Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Twenty-three

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           We cycled to warm up at the crack of dawn and greeted the sunrise together for the first time on our journey. The brilliance an electrifying orange, sudden and assertive in the cold morning air. We came to a gray sign that read:

WELCOME TO QUEBEC

           Man-made inlets were carved into the shoreline every couple of hundred metres, houses built in clusters, remnants of the infrastructure from the Habitant days attracting pioneers with arable land backing out from the river. We passed old and new locks, some decrepit and some in use, the road barren, chipped and bumpy and hard to ride. We crossed the elongated bridge to the island of Montreal, past Beaconsfield and then Point Claire and Dorval. The homes beautiful beside the white-capped river flowing towards the Atlantic. There were only a few cyclists and a few walkers along the path where we stopped. It was there that Doppel saw the full extent of my pain. I hobbled to a bench where he sat, choosing not to hide anything anymore from him. I had become an old man.

             "We're almost there. There's the Champlain Bridge," he said, pointing. Brave not to infringe or inquire. My ailments, my business.

            "I'm afraid I have some bad news for you Edward. I'm ill. I have something similar to your Reiter's Syndrome but it's a little heavier I think." Doppel's empathetic, expected something. "It is a fatal disease that affects the limbs. My cells are dying and my limbs and then organs will hardened with scar tissue until my death within two years. There's no treatment and they don't know what causes it. I'm sorry I didn't tell you earlier but I couldn't find the right time. I actually flew to Taiwan to tell you but our time there was so wicked I didn't want to wreck it.

            "As I said to you my biggest regret is that we didn't spend more time together as adults. Always thought we'd have the time. I suppose that's why I asked you to take this final road trip with me. It really meant a lot to me."

            Speechless.

            "I've accepted it. I mean, I wrestled with the ‘why' but I'm past that now. I just don't want you to have a bird or anything. But I must say, your ideas on time were right on. I've changed a heck of a lot in my life since my diagnosis a year ago. Time, or the awareness of its limited amount, totally changed the way I see the world, make decisions and engineer my day. It really has been amazing hearing your ideas and seeing the passion you have. I mean you've taken it farther than I ever did by far. And I'm proud of you man. Really, a dying man doesn't lie!" No smile. "And I wanted to say I'm sorry about a few things." He addressed past fights and misunderstandings that had been left untouched, timelines he wanted to fix before he left for good.

            "If there's anything I didn't address it means that whatever it is was not important to me or that I've forgotten - because it didn't bother me. I don't want you to be devastated by this because I know I would react if you told me these words. So be comforted that I'm at peace with you and the world. I wish we had had this handbook discussion twenty years ago because I certainly would've chosen different paths and done different things. I hope you write it all down for others to learn and be inspired by your work, your diligence and sacrifice. Expand the handbook to a book for humanity." I looked at him but his eyes were dark and stormy. "'Cause if you don't, I will. If I had known what you've told me these last two road trips I would have become a different person, done the things that needed to be before I met my end. I didn't respect time. That's the bottom line.

            "Only Mom knows about my illness. It's called Lupus. It's been around for thousands of years and no one has ever found a cure. So I mean, it's one of those thins you don't have any control over. It's just happened. I will have half the years I thought I'd have. I thought you would be the first to leave. Your recklessness and your natural inclination to open the door and find out for yourself rather than trust others who have told you. I mean you've traveled and seen the world while I was sitting in Toronto going out with the same guys and watching the same hockey team that never won. You went out there and became a man. I stayed and remained a boy. I read what you read twenty-five years ago and it's been lost. Apathy. Ignored initiative. The works.

            "So it's almost serendipitous that I had the experience to be taught and be enlightened by someone who has done those things that needed to be done and verified the ideas you had read about to see if they worked. When I asked you what you would change in your life if you found out you were going die within a year, and you said nothing, that was the thing I couldn't say. I'm living the life I should have lived before the news. Your half-life could be equal to my ninety years of living. You've probably lived an entire lifetime to the average man reaching old age but I would be half and only getting half the time. Think of the tragedy of that. Think of all those fields I'll never get to go. Sensations I never explored. A certain level of qualia never reached. I've been up at bat but looking down to first base missing the pitches. My one at bat and I daydream. That's loss. That's unforgivable. It's embarrassing. Never left the nest. Never tree-planted. I never rode motorcycles in countries like Vietnam and India but somehow you found the time. I always wanted to go to St. Petersburg. And Ireland. You've probably been there too.

            "I have."

            "I wonder too if knowing I'm going to die within twelve months has given me some perspective that I otherwise wouldn't have had if I was killed for example in a bus accident, not knowing until the final moment. Things left unsaid and beefs never addressed. Papers not in order. Time for harvest from reflection, time earned from labors put in. The playing filed has been halved. There's only four minutes left in the first half, which is all the time I'm going to have. Been pulled for the second half. Shame too ‘cause I was just getting into my groove."

            "Your flow."

            "Yeah, and maybe that's a good thing before I go in case there's an afterlife."

            "Oh there is an afterlife Schöngait. I've said that before but you still don't see."

            "I will be seeing soon. But let me put it this way, the door's still open on that one. I'm open-minded on that question. It's a wait-and-see number. I'm hoping you're right. Wouldn't be the first time."

            "Is there anything I can do, or anything you'd like me to do for you? Just ask if there is."

            I stoked my beard and there was only one thing that popped in.

            "I would like for you to make me a promise. That's what I'd like."

            "And what's that?"

            "That you write down all that stuff you were talking about, your extended philosophy studies. Autodidact gone mad. In a book form. Your Viking-Poet ethics and your Kantian epistemology. Can you promise me that?" Doppel scratched his beard and mulled.

            "No, I can't. I know why. ‘cause I just cracked it. Put into words a comprehensive life view, a momentary breakthrough which, now learned, would not motivate me to write it all down organized and crisp. I know myself too well. It's been conquered so it's time to move on. So I'm sorry Stüffle but I honestly cannot make that promise."

            Thrilled to hear the blunt honesty. "Okay but what about if, in my last days, I find the time to write it down from memory, our two trips and the ideas we discussed, into a completed book, would you promise to publish it?"

            "Yes, I promise to do that. If you have a completed manuscript then I'll have it published."

            "And do you promise not to touch a word in the manuscript?"

            "No problem bro."

            "You know that's your expertise. That's what God gave you to take with and run. And you did! It behooves you to hand off your digested knowledge and to share your wisdom just as you did with me. In Taiwan riding during all those aftershocks was my classroom for my philosophy tutorial. Learned more during that week riding to Puli than I did in all my classes at university. It's like you crystallized it all into one comprehensive edifice based on and footnoted to the Biggies who came before you. All the more reason to write it up. Or is it just for me? The point is that I'm going to use zeitqualia everyday and try to maximize my qualia and utilize my time in a respectful flow, not because it came from you, but because it's the wisest thing to do. Too many people sitting around just waiting to die. Not I. One never knows, there could be a few more exploits rustled up from the basement. And I'm always in for a wingman."

Epilogue

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            Stüffle's disease, Lupus, took its course and ended his life 13 months after this bike trip took place. I saw Stüffle only twice after this trip knowing that he wanted to spend time with me before he died. I couldn't see him deteriorate like that, hardening into wood, hands like claws, eyelids half-closed. I wanted to remember him from this day in Montreal before we saw Dad and Grandpa, when he told me about his fatal illness. I resisted sullying what was perfect. A time that could not be bettered.

            When I saw my twin brother last he was bedridden and close to dying but determined to hand me his completed manuscript and confirm my promise was "still in play."

            In fact I write these words as part of the Epilogue having just finished reading the book. How vivid he captured the action and the ideas. I don't remember being that sharp.

            I was living in Ecuador when my twin graduated to the spirit world so I had the manuscript translated into Spanish and published 200 copies first run. Knocked on doors to almost every bookstore in Quito and sold them fast after I had it reviewed in one of the respected Spanish newspapers here. Her review stirred a tempest, making me a de facto publisher of a book that is still selling.

            There's a strange symmetry that has occurred between us. Stüffle writing the book from my ranting and my efforts to have it published in an unorthodox manner, it has become one of the top selling books in the last decade in South America, having touched a nerve in the population, likely connected to the motorcycling culture. I also must give mention to Dale who was chosen to translate for making an effort to thoroughly understand the material before he translated. Being a great man and character I thought he would be able to relate and transcribe the same ethos as the brothers in the story, a certain nomenclature that might have encouraged the unexpected response from the reading public.

            Also, Stüffle didn't once that he was writing the book until the day he handed it to me. Kept it to himself and didn't have any questions. I regard it now as his chance to make something of his life, to leave something behind, to repent for wasting time and seek redemption through a sincere effort. And I honestly believed that zeitqualia helped him enjoy his last year living. It was always on his mind.

  Edward "Doppel" van Normann, Nov 27, 2003

 

 
 
 
 
 

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