Friday, May 10, 2013

Thank You Lord

Today is one of those days in which, if I were still a drinker, I'd have started in on the hard liquor about a half hour ago and would just keep going until I fell into bed at 10, 11, midnight, 2:00am... however long it would take for me to render myself senseless. Of course, in between, I'd rage. I'd rage at the senselessness of things, I'd rage at God and his terrible non-intervention, I'd rage at all the fucked-up selfish people in this world without realizing the irony of having turned myself into one of them.

First, a student I had not so long ago, a dear, kind-hearted man of 48, who was going back to school to try and get a new lease on life, was removed from life support last night, having been brutally beaten in a bar fight on Monday night. Barney had his issues, and I don't claim to know what they all were. He missed a lot of class. But he had a disability--I never learned what happened--but he didn't have full use of his right arm and hand, and so DSPS insured accommodations were made for him, such as extra test time since he had to write so painstakingly slowly. He had horrible writer's block and anxiety. He would come see me in my office or talk to me after class about his ideas, ideas which were great. He came at the essay prompts with the wisdom of experience and perspective but just didn't have faith in his own ideas or in his ability to express them well. I tried to help him over these fears, but I failed in this, no matter how many pep talks I gave him or how much we outlined the shape his papers might take. He managed to never turn any essays in, so he failed the class. This did not reflect on Barney as a person. He was a decent human being. I liked him.

So, the news that he was a regular at the Lariat Bar on El Camino in Belmont, and he'd been there Monday night with a female friend, and then got into an altercation with a physically fit and healthy 23 year-old--who apparently had something smart-assed to say about Barney's female friend--came as a surprise. After the bar closed down, in the parking lot, the altercation stepped up, and the young man hit Barney in the face so hard he fell to the ground. With Barney down, the young man kept kicking and kicking him, in the face and torso, until Barney was bloody and unconscious. Both eye orbits were broken, along with some vertebrae, and there was bleeding on the brain. Barney was taken to Stanford Hospital and put on life support. And, as I said, they removed life support last night.

The young man has been charged, rightfully so, with murder. I hope he is held without bail and is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Anybody who would beat up a person like that, someone who doesn't even have the physical means to defend himself all that well, is a menace to society, plain and simple. I hurt for Barney and for his kids and for his family and for whoever his female friend that night was. These kinds of things shouldn't happen.

Later on this afternoon, I gave my brother a call, just to check in with him and see how he's doing. I can't recall if I've blogged about him lately or not--but in January, he had a small stroke and it was touch and go there for a while, because his wife had come home from work and found him in a diabetic coma, so at first the doctors thought it was "just" diabetic ketoacidosis. But he was taking a long time to snap out of it, so they did more checks and discovered the stroke as well. All of that was sucky news because my brother had lost his job about a year before due to problems with depression, so he had no health insurance. There was some weird back and forth that went on between the hospital, my brother's wife, and me. The hospital took to calling me for permission to run certain tests because his wife would not give permission, saying that she had told them that my brother and she were separated and kept their finances separate. (News to me.) She did not wish to be responsible for making any medical decisions, so of course the hospital would then call me as next-of-kin. Well, his wife told me the hospital was telling me a lie, that they were not separated. They certainly were still married and living in the same house. Now, they're in Virginia, and I'm in California, and at the time I couldn't have told you what was really going on--because my brother was simply too out of it when I would speak with him on the phone to try and get at the truth.

When I spoke with my brother when he got back home, he sounded much better and basically was staying at home to recuperate and said he was getting around all right and there would be a nurse stopping by every few days to check in on him. He was on the mend.

He's still on the mend. In fact, he sounded better today than he has in some while. But, his wife has left him--she took off three weeks ago. Just couldn't take his illnesses anymore. (He is depressed, he's diabetic, and now it turns out he also needs a pacemaker, and in fairness to her, I'm sure it can't be fun being around a sick, depressed, unemployed person.) Still, that leaves him hanging there with no one to consistently check in on him, and so I worry for him. The good news is, with her no longer actually residing in his home, he now qualifies for a program called Patients First, and so the cost of his medical care will be virtually zero. Thank god, now he can get the care he truly needs. He's got unemployment to collect for a little while longer. Social Security disability had turned him down when he first was let go because they deemed him still able to work. But, now that he's had a stroke and his doctor says he cannot work, I'm encouraging him to reapply for disability. Of course that can take more than half a year to go through. Still, this man religiously paid into the system in payroll taxes for 38 years--he was two years short of full retirement when his job let him go--and for Pete's sake, he is precisely what I thought the system was there for to begin with. But he feels quite iffy about whether Social Security will approve his new claim since he can still at least stand on two feet and talk, even though he slurs now. God love him, he gave up drinking 8 months ago, and has stuck with it. But he's insulin dependent and on psychotropic drugs and has had a stroke and needs a pacemaker: who in the hell is going to hire him?

So I'm kind of disgusted with his wife, with the hoops he's having to jump through just to get the help we pay our taxes for, and yeah, I'm worried that he can't take many more blows to the head, sort of like Barney took, only spread out over months and years instead of all in a matter of minutes.

But I just can't rage anymore. It's not in me. Actually, in a way, I wonder if raging isn't really just a not-so-obvious way of feeling sorry for yourself.

Instead, I wish I had magical powers and could wave a Glinda the Good Witch wand over my brother's head and heal him. I wish I could be like Jesus and Lazarus and call Barney back from the dead. Neither of these things are in my power to do.

If I had my way, I would heal the world of all its pain and ugliness. It is not in my power to do.

I can only do what I can do: send flowers to the funeral home and give my brother as much support as I can. (There are prayers for me to offer up at the healing temple of Kom Ombo, for sure, when I'm in Egypt shortly. Not to the crocodile god Sobek, but to the All There Is--the one god, Cosmic Consciousness, the Divine, however you wish to label god.)

And then there is the gratefulness that descends on me, that I'm blessed with a job, with a wife who loves me (and stuck with me even when I was being a drunk asshole four years ago), and that I'm blessed with good health, a decent health insurance policy and a doctor who cares enough to send me off to Egypt with a Cipro prescription in case I get sick or have a sensitivity to the water (even bottled water you're not used to can be iffy). How small my little problems and concerns are. How lucky I am to be right where I am, here and now.

Mahalo, gracias, shokran, thank you, lord, for the many blessings in my life, and light my way towards helping others receive the grace you've given me.

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