Thursday, May 13, 2004

Full metal jacket

After a couple of days of truly fine sleep, the baby has not been sleeping well the past few nights, and is basically torturing my wife.

Yesterday we went to a therapist who deals with families facing fatal illnesses. She was good, and I respect her professionalism (particularly when I said I was not interested in coming back for more sessions). Her husband died of ALS. She did not try to push an opinion on me but her opinion is that ALS is just a train ride that you can’t do anything about.

I respect her departed husband, and I shed tears for him, but I reject the notion that I must ride the train.

There's this scene in the movie Full Metal Jacket, which in turn is based on some prose in the truly excellent book Dispatches, by Michael Herr (a classic, that you must read, quite apart from the fact that in recent years the author has said that a lot of the incidents in the book were fictional) ... and in the scene the American soldiers are standing around one of their dead comrades. It’s meant to be surreal, not documentary, and they all call him the most foul, demeaning names. They are calling him a loser and a chump, separating themselves from him, insulating, protecting.

So, while I respect the therapist’s husband, part of me stands on the edge of the shell hole looking down at his corpse and calls him foul names. Not because I think he is a chump, but because I curse in the most vile and adolescent language the notion that I must obligingly meet his same fate.

After all, isn’t it what all polite people with ALS do? Yeah, right. You can bite my amyotrophy.

(Happy four-month diagnosis anniversary. Not today, baby!)
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