An unseen hand turned a master valve. Out of the showerheads gushed scalding rain. The rain was a blowtorch that did not warm. It jazzed and jangled Billy's skin without thawing the ice in the marrow of his long bones.
The Americans' clothes were meanwhile passing through poison gas. Body lice and bacteria and fleas were dying by the billions. So it goes.
And Billy zoomed back in time to his infancy. He was a baby who had just been bathed by his mother. Now his mother wrapped him in a towel, carried him into a rosy room that was filled with sunshine. She unwrapped him, laid him on the tickling towel, powdered him between his legs, joked with him, patted his little jelly belly. Her palm on his little jelly belly made potching sounds.
Billy gurgled and cooed.
A movement in time, Billy transported from a moment of naked vulnerability as an adult to a moment of naked vulnerability as a baby. Billy is not in charge of himself. The decision of whether he lives or dies, is happy or sad, rests in the hands of higher powers. His German captors. His mother. God. Billy is just along for the ride.
I'm going to be a little maudlin this afternoon. This passage about birth and life and death comes on a day where my brother is in the hospital. Last night, he was taken to the ER where he was diagnosed with sepsis. Sometime--either before he got to the hospital or while he was there, I'm not sure--he suffered a heart attack. This is his second heart attack. So, they put my brother in an ambulance and brought him to the hospital here in Marquette, Michigan, where there are cardiologists on staff. That was last night.
All day long today, I have been waiting for news about my brother's condition. My sister just called me. The cardiologist performed a heart catheterization on my brother. He has lost another 27% of his heart tissue, and the cardiologist told him that he will have to go on permanent disability. His heart won't take the strain of daily work.
This news was difficult for me to hear. My brother is a big man--the tallest in the family--and strong. He was always the muscle in my family's plumbing business, hauling water heaters and furnaces out of basements, digging up sewer lines, soldering pipes in crawlspaces. He's larger than life.
Now, he's going to be greatly diminished. Probably unable to do things that most of us take for granted, like climbing stairs or rearranging furniture or carrying groceries. On top of that, I would imagine the length of his life will be shortened by this event, as well. His heart is severely damaged.
So, forgive me if I have no wisdom today. This is one of those times where I truly am at a loss. I feel like Billy in the passage above, powerless and vulnerable.
Saint Marty is thankful tonight for his brother's life.