Thursday, February 23, 2006

Living Life to the Fullest

We just had lunch with a publisher-client of ours at the local P. F. Chang’s, a sort of high-end Chinese restaurant. We follow the same ritual every year with this client: one morning in late February we meet at their office at 11:00 to discuss production work for five of their college schoolbook catalogs. The meeting inevitably wraps up early. We sit around and chew the fat for a while, then proceed to a restaurant within walking distance where our client treats us to lunch. How do you like that? A guaranteed free lunch every year! They are far and away one of the best clients we’ve ever had. God bless ’em.

So there we were in the restaurant chatting away. I had the presence of mind not to stick chopsticks up my nose just in case that tried and true gag might not work with this crowd (I’ve noticed some people don’t find it funny). I also didn’t ask for the standard Szechwan-style Alley Cat Platter that I once tricked an intern into ordering for me over the phone (true!). I was quite the gentleman really. Mommy would have been proud.

Our main contact for the publisher, Mr. Snrub, who sat to my right, could pass as a Renaissance painter’s model for Dionysus, the god of wine and partying-down. He is quite corpulent and fleshy, rosy-cheeked with tightly-curled hair. He always has a slight smile on his lips and a witticism at the ready. Throw a toga on him, clap a laurel wreath around his head, thrust a goblet of wine into one hand and a bunch of grapes in the other, and there you are.

We were all talking about our kids. He has an 18-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son. The daughter is going to UMass Lowell, and I mentioned that one of mine is going to UMass Boston; both are freshmen as it turns out. My daughter is undeclared, while his is already going for a degree in adolescent psychology; this past semester she earned all A’s except for an A-minus in English (which she vowed to dispute). She plans to spend four years there, get her degree, and then go on to divinity school where she hopes to get ordained as an Episcopal priest. Mr. Snrub wound all this up by saying very casually, “She only has 10 years left to live, so she really has to go for it.”

Honest to God, I thought he said that as a joke, so I chuckled a little. I thought he meant she acts as if she only has 10 years left to live, sort of a comment on the the young and ambitious. The flow of the conversation soon took another tack and I presently found a moment to replay in my mind what he said. Finally I asked him, “I don’t know if I misheard you, but did you mean it when you said your daughter has only 10 years left to live?” He told me yes; she has muscular dystrophy. The only reply I had to that was, “Wow! What a fighter!”

Ay dios mio! Look, hopefully I’ll never know what it’s like to have my life cut short, but I have to admit I have no idea how I would react to that kind of knowledge. The smart money would bet on me being a pitiful, sniffling, whiny crybaby. If you had 10 years left — and you knew it — what would you do? Would you work your ass off like Mr. Snrub’s daughter? Put every ounce of effort into a goal that 10 years from now you won’t be around to see? I’m guessing it must be a kind of legacy she has in mind — you know, make your mark on the world in grand style before time runs out.

That, folks, impresses the hell out of me.

28 Comments:

Blogger Beth said...

I don't know what I'd do. I'm 35. 45 wouldn't be so bad. I could deal with it. I'm not one who wants to live forever, but if it were my kid ... oh man, I just don't know.

4:33 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

I don't know what I'd do either, but that would make a great premise for a book. Ten years is quite a chunk, not like months or weeks, but years. I realize it isn't much in yet-to-live years, but you could do something in that time. If I were in the old west, I think I'd be a gunfighter, so perhaps today I would become a cartoonist and draw naked pictures of Muhammed.

4:47 PM  
Blogger boo said...

wow

ms. snrub (i don't even know how to pronounce that) is an inspiration

if it were me (and i came close 'nuf), i'd travel the world to meet my blog friends, cook vegetarian chinese food for each & everyone of them, bring my boyfriend with me, make love everyday, laugh alot, cry a little, sleep alot, hug & kiss people alot & tell them i love them everyday.

i'm not very productive but hey....

10:14 PM  
Blogger Farrago said...

I'd really try to get this story written that I've been sluggishly chipping away at since...oh...1991.

But thenI'd probably die with 10 more years of writing left!

4:48 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"I'm not one who wants to live forever, but if it were my kid ... oh man, I just don't know."

Oh, I hear you, Beth. Actually, one of my biggest fears is to somehow (and unwittingly) play a part in the death of one of my kids (i.e., car accident, etc.).


"Ten years is quite a chunk, not like months or weeks, but years. I realize it isn't much in yet-to-live years, but you could do something in that time."

I think in Mr. Snrub's daughter's case, she can expect to become more and more debilitated as time goes on. So these aren't 10 healthy years which stream on by until one day, boom! you're gone.


"i'm not very productive but hey...."

I wouldn't say that. I think what you just described sounds wonderful, Boo. Especially the food part.

4:49 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"I'd really try to get this story written that I've been sluggishly chipping away at since...oh...1991.

"But thenI'd probably die with 10 more years of writing left!"

I've got the answer for you, Farrago: write it in installments and post the story on your blog. That way you obligate yourself and get the job done (and we get to read it!).

4:51 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

I think that MD and ten years down the road isn't necessarily a death sentence. A family friend has had it ever since I can remember knowing her which is at least 30+ years. And with the advancements being made medically, I would hope that is not the case.

What would I do with ten years left? I think I do pretty much the same as I'm doing now, but I would be less careful with money because I would know that I didn't have to worry about a retirement fund.

6:00 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Kathleen, I suggested to him that perhaps she could beat the odds, but he quickly dismissed that notion. His reply was basically, not a chance.

If I knew I only had 10 years left, I think I'd finally work out the solution for Arab-Israeli peace. God knows I've put that off long enough.

And if there's any time left over, I'll throw in the cure for cancer.

6:22 AM  
Blogger trinamick said...

I'm pretty sure I'd get caught up on all the Miami Vice seasons on DVD. And then I'd do all the things that I won't do now, cuz they might kill me: skydiving, bungee jumping, eating the food that's been in my fridge more than two weeks...

8:29 AM  
Blogger Mrs.T said...

oh wow... if that were my kid... oh wow...

11:23 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"And then I'd do all the things that I won't do now, cuz they might kill me: skydiving, bungee jumping, eating the food that's been in my fridge more than two weeks..."

I think I'd give bear baiting a try. That's always sounded like fun.


"oh wow... if that were my kid... oh wow..."

I hear ya, Mrs. T

7:01 PM  
Blogger Jaxx said...

I would probably approach the things that I want to do with my life with more of a sense of urgency.
Makes me wonder about my own life and if I am really making the most of it. I guess if I have to wonder then the answer is probably no.
Maybe I should act with that urgency now. I mean you never really know what could happen.

7:33 PM  
Blogger Farrago said...

I've got the answer for you, Farrago: write it in installments and post the story on your blog. That way you obligate yourself and get the job done (and we get to read it!).

Well, there is a lot of research I have to do to reach across some gaps. If I posted now everyone - except those of you who are psychic - would read it and say, "Huh?"

Thanks for the advice, though.

8:03 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Mr. Schprock, I think my kids are getting sick of hearing "buckle up, buckle up" from me every time they enter the car, but I get that about you. I just want my children to have full, good lives. I feel like mine is pretty much done. LOL I live for the thought of someday putting on weddings foro them and mostly having grandchildren.

9:41 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"Makes me wonder about my own life and if I am really making the most of it. I guess if I have to wonder then the answer is probably no."

I'll bet 99 out of 100 people probably feel the same way. I know I do.


"Well, there is a lot of research I have to do to reach across some gaps."

How about writing a quickie, like the ones I do? Just to get the ball rolling. They're fun.


"I live for the thought of someday putting on weddings for them and mostly having grandchildren."

I'm not looking forward to paying for those weddings! I feel like giving them a choice: either an old-fashioned church wedding with 200 guests followed by a huge reception, or four years of college and a justice of the peace.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Claire said...

I'm really impressed, and humbled, by her story. It also makes me wonder, though. At least she knows her time span, and is inspired to make the best/most out of it.

There are plenty of people who have less than 10 years left, and just don't know it, so we live like we have a lifetime (myself included). It's stories like this that really make me stop and wonder why I think I'm so entitled to life... after all, she is too and look what hand she was dealt.

PS - and speaking of stories, thanks for checking out mine. I'm rather intrigued to see what you would do in the exceedingly short form (hint hint...give it a try!)

4:10 PM  
Blogger Wordnerd said...

Can't even BEGIN to think of what I'd do if it were my kid...geez. Come to think of it, I can't begin to think of what I'd do if it were me....

New to your blog, by way of Trinamick, by the way.

4:55 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"PS - and speaking of stories, thanks for checking out mine. I'm rather intrigued to see what you would do in the exceedingly short form (hint hint...give it a try!)"

Hmmmm . . . interesting. Let me see what I can do. It's almost like a prose haiku. isn't it?

Everybody check out Claire's 200 word short story! Believe me — you won't be disappointed! (I still have shortness of breath from it!)


"Can't even BEGIN to think of what I'd do if it were my kid...geez. Come to think of it, I can't begin to think of what I'd do if it were me...."

Mr. Snrub and his daughter are an inspiration. They are the dictionary definition of "dealing with it."

7:25 PM  
Blogger Paul (rock star wanna be) said...

A VERY focused young lady indeed. I dont know if I'd have the motivation to do all of that.

7:53 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Paul, I think I'd probably spend a year in my bedroom feeling sorry for myself. Then maybe I'd do something to give my abbreviated life some meaning.

5:43 AM  
Anonymous Dreadmouse said...

I don't think I've got the kind of guts it would take to push through those obstacles. Why is that, I wonder? We're all living for a finite time on this chunk o' rock, though I certainly do my best to ignore that simple truth. Heck, do I even have ten years? I could get hit by a semi tomorrow. Especially in my current sleep-deprived state...

1:01 PM  
Blogger Farrago said...

Schprock roat: How about writing a quickie, like the ones I do? Just to get the ball rolling. They're fun.

I sorta do that, only I write about quickies. Here are a few of my titles: "What the Hell Was That?" "Is It In Yet?" "Wham, Bam, Thank You, Sam!" "Oops"

8:07 PM  
Blogger Erica said...

I was thinking the same thing in response to the "10 years being quite a chunk" - that it would only be so if you were healthy and able. But wow, such a show of faith to pursue a divinity degree. That's really a testament. Instead of "Why me?" she's embracing what has been given to her and is truly an inspiration. And to be so young, and know that you had a deadline like that... being a woman, I imagine it would be hard to know that (divinity degree and declining health aside) if you COULD have kids, you'd only have them for a short time... and that would be such a tough choice to make. Do I just not have kids and spare us all the pain of separation, or do I have them and make the most of the precious little time we have? Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? The classic question but never more real.

7:12 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

Just saw your comment at Beth's. Are you enjoying The Cider House Rules? I read that years ago and loved it and didn't think they did too bad of a job on the movie. Of course, it did have Michael Caine in it, and since I adore him...

10:20 AM  
Blogger Spirit Of Owl said...

I can't set goals for the next 10 minutes.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Chloe said...

I'd do everything as I do it now, except I'd stop paying my credit card bills.

And you said Mr. Snrub... I love you, Schprock!

5:57 AM  
Blogger Flash said...

"I had the presence of mind not to stick chopsticks up my nose just in case that tried and true gag might not work with this crowd (I’ve noticed some people don’t find it funny)"

Some people really don't??? Damn, my life is totally screwed now...

11:16 PM  
Blogger :phil: said...

Mr. Snrub, For some reason, I am picturing Dom DeLuise from Mel Brook's The History Of The World.

Wow, MD. Like one of your readers said, they are always making new advances in medicine so maybe she can ride the crest of the wave like I am. This is an interesting question because as you, and a few of your readers know, I am in a similar position (statistically speaking). 5 year survival for stage IV colon cancer is rare yet I'm here 2+ years later and am possibly getting close to being NED (No Evidence of Disease) If things go well, I could be there after another year of chemo. So one would think that me living 10 years is possible, but I don't think you'd lend me $10,000 if you know what I mean. I go through stages where I savour every day to some days when I can't stand it anymore. Luckily those days are few and far between these days so I am enjoying everything more. I try not wo sweat the small stuff and to enjoy my kids and wife. I want to leave a good impression on them, it's very important to me to do that

11:50 AM  

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