Saturday, July 04, 2009


"Excuse me."

"Excuse me!!"



I hereby state: I do no understand the human race.

True, my ride home was emotional. Joe and I arrived home from teaching Summer School and immediately headed down to the hospital. A friend of our is very, very, ill. He had been recieving treatment for cancer, and during that trial a medical mistake was made that resulted in him having a stroke. For almost two months he has been in intensive care. For almost two months we've seen his wife carry the burden of loving her husband and dealing with her anger at obvious malpractice. It's been tough on her. But we had just heard that he'd been moved up to a ward in the hospital and was able, now, to receive visitors.

He is in a room with three others. His bed is immediately inside the door, Joe walked straight by him to check the far bed, he was much changed and almost unrecognizable but I noticed him notice us so I called Joe back. His wife was there clearly pleased to have visitors, she moved her chair round so we could get up near the bed. Tubes entered his body at every angle, a hole had been cut in his neck so that a breathing apparatus could be attached. His speach was whispered and weak. I found I could say little, the shock was too great.

I asked him how it was going - the answer painfully obvious in front of me - and he weekly made a guesture. He moved the minimal amount, taking all of his strength to move only the slightest bit. I didn't realize until this morning that he had been pointing at the window. Of course. He was an active guy. He loved being out of doors, he loved doing stuff around his place, he loved the sheer pleasure of interacting with the world God had made. What he would give to be up and out again.

We left the hospital and quietly made our way home. "I wasn't ready," Joe said not finishing the sentence. "Neither was I," I said knowing exactly how he was feeling. We made our way slowly home. At one point, I sped up to make a light. A woman had stopped right in the middle of the ramp. I called out to her, filling my voice with friendliness, "Excuse me, please." I've found that people simply don't notice where they stop and what they are blocking. Since most people can easily step around, it doesn't really matter. For me traveling along on Henry's lap, sometimes I really need people to move.

She didn't move.

I'm getting closer.

I called again, louder.

She didn't move.

I'm almost upon her.

I shouted, panicked.

She didn't move.

I swerved away almost toppling the chair and skidded onto the road.

I looked up back wondering if she noticed the near crash that had happened only feet away from her. But she didn't. Only then did I notice that she had two tiny earphones plugged into her ears. Her eyes were vacant as she had obviously moved from the world outside her body to the world inside her head.

We decided to pick up a few groceries before going home so we popped into the mall just north of us to get a few things. The doors of the elevator were open I waited for people to disembark. A tall man strode off, his eyes the screen of a phone, his thumbs tapping out a message. I saw him heading for me. I called out, "Excuse me!| But he kept on coming. He smashed into the front of my chair nearly falling into me. Righting himself, like nothing had happened, he continued on focussed on his interaction with the screen as if the rest of the world did not exist.

All the while a man lies desperately ill in the hospital, vaguely pointing at the window to a world that he wants to see again.

And yet those who live in the world seem to simply want to move out of it. Shut themselves off to sounds and people and real live everyday interactions. Music to distract you - music to make you blind to a fat human torpedo headed your way. A screen to distract you - make you unaware of others around you, unaware that you bruised a big guy in a wheelchair with the force of your body crashing into his.

Whatever happened to simply enjoying the opportuntity to be out, in the world. Away from the distractions of everyday life. I don't need a sound track for my walks. I don't want to tap on a phone when I'm a man about town.

I am thankful for this world. I want to demonstrate that thanks by purposefully living in it. When I lay dying, when I point at a window, I want others to know that I'm pointing out to the world I lived in, fondly remembering, not pointing at a friend that I wish I'd made.


Belinda said...

Wow, I can so relate to this. Just before my own recent illness, I was running on empty, similarly distracted. I had a costly accident on an off ramp, where, distracted by an incoming email on my blackberry, my attention lapsed and I rolled into the car in front of me. I am embarrased and ashamed. It was foolish and dangerous. It was just a tap,and just a scratch to the other very nice other person's bumper, but it cost me over &600.00 to pay for the repair. I put it down to the cost of an education in the art of paying attention to the here and now. I'm trying. I've since had some added lessons in slowing down and I hope that I'm ready for graduation from this particular course.

I'm so sorry about the friend in hospital. What a tragedy. Perhaps someone caring for him wasn't paying attention either. I know what that feels like too.

Thank you for some good stuff to ponder and reinforce the need to be "here" and not "there." :)

CJ said...

I'm so sorry about your friend. He desperately wishes to be in the world and other people, gifted still with that opportunity, shrink away.

I started taking yoga a few months ago and am working on awareness and being in the present moment.

Anonymous said...

My parents were both deaf and there were many times they got very dirty looks because they didn't move out of the way for a polite "excuse me" and continued to not respond to more pointed remarks. Not rude just didn't hear the person. You should be careful out there. they aren't always just ignoring you.(I know thats not the message in this post but its what it made me think of)

Glee said...

I agree with anonymous. There are lots of lessons to be learned when dealing with the general public from a POWER wheelchair. Be very careful of yourself Dave. Uprights are often oblivious and I could so appreciate your ever louder "excuse mes". I have given up on gradually raising the level and just start with what seems to me a VERY LOUD excuse me. But it works mostly and it saves me sooo much frustration. And I expect them NOT to move as well. AND ho ho ho "you should get an orange flag!". Have you had that one yet Dave?

And when I see someone walking and texting and they're coming right at me I yell out a very loud Aussie "OI" ! It makes them jerk their head up real quick and they usually put the brakes on or swerve.

Your friend - there are no words I feel are adequate . Hugs to you both and am sending him and his wife hugs too.