Thursday, May 24, 2007

Left behind

I have spent the afternoon hanging pictures in my daughter's new flat. I have always hated hanging pictures. However I do it, it seems impossible to get them straight, equally spaced and at the same level.

Part of the problem is that walls and ceilings and floors are never true. Also part of the problem is that however they are hung, the string or wire or picture hanger is behind the picture at a variable height so that you can't see where you are hanging it.

So all in all I am surprised that I deem the result a success despite the difficulties. It may not be perfect, but I could do no better.

Aiming for perfection is very laudable as long as you don't think you can attain it. I remember nearly 35 years ago treating a patient who had chronic myeloid leukemia that had transformed into acute myeloid leukemia. At the time I thought of myself as an expert in treating acute leukemia and I had just heard of a new regimen for blast crisis of CML. It was called TRAMPCOL, an eight drug regimen. I was gung ho for chemotherapy in those days and I felt sure that I could beat the disease.

Sure enough she went into complete remission. We had long conversations about how she would buy a caravan and go touring. She intended to see all those parts of England that she had never found the time for. She relapsed three weeks later.

I found the failure hard to take, but it was a lesson for me; I was not perfect nor was I a miracle worker. It's a lesson I need regularly to remind myself of.

Over the years I have accepted invitations to do things without recognizing that I would need time to prepare. I somehow thought I could get by on a wing and a prayer. It has resulted in my being over committed. I was afraid of saying no. I thought that if I refused I would never be asked again. The truth is just the opposite. Say yes too often and you are apt to get abused.

In the past couple of weeks I have had to say no. It brings a strange ennui upon one. It is compounded by the book I am reading at the moment, PD James' Children of Men.

I guess most people will know it by the movie, which I haven't seen. My daughter tells me it was terrible. The book, though, is rather good. It is very well written as one would expect with PD James, but the ideas, fantastic though they are, are those of an old woman nearing the end of her life.

You may know the plot. It is 25 years since a child has been born. For some unknown reason, the human race has become infertile. Consequently, there are no more schools, no more undergraduates, no more playgrounds, no more toys, no more perambulators, no more midwives or pediatricians. There are no more pedophiles; every silver lining comes wrapped in a dark cloud.

Without the hope of posterity things are running down. Soon there will be no-one but 80-year olds. No-one will keep the power stations going. There will be no-one to preserve the demented, to wash them, feed them, protect them. No-one will cut the grass.

It is a very depressing prospect, especially for someone contemplating retirement. I have been putting off finishing the book.

To build a house, to write a book, to father a son: a man will do these things to leave his mark on the world. Foolishness! Without a son no-one will read the books and the forest plants its own trees far more effectively than man. And sons leave their fathers behind. Only daughters remain in the end. They will inherit the house.

Trying, always trying; does it ever end? The only certain things are death and taxes, said Mark Twain (or was it Oscar Wilde?) Actually it was Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was given to bon mots. Time is money. Never a good war or a bad peace. What use is a new born child? For want of a nail a shoe was lost, etc. We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we will certainly hang separately.

Sad to have your carefully thought out witticisms attributed to somebody else.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sons don't always leave. Sometimes it is the daughters, and the sons stay behind to take care of the parents. That's what happened with me and my parents. I'm glad I stayed so I could spend as much time with them as possible.

I sympathize with the picture hanging, though. It can be a chore.