Sunday, April 19, 2020

Not Even Not Zen 208: Aesop's Progress

Aesop's Progress
A Book That Isn't

In the spring of 2014, I decided to compile a selection of Not Zen stories into a book for my mother. I thought I had maybe twenty years to do that based on how long my grandmother had lived. I was in no hurry. I had plans for many more stories to include in her book. Unfortunately, it turned out that I didn't have as long as I thought.

Some of the Not Zen stories had been written with my mother in mind. This happened to be the case even though she wasn't part of the online audience. She was someone who never read anything from the Internet in her life. She didn't use a computer. She knew about smartphones and felt she didn't need one. She understood that I was writing something online. Occasionally, she expressed interest in reading it if I would print it for her.

That spring, my mother was also recently healed up from a misplaced radiation treatment. She had recovered from bowel cancer but, during one radiation session, a replacement technician failed to irradiate her tumor. Instead, he administered a lethal dose to several sections of small intestine. Sepsis developed. My mother would have died if she hadn't received an emergency operation. The surgeon removed the dead sections of intestine. My mother lived. In fact, she recovered entirely, it seemed, so it was reasonable to think she would live another twenty years.

It was in that frame of mind that I started marking the stories that were meant for her. I added more that were meant for my father. It wasn't easy to see, however, how to turn them into a book. As I progressed, I realized that I needed to explain what a blog was. Neither of them knew. That's when I started writing the essays and collecting the pictures that I intend to share here. The explanation of this blog was meant to be the Afterword of their book.

Meanwhile, the damage from my mother's misplaced radiation treatment spread. I didn't know it because she didn't complain. My mother had never healed quite right from her surgery. She was in pain. And the pain kept growing. Eventually, fibrous growths connected her organs, an effect of the bad treatment. The problem spread to critical areas of her body. Her doctor recommended a second surgery to fix the parts of her that had been missed in the previous recovery attempt.

This time, the damage inside her was greater than they had expected. The one-hour scheduled outpatient operation became a twelve-hour ordeal with several near deaths from anesthesia. She emerged coherent but she never recovered her lung strength. My mother never was able to leave her hospital bed after that.

We talked every day for a month. My brothers expressed the hope that she was getting better. A month of stable, slow progress is a long time and left us room to expect more. At some point, the doctors recommended removing her ventilator. None of us understood that they didn't see her making enough improvement. They wanted her off the ventialtor to let her die. After they removed it, the hospital staff doped her up on morphine until her heart stopped. My visit to the hospital that day missed the event by about ten minutes.

The book entitled "Aesop's Progress" and the explanation of the blog were left undone. What comes next is the missing Afterword. I don't expect that it will appear anywhere else.

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