Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017 (and the little things)

On Friday night, November 10, Carol and I and the cats shared a bed together for the first time since November 1. Unfuckingbelievably comforting.

Carol and I spent November 1 in a dingy hotel in Lebanon, NH. Complete with rats and cockroaches, hookers roaming the hallways and tequila flowing out of the bathroom tap.

Had to get up at 4:30 the following morning to get to Dartmouth-Hitchcock on time for two surgeons to spend 7 and 1/2 hours inside my wife's head. While I read and paced and slept and ate. Waiting for the fucking buzzer in my pocket to go off alerting me that it was time to meet with the surgeons as I held my breath.

Between November 2 and November 5, I spent 2 nights at home and 1 night in the hospital. I would get home around 9 or 10 at night, stay up until midnight or 1, get up at 6, head back to the hospital.

The cats were confused.

Carol came home on November 5 and had to sleep on the couch because she could not make it up and down the stairs. She chose the couch, I am not that much of an asshole. I slept in the spare room directly across from the couch to keep an eye on her.

Until Friday night November 10, when Carol decided she had had enough. I helped her upstairs and into bed. When I came out of the bathroom, both cats were sitting up at the end of the bed as if they were not sure things were back to normal. I looked at Carol curled up on her side, looked back at the cats, and a big, goofy smile spread across my face, even as a couple of tears wet my cheeks.

It's the little things, folks. It is the little things.

That was my first Thanksgiving this year. The second one came when Carol could make it up and down the stairs on her own. The third came when she drank from a straw for the first time since the surgery. I cannot accurately express to you how much happiness it gave me to see Carol conquer these milestones.

Tomorrow is the real deal.

I have been waiting a year for Thanksgiving 2017. To redeem myself.

Last year I got drunk and was exhausted after only four hours sleep. I got stupid emotional and made a farce out of my family's favorite day.

I did not know and could not know that in my waiting Carol would be diagnosed with breast cancer and a tumor in her brain.

I did not know that Keith would be preparing for divorce, I did not know that Craig would split up with Karen.

My immediate family has taken some painful hits this year and I do not understand it. It is the first time the four of us have had to deal with so much adversity simultaneously and it breaks my heart.

It    fucking    breaks    my    heart.

It will be a small day in numbers tomorrow. Just the four of us. Going back to where we started.

It will be a huge day for us as a family. Being together, pulling together, supporting each other, sharing empathy and pure, unadulterated love. It is what family is all about.

Safe harbor, baby - safe harbor.

 I am looking forward to Thanksgiving 2017 with all the love and sensitivity in my heart and in my soul. My sense of life's unpredictability and fragility has become finely tuned. This year has rocked us.

But I know intuitively that my family is magic. Pure fucking magic. We laugh together, we share honest conversation, we are comfortable in each other's company.

That is a precious gift and it means everything to me. Everything.

Tomorrow we will relax and catch our breath. We will absorb what is happening to us.

And we will move on.

2017 has been a rude awakening. It has taught me a lot. It can also kiss my ass.

I am excited to see what is in store for my family in the future. We are four good people and I know that more good things await us.

Tomorrow will be the most meaningful Thanksgiving we have ever shared.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

This Week

Tough week.

Probably the toughest of our young lives. And that is saying a lot because this family has been through hell. My immediate family and my extended family.

The fucking suffering and heartbreak and loss is overwhelming to me. I have witnessed the unjust suffering and wondered why? What does it mean to be a human being? What is the fucking point?

On Thursday morning, the good people of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center will wheel my wife away from me and towards the operating room. Where she will spend at least the next eight hours enduring delicate surgery inside her head.

There are specific moments from Carol's experience with the mastectomy that will stick in my mind forever. One of which was the moment when they wheeled her away from me to begin "the procedure".

A kindly individual was explaining to me where I could go to wait out the surgery and what type of support they would provide for me, but I heard nothing. I was not openly crying but you better believe there were tears escaping down my cheeks.

Helpless. Fucking helpless to protect my wife.

That surgery was estimated to take 3 hours. It took 5 and 1/2. This surgery is estimated to take "every bit of 8 hours", as the most recent surgeon we spoke to put it.

On the positive side: this is not technically brain surgery. The tumor is situated on the three nerves that affect Carol's hearing, balance and facial muscles. It is called an acoustic neuroma. It is benign 99.9% of the time. It is a slow growing tumor. If they cannot remove the entire thing it is not exceptionally dangerous because she will be 90 before it becomes a problem again.

Logically, we should be able to take great comfort in those facts.

But we are human. We are nervous.

This black cloud has been hanging over our heads for 4 months now, beginning with the twin diagnosis of breast cancer and the tumor. This reality is a palpable presence in our life, in our home, in our minds. It affects everything and it is relentless.

You cannot get comfortable; you cannot feel at ease.

The plan is to have Carol home by Sunday. Then, and only then, can we begin to reclaim our life. Slowly, and step by step because the recovery process takes at least a month and Carol will have to do exercises religiously to regain her balance.

But at least at that point we will be past this evil and know that these fucking cancers have been removed from Carol's body.

Carol and I used to watch "Hill Street Blues". Loved it.

I picked up an expression from that show that I have always loved. When someone got sick or went through a tough stretch, in support, people would say "I'll have a good thought".

Not "my thoughts and prayers" or any other clich├ęd bullshit. The phrase caught my attention because it is so basic, so simple. Which is what makes it so powerful to me. It strikes me as something a real human being would say.........................and feel.

So, beginning at 7:00 am on Thursday morning, or even earlier if you are so inclined, and if you care about Carol, my precious wife of 39 years who is an amazing balance of gentle, unselfish love and a warrior's spirit  - please do one thing for her.

Have a good thought.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

More Than Words

"When it seems like the night will last forever,
And there's nothing left to do but count the years,
When the strings of my heart begin to sever,
And stones fall from my eyes instead of tears,
I will walk alone, by the black muddy river,
And dream me a dream of my own,
I will walk alone, by the black muddy river,
And sing me a song of my own, sing me a song of my own."

"Black Muddy River";   Grateful Dead

Not Just Gregg's Reality

"Still on and on I run, it feels like home is just around the bend
   I got so much left to give
 But I'm running out of time, my friend"

"My Only True Friend";   Gregg Allman

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Frightening Thought

"Hell is truth seen too late."

Thomas Hobbes

My Ego Is HUGE

I have an intimate relationship with our cats.

I love them deeply and they love me right back. I talk to them, pat them, kiss their heads - constantly.

I give them a lot of attention and they give it right back.

Of course I assume they always want my attention.

 I was in the kitchen this morning when Lakota jumped down from the back of a chair and walked towards me. I got down on my hands and knees so I could give her some love.

She walked right around me and went straight to the food bowl.

I laughed.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

And more...............

Feel the need to flesh out the Letterman thing a little more.

Might seem like a little thing to you if you don't see things the way I do. For me, it was huge.

The reason it was huge was that Carol and I are on uncharted waters right now. Every day when we crawl out of bed, it feels like we spend the rest of the day like two drunks on a small boat in rough seas.

Slipping and sliding, bouncing off of this and crashing into that. It is unsettling. There is no sure footing. We don't know where the hell we are or what the hell is going on.

It has been going on for months now and will continue for a couple more months.

This is not what we signed on for when we were born.

The Letterman thing crept up on me. I still had a 10 pound ball of lead in my stomach from the day before; I just didn't know it.

I was watching the show, digging on the man, and slowly, a feeling of comfort spread from my body to my brain. Or vice versa. How the hell do I know?

It was a weird but very good thing. I eventually realized that I was feeling good. I started laughing. Then I shed a tear or two. In gratitude? In relief?

It hit me in the face how down I was, how worried.

That brief 15 minutes lifted everything off of and out of my body. It felt 1,000 times better than it normally would because of the darkness that Carol and I are currently navigating.

It was also a connection to someone who was a regular in our life for many years; David Letterman. A man who made us laugh and informed us on a regular basis. A man who we have been missing since he retired.

It felt like going backwards in time, which is extraordinary, because that is exactly what Carol and I would love to do right now.

Go backwards in time and then negotiate a path that would take us around and help us avoid this present reality.

Ahhhh, but life doesn't work that way, does it? And a fucking shame that it doesn't.

So I was grateful for that brief moment. It allowed me to catch my breath.