Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Paul refused the Rabbi’s advice. He wouldn’t sit and write down the story of his ideal departure from this world. Paul’s condition was getting rapidly worse; how could it help him to stop thinking he was aging and start thinking he was sage-ing? Paul never met a sage. He understood the aging process as an accumulation of indignities—drool then incontinence then dementia. Man left howling alone, weeping, falling in the dark. Paul had read many compelling novels by J.M. Coetzee, and he knew that aging only promised shame. “I’ve lived such an extraordinary life. I’ve raised money for great causes and made the world a better place.” He cursed the pain in his back that kept him bedridden for days. Yes, the Rabbi was mistaken, and Paul knew very well that aging is decline not transformation. That night Paul’s attractive nurse encouraged him to watch a DVD she lent him. It was a documentary called THE LINE KING, about Al Hirschfeld and his life as an illustrator. After watching the film, Paul took the next few hours to scare up blank paper and a pen. His nurse found him the next day, still seated on the couch with a pen in his hand and a pad of paper in his lap. Paul was doodling with a mischievous grin on his face. He hardly noticed when the nurse crouched before him to wipe a dangling string of drool.