Sunday, May 29, 2011

One-Hoss Shay

Have you heard of the wonderful one-horse shay,
That was built in such a logical way
It ran a hundred years to a day,
And then, of a sudden, it--ah but stay,
I'll tell you what happened without delay,

Oliver Wendell Holmes "The Deacon's Masterpiece or the 'Wonderful One-Hoss Shay'"

For more that sixty years, my body worked pretty well without much intervention by medical science. No broken bones, not much in the way of infections, not too much routine maintenance. I got fat in my forties, but other than slowing me down a bit, it didn't change my general perception that I was a healthy guy. I ate what I wanted, did what I wanted, and generally felt fine.

Last fall that sense came to a sudden end. Within the course of a few weeks, I was labeled a borderline diabetic and diagnosed with urothelial cancer of my kidney. I had my kidney removed and learned to control my blood sugar by changing my diet. I lost a few pounds. I felt pretty normal, but my sense of immunity was gone.

Now, the cancer has come back in my bladder and I have lost all confidence in my body. It's like Oliver Wendall Holmes's "Wonderful One-Hoss Shay," the buggy that was built to last 100 years, each part equally strong. It ran perfectly for a century and then, on the anniversary of its construction, collapsed into a pile of rubble, as every part failed at once. It seems like a perfect metaphor for my situation, but when I've alluded to it, nobody gets it--apparently Holmes isn't much read any more.

So, follow the link and read the poem. It's funny. And it helps me think about my mortality.

What do you think the parson found,
When he got up and stared around?
The poor old chaise in a heap or mound,
As if it had been to the mill and ground!
You see, of course, if you're not a dunce,
How it went to pieces all at once,
All at once, and nothing first,
Just as bubbles do when they burst.

End of the wonderful one-hoss shay.
Logic is logic. That's all I say.


Anonymous said...

Now in building of shaises, I tell you what, There is always a weakest spot, - In hub, tire, fellow, in spring or thill,
In panel or crossbar, or floor, or sill, In screw, bolt, throughbrace, - lurking still,
Find it somewhere you must and will, Above or below, or within or without, And that's the reason, beyond a doubt, That a chaise breaks down, but doesn't wear out.

Here's to chaise repairs! If its just broken, but not worn out - we can get it fixed.

Texan By Chance said...

Welcome, Anonymous!

kateg said...

i always thought that was a prescient analysis of planned obsolescence. Bill Gates, I imagine, is a fan.