I started writing today and got a call from my dad. He has just been diagnosed with asbestosis. It is a death sentence.
That means there is no cure.
If my father dies from this he will become the second generation of my family to die from mining related lung disease. My Grandfather died from silicosis when my father was 11. My fathers brother also has asbestosis.
The funny thing about asbestos is that people know it kills people indiscriminately and there is an industry built around pursuing the companies responsible for digging it out of the ground and distributing it. On the one side you have the people that have been exposed to it and on the other side you have the people that foresaw the exposure. Someone is a victim and someone is to blame.
There are a lot of lawyers on both sides making a very good living out of fighting for the victims and defending the companies. Pretty easy to demonise one side and canonise the other.
Life is never that black and white.
It is not like this is a Hollywood movie and there is a clear villain? There are institutionalised shareholders that are possibly affiliated to the people that are dying.
AND yet I do find the strategy of the defense lawyers of stalling until the victim dies completely repulsive.
We must always remember that we live in a world where money is far more important than people. Maybe the Hollywood villain is us.
None of this matters to my dad. He is old and will not be lodging a claim. He could, but he does not want to cause a fuss, he is one of those nineteen fifties Mad Men generation of men that hold everything deeply inside. Never a tear is shed or a sign of weakness outwardly portrayed.
“The symptoms may take ages and I’ll probably be around for years to come” he says, adding “I stared death in the face before you know”
I am not of the Mad Men generation, I am more the Star Trek watching, GenX nerd. Whenever I am forced to contemplate death I always think of this scene from Blade Runner.
So much has been written about the scene and so much has been discussed. That one moment when in death a perfect, beautiful human like killing machine becomes a something more, something full of compassion. Someone that in death drags empathy from his pursuer.
My dad of course is not a replicant from Blade Runner, and this situation is incredibly far removed from Hollywood and yet after he told me, that scene jumped straight to mind. Humanity (that is “us”) all understand that death is inevitable. We all hope that our day is as far away as possible, but we all have that day burned into the back of our minds. Our acknowledgement that while we think, therefore we are includes the morbid acceptance that we also bleed and therefore we die.
The fictional replicant Roy Batty lived an extraordinary life. He saw thing most of us will only ever dream of. My dad has also lived a pretty extraordinary life and like the replicant he knows that there is now a end game.
It is a day of mixed emotions.
From a big picture perspective, my father, is a white Anglo-Saxon male which means his life has also been pretty dam long compared to most people in the world. Does that make it unreasonable that I am pissed? That all I can think of to say is fuck fuck fuck fuck fuckity fuck fuck.
Just like Blade Runner we have seen things that make us so lucky. I remember sitting with my dad on a mountain located in one of the most remote national parks in the world. He said to me;
“You should be writing a journal about these sort of experiences. You will forget them. You will regret not writing them down. You will regret not being able to read them back”
I replied with typical adolescent know it all, testosterone filled bravado that I have regretted, but never admitted for years. Curse you for being right dad!
My father was a national park ranger, he has been retired for years now. We often went to places that no one else ever had access to. They were mostly work trips, where instead of taking one of his colleagues he would take one of us or the whole family. My mum, my brother and I would help put up signs, clean toilets (if there were toilets) and make sure things were okay. It was more pleasure than work.
I doubt many people will visit these places today, they are not the ‘sexy’ places tourists like to visit. I also know, thanks to the work done by my father, many more people now visit than when we were young. His legacy was to make these remote and beautiful places more accessible to everyone. In doing so we were lucky, so very lucky.
Not quite the shoulder of Orion, but the sunset over Cape Arid, the wind howling around Peak Charles or seeing an Ardeotis casually wandering along the Balladonia Trail near Mount Ragged. Amazing sites. Sites that live now in our memory and will fade when the last of us leave this mortal coil.
I cannot do justice to my memory in words alone, no matter how hard I try it is faded and fuzzy like a Sergei Eisenstein movie. The meaning is lost on the new generations. I often wonder about the legacy I one day will leave my daughter.
Growing up in Hipsterville is so different to growing up in a national park in the middle of nowhere. The chances of her ever seeing or understanding how my brother and I lived when we were young will be a mystery, a story told every night that is quite unimaginable to most city kids. I continue to tell her stories every night and perhaps I will gently begin to add how import is to look after your health when working. How dangerous it is to work in some industries and how to say no to an unreasonable boss.
It is a digression, this, in unrestrained narcissism I am making it more about me than dad. Perhaps because for my brother and I the inevitable moment when the child says goodbye to the parent is now is creeping towards us like a dog sneaking up on a kid with an ice cream. It is provoking us, filling us with fear, trepidation, anger and sadness.
These photos were taken from the website below: