A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Puckish By Lunchtime
Monday, August 03, 2009

I spent my day in a most extraordinary but ambivalent way. One moment I felt I was in a soaring situation and the next I was in a no solution, no way out fit of depression. I spent my day with two persons (not together). One told me once, a few days back, “I am dying,” while the other has often told me, “I don’t want to live.”

It was quite a few years ago that on my way to my first hosta convention in Columbus, Ohio I visited my aunt Dorothy in Toronto. I wrote about her statement that she didn’t want to go on here. I have been thinking about her recently as I deal with my 85 year-old cousin and godmother in Buenos Aires who is excited to be alive and enjoys every spoken DVD book I send her by the mail.

I live with what I consider to be minor chronic pains and I wonder if I too, when that pain is racked up in intensity, will want to stop living. I will only know when I am there.

Today I read to my friend from The Nowel Coward Diaries which has post-it notes to passages that interested me the first time I read this lovely book. I was suddenly moved to optimism and glee when I read him:

…Cole and I had a long and cosy [ Noel Coward’s spelling] talk about death the other evening, sitting up here watching the dark come and the fireflies to appear. He is so sensible. We discussed what would happen if I died and what would happen if he died, and came to the sensible conclusion that there was nothing to be done. We should have to get on with life until our turn came. I said, ‘After all, the day had to go on and breakfast had to be eaten,’ and he replied that if I died he might find it a little difficult to eat breakfast but would probably be puckish by lunch-time…
Sunday, 19 November,1961, The Noel Coward Diaries

I came to the conclusion today that it is not pain ( since I am not suffering enough of it I could be completely wrong here) but the prospect of losing one’s independence and self-sufficiency that initiates a desire to vacate in some way a present existence.

As a boy my black Raleigh was indestructible. I could repair flat tires and when the chain fell off I knew how to fix it. A frequent hosing of the bike and an application of 3 & 1 Oil made the bike seem to run twice as fast. I did not need anybody. In Mexico around 1970 I learned to do most of the tuneups and repairs to our VW Beetle. I would remove the gasoline tank once a year and wash its interior with paint thinner. Mexican gasoline had lots of water and gunk. Fuel lines would stop up frequently if I did not perform this task.

If my wife’s Audi would suddenly stop in the middle of a bridge or street I would not even begin to know where to look to start it again. The complexification of our machines has made us ever more dependent on others. If my computer crashes I might turn it off and then turn it on as a last ditch attempt to repair it. After that I will be lost and will have to take the unit to someone who might know.

Tomorrow I teach from 9 to 4. Rosemary will be leaving the hospital late morning. There is no way I can cancel my classes in short notice nor can I find anybody to substitute me in class. This means that the only person who can take Rosemary home is my son-in-law Bruce who happily does not work tomorrow.

I left my wife with a sad look on her face tonight and I told her, “I have you and you have me. We have nobody else." At one time that was good. We were young and healthy. There was always a way. Now we have lost that independence, that self-sufficiency. We are going to have to learn to depend on others.

It is somewhere when that dependency becomes almost total that one’s will to live erodes.


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