Thursday, August 31, 2006

I’m Immortal I Chortled

When I was a teen, I was pretty confident that I couldn’t easily be hurt too badly in an accident (like a car crash or a plane crash). I was reckless. (Illusion of invulnerability.)

When I graduated from high school, I had been running cross country track for about two years (maybe less). During that first summer I was jogging about two miles from home when my right knee “exploded” all of a sudden. I couldn’t put weight on it and it felt as though someone were trying to ply my kneecap off with a flat-head screwdriver. Apparently, I have flat feet.

I gave up the idea of running any more and thankfully, computer games were about to become much more sophisticated than Pong.

Over the (many) years I’ve had ample opportunity to experience the failings of my body. Tripping is my main facilitator toward these opportunities.

Most recently, I broke my left elbow and now I can’t completely straighten out my arm. It still POPS out of joint and grinds a bit every once and a while. Oh, also I slipped on my back stairs and jerked my right hand out like a karate jab to balance myself. I swear, had a person been in the path of that deadly blow, I’d have blood spatter on my forehead. As it turned out, the corner of the HOUSE was in the path of that deadly blow. Now I can’t form a good fist with that hand; plus when I use those fingers to indicate three of something, my ring finger splays weirdly too far from the other two fingers. My house pretty much “shook it off.”

I’ve never liked the idea of someday dying. But it seems more real to me today than it did when I was in high school. Two weeks ago my father’s girlfriend died. We weren’t close, but the closeness of that loss is disconcerting.

Now I’m into a brand new school year. In front of me in each class I see youthful life-filled faces. Then, when I step outside to go to my office or another class, I have to forge a path through their swirls of smoke.

My father-in-law died of lung cancer. I was there when he died. My mother lost her “battle” with cancer most likely because she was weakened by years of smoking. My father gave up smoking about a year ago (hopefully for good this time). His main motivations were that he was winded from doing mundane tasks: just getting dressed; walking from the driveway to the house; shopping. He has emphysema due to smoking.

I try not to be preachy to my students who I see smoking away their lives, wrinkling their faces (corners of their lips and eyes), burning away their lungs. (Hell, I freely admit to having an eating disorder!) But frankly it is offensive to me that they would squander themselves that way, so openly, and with apparent disregard.

If it were just a behavior, then they could probably just choose to stop. But there’s the addiction part of it that makes it so difficult for them to stop. Part of them knows it, I think. I’d like to see them prove to themselves that they have the willpower to stop… just quit for a month (lent?) and see if they can do it. Ultimately, what I hear, and expect to continue to hear, are their rationalizations. Things like, “Yeah, as soon as I graduate.”

“Riiiiight,” I think to myself. I’ll start holding my breath.