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Monday, December 14, 2009

Godspeed Todd / The Road

My step-brother, Todd, was finally released from six and a half years of suffering. He rolled an SUV and was ejected; managed to break everything there was to break and still stay technically alive.

His mother has tirelessly tended to him, done everything and more to try and rehabilitate him, maintain hope, and ultimately, when his brain started to atrophy and it became clear that there was nothing to be done, keep him comfortable.

I'm not comfortable with the Kevorkian crowd of euthanasia advocates, I see big dangers to creating a market that, the slippery slope don't ya know? But I came to the conclusion years ago that Todd was truly suffering a fate worse than death. How much he could understand, I don't know. I know he'd do things for his mother and his wife he wouldn't do for others, but he was trapped.

I often wondered how much pain he might be in: being mostly paralyzed, I figured it was possible a lot of him was numb. But I also figured being busted up that badly, there's bound to be pain, and he wasn't in any position to ask for anything for it.

For that matter, when I visited him at the nursing home near my house when he was there, I wondered if the TV blaring into the room over him and his equally broken roommate was comfort or torture. Neither could change the channel or do anything to meaningfully alter that aspect of their environment.

I'm not trying to be funny, there are shows on TV I hate so much they would amount to torture if they were blasted at me and I could do nothing about it but lie there and wonder why.

There's the cliché about how 'he went to a better place,' but for real, it'd take some real imagination to come up with a worse one. For six and a half years.

Maybe it's horrible of me to think such things, but I find myself thinking, 'We don't let animals suffer like that.' And I also find myself thinking, 'If I'm ever that far beyond the point of no return, end it. I don't care if it's an overdose of morphine, a bullet, a pillow over my face.'

And I also find myself hoping that for Todd it wasn't that bleak.

Speaking of bleak...I went to see The Road on the way home. It fit my mood, thinking about all this.

Spoiler alert, if you don't know the general outline of the story and want it to be totally fresh to you, read no further. I doubt I'm really spoiling it here, but I want to be fair.

Would I think it was a great movie in another context? I can't say for sure. I've tried to read the novel and couldn't do it. I tried to listen to the audiobook of the novel twice and couldn't stick with it.

Cormac McCarthy isn't exactly your feel-good author. You might remember some of his other stories, No Country For Old Men, Blood Meridian (a story about scalp-hunters in 1848-49 Mexico). But really, The Road is dark even for Cormac McCarthy.

There is the lack of explanation: there was a flash of light and a series of concussions. That is all that is to explain the apocalypse. Nuclear war? Probably, that's how it struck me on film. But then, what is to explain a world with not even bugs? Not nukes. No animals at all?

The cannibalism aspect is pretty rough, too. Most (not all) the times you see any sort of plenty, it turns out the people who are getting enough have gone the Alive route. Or maybe it's the Silence of the Lambs route, they don't necessarily wait for others to die on their own.

Incidentally, it was a little jarring to me when I noticed they were using a map of the Eastern seaboard: I thought for sure they were on the West Coast. Watching the credits (ridiculous habit of mine), I noticed the on location shoots were bi-coastal, including Pennsylvania but also Mount St. Helens and Oregon.

The adventures of the father and son, the moral tests they must endure, are strangely compelling. Odd because I found myself thinking (not unlike more than one person in the movie who were apparent suicides) surviving to what purpose?

Which made the hopeful note the film ends on, for me, turn sour. That was when I started to cry a bit, as the credits rolled. And it wasn't for how sweet the ending was, it was for the thought, Who are these people kidding? They'd all be better off to wade out into gray-brown ocean and drown. They're only going to get robbed, raped and eaten by cannibals in another hour or two at the rate things are going. If they don't freeze or starve to death.

Like I say, I guess the movie fit my mood thinking about Todd. At least he's got nothing left to worry about.

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