Truths of Life:
Barry Corbet
(1935 - 2004)
Part II
Towards the end there I called and told him that I should write his autobiography. I said I'd like to be his Gertrude Stein; he could be my Toklas (Stein wrote the facetiously named Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.)

He demurred --- he wasn't interested in encomiums --- so I compromised on having him list the twenty-five most valuable things in life. He knew, I suspect, that I was preparing to write what you are reading right now: But he was a writer and an editor and --- in whatever bardo he's floating in right now --- I would hope that he's willing to forgive me.

He never did list all twenty-five. And I know few were stuck in there just to throw me off track. That was his way ... stuff like "Money" and "Malls" and "A Nice Car." He didn't give a damn about such things.

But there were a few in the list that went deep, and he knew it, and I knew it. Like "Health" and "Keeping Warm" and "Sex." And "Walking." And "Not Pooping When You Don't Want To." Things that go to the heart of us.

And then there were the Corbetisms, wry truths out of his past.

One was, "Going South in the Winter." Ten years ago he came to visit in Southern Mexico. It was to be a vacation in paradise but the hours spent waiting for flights went on far too long. He developed a pressure sore, another of those that had plagued him so often in the last years of his life.

For most of the two weeks he was in Oaxaca he wasn't able to get out of his bed at the hotel. That left him out of reach of the sun and the waves, away from the bar where he could sip Martinis (his favorite) and watch the young playing volley-ball, catching frisbees, running and calling to each other: those innocents having such a fine time on the white sands, moving about so easily, unaware or maybe even uncaring of the truth of entropy that will some day come, that is the fate of all of us.

A few might call those weeks that Barry spent on his back a "tragedy," or a "disaster." Some might use those words, but they were not and are not in our vocabulary. Those of us who have been playing the disability game for so long have come up with other words to take their place. Words like "Reality." Or, "The Facts of Life." Or, "The Way Things Are."

§     §     §

The very last on Barry's list was "Having but one secret."


"I have a secret."


"I keep forgetting what it is. Secrets are never worth it."


"You know what the Tibetan Buddhists say about death."


"They call it The dream at the end of time."

"I don't want to leave you," I said.

"Then don't," he said.

--- L. W. Milam
This article also appears
in slightly different form in
New Mobility Magazine

Go back to
Part I

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