Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When the world changes right nearby.

The world is always changing. it's just that most times it's far and muffled. But sometimes you're yanked out of bed, swung around by one leg and flung into a new universe.

The phone went off with a harsh jangle at about five past midnight last night. Usually the initial surge of alarm subsides when the caller turns out to be someone in a different time zone who forgot the difference or a caller excited by something great that happened to them.

Once in a while it's as bad as the first surge of fear and then some.

The cellist answered the phone. It's on her side of the bed.

"What? No! How? When? Are you all right?" She sounded instantly breathless and shocked. I could hear a tearful woman's voice on the other end of the line. I began repeating the questions the cellist was asking, to know what had happened, to whom, and how badly.

Her brother had been found dead in his house while his wife and two toddlers were away visiting her parents. He was 47.

Over the years I have had friends of friends die young. Just a couple of weeks ago I finally got a solid Google hit on one of my old fencing teammates I'd been trying to track down for years. It was his obituary.

While I'm no great fan of death, it doesn't freak me out when it happens to someone young. By the time I finished high school I'd lost one schoolmate to cancer when she was in fifth grade. Another graduated from high school with one leg. By the end of the following year she had lost the other leg and her life. I know death has no respect for your age, your plans, how beloved you are or your social position. Some people live a long time. Others don't. Sometimes the death makes a certain amount of sense: the deceased may have a medical condition, dangerous habits or hazardous activities. Our cars kill 40,000 of us a year in the United States alone. But when someone just drops, and he's the only parent in his group of siblings it changes everyone's outlook. The man is dead, that's shocking enough. His survivors still need to live. We all have to figure out how to help them with the plain practical matter of going on.

When we went to bed we thought the bad news was that we had less time than we had thought to find a kidney transplant facility for her and see if we need to set up one of those transplant chains to get live donors lined up with matched recipients. If I match her it's just $150,000 worth of plug-and-play. The odds are against it.

Organ transplantation isn't like any other purchase. You only get one shot. The organ has to be right. The surgical team has to be right. It's a lot to absorb. We have about six years. Will a medical miracle change our situation? One can hope, of course, but again, the odds are against it.

The future looks complicated and expensive. In the meantime we still have to get to work every day and pay our bills. The future is unknowable. Lay the groundwork for what you hope to reach. Remember that most of your plans and absolutely none of your hopes guarantee anything.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Attention Motorists

The only time it is appropriate to leave your vehicle idling is when you are using it to kill yourself inside your garage.

We also request that you rethink that decision and choose a more environmentally sensitive suicide method like drowning in the ocean or smearing yourself with raw steak and going for a naked hike in grizzly country.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

It's gonna get deep in New Hampshire

Yeah, we have a big snowstorm headed our way. The total between today's light shot and tomorrow's big dump could be as much as 22 inches. It's gonna get deep around here.

It makes a nice metaphor for the beginning of primary campaigning for the Presidential election in 2012.

My risk of a stroke went up with my blood pressure this morning when I turned on the television looking for an updated weather forecast and instead caught a few minutes of Mitt Romney in an interview on Good Morning America. That's not good for an aging man with no health insurance.

Mitt's health care plan in the 2008 campaign was to make everyone in the country buy health insurance, as he had made everyone in Massachusetts buy it when he was governor. Now he says that President Obama's health care bill, requiring all Americans to buy health insurance, is unconstitutional. He says it's a power reserved to the states. If your state is a slum, tough luck.

According to what I've read, Thomas Jefferson would never have envisioned a state like California or Texas, as big and rich as a small country. His original concept called for small states of more uniform size and a largely agrarian character. As I recall, we weren't supposed to keep a standing military force, either. Instead we would call together the state militias in the event our federation was threatened. The coastal states can furnish naval forces. The ships can be built of the native wood.

Following Mitt's logic on health care, instead of trying to get a plan through one federal bureaucracy, we the taxpayers and working stiffs have to try to get something through 50 state bureaucracies with widely varying tax revenues. If the federal government offers some sort of aid, that bureaucracy will have to grind its gears to dispense these funds to help the poorer states make up their shortages.

Mitt says he's pro-business. He's certainly favorable to the insurance business. While politicians wrangle in Congress and state legislatures all over this mythically great land, the insurance business will go on as usual, making book on people's health and writing rules to suit themselves.

Living in New Hampshire gives us a front-row seat to the political circus early in the process. It can be fun to watch all the candidates until you start to listen to them and care what they say. Then you wish they were doing it somewhere else. It's only funny when they step on a cow flop. And with the state of agriculture in this country, that doesn't happen nearly often enough.