Made of Sand

On a few occasions in the recent past, I’ve noticed something moderately disturbing when I take aim at the toilet bowl and let loose with a stream of pee. Instead of witnessing the normal light yellow liquid depart my body en route to the waters below, I’ve seen what appeared to have been the output of a knife plunged into an artery. A day or so later, everything was back to normal, so no worries…until the same cycle happened again a few times. Still, because I had visited a urologist several months ago about the matter and was given a clean bill of health (“nothing to worry about”), I didn’t worry.

Then, a few days ago, I underwent a routine CT scan, ordered by my oncologist as a follow-up to my lung cancer treatment from about three years ago. This time, though, the results of the CT scan revealed  “4.4 mm left mid ureteral calculus associated with hydronephrosis and perinephric stranding.” That is, a large kidney stone blocking a ureter. The oncologist saw me yesterday to review the results of the CT scan with me and then referred me to a urologist “asap” to address the matter. I go in tomorrow morning for a procedure to remove and/or “blow up” the kidney stone which should, I understand, resolve the hydronephrosis and perinephric stranding. Easy for me to write. At any rate, I am glad the oncologist’s cautionary follow-up revealed the stone before intense pain caused emergency room doctors to have a look. I am told kidney stones can be breathtakingly painful; I am not especially good with pain. I hope this process puts an end to the possibility of kidney stone pain.

But this is just another piece of evidence that I have reached the rapid decay mode of the aging process. Last night’s visit to the sleep study clinic (with the objective of improving my ability to sleep through the night without my breath stopping 17 times per hour) was another one. There are plenty more. The lung cancer, the painful joints, the bone spurs, the aches, the million other incidents of deterioration, disintegration, and rot, etc., etc. Bah! I find the whole process unfriendly in the extreme.


I got home from last night’s sleep study about an hour and a half ago, just as a light mist began to turn into more assertive rain. I have goo in my hair where the technician placed it to hold wires down on my scalp. I imagine it might take days, perhaps weeks, to wash the stuff out. My scalp feels hard and oily, as if I had combed into my hair pellets of almost-frozen bacon grease. I doubt I’ll feel up to the Men’s Group at church today, though I feel bad for having missed a number of consecutive Thursdays. Oh, well. Decaying old men can’t always meet their social obligations, thanks to degenerative collapse.


The tendency for aging people to talk about and write about evidence of their failing health is just a sign of their/our times. We are decomposing on the fly and have little time to do anything else but attempt to slow the process. So, we have little else of consequence on our minds than the latest effort to prolong the end-stages of what, in our collective hindsight, was a rather appealing lifetime. We’d really like to have that lifetime back so we could live it over again, correcting all the myriad mistakes we were told we were making all along. But we ignored all that advice because our intelligence, we thought, far outweighed the wisdom of experience. Young people are stupid. Old people are simply ripe young people. We’re all idiots, I think, too stupid to realize how stupid we are, yet just smart enough to realize something’s amiss in this dimwitted world in which we live. In the immortal words of Tom Paxton, “It’s a lesson too late for the learning, Made of sand, made of sand…”


Other lyrics from the same Tom Paxton song are weighing on my mind, now that I’ve remembered Last Thing on My Mind. And these lyrics will be with me forever and beyond, recalling regret that has no boundaries.

Well, I could’ve loved you better, didn’t mean to be unkind
You know that was the last thing on my mind.

Tom Paxton

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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