Saturday, December 31, 2005
So long, it's been swell!—well, not really, but you taught me a lot, and I'm a better person for it. You didn't have an easy job, but your instruction did not go to waste. I was able to see the splendor in a moment because of you, and to understand the intricacies of delight. You taught me love through heartache, strength through weakness...and life through death.
"All who wander are not lost," as Tolkien said. I think we all need a good year of wandering in our lives. Well, several, probably. Limits were made to be tested, and phew!—I did some testing, let me tell you! But, 'Five? I am happy with my results. For a year with such pain spilled over so many months, I remember so much laughter. People keep wishing me a better year with your successor...but really, you were pretty darn special in your own little way. I'm thankful to have known you, and will recall you with great fondness.
"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear," as the proverb goes. I'm glad I had the opportunity to meet you, Teach'. Goodnight and Godspeed.
Friday, December 30, 2005
Dad and I had a lot of time to chat the other day. Normally, chatting with my father is an exercise in restraint, confusion, irritation, and not a little head-shaking. This mostly stems from our differences of opinion on the Internet...and Aprilaires. Oh, and that I don't consume a side of beef at dinner. Well, and that I call it "dinner" instead of "supper". Hmm...and that I prefer my vegetables completely unsullied by salt or butter. Oh, oh! And that, despite the 50% Norwegianism that I possess, I prefer coffee to crude oil in the morning.
Obviously, we have things we need to work through. Obviously...
But, we had a sort of kinship together in the waiting room...mainly because neither one of us made the coffee and he didn't have to pay for it...but also because we shared a love and a worry for the same woman. He was talking about his father, who passed away almost two years ago. He recounted a day, about a week after the funeral, when he took his mother to church. She left the building after service, and ran into an old friend. She stopped in the middle of the current of churchgoers making their exodus, and completely ignored my father as he sat in the van. It is an irritating personality quirk, but I wouldn't take her any other way.
So, Dad's waiting in the van for his mother. He's frustrated. He's mouthing epithets and waving hand gestures (one can only assume). All at once, a large cloud covered the sun and rain poured down out of nowhere. Grandma grabbed her head and rushed toward Dad in desperation. My father began laughing, looked at the sky, and replied, "Thanks, Dad."
Ok, the long and the short of it: my hair is darker than it was 5 days ago. It's telling of my natural color, now that the summer bleach has been attended to. A few people who are used to seeing me out and about have commented on my eyes. Not the hair, but the eyes. Weirdos. I didn't pay for the eyes, I paid for the hair. NOTICE THE HAIR IF YOU'RE GOING TO NOTICE.
Let's see...there's the lady at the coffeeshop, the man at the coffeeshop, the other man at the coffeeshop, and my friend who works at the gym. (Oooh! A twofer! You get an anecdote and a glimpse into my social agenda BOTH!) It was with the last of these that I managed to shove my foot into my mouth and hold it there for a good 10 seconds complete. I replied to her comment, "Darker hair accentuates my coloring differently. Funny how a person's natural hair color compliments their face." I was going for "wry", you see...
But in arduous effort to be humorously self-derisive, I forgot my audience...I tucked tail and blushed. I couldn't make eye contact with my magenta-headed friend until she admitted, "Yes, I agree. That's totally why I stopped dyeing mine."
She drank the contrast with a grimace. "This isn't going to stay down," she predicted. I returned to Gathering Blue, and tried to appear nonchalant. She talks to me more, confides in me more, when I appear nonchalant. I like the talking, the confiding. I knew the moment I saw her yesterday morning that Mom felt unwell. It created a vacuum of niceties; Dad and I set our jaws and kept our gaze forward. She doesn't like the attention. She's been in pain. She doesn't like the noticing.
After the scan, we sat in the oncology waiting room, the three of us. Dad and I sipped coffee. He people-watched, I read. Mom stretched across three waiting room chairs situated in a row...the sitting being too much to bear. We had a long time to wait. Every now and then, one of us would make a benign comment. "The construction is really coming along." "It isn't as busy as it normally is here." Little nudges to remind us of the humanity amidst the antiseptic air. Then, in a quiet voice, mom asked us to follow her when she was called back.
This was a big deal. There is only one other time that Mom has allowed people back to the oncologist's exam room...I was not home then. It was that fateful day last June—Mom still has the appointment notification slip in her wallet—when time became endangered. She said she knew when he came in the room that day that it hadn't been a good scan...and indeed, it had not. Asked if she'd like him to break the news to Dad and Charlie, she nodded gratefully, and they were brought back to the room—to hear the ugliness, receive grief counseling, and think of infinity against a ruler of months. I was to receive the news via phone, from 1200 miles away. A return to Wisconsin was in the works within 24 hours.
She typically likes getting the news herself, coping with it on her terms, then telling us. We afford her this right, imagine away the gnawing hunger to know everything as soon as it is there to know. We can't give her much...but we can give her her dignity. Yesterday, her preference for private counsel was negligible. She knew what was coming. We all knew what was coming. She was saving a nurse a trip back to the waiting room to call my father and me back. We were all on the same page, though reading to ourselves. "Weeks...." We were expecting them to give us mere weeks. The suffering has been evident.
But such tidings did not come. We sat in that small exam room...dad sipped coffee, looked around...I sipped cappuccino, read...Mom fidgeted on the table, gave in, and reclined to seek a release from the pain. It hurts her to be awake...and she's too uncomfortable to sleep. Constant fatigue and discomfort: this has been her reality. Dr. Holen came through the door on jaunty step and said, "It was a good scan!" Huh? How is this possible? The tumors still grew...but by tenths of a centimeter...much reduced rate of growth. The pain though, what is the pain? They don't know.
We left the hospital after nine hours. We were weary with the waiting. (accidental alliteration) Mom held a prescription for morphine in one hand, and the overnight pack of chemo over the other shoulder. I'm about ready to write off this whole concept of logic. I don't understand how a perfectly strong, in-shape, prime-of-her-life woman of 46 can go in for a routine physical to find that she has end-stage cancer—and at 48, she suffers constantly, knows ever-present exhaustion, and her cancer is slowing in growth. I don't think any of us really know what to think. She caught me sixish weeks ago crying quietly at her bedside. I was jobless, husbandless, and—I was sure in no time at all—I would be motherless as well—the next day's scan would prove it, of this I was certain. I, myself, was feeling like a cancer. My powers of prediction proved wrong with that scan, too...I suppose it is a lesson. We're not meant to grasp the live wire of a timeline.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Back in November, I promised myself that I would spend the weeks in between scans in a state of joy, appreciation...and push thoughts of the future aside. I succeeded in all but the past few days...but then, today is the next scan.
I don't know what to think going into this, what to hope. She's had some rough days as of late...
Okay, well, my head is very full right now, and filing the thoughts in order to express myself clearly is a paper cut waiting to happen. I'm off to try to psych myself up for free waiting room cappuccino....
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Friend-who-wishes-to-remain-anonymous: "So she's single once more..."
Friend-who-wishes-to-remain-anonymous: "I sincerely hope you're taking advantage of it."
Me: "Oh yes, definitely."
Friend-who-wishes-to-remain-anonymous: "Oh, really?" She chuckled and communicated her disbelief. "And how are you living it up?"
Me: "Eating a lot of onions, mainly."
She came to me with a serene smile playing about her lips. Her eyes were soft and gentle, her voice airy and kind. She moved delicately, her willowy body taking on the flow of late August's gentle breeze, and her elfin grace was telling. I followed her blindly, my trust immediate.
I reclined at her invitation, grew limpid at her command. The warmth cascaded over me, through me, and my eyes began to flutter. I gave into temptation's persuading reason and allowed them to close as I moaned inwardly, my pleasure all-consuming.
The fragile fingers caressed lightly first, then grew insistent...and my spine melted in response. It was over much too soon...much, much too soon. Weakly, I sought equilibrium; mournfully, I looked back to the place of our union. The enchantment and bliss left me with a single truth: I need to get my hair shampooed more often.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Just a boring picture. Some of you like pictures. Well, actually, judging from emails, a lot of you like pictures, and a lot of you wanted to see a picture of my father as of late. That's him there on the right. Your right, not mine. As my pictures page is buried and majorly outdated (I think the "newest" picture is from last March!) I will dot the occasional post with an image until I decide what to do with the lackluster page. Click on the image if you like—be warned that it'll pop out and enlarge without your consent.
She held me to her bosom, rocking me as I whimpered. Knees pressed to my chest and arms encircling my shins, I felt the chill of the outside world and howled my misery from this safe cocoon. "I HATE THIS TIME OF YEAR! I HATE IT I HATE IT I HATE I—"
"There, there," Mother gentled. "We'll make it better. Shh...we'll fix it. It will be okay."
I hiccuped a sob and sniffed ladylike around the accumulation at my nose. "I must brush my teeth." I announced, and scrambled spiritedly from her lap. This activity always makes me happy. I've a fondness for minty, slippery teeth. I returned to sit on the floor at my mother's feet, legs folded in a pretzel and my back slumped in the telling curve of an orthopedics's horror film.
She looked at Debbie knowingly, and I knew a rescue was on the wings.
It proved to be a sleepy day. The sun did not shine, the neighbors did not stir, and for my part, I spent seven hours trying to compose a single email. I was pretty hyper the day before, as some may have observed, (*cough*—Mark—*cough*), and yesterday was to be my first day of cookie detox.
But I had a sort of relapse early-on. I moaned in satisfaction as my teeth sank into my pumpernickel toast, and I had good feelings about the return of the health food, the departure of the cavity conjurers. The good feelings faded gradually as I finished that spot of fudge, the cinnamon roll, and they were totally absent by the time I polished off the raspberry scone. It was with the resulting tummy ache that I carried on so.
I was sprawled upon my back last night, weak and bleary, when Debbie called down, "Do you want any cherry chip cake, or should I put it down the garbage disposal?"
"GET RID OF IT!" came my passionate call.
I heard her steps cross the kitchen floor and the sink begin to growl. She asked Brenda, "What about the date balls?"
—"Get rid of them!"
—"Get rid of them!"
—"Get rid of them! Get rid of them! Get rid of them!"
The growling grew loud and fierce, and the slaughter of the caloric devilry continued well into the night. My lips trembled into a grateful smile, and I returned to my comatose repose knowing tomorrow would be better. The kitchen was now pure.
Monday, December 26, 2005
We were walking toward the church Saturday evening. Brenda attends church just once a year, on Christmas Eve. Needless to say, she was slightly apprehensive, second-guessing herself, and wanting so very much to fit in. She turned to me on the slippery pavement and huffed antiseptically laced spearmint breath all over me. I managed not to cough as my eyes teared at the sting, and replied, "That's nice."
This pleased her greatly, and her eyes lit in satisfaction. "Good! I know you're not fond of beer, so that means the breath freshener worked!"
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