Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Twenty to One
I'm re-reading The Diving Bell and the Butterfly a memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby. Bauby, the Editor-in-Chief of French Elle, suffered a massive stroke that left him with a condition called locked-in syndrome. Unable to move or speak, he wrote the entire book letter by letter using a type of morse code that involved blinking his left eyelid and died shortly after publication. The book is a slim volume of random recollections that is by turns funny, heartbreaking and totally random. Trapped in his body with no freedom but thought, what did he think about? Mainly food, love, family, missed opportunity and flights of fancy. Bauby's mind soared like a butterfly. In circumstances most people would find unbearable, Bauby found within him an invincible spirit. My favorite story is twenty to one about a day at the races and a tip on a bet for a sure thing that thanks to a long wine drenched lunch he forgot to place.
"Frankly, I had forgotten Mithra-Grandchamp. The memory of that event has only just come back to me, now doubly painful: regret for a vanished past, and above all, remorse for lost opportunities. Mithra-Grandchamp is the woman we were unable to love, the chances we failed to seize, the moments of happiness we allowed to drift away. Today it seems to me that my whole life was nothing but a string of those small near misses: a race whose result we know beforehand but in which we fail to bet on the winner."