An age of wonderment
February 1, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
Scott Thunes is in the hospital. His situation isn’t to be minimized. However, he picked one of the best times in history to have a significant health issue.
We live in an age of wonderment. In the last two decades, the global poverty rate had been cut in half. It appears that the trend will continue, and in another thirty years, the entire world will be lifted above what’s considered “dire poverty.”
The number of armed conflicts worldwide is in dramatic decline, due to the end of the Cold War, international peace efforts, economic interdependence, and the geopolitical dominance of the US.
Medically, we’re in the territory of science fiction. Although both of my parents committed suicide in 2013 by refusing to cooperate in their treatment, they could’ve lived. One of the many reasons they died was because they came from an era in which cancer was seen as a death sentence. It no longer is.
Mom and Dad didn’t want to even discuss their treatment, but Tim and I asked all the questions. Both Mom and Dad could’ve beaten Stage Four metastatic cancer because the treatment is now so sophisticated that the disease can be managed. Instead of dying, my parents would’ve had a chronic condition that required maintenance. That’s what I have in Meniere’s disease.
A woman who lives around the corner is Mom and Dad’s age. She feared cancer all her life. When she developed symptoms, she denied them. Finally, she went in and got the devastating news: Stage Four metastatic ovarian cancer.
That was almost five years ago.
She looks and feels great. After surgery and chemo, her hair grew back. You’d never know she’d been sick. Every three months or so, she goes in for a checkup, and if they find a little something-something, they zap it with chemicals.
When Mom died, she had no tumor markers in her blood. What killed her was cachexia, the atrophy of her muscles. She starved herself to death over a period of six months. By the end, her poor heart simply stopped. Her end was terrible, agonizing to witness, and unnecessary.
Dad had no official cause of death. He just shut off. They told us he could go on in a coma for weeks, but he died seven hours or so after I forgave him. I think he realized that he wouldn’t burn in hell forever, so he willed his life to end. He was miserable almost the entire time he was here. There was one day that he was happy: his wedding day. I never saw him smile like this. Ever.
I understand why Mom and Dad were so afraid of medical issues. When Dad was a child, he had his tonsils removed without anesthesia. The doctor did it at the kitchen table with a pair of pliers.
Mom survived two extremely severe car accidents that broke her ribs and face. She also had pneumonia several times. Doctors and hospitals meant terrible pain.
Both of my parents were avid TV watchers, which skewed their worldview. Dad was the most negative, pessimistic person I’ve ever known.
“It’s really scary,” and “It’s never gonna get better” were his two signature utterances.
Mom affected a cheerful brightness that concealed her inability to deal with unpleasantness. What she did—by her own admission—was block out all that she didn’t want to know. Yet she and her Gloomy Gus of a husband watched cable news shows all day, and it warped their perceptions.
Did you know that global poverty is dramatically down? Or that we’re more at peace than we’ve been in centuries?
I don’t watch TV. The other night was the first time I’ve done so in about five years. What did I see? Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. I blame Tim. He’s been decompressing from 2013 and the daily struggle of trying to settle our parents’ estates.
A secret: Bankers are bureaucratic imbeciles who think it’s their money and who can’t be reached. After Tim jumps through all their hoops, they start all over at the beginning and make him do it again. They have to be beaten with heavy clubs before they cooperate.
When he’s not tying up the endless loose ends, Tim often veges in the living-room armchair. He has no energy to do anything else. Until this month, he hadn’t watched TV in about eight years, I think.
Both of us are appalled. No wonder our parents were so afraid and pessimistic. That box spews out poison, divisiveness, and brain-shrinking idiocy. The programs themselves never inform you that we’re currently at a pinnacle of human achievement, and the commercials are beyond excruciating. All I could think was, “Who are these people?”
They’re nobody I want to know. I’d never even heard of Duck Dynasty. And no, I have no plans to watch it. The commercials indicate that I’m not the target audience, so I won’t waste my time or Mr. Duck’s.
What Mom and Dad did was confuse popular culture with reality. I wish they’d seen this clip.
Look how many ugly, toxic memes that clip demolishes. Most people just live their lives. They don’t let power-mad monstrosities with agendas tell them what to think. When you hear how awful the world is and how there’s nothing but hate and decay and horrible behavior, remember that clip. That’s the reality of the human condition.
If you read Ghosts and Ballyhoo, you’ll see that I’ve had the great pleasure of contracting several really weird diseases. I’d never heard of them, and two made me think I was going to die. I wasn’t afraid. In fact, I took comfort from the number of people who’d died before me. I wouldn’t be alone. All those millions were my brothers and sisters.
Mom and Dad weren’t able to see their own deaths that way. It’s because of their upbringing, which was very Gothic when it came to dying. Imagine the Addams Family, but not played for laughs. This was tradition that nobody felt they could junk. Rejecting a part of your upbringing was seen as disloyalty, so children were raised the same way, generation after generation.
Rejecting your upbringing makes you an orphan. Not everybody can stand that. Tim and I have rejected what compelled our parents to think all was headed downhill and only punishment awaited them after they crossed over. I’m now positive—completely, absolutely positive—that we have nothing to fear.
I reject the tolling of the doom-bell. Things are not what we’ve been told. I have confidence in the world and in what lies beyond it.
* * *
See, that’s the kind of talk that made Mike Albee and Lura Dold think they could get away with scamming me of $40,000. Happy-sappy Tom, babbling about his silly metaphysical beliefs and his misguided optimism. A real man knows that it’s dog eat dog! Fuck ’em before they fuck you! The world’s a cesspool, and humans are a disease!
Well, some humans. I got sent some new photos today. Here’s Mike Albee.
Christ, Mike! Haven’t you heard of something called a “toothbrush”? But I have to say that I do like the hep, porky, Vegas cut of your jib, young fella.
This is the most awesome photo I’ve ever seen in my life. I posted a smaller version earlier that didn’t do it justice. Lura Dold in all her glory.
Truly spectacular. I ought to have a contest for the best sound that goes with that expression.
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