Kage Baker absolutely detested aphorism, mottos, feel-good admonitions and such-like pithy remarks. She most particularly hated them when they aimed at her, but their prevalence in society in general annoyed the shit out of her.
“I don’t want to smile!” she would growl, when so ordered by some over-bearing person (usually, but not exclusively, male). “There’s more to existence than “live, laugh, love”! Or praying and eating, for God’s sake. And who in their right mind equates these things? Kindergartners have more self-examined goals!”
This came to a particular head during her last year. Many people were so taken aback they couldn’t think of anything helpful to say; or they thought T-shirt mottos would help. In their defense, Kage did wait until it was impossible to hide the fact that she was ill before announcing it to the world in general; and then seized the opportunity to lecture a little on preventative health care. I thought that was ever-so-slightly hypocritical – as I had to use a chain fall and a come-along to get her into the doctor to begin with – but she told me loftily that it was a mortal illness before she ever noticed it, and she was just exercising her right to privacy when she hesitated so long.
When I told her she was wrong and that I was having a hard time forgiving her for it, she told me: “Well, I’m paying the price, aren’t I? Gotta die of something.”
I disagree. I did then, too. One doesn’t gotta die of anything, if one just exercises sufficient strength of will; and if anyone had enough strength of will for the task, it would have been Kage. However, she dismissed my recriminations with an airy wave of her hand, and anyway: who can stay mad at someone who is dying and keeps on being cheerful about it?
But I did and do agree with her about the aphorism thing. The more I got cheery greeting card advice from my nurses, the crankier I got. It made me actually prefer the doctor who read my file, threw his hands in the air, and demanded “How are you still alive?”
On the subject of dying, I have been flirting with that myself lately. (Looking that sentence over, it sounds like I am considering stock options …) It’s just that, while none of my infections were fatal on the face of it, anything that interferes with one’s breathing becomes fatal as a sort of side-effect; this last time we had to call the EMTs, I honestly thought I was going to die. I was torn between not wanting to die – especially like that, it was uncomfortable and undignified – and realizing that if I did die, I would see so many of my friends and loved ones again … but I would also have to leave a lot of them behind, and I didn’t like that …
Meditating fuzzily on this conundrum kept me fairly calm while we waited for the ambulance. And staying calm was quite difficult; being unable to breathe adequately is a panic-inducing situation. I know from the various horrified remarks by Kimberly, the ambulance drivers, and some of my doctors that I was turning blue by the time they got me to the ER. The ambient light level was dropping amazingly fast, my arms and legs felt like they were all being replaced with stuffed doll limbs … but I remember how sweet the night air was when they wheeled me out of the house, and how delighted I was to smell jasmine, and roses, and cut grass.
Nephew Michael says this preternatural awareness of the living sensorium means that I did die, was too stubborn to go, and am now a zombie. Not a grisly, groping stupid zombie, but like the zombies in Terry Pratchett novels – who are determined members of their society, and more or less accepted by their acquaintances. One of them is a lawyer, which is fairly evil; but no one is perfect. And he sometimes does pro bono work.
Am I a zombie? I don’t know, but the millions of tests done on me in the hospital should have alerted someone to that fact somewhere along the line. My brain is working fine, and nothing has fallen off me lately … so I guess I remain alive. Gods know, I am pretty set on remaining that way for as long as I can manage it. My friends in SkyFaire aren’t going anywhere, and Kage is undoubtedly occupied by slow dancing with God and drinking cocktails with little umbrellas in them, made of coloured starlight. After all, it’s an open-ended invitation, and one that isn’t going to expire. So I have time.
In the meantime, I really, really intend to resume writing. In response to several shy questions from various Dear Readers, yes, the adventures of the Misses Trick and Treat as well as the fearful zombie-hunter of the Hollywood Hills will be taken up again.
In the meantime, the air smells just as sweet when one is not dying. The roses and jasmine still perfume the front yard, the morning mist still is still full of the cooing of mourning doves, and all my clothes have fronts and backs and pockets!
So there am I happy. And here am I happy. Let life roll on! Just don’t tell me to smile.