Struggling Against Death

Irina Echarry 

Photo: Samantha Levens

In a previous post I commented about the illness of a dog in my building named “Oh!” and its relationship with Roly, its owner.  In that writing I concluded by saying:  “Roly continues his walks with “Oh!” as death lingers about the old boy.  Maybe Roly, like the animal, distances himself from the world so that he can gradually die, alone.”

I don’t know why I wrote that, I allowed myself to be touched by the moving image of Roly crying for his pet, but that wasn’t accurate.  I’ve known Roly for years and I’ve never seen him lose heart before any pain – physical or emotional.

His willpower is admired by everyone on the block.  Several years ago he suffered a cerebral thrombosis that left him unable to move one of his legs.  Though he was instructed to follow a complete exercise regime, there were few hopes that he would return to his previous life.

But Roly put all his effort into recovering, and everyone knew about his long bike rides (trips that also brought him a little money, but I won’t say what all that involved).

He did this for years, pedaling, going to get food and saving money for who knew what reason.  Sometimes I think that he was only tries to have something more that ties him to life, though in the neighborhood he was known for simply being a tightwad.

A month ago he began to feel bad, he was extremely tired.  The stairs wore him out more than usual.  Nonetheless, first he refused to go to the doctor, and later he only went by himself and said that the doctor found him to be in good shape.  His wife checked into his story, though, and found out that he had been ordered to check himself into a hospital.

A weakness in his heart had been making him feel drained; more specifically, an obstructed artery was preventing him from functioning normally.

After great insistence, Roly reluctantly admitted himself into the hospital, distressed because he didn’t want to stop working (in addition to his business, he did night guard-duty at an intensive urban farm).

He was given a pacemaker and now everything’s OK.

The doctor recommended that he take walks, so he began going up and down stairs and walking around the block.  But since Roly is headstrong, he decided to push himself further, taking long walks all the way to Bacuranao Beach (a few miles away).  He relaxes with the landscape and the exercise.

No one doubts that he’ll return to his adventures and that he’ll continue clinging to life.  Contrary to what I wrote that previous time, Roly is escaping death as if it were his enemy, and the day it catches up with him (he still hasn’t found the formula for immortality) it will surprise him while working, saving and “hustling.”