Christy Nolan.....Resquiat in pace.....
Plus, I am an Irish guy.....so Irish books. Yeah, Joyce, Yeats, Samuel Beckett....but also Roddy Doyle, JP Donleavy, Flann O'Brien.....Christy Brown.
So....knock me over with a feather to hear of Christie Nolan's passing last week in Ireland.
Christie Nolan was born in 1965 in Ireland with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. He was without oxygen for two hours, and was basically born dead. The little fucker survived though....as a paraplegic with really bad cerebal palsy.
My brother Rob, the real writer in our family, was born in 1953 with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. He was without oxygen for only a couple of minutes.....He lucked out and only had 20-300 vision and vicious migraines his whole life. Rob missed the CP bus.
Christie could not walk, talk or control his arms or neck. For the first eleven years of his life no one but his Mom believed that he could communicate beyond yes (head bob) and no (eye raise). His Mom was a fierce Irish lady.....like you need the adjective to describe Irish women.....and insisted that Christie be enrolled in regular school. She went with him, just to hold his head so his muscle spasms wouldn't break his own neck.
At age eleven, someone figured out to attach a unicorn horn stylus to Christy's forehead....so that he could type letters on a typewriter.
Turns out that his mind had been boiling for eleven years. He remembered in detail every story his Da ever told him, every conversation conducted around him, every song, every prayer, every lesson......all the Yeats and Joyce and Synge and Beckett.
"Can't chew, can't swallow, so why chew? Can't call--can call, a famished moan maybe yet it suffices.....can't cry--can cry, can cry, can cry, wet pillows full but who cares....can't laugh--can laugh, can can can."
By 13, he was writing stuff like this.....at ten minutes a word:
Among firs, a cone high-flown,
Hied, foraying, embalming,
Among coy, conged fir needles
A migratory off-spring
Embarks on life's green film.
At his grade school he was not without friends. Paul David Hewson was one; Paul's girl Ali and his friends Adam Clayton, David Evans and Larry Mullen appreciated Christy's gift for language and accompanied him on to Trinity College in Dublin....the Stanford, Harvard and Yale of Ireland.
His friends later wrote a song for him.... "Miracle Drug"...... where they pictured St. Bernadette talking to Christy:
I want to trip inside your head
Spend the day there,
To hear the things you haven’t said,
And see what you might see,
The songs are in your eyes,
I see them when you smile.....
For the clueless: Paul David Hewson is better known today as Bono; David Evans is The Edge; Ali is Mrs. Bono....and the whole crew is now known as U2. Grade school friends of the cripple.
At 15, at ten minutes per word, the rush of thoughts came out in a book of poetry, Dam Burst of Dreams. People immediately recognized the whispers of Joyce and Yeats in Christy Nolan's thoughts.....and even better stuff.
By 21 he had clawed out an autobiography, "Under The Eye of The Clock"....which won the Whitbread Award for best book written in the English Language.
"Some said that disability got the prize for him, but what won it was the language, uncorralled and fesh as though the words had never been tried before. He made words into everything his body could not. Among his favorites were "frolicking" and "rollicking" and "hollyberries"....meaning compensations among the sharp things of life......"
From The Economist review.......
From Christy, himself.
"His own mother cradled his head but he mentally gadded here and there in fields of swishing grass and pursed wildness. his mind was darting under beech copper-mulled, along strams calling out his name, he hised and frolicked but his mother called it spasms. Delirious with the words ploppping into his path he made youth ree. where youth was meant to stagnate. Such were his powers as he gmleted his words onto white sheets of life......."
His Mom was his companion and champion. She held his head and steadied it as he pecked each and every letter of each and every word. She told him when he was three that she liked him just as he was. From that point, "he fanned the only spark he saw.....his being alive."
Once, on vacation at the seashore, his parents buried him in sand up to his neck. For the first time in his life, he felt what it was like to have a calm, straight, serene body.
But......even so, his head just above the sand was at the level of everyone else's feet....and he demanded to get back to his wheelchair.
Christy died last week.....
His family's statement:
"Following ingestion of some food into his airways......
Oxygen deprivation returned to take the life it had damaged more than 40 years before."
We should all have half the courage, half the skill, half the agility....half the heart.
I have the books if you want to check them out.
Sorry about the tear stains.....
Ars longa....vita brevis.