I walk across my local park, I pass a municipal table tennis table
and each time I do so I am inexorably sad. I’ll return to the table and
that sadness later.
age 74, I have had health hurdles not uncommon in those fortunate
enough to have lived as long as I have. A subdural haematoma
resulting in an operation to release blood from my cranium.
Open-heart surgery to replace a valve with a bovine alternative and a
stroke six months later caused by a streptococcal infection which had
attached itself to the new valve. After seven weeks in hospital, I
was left with a weakened left side. It also left me unable to play
the guitar which may be a relief to some as I wasn’t very good.
all came after a long and eventful life so I am not writing this as a
complaint, nor as an exercise in self-pity. Quite the opposite. I
don’t wish brain and heart ops and strokes on anyone but, if they
turn up, don’t turn over and face the wall. If you are alive,
breathe in deeply, look around you at the world as it is, with you in
it still. And continue.
is perhaps easier said than done. For those who are alone in the
world, illness involves extra suffering. And those of us who aren't
alone should watch out for those who are. But all of us are
surrounded by the living and the dead.
an excellent article about ageing in The
New Yorker Roger Angell writes that, “Our
dead are almost beyond counting and we want to herd them along, pen
them up somewhere in order to keep them straight. I like to think of
mine as fellow-voyagers crowded aboard the Île
de France.” I
agree but, in addition, I like to think in quantum terms that
everything, everywhere at all times, is present. That includes my
parents, my close friends, the baby my first wife and I lost at full
me, of course.
may also include the absent living. I have close family who have
removed themselves from my life or, more truthfully, removed me from
theirs. But even then, there is no need to turn to the wall. Family
does not have to mean a reference only to the biological. I am
fortunate that I have people in this living world who consider me to
be a part of their family.
my wife, Anne Aylor alerted me to a TED
talk given by the cardiologist, Sandeep
Jauhar, I decided to write this blog. I had a particular interest
in his talk because of my own history. My heart had been broken, but
was this a mechanical or congenital failure? Or was Sandeep Jauhar
correct to argue that
can and do have a physical effet on the heart.”That
in response to intense stress or grief.” He
offered proof that it
can actually change shape and form, the so-called Takotsubo
effect, whereby the base becomes wider and the neck narrower. Quite
literally and physically, a broken heart in every sense of the word.
back to the table tennis table in the park. My youngest son lives
with his wife and their sonin
Barcelona. I have had no contact with them for over four years and
have never been given a reason for my expulsion. There has been
hearsay evidence, all too awful to believe possible. When I used to
visit them in Spain, my son and I would go to nearby Park Güell
every day to play table tennis. It was great fun and became a strong
part of our relationship. Indeed, the day I left Barcelona after
being told I was no longer a grandfather, we played before I entered
the Metro at Passeig de Gracia en route to the airport. It is a
memory which I place on my own ghostly voyage of the Île
photo on the left shows Takotsubo
syndrome, a condition where the heart
muscle becomes weakened and takes the shape of the Japanese pot on the right
memoir, "Left Field" can now be read online for free