November 19 2012
Well, I’m glad to report that, at least as of this week, a lot of people seem to have stepped up to the plate in terms of volunteering to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy; so much so that, according to a recent NY Times article, some of those who are still suffering in Far Rockaway are now expressing resentment at being helped by people like us, their resentment arising from the fact that we weren’t of help before the storm.
It’s a valid point, generally speaking, in that many of us who live more fortunate lives tend not to be pro-active, on an ongoing basis, in helping the so-called have-nots. Still, it smarts. Surely trudging up flights of darkened stairs, carrying food to trapped tenants counts for something? And what about all the young people going to these areas day after day, donning masks and work gloves, demolishing and reconstructing precious homes? Or the person I read about who is trying to salvage flood-damaged photos for people who lost their homes; photographs of christenings and weddings, BBQ’s and bar mitzvahs? How tender is that?
This storm has brought up so many issues beyond the obvious ones of loss of life and property and living in the cold and dark for 3 weeks: there’s a sense of chaos and confusion and futility here that is at times overwhelming. For instance, it took me until just a couple of days ago to understand why the newspapers haven’t felt any obligation to list information on how to be of help other than donating money and supplies: it’s all done via Facebook and Twitter now. Even online searching won’t keep you in the loop, believe me, I try every day.
Occupy Sandy’s website informed us a few days ago that 2000 frozen turkeys were needed for donation and distribution in Coney Island and I couldn’t help wondering why? Are there that many working stoves yet? What about the people who still don’t have power, or who’ve lost their homes altogether? I was hoping to find places that were actually going to cook Thanksgiving dinner on the actual day. Finally today, again on Occupy Sandy’s website, I saw volunteers were needed to cook at St. Marks on the Bowery. I called immediately. Too late. Twitter beat me to it.
So what are old farts like us supposed to do? Send money? Well, why not? It’s what we’ll be doing with our kids for Christmas. Shove a check in an envelope and hope it’s put to good use.
Talking of old farts, I went to the GYN last week for my twice a year check up. Like an old jalopy put up on the blocks I surrendered to inspection; seems the engine is still purring. I go twice a year because for several years I’ve been on a low dosage of HRT, but now that I’m going away for a year a lot of things are up for reconsideration. So once I was dressed and sitting in his office I asked the gynecologist what he thought about my continuing with the hormone stuff. No problem, he said, as he filled out the prescription, but I’d have to get a mammogram before leaving the country.
I reminded him that the last 2 mammograms I’d had result in the “need” for biopsies, both of which were negative. The first, a needle biopsy, doesn’t sound like much except that this type of needle actually removes a small piece of your breast, rather like that kitchen gadget that takes little plugs out of a wheel of cheese. The second mammogram, 2 years ago, showed an area of concern that resulted in the “need” for a surgical biopsy. So just before Thanksgiving that year I joined Tom Turkey in having my breast sliced. Although the result was negative it was nonetheless a painful experience resulting in a 2-inch scar.
It was after that that I decided I was finally done with invasive procedures and therefore would be having no more mammograms. I mean, really, at this stage of life I’d rather accept the reality that something eventually is going to carry me off. Like most people I hope it will be quick and pain-free. If not, then bring on the morphine, friends, good music and the gratitude for a life well lived.
On telling all this to the good doctor he promptly threw the scrip in the waste- basket, basically telling me that it was a mammogram and HRT or nothing, and nothing. I felt enormous relief. And then he said, “If you find yourself aging too rapidly you can always change your mind.” Aging too rapidly? Is he kidding? Is there any other kind of aging? What was he inferring? Was my face going to completely dry up and fall off? Was my vagina going to hang down to my knees in crepe folds? And if so, did he, or I, or anyone really think going back to taking a little white pill was going to reverse that? Surely a winch would be required.
Well, it is laughable, this whole idea that aging is a curable disease. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as vain as the next person and I admit it, I’ve increased my reps at the gym this week. But what I really want, more than anything, is to be comfortable in my own skin. It’s the largest organ of my body and for 66 years it’s been weathering the storms of life. Why can’t we look at each other and admire the beauty of that, the way we admire old buildings with all their cracks and patches, facades that describe their histories; histories of storms and fires and wars and the centuries of life and love lived within.
I think again of all those buildings that Sandy demolished so easily, it seemed, and all the people whose material histories were swept away, revealing the underlying reality that was there all along: nature will always be more powerful than we mortals. The only nature we have any control over is our own, yet even that comes housed in a temporary home.