The Absurd Epistolary Adventures of the Astonishing FartMan chronicles the amusing escapades
of the lovable, stinky, and obnoxious Cape & Tights Super Hero, and his maudlin Alter Ego, W____,
as they learn to cope with Stage IV colon cancer, each other, and their annoying fellow human beings.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Stand Clear and Cover Your Eyes

From: W____
To: B___ and N____
Sent: Groundhog's Day
Re: Happy Birthday to J_____!

Happy Birthday to J___ E_____J______!

We wish we could be there, and we will be there soon to celebrate her birthday all over again. Meanwhile, give her a hug and a kiss from Uncle W_____ and Aunt S____. And give E___ a hug and a kiss for us, too.

I'm feeling great--thanks for asking. I was just saying to S____ how silly it seems for me to be laying around in this hospital bed with a tube sticking out of my pee pee hole when I feel so dern good.

T. A. is having a blast, flirting with the nurses, telling them a minimum of seven bad jokes a minute, and thumbing the "bonus button" on the pain pump the second the ready light comes on. I'm getting zero sleep, while he nods off constantly and leaves me to worry about keeping the epi line, and the IV line, and the pulse/respi monitor line from getting all tangled up. I've tried explaining to the doctors and nurses that I'm the Alter Ego and he's the Cape & Tights Super Hero, and that's why they're seeing these wild swings in our behavior, not to mention the wild swings in our blood pressure. We usually try to avoid showing up at the same place at the same time, but maintaining that separation is not easy to do when you're stuck in what they call "the hospital setting." The staff pyschiatrist suggests they cut back the dilaudid in the pain pump.

The holdup on getting discharged (and you'll love this): One of the criteria for discharge is that the patient must pass gas to demonstrate that the Number Two plumbing line is open for business. But, at this moment of truth, T. A. FartMan, whose ethereal emanations have heretofore stampeded elephants and summoned great whales, cannot, or will not, produce even one silent little odorless fart.

Oh, when it does happen, all I can say is . . . .


My Love to the Kiddies,
Uncle W____


From: W____
To: Big List
Sent: February 3, 2012, 7:45 PM
Re: Getting Outa Here!

Hey Everybody,

We're right now in the process of being discharged and will sleep in our own bed tonight! Everything went better than expected. I feel better than I have in a long time. Probably start chemo in a month or so, but I can do that in my sleep. (In fact, that's how I usually do it.)

Thanks for the prayers. I guess they worked!


Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Deep Draught of the Eternal

From: W_____
Sent: Jan. 8, 2012 3:50 AM
To: T. A. FartMan
Subject: A Syllogism

It's almost two in the morning.

My darling is in bed, sleeping fitfully. I rubbed her feet a little and that helped calm her some. She's worried about me.

I was having trouble sleeping, too. There's too much to think about, too much I can't help thinking about. When I toss and turn, it keeps her awake. So I've gotten up.

Not so long ago, if my tossing and turning were keeping her awake, she would have taken her favorite pillow downstairs to spend the night in the guest room. But lately she's been sticking it out. I think she stays the night with me because she senses that I need her there beside me . . . or maybe she senses a sad truth that we might not have that many more nights in our bed together.

So I'm up, writing this . . . because it might give her a chance to drift off, and then I can slip back into bed after she's fallen asleep. And it's a good time for me to put down a few thoughts that have been aching to come out:

Lately I think often about my father, what he was like when I was a very young child, my first memories of him. He is the gentlest father with the most tender heart. He loves us children so much and would do anything to spare us from suffering. My illness crushes him with sadness. Since I've been ill, he's worried about my soul, because he thinks I'm not a Christian. Don't worry, Dad. I'll be alright. One of my first memories of my father was when I was barely old enough to sleep outside a crib. I was having a nightmare. I cried in terror. My father came. I told him I was scared. He laid down with me, and held me, and I felt safe. That's my idea of what God is like, our Heavenly Father.

So I don't know if I'm a Christian. Most Christians probably wouldn't think so, but who knows? Judge not.

Here's what I do believe, which I suppose is not incompatible with being Christian:

The human spirit is immortal.

Some people might ask, "What evidence do you have for that miraculous idea?"

I have several ways to answer, but right now the one I would give is that the very existence of the human soul is itself an incredible miracle, and we each have ample evidence of the existence of our own miraculous soul precisely in our own consciousness of our own existence. That I can write this sentence and that you can have some comprehension of it is just a very small piece of all the evidence of the miraculousness of human consciousness. So beginning from the obvious miracle of the existence of the human soul--that glorious thinking, feeling, speaking, writing, singing, loving, beautiful, beauty-making thing--it's no addition to incredibility to suppose, to believe, that such a miraculous thing will not be destroyed.

Some people might say, "Just because the soul itself is a beautiful miracle does not make it eternal. We see things destroyed every day. Beautiful things. Beautiful flowers fade and die. People fade and die."

Yes, we see that all physical things come into existence, change, and pass out of existence. Physical things are destroyed every moment. But we have never seen the destruction of a soul. So why should we not believe that such a miraculous thing as the soul should have the additional and compatible characteristic of being eternal? Why should we believe that a miracle is not eternal? It makes rather good sense that a miracle, if such a thing exists, would be eternal. So why should we not believe that something we know already to be miraculous, the glorious soul, is eternal?

Here's my syllogism for the logicians to take apart if they want to: All miracles are eternal. The soul is a miracle. Therefore, the soul is eternal.

Two things that might make you laugh, but which to me are more proof of the eternal miracle of the human soul:

I love the way my wife smells. I don't mean her smell when she's wearing perfume, although that, too, is lovely. No, I mean the way she smells when she wakes up in the morning, before she brushes her teeth, when there's still crust in her eyes, when she smells a little "rustic," or the way she smells after she's been exercising, or when she hasn't bathed for a day or two. When she's in my arms, I will sometimes close my eyes and surreptitiously take in a deep draught of her smell. That smell makes me feel safe and happy and blessed. Yes, my darling wife's body will fade and die, but that odor which gives me such peace and joy is eternal. Don't laugh too much, because I am not kidding about that.

The other thing that might make you laugh is that these thoughts about the immortal human soul and the miracle of my wife's smell, thoughts which I've thought over many times, re-entered my mind most recently while I was sitting on the pot, and it was then, while sitting on the pot, that I determined to try to write these things down. Isn't that hilarious? Now some people might think that coincidence detracts from the dignity or beauty of the ideas I'm trying to get across. Well, okay, I'm sorry if you think that. You must never forget that I am the alter ego of The Astonishing FartMan. But seriously, I'm telling nothing but the truth, and perhaps there's a lesson in there somewhere about how we should think about our physical existence.

So here's the thing. My last CEA was 9.7. My last two scans show a spot growing on my liver. And, apart from the sorts of tests doctors can do, I feel, physically, like my insides are quite messed up, tangled up, sore, and getting worse. Eating causes distress, as do most other ordinary physical activities. I soldier on, ignoring as much as possible of the physical distress, yet it is inevitable for a person like me that I cannot help but think about my possibly impending demise, what that might mean for me and for my wife.

It is difficult to have and to face such thoughts, especially when there's a good bit of physical distress to cope with at the same time. Most people, I believe, try to avoid such thoughts. Most people, I believe, would advise me to avoid such thoughts, too. Very few people would want to have a chat with me about them. They would think it would be rude of them to discuss such things in my presence. Instead they'd say, "Don't think like that! You're going to be fine." This is what is called "encouragement." And for some people in my situation, I suppose such words are encouraging. But sometimes that kind of encouragement can leave one feeling as if one is left all alone to deal with inevitable thoughts by oneself because nobody else wants to talk or even think about such a difficult subject. I understand.

Yet maybe for others who might be in a situation like mine, they might find some help and solace in what I've written. I understand how their emotions are so very intense and so very close to the surface every moment. I understand how they wish, as I do, more than anything to receive and to express love, to see and to hear and to smell beauty, to create beauty, to feel peace. I understand how the physical reality of illness complicates the fulfillment of that wish, yet we do fulfill it. I understand that the wish itself is the fulfillment of the wish, that the wish fulfills itself . . . in eternal love.