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We white hetero males have taken a steep dive and likely will be phased out in a few years, replaced by manufactured semen that is free of defects, and the gender balance will be adjusted to 90–10, women to men, making for a more peaceful and sensible world, with a few million WHMs kept around for heavy chores, a militia, basically a class of serfs with no legal rights, and women will look back at our era of WHM dominance as an absurd extension of the Middle Ages, though one hopes they’ll remember a few of us such as Michelangelo, Mozart, Abe Lincoln, Babe Ruth, that whole gang, and meanwhile, I myself, thanks to a cardiac procedure called ablation that didn’t exist when I was your age, have had my life extended by who knows how long, which goes against the trend of white hetero obsolescence, and how can I justify this miracle? I feel resurrected, but what to do with it? Did I win this privilege unfairly? Did I jump the line? I was dragging my feet, ready to enter retirement, dementia, and the nap in the dirt, but now apparently I am supposed to do something worthy of this amazing blessing. But what?

Maybe writing these dinky essays about the buzzing of the bees in the cigarette trees is no longer good enough. By rights I should master electrocardiology and do for other people what was done for me but I struggle to deal with a waffle iron let alone a defibrillator and I didn’t even get to witness the brilliance and proficiency of the cardiologist and physiologist who did the job, I being deeply anesthetized at the time so as to keep me from trying to amuse them while they were performing the transformation.

What I come away from the procedure realizing is, first of all, the inadequacy of the word “procedure” to describe something that gives you more time in this world of marvels.

What I come away from the procedure realizing is, first of all, the inadequacy of the word “procedure” to describe something that gives you more time in this world of marvels. “Procedure” is good enough for clearing a paper jam in a printer, but what was done for me was miraculous. Thanks to scientific wizardry, I am now, in effect, walking on water.

What I also come away from it with is an appreciation for professional kindness. I was fully awake when they wheeled me back to my hospital room and I remember clearly the nurse saying, “We’re going to slide you onto your bed, my friend,” and they did, and a moment later, she said, “I’m going to have a look at your groin, my friend.” The wire they run up to your heart to change the arrhythmia goes up a vein in your groin. So she checked and the wound looked good.

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In the comedy biz, which I dabble in now and then, a woman examining your groin could lead to truly dreadful jokes, but thanks to the words “my friend,” I didn’t utter a word. I was dazzled by her kindness. Nurses are highly skilled professionals, but the addition of “my friend” was a beacon in the darkness. I was semiconscious in an enormous hospital in the biggest city in America but the grace of “my friend” made me feel that my humanity was recognized, even in the mists of post-anesthesia when one has the intelligence of a tree toad. She pulled the sheet back up and then she took her hand and brushed the hair out of my eyes. The kindness of this gesture was deeply moving. I feel tears in my eyes as I write about it.

So I’m not going to go into electrocardiology, but I am intending to practice kindness. I insisted that my dear wife go to Florida with her sister as planned and not fuss over me. She went and is having a fine time, which makes me happy.

When two guys have gone up your vein to your heart and fixed the flutter, you should put aside your mournful mortality and enjoy the gift. My friend brushed the hair out of my eyes and a moment later she brought me a small plastic container of applesauce.

GARRISON KEILLOR

It was the Monet’s Garden at Giverny of applesauce, it was Chopin’s applesauce étude “La Tristesse,” it was the Aristotle Contemplating the Blast of a Grand-Slam Homer, it was the sunrise over Venice, it was sauce from the apple Eve gave to Adam, the applesauce of knowledge, and I thank God for it and expect to spend the rest of my days enjoying it, of which now, thanks to science, there will be more. And now let us turn to No. 80 in our hymnal, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Garrison Keillor
Prairie Home Productions