Truth in illness
Ok here goes. I languished for four days at Kaiser Hospital with a debilitating disease called Gastroenteritis. I just got out today. In that time, absolutely no one came to see me and a couple of people called and left a message. This is not new. I have been taking ill on a fairly regular basis for the last couple of years now. But don't get me wrong folks. This is not an idictiment of those self-serving narcissists with too much to do but an observation of fair treatment for all. In the four days I was there, I had a new suitemate each day. Only one of them had any visitors at all. When I took a short walk down the hall, I also noticed empty rooms with an occasional "spouse" thrown in for seasoning. As I sit here at home today I need to write this because I am FASCINATED by this observation. Simply FASCINATED. I have a great many theories about this but the ones that jump out at me right away are made very keenly perceptable by the comments we hear from other people when they discuss with us our plight. For some reason, it seems to be the dubious luxury of our friends and colleagues in the world to COMMENT on our illness. Not to diagnose or discuss the illness but, yes, to COMMENT on it (read: to make a judgement/to render a bias or opinion of the friends habits/choices etc). Of course this is at the core of Susan Sontag's legendary work "Illness as Metaphor". It is much easier to hold the sick individual accountable for their lot than to actually exist in a present state of dis-ease with our own mortality and impending destruction, whenever that will be. This is too disconcerting to offer simple emotional comfort and support because it makes obliteration true. So we flee. We call it not knowing the person was sick, which technically may be true, but isn't disassociation from our loved ones on a daily basis the same negligence? Isn't focus on their poor and immature life habits our own form of shadenfreude? A brief, but rather satisfying knowing that we are not the ones hooked up to those IV's, whose brains may be frying, whose internal organs are bleeding, perhaps unstoppably. It is our one shot at immortality. To have real empathy and BE THERE is a far too ringing admission of our inevitability and relinguishment of all that we hold, to the last shred of recorded ego!
Maybe, if you're lucky, a young immigrant nurse from Ghana will wrap a shawl around your neck to keep you warm as she wheels you down to the curb where you get picked up, she pushing aside rude onlookers, heartless of the sick, because there is God somewhere in this mucked up human ignorance. Forgive them lord for they know all too well to look the other way.