Monday, February 12, 2007

Life's Little Ironies

I learned from a story in today’s Portsmouth Herald that the woman who ran into my house has a brain tumor. A malignant one. It was removed once, but grew back five times larger. She’s had a second operation, and is scheduled to start chemo today.

That’s an ugly little irony, since the crash happened six months and one day after Lisa’s death, and the situation is made worse by the fact that the family doesn’t have health insurance. Car insurance, insurance to fix my steps, but not to fix her. We used all our savings just to pay the incidentals of cancer treatment, and Lisa had excellent insurance. I can’t imagine how they’re managing. The story in the paper says to contact Kim French, to find out how to make contributions. If you’ve got a few bucks to spare, this is a good cause. Drop Kim a line. They’re nice folks, and they could use a break.

I hate irony.

Monday, February 05, 2007

There's Always One

After I posted about Barbaro and Lisa, I got a comment saying something on the order of “I’ve also posted about Barbaro, please check it out. Enjoy.” (I’ve deleted the comment since, so I don’t have the exact wording.) Since it was someone I didn’t know, and this isn’t exactly the kind of blog that attracts a lot of unfamiliar postings, I checked it out. The entry in question said, in essence, that the poster was glad Barbaro was dead. He had no particular reason for being angry at the attention paid to Barbaro in life - unlike, for example, the writer of a letter to the editor in the Boston Globe, who pointed out the unfairness of having Barbaro’s picture and obituary on page 1, and the announcement of her cousin’s death in Iraq (and the photo of his pregnant widow) on page 6 of the B section. In this case, it was the mere idea that people cared about the horse that seemed to send the blogger into spasms of anger.

The poster’s profile says he’s 18, and his .edu email makes him a student. My best guess is that he searched for blog entries about Barbaro, and mass-commented. (I’m assuming that he didn’t actually read my entry, not because realizing that it was as much about Lisa as it was about Barbaro might have stopped him from posting, but because he didn’t try to be offensive about her, too.)

I’ve posted before about some people’s convulsive need to attack other people’s — not even their beliefs, but the things they are passionate about. The kindest explanation I can come up with is that they think it’s funny that other people care about anything, and that these attacks are intended as mockery. But the anger behind them is always startling, and obviates any intended humor. Why, indeed, should it bother anyone that someone else cares about — anything? The Red Sox, the Yankees, the Super Bowl, Barbaro, whatever…. My passionate interest in any one of those things does not, cannot, affect a total stranger. What makes anyone thing that anger is the appropriate reaction to someone else’s passion?

In an earlier post, I made some comments about the expanded sense of self as a possible cause, but in this case, I think I’ll have to fall back on an old Southern comment: “That boy — he’s just not right.”

Sunday, February 04, 2007


Damn. That’s really all I have to say about Barbaro’s death. I thought — like so many people — that he actually might make it, might even manage to stand at stud, and to lose him like this…. Well. It was clearly the right thing to do, to put him down, but that doesn’t lessen the sorrow and the disappointment. Nor does it lessen my respect for the doctors and his owners and all the people, trainers, jockeys, exercise riders, grooms, who did their best for him.

I did actually see the Derby last year. It fell in the dull hard awful days between Lisa’s death and her funeral, and Barbaro’s win — by nearly seven lengths — was enough to make me perk up for a minute or two. I remember saying to one of Lisa’s sisters that Barbaro had been Lisa’s horse, insofar as she’d picked a Derby horse. Did I make juleps? I can’t remember, but I do remember Barbaro’s win.

In retrospect, the fact that Lisa hadn’t picked a horse should have warned me that things weren’t right. She usually followed the prep races with delight, watching the horses sort themselves out, seeing who could get the distance and who couldn’t, and finally picking a horse to root for through the Triple Crown races. She followed those horses for years after; we visited some of them at stud and rooted for their offspring. Last year, though, she was too occupied with her own body, with the progressing paralysis and everything we had to do to manage it, to do more than know who was running. I remember her mentioning Barbaro as a top choice, but her heart wasn’t in it. She was losing her race, and I think she knew more than she was letting on.

Lisa and I used to fantasize about what the racing world would be like if there were more owners who not only wanted to do everything they could to save an injured horse — because we had every reason to believe there were plenty who would do anything they could — but who had the resources to carry through. In the Jacksons’ care for Barbaro, that fantasy was made real, and it was an amazing effort. As a fan, I’m grateful.