Lorenzo’s Oil

After the shocking news about my brother, I had to talk to the department chair about taking a day off next week. I threw up on my pants, and so I went home to take a shower. I bought a few items from Dollar Tree. I went through the rest of the work day because I couldn’t drop everything until I heard from my father. He phoned me after I returned home, and he told me more of the details about my brother’s last hours. The end wasn’t as peaceful as I hoped. I couldn’t get to sleep, so I watched “Lorenzo’s Oil.” It wasn’t the right movie to see on this day of despair. It had Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon as the parents of a young boy with a terminal disease. They learn that there is no cure, but they set out to find some way of treating him. In some respects, this movie is like “Dallas Buyers Club.” Their efforts run into a roadblock with traditional medicine, research, and scientific method. The argument is that academic types are out of touch with the real world. There’s certainly a lot of truth to that view. Nick Nolte’s Italian accent was not convincing. I had forgotten what a good actor he was in the old days. You can learn a lot if you’re motivated, even though you don’t have a college degree. Susan Sarandon’s role was the fiery type of mother who would do absolutely anything to save her child. It was rather disturbing to see the way she treated the nurses. Some of his movie is like taking a science class. You have to keep up with the terminology and the reasoning and absorb a lot of information. The researchers are presented as a rather heartless bunch of people. Peter Ustinov played a key role in the movie. I thought he did a very good job. Margo Martindale was one of the mothers of the afflicted boys. She has the kind of face and presence that makes you think that you’ve seen her in many different places. In fact, she reminds me of Conchata Ferrell. I have to admire the struggle and determination of a woman who sees the odds against her and her son and still goes on. The name of the disease is adrenoleukodystrophy, and Lorenzo’s oil was extracted from rapeseed oil and olive oil. Lorenzo lived until May 30, 2008, the day after his 30th birthday. His condition required medical care around the clock, and he was unable to swallow saliva. He was constantly monitored and fed five times a day through a tube. Michaela Odone died of lung cancer at age 61 on June 10, 2000. She would spend up to 16 hours at a stretch at Lorenzo’s bedside caring for Lorenzo. After she died, her husband played Lorenzo tapes of her voice which she recorded for him, and he appeared responsive. Augusto Odone was 80 years old when he died of heart failure at age 80 on October 24, 2013. Lorenzo’s parents did give him 22 extra years of life through their efforts. When I think back on my brother, I hope he got something out of the last seven years of his life, when doctors were keeping him alive. Some of the things I’ll remember doing with him from those years are going out to see “Avatar” on New Year’s Day, riding a new trolley car, and taking the dog out for a walk. I remember some of the movies he liked to talk about: “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “M*A*S*H,” “Bless the Beasts and Children,” “The Sting,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Heaven Can Wait,” and “Breaking Away.” I think the last movie I talked about with him was “The LEGO Movie.” I kept wondering what was going through his mind during those last days. He seemed consumed with financial worries, and he could hardly eat anything. His emotional state contributed to his decline. I wondered about his friends and where they were at the critical moment. The last time I saw him was at the train station. He didn’t see me at the window when the train pulled away. The days when we played ping pong were the times I will remember from our youth. When we didn’t have responsibilities, the fun we had was not so restrained. When college came, our lives went in different directions. The one year we were both in high school, people used to ask him if he was my brother, even though I was the freshman and he was the senior. I guess he didn’t know how old I was, because he got my birthday wrong three years ago. There were a lot of things I didn’t know about him. Many people are mysteries. Who knows what is going on in their minds? Little things ate away at him. The big things like almost getting laid off really killed him. He internalized stress, and it hurt him right to the end. The enjoyment of life was elusive for him, as it is for many people. It is for me. I stayed up to watch Stevie Wonder on the Letterman show. He sang “I Wish.” I barely got any sleep last night, and I awoke with a nagging cough. I felt rather nauseous and tired. The world seemed like it was harsh and full of problems. A lot of people who are jerks go on in their oblivious way continuing to ruin the planet. I needed cough drops, and I forgot to buy some as I walked over to the office. I had to make plans for my days off. It was slow going, especially since I wanted to do none of it. I helped someone make photocopies from a confusing machine. Some of the people who died on March 12 include Charlie Parker (1955), John Cazale (1978), Maurice Evans (1989), and Yehudi Menuhin (1999). Today is a birthday for Carl Hiaasen (62), James Taylor (67), Liza Minnelli (69), Al Jarreau (75), and Barbara Feldon (82). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment, the Allman Brothers Band played the second of three consecutive nights at the Fillmore East in 1971. In 1982, the Richard Pryor movie “Live at the Sunset Strip” premiered. In 1987, “Les Misérables” opened at the Broadway Theatre.

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