October 28, 2013

Lou Reed: An Appreciation of a Different Sort

When I read the news that Lou Reed had passed away, I was a bit moved....but not for the reasons you might think.

In all honesty, most of my appreciation for his work involves the Velvet Underground's album (especially their 3rd one, which is a vastly underrated gem, in my opinion), and a handful of albums from the mid to late 1980s. This is not to denigrate his other work, but to put it into perspective.

Much of my recent fascination with Reed was through some aspects of his recent life - as his obituaries state, he passed due to complications from a recent liver transplant. As many of you are aware, my mother had a transplant several years ago - she's fine, by the way - and I can't help but feel a bit of kinship.

For the record - Mom's liver had developed issues due to complications of diabetes. She was an absolute teetotaller in her life, having never engaged in drug use and the last rare alcoholic drink over twenty years ago. So thinking that Lou Reed's past substance use should preclude him from liver issues.....not the case. Just trying to put it in perspective.

Living before, during, and after a transplant is not easy. First, there's the ever-present realization that in order for a transplant to occur - especially for a major organ like the liver - someone has to pass on. Essentially, you wish for someone else to die before your loved one can go well. It gives new meaning to the phrase "needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few". There's also the changes in lifestyle - at her best, my mother was dependent on lactulose - a foul-smelling medicine that looked much like motor oil. (Mom left the taste up to my imagination). At her worst, ammonia built up in Mom's brain, and her behavior resembled nothing more than alcoholic dementia. In fact, the final time she was hospitalized, she was released on the first Sunday in May because the doctors "wanted her to be comfortable....around loved ones."

Thankfully, early in the morning on the first Monday in May, we received the call that an appropriate liver had come through, and Mom had her surgery.
In the interim, Mom's life is much different...but better. Yes, she has a variety of medications she needs to take to avoid rejection. She also sees a variety of doctors, and she claims that the surgery scars resemble a Mercedes logo. (On that, I will take her word for it.). It has meant a bit more of a strain on my lifestyle, but life post-transplant has been much easier...although I still have to argue with others about caring for Mom (she has other external services for that) versus focusing on my own life. It's also....well, some people in my life could use strengthening of character, but this isn't an experience I would wish on anyone.

As I'm typing this, the Velvet Underground's third album is playing - Lou Reed has an abundant body of work that will last long after his demise. Thankfully, this experience has given me two things - a renewed desire to live each day to its fullest, and a parent who has another extra day - and several years of extra days - due to medical intervention.

All in all, that's a fair exchange, isn't it?

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