Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Now I Have an Excuse

Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity.... We cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes comfort, their ready access, reassurance.

A.E. Newton

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

MISSED CONNECTION: Small Classic Cars, Sunday Afternoon on 880

Sunday afternoon I was driving my partner’s serviceable but unglamorous Saturn, going north on 880 between Fremont and Hayward. Then I spotted you – three gorgeous cars in a row, putt-putting along in the slow lane at about 60mph.

Each of you was tiny yet elegant, with a charming two-tone color scheme. Sunshine yellow and white, turquoise and white, black and white. At least one of you had bug-eyed headlights. The three of you together might not have been as long as a Humvee, but you’re smart. You know that size does matter, and smaller can be so much better when slipping into tight spaces.

Let’s face it—you know you’re adorable, with your blocky body neatly sandwiched between hood and trunk. (Or boot and bonnet, if you happen to be British.) So much classier than the flashy new sportscars. They remind me of sneakers—all hood, no trunk, and a heel in the driver’s seat.

From your details, you looked to be about my vintage—late 1950s—but I could be off by a few years. Clearly you’re mature, driving so carefully, but you also look like a lot of fun.

I know I may never see you again, but I’m dying to know who you were. Make, model, and any additional information would be much appreciated.

Edited to Add: The cars I saw were a Nash Metropolitans, sold between 1954 and 1962. At 149.5" long, they were smaller even than a VW bug. And the pictures show how charming they were. There's one for sale in San Diego for less than ten grand. I bet it gets great gas mileage, too.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Gift

Today a woman I know got a chance for a new life. Stephanie is a professional composer who has also worked as a mathematician and a computer programmer. More than a year ago, she had to move back home because Type I diabetes was killing her. Her kidneys had failed; she was sick all the time, on dialysis, not sure she would live to receive a transplant.

Today, in a grueling 12-hour operation, she received two donated kidneys and a pancreas. The kidneys are working; in 48 hours, we’ll know if the pancreas is, too. If it is, she won’t be diabetic any more. Cured. Free again to create music, to laugh with her friends, to work hard and support herself.

I don’t know much about the young man whose kidneys and pancreas are giving Stephanie a future. He was 21. He fell off a roof and died. He and his family were generous enough to share the healthy organs he couldn’t use with someone whose life would have ended without them. This way, only one family has to grieve an early death. And all the people who know Stephanie, everyone who hears her music, will be blessed and enriched by that young man. Many of us are praying for his family. He will live on in his final act of generosity.

When Diane was killed, it took a long time for the EMTs to get her out of the car—so long that only her corneas were suitable for transplanting. They were taken, and today someone sees better because Diane gave that final gift. It’s a tiny consolation in the vast desolation of heartbreak that her death left behind.

I have the “Organ Donor” option checked on my driver’s license. More than that, my doctor, my HMO, my family, and my friends all know what I want done with my body when I die. I’ve left detailed written instructions with my family and medical advisers. When the organs are taken, there will be plenty left over for a funeral. I could even have an open casket, if anyone wants that. And no, my family will not have to pay for the organ removal. That’s an urban legend.

Half the people waiting for transplants will die without getting them. Stephanie could have been one of them—a young, vibrant, talented woman whose music would have been silenced forever.

Keep the music playing. Become an organ donor. Document your decision, and tell your family. Give life.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Reports from the Front Lines

Half a dozen of my friends have spent time on the Gulf Coast, working in disaster relief or reporting the hurricane. My new landlady, who just moved to Houston, spent her first weeks there helping out with hurricane evacuees and then preparing for Hurricane Rita.

Many of my friends are blogging their rescue and relief efforts.

Mike, a nurse and a Catholic deacon, volunteered in various clinics. He illustrated his blog with photographs.

Badgerbag was deeply involved in connecting people looking for lost relatives.

Tim Walton, a news cameraman, posted his photographs when he got home. Take a look at his fire and Iraq pictures, too.

And my beloved Alan Bostick is now in Biloxi to work in hurricane relief with Hands-on USA. he's posting occasional stories of his work; he even wrote a poem about it.

I'm proud of him. I miss him. I wish I could be there to help people directly, and I curse my allergy-ridden body for making such a trip impossible. And did I mention I miss him?

I'm doing what I can. I've donated whole blood, and I have an appointment to give platelets next weekend. I give time and money to causes that matter—yes, including causes closer to home, which tend to be neglected when big disasters occur. And now I've donated my boyfriend.