INTO THE WILD EBOOK ITA

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Into The Wild Ebook Ita

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My siblings and I had been made to swallow raw cloves of garlic when we had colds. People like my mother did not get cancer. The tests at the Mayo Clinic would prove that, refut- ing what the doctors in Duluth had said. I was certain of this. Who were those doctors in Duluth anyway? What was Duluth?

Fuck them. That was my prayer: Fuckthemfuckthemfuckthem. And yet, here was my mother at the Mayo Clinic getting worn out if she had to be on her feet for more than three minutes. I followed behind, not allowing myself to think a thing.

We were finally on our way up to see the last doctor. The real doctor, we kept call- ing him. The one who would gather everything that had been gathered about my mom and tell us what was true. As the elevator car lifted, my mother reached out to tug at my pants, rubbing the green cotton between her fingers proprietarily. She was going to leave my life at the same moment that I came into hers, I thought.

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For some reason that sentence came fully formed into my head just then, temporarily blotting out the Fuck them prayer. I almost howled in agony. I almost choked to death on what I knew before I knew. I was going to live the rest of my life without my mother. I pushed the fact of it away with everything in me. This was not so. We were led into an examining room, where a nurse instructed my mother to remove her shirt and put on a cotton smock with strings that dangled at her sides.

When my mother had done so, she climbed onto a padded table with white paper stretched over it.

Each time she moved, the room was on fire with the paper ripping and crinkling beneath her. I could see her naked back, the small curve of flesh beneath her waist. She was not going to die. Her naked back seemed proof of that. I was staring at it when the real doctor came into the room and said my mother would be lucky if she lived a year. He explained that they would not attempt to cure her, that she was incurable. There was nothing that could have been done, he told us.

Finding it so late was common, when it came to lung cancer. He had a job to do. They could try to ease the pain in her back with radiation, he offered. Radiation might reduce the size of the tumors that were growing along the entire length of her spine.

I did not cry. I only breathed. And then for- got to breathe.

Introduction

What did you do? She sat with her hands folded tightly together and her ankles hooked one to the other. Shackled to herself. In reply, he took a pencil, stood it upright on the edge of the sink, and tapped it hard on the surface. Each of us locked in separate stalls, weeping. Not because we felt so alone in our grief, but because we were so together in it, as if we were one body instead of two.

Later we came out to wash our hands and faces, watching each other in the bright mirror. We were sent to the pharmacy to wait. I sat between my mother and Eddie in my green pantsuit, the green bow miraculously still in my hair. There was a woman who had an arm that swung wildly from the elbow. She held it stiffly with the other hand, trying to calm it. She waited. We waited. There was a beautiful dark-haired woman who sat in a wheelchair.

She wore a purple hat and a handful of diamond rings. We could not take our eyes off her. She spoke in Spanish to the people gathered around her, her family and perhaps her husband. Eddie sat on my other side, but I could not look at him. If I looked at him we would both crumble like dry crackers.

I thought about my older sister, Karen, and my younger brother, Leif. What they would say when they knew. How they would cry. My prayer was different now: A year, a year, a year. Those two words beat like a heart in my chest. There was a song coming over the waiting room speakers.

A song without words, but my mother knew the words anyway and instead of answering my question she sang them softly to me. To think about listening to the same song now. I was Karen, Cheryl, Leif.

Karen Cheryl Leif. She whispered it and hollered it, hissed it and crooned it. We were her kids, her comrades, the end of her and the beginning. We took turns riding shotgun with her in the car. But she would never get there, no matter how wide she stretched her arms.

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The amount that she loved us was beyond her reach. It could not be quantified or contained. Her love was full-throated and all-encompassing and unadorned.

Every day she blew through her entire reserve. She grew up an army brat and Catholic. She lived in five different states and two countries before she was fifteen.

She loved horses and Hank Williams and had a best friend named Babs. Nineteen and preg- nant, she married my father. Three days later, he knocked her around the room. She left and came back. Left and came back. She would not put up with it, but she did. He broke her nose. He broke her dishes. He skinned her knees dragging her down a sidewalk in broad daylight by her hair. By twenty-eight she managed to leave him for the last time. She was alone, with KarenCherylLeif riding shotgun in her car.

By then we lived in a small town an hour outside of Minneapolis in a series of apartment complexes with deceptively upscale names: Mill Pond and Barbary Knoll, Tree Loft and Lake Grace Manor.

She had one job, then another. She waited tables at a place called the Norseman and then a place called Infinity, where her uniform was a black T-shirt that said go for it in rainbow glitter across her chest.

She worked the day shift at a factory that manufactured plastic containers capable of holding highly corrosive chemicals and brought the rejects home.

Trays and boxes that had been cracked or clipped or misaligned in the machine. We made them into toys—beds for our dolls, ramps for our cars.

She worked and worked and worked, and still we were poor. We received government cheese and powdered milk, food stamps and medical assistance cards, and free presents from do-gooders at Christmastime. We played tag and red light green light and charades by the apartment mail- boxes that you could open only with a key, waiting for checks to arrive. Sarsaparilla or Orange Crush or lemonade.

She would spread her arms wide and ask us how much and there would never be an end to the game. She loved us more than all the named things in the world. She was optimistic and serene, except a few times when she lost her temper and spanked us with a wooden spoon. She dated men with names like Killer and Doobie and Motorcycle Dan and one guy named Victor who liked to downhill ski. They would give us five-dollar bills to download candy from the store so they could be alone in the apartment with our mom.

Karen and Leif and I fell in love with him too. He was twenty-five when we met him and twenty-seven when he married our mother and promised to be our father; a carpenter who could make and fix anything. We left the apartment complexes with fancy names and moved with him into a rented ramshackle farmhouse that had a dirt floor in the basement and four different colors of paint on the outside.

The winter after my mother married him, Eddie fell off a roof on the job and broke his back. A year later, he and my mom took the twelve-thousand-dollar settlement he received and with it bought forty acres of land in Aitkin County, an hour and a half west of Duluth, paying for it outright in cash. There was no house. No one had ever had a house on that land. Our forty acres were a perfect square of trees and bushes and weedy grasses, swampy ponds and bogs clotted with cattails.

There was nothing to dif- ferentiate it from the trees and bushes and grasses and ponds and bogs that surrounded it in every direction for miles. And, slowly, it did. Trees that had once looked like any other to me became as recognizable as the faces of old friends in a crowd, their branches gesturing with sudden meaning, their leaves beckoning like identifiable hands.

Clumps of grass and the edges of the now-familiar bog became landmarks, guides, indecipherable to everyone but us. For six months, we went up north only on weekends, working furiously to tame a patch of the land and build a one-room tarpaper shack where the five of us could sleep. In early June, when I was thirteen, we moved up north for good. Or rather, my mother, Leif, Karen, and I did, along with our two horses, our cats and our dogs, and a box of ten baby chicks my mom got for free at the feed store for downloading twenty-five pounds of chicken feed.

Eddie would continue driving up on weekends throughout the summer and then stay come fall. We were twenty miles away from two small towns in opposite directions: Moose Lake to the east; McGregor to the northwest. We fought and talked and made up jokes and diversions in order to pass the time. Who am I? Are you American?

Are you dead? Are you Charles Manson? We were swarmed by mosqui- toes as we worked, but my mother forbade us to use DEET or any other such brain-destroying, earth-polluting, future-progeny-harming chemical. Instead, she instructed us to slather our bodies with pennyroyal or peppermint oil. In the evenings, we would make a game of counting the bites on our bodies by candlelight.

The numbers would be seventy-nine, eighty-six, one hundred and three.

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There had always been a television in our house, not to mention a flushable toilet and a tap where you could get yourself a glass of water. In our new life as pioneers, even meeting the simplest needs often involved a grueling litany of tasks, rig- orous and full of boondoggle. Our kitchen was a Coleman camp stove, a fire ring, an old-fashioned icebox Eddie built that depended on actual ice to keep things even mildly cool, a detached sink propped against an outside wall of the shack, and a bucket of water with a lid on it.

Each component demanded just slightly less than it gave, needing to be tended and maintained, filled and unfilled, hauled and dumped, pumped and primed and stoked and monitored. Karen and I shared a bed on a lofted platform built so close to the ceiling we could just barely sit up. Leif slept a few feet away on his own smaller platform, and our mother was in a bed on the floor below, joined by Eddie on the weekends.

Every night we talked one another to sleep, slumber-party style. There was a skylight window in the ceiling that ran the length of the platform bed I shared with Karen, its transparent pane only a few feet from our faces.

That someday I would be grateful and that in fact I was grateful now, that I felt something growing in me that was strong and real. The thing that would make me believe that hiking the Pacific Crest Trail was my way back to the person I used to be. All through my teen years, Eddie and my mom kept building it, adding on, making it better.

My mother planted a garden and canned and pickled and froze vegetables in the fall. She tapped the trees and made maple syrup, baked bread and carded wool, and made her own fabric dyes out of dandelions and broccoli leaves. I grew up and left home for college in the Twin Cities at a school called St.

Thomas, but not without my mom. My acceptance letter men- tioned that parents of students could take classes at St.

Thomas for free. Much as she liked her life as a modern pioneer, my mother had always wanted to get her degree. We laughed about it together, then pondered it in private. Plus, St. Thomas was a three- hour drive away.

We kept talking and talking until at last we had a deal: she would go to St.

Thomas but we would have separate lives, dictated by me. I would live in the dorm and she would drive back and forth. If our paths crossed on campus she would not acknowledge me unless I acknowledged her first. She replicated my worksheets, wrote the same papers I had to write, read every one of the books.

I judged her a shaky student at best. She went to college and earned straight As. Sometimes I hugged her exuberantly when I saw her on campus; other times I sailed on by, as if she were no one to me at all. We were both seniors in college when we learned she had cancer. Thomas anymore. I was married by then, to a good man named Paul. After she got sick, I folded my life down. I told Paul not to count on me. I wanted to quit school, but my mother ordered me not to, begging me, no matter what happened, to get my degree.

She herself took what she called a break. She only needed to complete a couple more classes to graduate, and she would, she told me.

She would get her BA if it killed her, she said, and we laughed and then looked at each other darkly. She would be strong enough to start in on those last two classes soon, she absolutely knew. I stayed in school, though I convinced my professors to allow me to be in class only two days each week. As soon as those two days were over, I raced home to be with my mother.

Plus, I was needed. Eddie was with her when he could be, but he had to work.

Someone had to pay the bills. I cooked food that my mother tried to eat, but rarely could she eat. I took everything from the cupboards and put new paper down. My mother slept and moaned and counted and swallowed her pills. On good days she sat in a chair and talked to me. There was nothing much to say. I knew that her love for me was vaster than the ten thousand things and also the ten thousand things beyond that.

I knew the names of the horses she had loved as a girl: Pal and Buddy and Bacchus. I knew how she met my father the next year and what he seemed like to her on their first few dates.

Cursing and sassing off to her mom, bitching about having to set the table while her much younger sister played. I wanted to know. But now that she was dying, I knew everything. My mother was in me already. Not just the parts of her that I knew, but the parts of her that had come before me too. A little more than a month. The idea that my mother would live a year quickly became a sad dream.

By the third of March, she had to go to the hospital in Duluth, seventy miles away, because she was in so much pain. She sat on the bed and I got down on my knees before her. I had never put socks on another person, and it was harder than I thought it would be. They went on crooked. I became furious with my mother, as if she were purposely holding her foot in a way that made it impossible for me.

She sat back, leaning on her hands on the bed, her eyes closed. I could hear her breathing deeply, slowly. It was a word she used often throughout my childhood, delivered in a highly specific tone. This is not the way I wanted it to be, that single honey said, but it was the way it was. It was this very acceptance of suffering that annoyed me most about my mom, her unending optimism and cheer. Her movements were slow and thick as she put on her coat.

She held on to the walls as she made her way through the house, her two beloved dogs following her as she went, pushing their noses into her hands and thighs. I watched the way she patted their heads. The words fuck them were two dry pills in my mouth. Until she was dying, the thought had never entered my mind.

She was monolithic and insurmountable, the keeper of my life. She would grow old and still work in the garden. I held fast to this image for the first couple of weeks after we left the Mayo Clinic, and then, once she was admitted to the hospice wing of the hospital in Duluth, that image unfurled, gave way to others, more modest and true.

I imagined my mother in October; I wrote the scene in my mind. And then the one of my mother in August and another in May. Each day that passed, another month peeled away. On her first day in the hospital, a nurse offered my mother morphine, but she refused.

She slept and woke, talked and laughed. She cried from the pain.

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I camped out during the days with her and Eddie took the nights. She was preoccupied with nothing but eradicating her pain, an impossible task in the spaces of time between the doses of morphine. We could never get the pillows right.

He was young, perhaps thirty. He stood next to my mother, a gentle hairy hand slung into his pocket, looking down at her in the bed. And also I wanted to take pleasure from him, to feel the weight of his body against me, to feel his mouth in my hair and hear him say my name to me over and over again, to force him to acknowledge me, to make this matter to him, to crush his heart with mercy for us.

When my mother asked him for more morphine, she asked for it in a way that I have never heard anyone ask for anything. A mad dog. He did not look at her when she asked him this, but at his wristwatch. He held the same expression on his face regardless of the answer. Sometimes he gave it to her without a word, and sometimes he told her no in a voice as soft as his penis in his pants. My mother begged and whimpered then. She cried and her tears fell in the wrong direction.

Not down over the light of her cheeks to the corners of her mouth, but away from the edges of her eyes to her ears and into the nest of her hair on the bed. She lived forty-nine days after the first doctor in Duluth told her she had cancer; thirty-four after the one at the Mayo Clinic did. But each day was an eternity, one stacked up on the other, a cold clarity inside of a deep haze. I was in heartbroken and enraged disbelief.

One friend told us he was stay- ing with a girl named Sue in St. Another spotted him ice fishing on Sheriff Lake. Mostly, I watched her sleep, the hardest task of all, to see her in repose, her face still pinched with pain. But it was just me. My husband, Paul, did everything he could to make me feel less alone.

What did he know about losing anything? His parents were still alive and happily married to each other. My connection with him and his gloriously unfractured life only seemed to increase my pain.

Being with him felt unbearable, but being with anyone else did too. The only person I could bear to be with was the most unbearable person of all: my mother. In the mornings, I would sit near her bed and try to read to her.

So I started in, but I could not go on. Each word I spoke erased itself in the air. It was the same when I tried to pray. I prayed fervently, rabidly, to God, any god, to a god I could not identify or find. I prayed to the whole wide universe and hoped that God would be in it, listening to me. I prayed and prayed, and then I faltered. God was not a granter of wishes.

God was a ruthless bitch. I asked God to keep his finger on the shoulder of that one; I told him that boy was special.

But he let Alex die. So on December 26, when I learned what had happened, I renounced the Lord. I withdrew my church membership and became an atheist. I decided I couldn't believe in a God who would let something that terrible happen to a boy like Alex. If Chris sought real answers to his hard questions, God is there, and God can help, but you have to know you need help and submit to someone wiser than you.

Chris McCandless never submitted willingly to anyone, and he certainly never admitted anyone else had teaching or wisdom for him. He was smarter than everyone else, better able to see the truth than anyone else. So the heritage Chris McCandless left is one that drives his mother to stop praying, and converts an old man to atheism. Is this the heritage anyone would want? So read this book, but read it with questions in mind.

Why are we lauding a young man as a hero who was actually a foolish man? What kind of society are we in where real courage and real heroism are somehow playing 2nd fiddle to selfishness and arrogance?

When are you so intellectually intelligent that you become stupid? Is there any time when foolish decisions could be called "courageous"? In a search for truth and what really matters in life, is it acceptable to think nothing of hurting those people who are most vulnerable to you?

When you die, will the way you lived your life cause others to abandon their faith or grow in their faith? Is it ever courageous to be selfish and think only of yourself? Is it harder to walk away from a relationship, or to stay in a relationship and work on making it better? Would you ever teach anyone else that the way to have real relationships is to limit yourself only to those people who cannot ever hurt you?

Real courage, real heroism comes when you love others and you serve others. Real courage has nothing selfish in it. Fathers and husbands who remain with their families and provide for them, even though they would rather have a mid-life crisis and leave it all, they are courageous and heroic. They remain, they work, they don't father or husband perfectly, but they remain in difficult relationships.

It courageous to stay in the hard parts of life, and try. Mothers and wives who sacrifice and serve again and again and again without books being written about them, without thanks, but who continue to love and give of themselves to others. That is courageous. It is hard to stay in messy relationships. It is easy to leave. It is courageous to stay and do hard things. It is easy to leave and do what you want.

So, let's read this book, but read it as a cautionary tale. This is what happens when you seemingly 'have it all', but have not love. When you die, will people be driven to become atheists? Will people stop praying when you are dead? Or will you live a life of wisdom and love? Will you leave behind you a heritage of godly love and service? Will people pray more because of the example you left them?

Will they be more loving, better mothers or fathers or sisters or brothers?I camped out during the days with her and Eddie took the nights. Not down over the light of her cheeks to the corners of her mouth, but away from the edges of her eyes to her ears and into the nest of her hair on the bed. Thomas but we would have separate lives, dictated by me. Not pretty, but clean. Our forty acres were a perfect square of trees and bushes and weedy grasses, swampy ponds and bogs clotted with cattails.

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