Thursday, July 24, 2008


Is there anything sadder than the sight of a 61-year-old man crouched on the bathroom floor in front of the toilet, cooling his forehead on the tiles, after vomiting up his pain medications? No, there is not, especially if you know, as I do, that the cat box inches from his nose is rank and needs changing. And especially if you've read the emergency-room handout, which I have, describing the profound pain of "renal colic," a.k.a. kidney stones.

Seeing my poor Other prostrated thus called to mind the phrase "worshipping the porcelain god," one of many terms of art taught to my son J by his swimming teacher in elementary school. I loved Steve—that was his name—and so did J, for treating the boys in his charge as if they were his frat-brother equals. Ralphing, tossing your cookies, hurling, horking, spewing, blowing chunks, yawning in Technicolor, retching, throwing a street pizza, upchucking—I wish could remember them all. The pure delight on J's face as he recited what he'd learned during the day's swimming lesson (the actual water skills were secondary; it took him months to get his face wet) was a thing of beauty. Somehow Steve's indoctrination of 10-year-olds seemed so ... wholesome. And all those great words have come in handy, I'm sure, since J has inherited his father's weak stomach—as well as his weakness for spicy, greasy foods. 

I, too, kind of like those naughty words—still. Which reminds me of something I've recently been musing about: that I haven't really changed in 50 years. I'm just a child trapped inside the body of a crone. I'm a little more adept at concealing my feelings (no more tantrums) and eking out patience (though I still sometimes eat dessert first), but it is my circumstances, for the most part, that have changed—I own an apartment, hold down a job, raised two kids—not I. I live in a grownup world and dress (sort of) like a grownup but haven't really developed since my teens. Indeed, my kids often exhibit greater maturity than I do. Which leads one to wonder, where do they get it?

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