Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Better Than the Alternative

A few years before my father passed way at the age of 94, we planned an outing to a park on a bluff overlooking the sapphire blue Pacific. Despite the meritorious effort to get out and about on a gorgeous spring day, it turned into an ordeal.

First he had trouble going down two steps to the garage to get into the car; a walker is not designed for anything other than horizontal surfaces. Then he couldn't get his right leg into the vehicle as his polished stiff leather shoe got caught in the car door. After I hoisted his weak limb into the proper position, he clucked like an old rooster being shooed from a doorstep. Not something a proud man felt proud about.

After arriving at the park and doing the reverse routine getting out of the car, he slowly shuffled to the park bench closest to the car. As I helped lower him down onto the bench, in slow motion so that his frail bones wouldn't meet the hard wood with a bruising velocity, he sighed deeply, "I'm getting so old and stiff -- but it's better than the alternative."

A few years after my father's death, a Zen friend of mine suffered a massive heart attack. He recovered, albeit with his energy severely diminished. In an attempt to cheer him up, I expressed empathy for his new normal, but then quipped, "It's better than the alternative."

He looked up at me with those deadpan Zen eyes and sent back a zinger with a wry smile.

 "Who says?"

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