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Tom Coburn is a Big Fat Jerk


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Saturday, March 19, 2005

Men, Death, Rat Races: Saturday Night Contemplative Blogging

A year or so ago, one of my favorite neighbors, an older fellow and a cowboy, was thrown from a horse he should not have been trying to get on. He broke his neck in the fall and ended up paralyzed from the neck down.

It was terribly sad. He died a horrible death, begging to be put to sleep, to be taken off life support, to be allowed to die.

He should never have gone anywhere near that horse. He must have been somewhere in his seventies, in good shape for an old codger --- always toddling over to my place to round up his son's horses, always building something at his place, always driving around with critters of some sort, big and small, scattering chickens and guineas all over, smoking cigars, raising hell of some kind or other.

But he did go near that horse, and not just go hear him, but he got on him. He paid with his life.

One of the thoughts that struck me today is I don't think my brother believed he could possibly die, or that he even grasped the entire significance of death. I remember he once told me about an adjunct who worked for him. She'd suffered the death of her husband or someone, and my brother just didn't believe in putting aside work for such nonsense.

I also find myself suspecting that that was all a front --- that he was actually a tender soul forced into --- or rather, choosing --- the go-go-go life of supposed success.

This suspicion came to mind as I spent part of the day trying to track down old friends of his --- guys he'd grown up with and saw every few years and checked on every so often and slapped their backs and drank beer with and all that. I knew some of these fellows were successful --- but jiminy! I didn't realize just how successful.

I couldn't bring myself to call any of them because I found myself thinking my brother might be embarrassed that he had actually shown weakness by dying. I always knew that about him, but I never really realized it.

As you can tell, I'm entering the contemplative bargaining guilt-wracked phase of mourning. I feel as if I'm negotiating a deal with my brother and the universe, weighing my own effects in this process.

It's some kind of strange man-thing, although women do it, too. But it seems to be a much worse problem with men. See, while hunting down some of his old friends, the one who also got to watch me grow up --- I was barely kneehigh to a grasshopper when my brother left home and his friends were my heroes --- huge, hulking, giant beings, always smiling. masters in the art of the hamster wheel: competition, the battle for supremacy, the rat race, whatever. Friends, yes, but still in competition with one another ...

... while looking for them, I found their parents, ancient fathers I still remember from when I was a mere pup.

The ones still surviving appear to have long ago accepted the possibility that they might die, and have traded in the frenzied jockeying for position for flower gardening, growing bonsai, bouncing grandkids and great-grandkids on their knees.

Yet another lesson.

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