Today I learned can’t.
“You’ve changed since you’ve gotten sick.” My sister is my closest friend. We’re too old to edit or soften. We’re matter of fact.
I knew what she meant.
I had just made a comment about the car in front of me. I wanted to leave a lot and a car in front of me took a long time to turn into a lane. He signaled right; he turned left. As he moved forward I noticed his signal continuously blinked right. In our past, I would have raved. I didn’t. I simply said, “It’s an old car. He probably can’t afford to get it fixed.”
I have changed. It’s not that I’m more empathetic.
I’ve accepted a few fundamental facts. I’ve accepted my death. I’ve accepted futility. I’ve accepted inevitability.
I stood in Lunds today near the meat counter. I felt so tired. I felt too tired to walk so I balanced my ass against a cooler coffin in the middle of the lane. I told myself I had to push myself. I’m intolerant of weakness. I’m hardest on myself. When I was a boy I’d run around the periphery of our house. We competed to see who could circle the house the most times. I refused to lose. No matter my exhaustion or the competition, I won. Every time. Every year. I refused to quit. So today when I felt too tired to walk, I chastised myself for my weakness and I stood straight and I tried to push my pace. But I couldn’t. And at the moment I learned can’t.
One of my best friends is an internist. But he’s not my doctor. When I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, we discussed my health. “Am I going to be able to bike?” I asked. “No.” He was matter of fact. We care too much for each other to edit or soften. “The Metoprolol will stop you.” I told myself he didn’t know me. I told myself I wouldn’t quit.
Won’t quit isn’t can’t. Won’t quit has choices. Can’t does not.
Each day I document my decline. I should quit. My words neither soothe myself nor my reader. I don’t see their point. But I can’t allow myself to quit. Writing is my verb. It’s what I do.
I don’t want to conjugate a new verb. I don’t want to exhaust. I don’t want to tire. I don’t want to gasp. I don’t want to shiver. I don’t want to stop.
I don’t care if I entertain. I care if I endure. I care if I continue. I care if I can continue to provide care.
I don’t care for can’t. But sometimes we can’t.
Today I learned can’t.