Saturday, 30 April 2016


Waking Up Dead

A couple of weeks ago Ann treated herself to a new, sale priced pocketbook. It’s a soft and supple one, maroon and black leather, and there’s something beguiling about the smell of good quality leather even if it’s not Corinthian, Ricardo. New wallets allow a miniature personal refresh. They are sold free of moth corpses and those faded or folded mementoes which once seemed so desperately meaningful; there’s always a theatre stub in a spy novel or a police procedural, part of a secret service legend or a clue.

Alberta Health cards are flimsy bits of paper inked with teal and black. Like me, they do not age well. They are relics of 70s printing technology, in-line perforations! Plastic ones with a photo I.D. would go a long way to combating fraud in an already overburdened Medicare system, but I digress. Ann’s access to Canadian socialist healthcare was temporarily blocked last week because her personal card either disintegrated in her old pocketbook or was inadvertently chucked into the trash with it.

This was an inconvenience, not a crisis. A crisis is what happened to my friend Ian in Ottawa. A broken handle on his oven door led to a whole new suite of appliances and him ripping out his kitchen counters and cupboards; six months’ hard labour plus expenses. That’s a crisis; I know, I’ve seen the pictures. Alberta Health provided Ann with a replacement card in a matter of days, no charge.

‘Are you an organ donor?’ Ann asked me as she inserted her new card into her new pocketbook.

I didn’t remember ticking any boxes when I applied for my Alberta Health card 26 years ago after moving from Montreal to Edmonton. And it’s been at least a decade since I’ve had the misfortune to use it. ‘I am,’ I said, ‘but I think it’s all tied in with my driver’s license (actually a learner’s permit). They can harvest anything they want.’

Ann said, ‘Good to know. Me too.’ She added, ‘They probably won’t want your lungs.’

‘No,’ I agreed: 25 ciggies a day over 40 years. Nor my liver, I thought, because smoking and drinking go together like Mick and Keith. I don’t know what my pancreas does, but I’m pretty sure that organ’s been a slave to my grind too. ‘Are cremations charged by the pound? I mean, the more they remove the cheaper the process. How much does an eyeball weigh?’

I’ve always considered organ or tissue donation as a type of insurance. Maybe my father read me too many Edgar Allan Poe bedtime stories or I watched too many episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, because I have nightmares of coming to in the close confines of a sealed casket and kicking and scratching at the lid in the absolute darkness. My back aches and I can’t get comfortable. I’m thirsty. And just as the claustrophobia and panic rev into red insanity I realize my coffin’s a train, on a track into the crematorium furnace.

The thought of being dissected on a mortuary slab provides a sort of relief from an utterly irrational fear. However, I dearly hope I’m properly certified deceased, doctor,  my eyes cartoon Xs, and not just passed out from one too many beers before they begin cutting and sawing. That prospect is somewhat worrisome, but I figure I’ve still got time enough to figure a way around that scenario too.


  1. Anyone know a good mason? With the kitchen demolished and the cupboards not built yet, led me to the deck on our third floor. Old and rotten, it needed to come down. With the help of my buddy Arthur, we carefully demolish and ensure I don't fall to my death... Whilst demolishing that mess of a deck, I happened to look upward while wiping the sweat from my brow, only to spy out of the corner of my eye, a poor old dilapitated chimney stack! Bricks crumbling and falling off... Oh my poor back is killing me! I'm gonna call the mason on Monday.