If I was a successful minimalist how different would my life be?   When Etgar Keret mentions the ‘inherent laziness that has plagued me for so many years’ it’s delightful to picture.  If I say it, of myself, it’s not that delightful.  Everything is a bit more delightful when you’re getting paid, and recognized for what you can do, but that’s only part of it.

Phone call from Albi, France interrupted my train of thought.  My dear, lost friend, taking care of his mostly paralyzed mother, apologizes that he was too depressed for the last six years to be in touch.    Which made me feel a bit better, I’d only been depressed and avoiding people for a year and a half.  

He reports that his hair is now white, he feels eighty and he has a chronic back ache from carrying his mother everywhere for the last seventeen years.

Seventeen years!” I exclaim.  “What a punchline to an inspirational story!” (start at paragraph five)   

His manic-depressive mother had made tremendous progress during the first ten years of his care.  She had regained the use of her body to an extent that baffled doctors.   Doctors kept predicting she would die soon, that this procedure would be her last.  He wheels her to the funerals of one dead doctor after another, a cigarette propped jauntily in her mouth.

Then, during a split-second of distraction, she slipped from his arms, landed hard, needed an operation.  The anesthesia put the 87 year-old back to square one.  She’s now almost ninety-four, and although sometimes quite cantankerous, can’t talk.  He has to conduct both sides of their arguments, which is exhausting.  He loves her and has no regrets about his choice to care for her, but feels a certain wistfulness to realize he’s been her selfless and unpaid caretaker for the last seventeen years.

We had a few good laughs, between talking about the many reasons for being too depressed to pick up the phone.   Then it was time for him to make sure his mother wasn’t choking in the next room and for me to get back to thinking about the important work I need to be doing.


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