It was three weeks ago tomorrow that I ate beef carpaccio in Akaroa, New Zealand, and I now feel that I am through the resulting illness. It was probably a staph infection, untreatable by antibiotics, carrying with it smaller attacks on eyes, ears, nose, throat, along with body fatigue and a sense of malaise. I am seven pounds lighter. (That’s the good part.)
Obviously I don’t get sick very often. I haven’t up till now, anyway. The whole episode was so strange to me. I am used to things passing through my body, being gone in a day or two with little aftermath. Such an episode as this helps me realize how vulnerable we are, how easily anything in our environment can take us down. I saw my three brothers, one by one, succumb to cancer, and last year a friend to an untreatable strain of leukemia. Each of these people treated their demise with courage, but there comes a point when they must realize …“Oh my God, this happens to other people. Can it be? This time it is me?”
How profound must be the resulting finality. Maybe it’s a release too, I don’t know, but I will someday. I do know that our friend with leukemia said to his son as he lay in bed dealing with yet another symptom, “It would be so much easier just to be hit by a bus.”
Former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam has had a great career after those halcyon days, and directed and helped write the movie “Brazil.” (I just now learned it is considered a “cult classic.”) It’s a dystopian fantasy about an Orwellian society where the authority figures are buffoons, machines do everything but don’t work properly, and where a mere administrative error has brought imprisonment to the lead character. Unknown to the viewer, this one anyway, he is engaged in fantasy, chasing the woman of his dreams, and near escape when he awakens, realizes he’s in a chair, in prison, soon to die. The trivial administrative error cannot be undone.
That moment, that realization hit me so hard so many years ago seeing that film. It was so well done. It describes what I am attempting to say here, that we are all fools strutting on a stage. I am so thrilled to have come through my illness intact. But down the road, there’ll be another. Am I ready? Of course not!
We’ve been all over the world these last few years, living life to the fullest. We’re lucky, I know. Others are jealous, I know. One thing I know as we plan future travels, one place we are not going: Brazil.
I often don’t know when I sit down to write where a piece is going. So too this one.