alternately embarrassing and, well, beautiful, depending on who you are and where you were at the time of both the doing and the accounting. But, that was not the question, and I already have tested your patience in trying to stick to that.

I next recall a scene as a sort of dream I had just before I regained consciousness—this is after two-and-three-quarter-months of slumber, so any part of this may be just my imagination, But I only recall six or seven dreams in my life, so that counts for something—and this voice, which may have been my own voice, asks, “Well, what do want to do?”

A voice that really sounds like mine says: “What, do get I a say in this?”

Long, I guess pregnant, pause.

“What do you want to do?” the disembodied voice persists.

This time, I took him—or, me—seriously. It was a him, though.

It got funny, in retrospect.

The first thing I said was, “Well, my car is paid for.”

I’m leaving the known world, and say proudly that I don’t owe money on the Honda.
I bought my CRV cash. Only time ever. I was angry with the Saturn dealer. All dealers, really, and I went to the savings account, and withdrew whatever amount, and got a bank check, and never went to a dealer again.

“…and the boat is paid for.”

Christ, Edgar (the boat) is almost 25.

Then, more seriously, “The kids will get, maybe $400,000 for the house, plus my retirement stuff. I should have taken care of Susan, dammit, but her four have grown. She’ll be sad, but she won’t have to put up with my shit, either, and she knows, now, that she’s terrific.

“But I couldn’t ask for another minute, God, I’ve had the best life. The best life.

“You can’t imagine,” I said to no one in particular. “I grew up on the Bay. We were poor, but I didn’t know it. We lived in a tiny room, a studio apartment over a garage on the Bay. I grew up to teach, then spent 40-years writing true stories. Beat that.

“You do whatever you do,” I said, “whoever you are. I couldn’t ask for another minute. It would be unconsciously ungrateful.”

I really was full of myself.

When I woke, if you call it that, I was in fetal position, and everything seemed worse the more I learned: can’t move; can’t speak; can’t get up; I can’t even my wipe my own ass? Really? A diaper? What else. Can’t read, can’t write, can’t talk. Can’t sing? Can’t SING!”
Hey, I said, “Go ahead, Take me.”’

“You said, ‘Whatever you want.’ I think I said.

“Oh, yeah. Shit. I said, Whatever you want. But, I meant…”

I’ve learned so much since then. No, begun to learn. But it’s kind of hard to hold onto, because it’s impossible, and couldn’t be. What hell, I’d also accepted death.

Yet, more than anyone, I knew it was real. And, I think, anyway, that I knew I had a lot to learn, too, and didn’t want to.

I was on an emotional roller coaster for months, but going from down to really down. I kept asking, “What’s the point? I made a lot of people happy. I hurt nobody…well, a couple of ex-wives didn’t like the beer, but they knew that from the get-go. And, well, that’s worth, what, a toothache, a violent cold.”

Maybe seven months ago, something crystallized that I’d been hovering over, but it slipped away as soon I got near. And about seven months ago, I caught hold of it, and can cling to it, most days.

It saves me, often—not today, unfortunately—but maybe the next two or three days.
Today, believe it or not, writing to you has saved me.

I decided, me, that this life after the stroke was in addition to the life before the stroke.
Simple, but it changes my life to two lives.

And the life before the stroke was spectacular, a life that millions would envy. And I had it, and I remembered it, and I even was smart enough to know that I had it when I had it, and said so, which made it even better, just when you think that it couldn’t be better.

So, this life, the life with a little extra challenge to it, is the bonus. A bonus.You lived a spectacular life, and the reward is a bonus.

So, that is how I am. Mainly.

As for appearing in person, I’ve done that twice already—once, in early May, at the theatre in Bay Shore, where I introduced the Jim Small Band; and once June 3 to an outfit called The Patricians, basically the Seniors of St. Patrick’s Church, to whom I did a comedy routine a few years ago.

I did all right. Got a few laughs. Not good enough to charge anything
for it, but good enough to keep at it.

I have to charge, in this life. There’s no newspapers any more.

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