Is there anything more satisfying than a great piece of bread? Well okay, don't answer that…I see the wine and cheese coming. Perhaps I've had too much rich, complicated food the past few weeks, but the Ratatouille sensibility is hitting me—just now I had a wonderful slice of sourdough toast with a boiled egg…mmmm, heaven. I almost fell over. I couldn't believe how good it tasted. I ventured a bit into marmalade but decided to wait on the cheese. That might stupefy me for the rest of the day, and I've got a busy one ahead. So thank you, Bay Area, for at least providing great bread from the grocery store (believe it or not). We are so spoiled.
The husband comes home today, for a short while. Although it may seem crazy to emulate the '50's housewife edict of making everything pleasant for one's spouse when they come home, it's a big deal around here. He isn't home very much, and when he is, I serve him hand and foot. The way I would want to be treated if I was on the road constantly. Thank goodness I've edged closer to wellness, as if my body knew there was a deadline to be sick. But really, all he wants is homecooked meals, guy movies, dessert (yes, I stocked up on his favorite ice cream, and I'll be baking something), and he wants to go drop his crabpots out by the Farallons. That part's problematic—I can't take the pounding of going over large swells, and it's exposure, no matter how you slice it.
These things sound very basic and mundane—toast, cooking, cleaning house—but you know what an effort each small gesture is when you're sick. When you're sick for an extended period, you start to treasure the ability to accomplish small things. It's a triumph to do anything, even to talk about it here. What I wouldn't give to have the obliviousness of my life before cancer. I thought I was aware, awake—but most of us are in a sleep, the complacent sleep of trust in the future. Our actions are governed by that belief, conscious or not, and therein lies the comfort of our lives. There's always tomorrow. But what if you truly didn't know if you'd be around tomorrow, or weren't sure if you'd feel good enough to do anything useful or even fun? What if tomorrow brought news of getting closer to your expiration date?
If you were that sick person's spouse, how would you feel? What sort of thoughts would you have, as you watch them go from a cute, cheerful person to a slow-moving, not very efficient, not very sexy person with limitations? When you're away all the time, changes are more marked. One doesn't have the luxury of incremental change brought on by daily interaction.
I haven't seen The Bucket List, but there's a prevalent belief that you'll be rich and in great health right before you die. As if. The number of people financially and physically able to live out their dreams before dying is so miniscule, it's truly a Hollywood fantasy. Even Morgan Freeman said in an interview that just the plane fare alone for he and Jack Nicholson would've eaten most folks' savings. And the energy to skydive? How many terminal illnesses are there that leaves a person healthy enough to do physically strenuous things? I've been able to travel a bit, but it's incredibly difficult anymore. Those with personal valets don't count.
There are millions of terminally ill people who are forced to continue to work, battle their disease, and ward off loneliness and despair ALONE, and in poverty. I imagine each and every one of them would give their most precious possession for the gift of good health. The kind of health that allows you to walk down the street, to enjoy that second glass of wine, to complain about your boss/roommate/spouse/home, etc. Everyone wants the kind of health that allows you to believe in a full-color, 3-D TOMORROW, the kind where you can fix, catch up, and undo yesterday's mishaps. People may think they want a time machine or loads of money, but what they really want is the promise of another day…unless they're one of those who thinks life is so bad it isn't worth living. To those people, I say spend one day talking with people with a half life—the ones going to die—soon—but they don't know when and they can't do anything about it. If they don't feel lucky to be able to even complain about their terrible life, then maybe they should be on their way. You can always do something about your life, but you have to cherish life first.
So how does this relate to eating toast? Well, a good piece of toast is elegant in its simplicity and classicism. It's an idea as much as it is a flavor. It's a reminder that sometimes the satisfaction of our souls lies in very basic things, no matter how much we have or can do. It's a reminder that the mundane can be sublime, and to be thankful brings us closer to the enlightenment we seek. It makes me want another day, so I can enjoy another slice of life.