Path of No Resistance

Fierce

I wish I had the strength to open her letter.  It’s not a physical thing, but my emotions get so far out of check about certain people and events that I have done my best to hide from them.  And now I carry this note with me wherever I go.  The joys of email that is synced to my phone and tablet.  There is only so fast you can run from something that is sitting within your grasp.

It’s been two years since I’ve spoken with her.  And that conversation didn’t go well.  It was after my daughter had died and neither of us knew what to do for each other.  So silence became the path of no resistance.  Never far from my thoughts, but distance was what we both needed.  We shared some of the same reasons and on some level knew there was pain that couldn’t be avoided for either of us.

Friends are funny things.  They can be thousands of miles away and yet right next to you all at the same time.  I ran so quickly to Boston that I didn’t leave a forwarding address.  And I didn’t try to involve others in what has become a futile attempt at life.

When  you wind down a business most people try to do it quickly and with little fanfare.  I’ve been applying that same theory to my own life.  Just a notice my parents will eventually send out letting people know the cancer did it’s job.

Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder, it hardens it.

Even while I’m typing this all I need to do is switch over the window and there it will be, sitting in the folder with her name and a number behind it.  Some days it would blink throughout the day with updates and replies, other days silent but always a welcome diversion to whatever was happening.

Last week when it light up all I felt was panic.  Pain and anxiety, worry that something had happened to her family or someone else where she felt the need to inform me.  It took most of the day to fight off those feelings.  To hold back every desire to just click here.

If this had been a piece of paper, I could have put it in a drawer.  Waited for a time when I could emotionally handle the words.

I love the feeling of having just finished a run and the sweat is dripping so rapidly my socks are starting to cling to my feet.  Water stinging my eyes and my knees are burning from the miles of pavement left behind.  This I can’t move fast enough from.

Hopefully soon I’ll be ready to read even the couple of sentences this might contain.  I don’t know, maybe during a therapy session in case I just let my feelings for the past overcome the wall I have built in my present.

I do miss my friend.  Staying silent was the last act I could think of to let any of them live without fear.  Only now I fear a silly letter.

Autographed Kindle

Vice

Every Saturday morning she jumps out of bed.  Before leaving the room, she pulls the sheets tight and makes sure that everything is in its place.  Each item carefully lined up on the shelf and nothing laying on the floor for someone to get their feet tangled up in.  It’s Allowance Day!  The list needs to be complete before she could even ask for that money.

The dishes are put away.  Her clothes have been taken from their basket and placed in various drawers.  And the most important thing to her father, the flowers in the kitchen had their water.  A simple list to help instill not only responsibility but a sense of accomplishment.

All week she knew what that money was going to buy.  The trick was making sure there was a little bit left over so some candy could be picked up after school.  Knowing that reaching into her pocket showed everyone she was an adult on the rise.

Each Saturday the store owner kept this week’s addition to the collection behind the counter.  Sometimes his wife handled over the package, other times it was some kid trying to earn their own money for whatever they might be dreaming about.

She’d show her bag to everyone in the house before placing it on the shelf.  Once in a while she had completed the previous week’s book.  That was what was important to my aunt, making sure she her finished last week before beginning the next weeks book.

Everything that some company thought were the classics.  At least what had been written by 1935.  So you had The Hunchback of Notre Dame next to Plato and The Collected Poems of Edgar Allen Poe.  The gold lettering covering the various shade of brown and maroon of the faux leather with titles that could take her anywhere.

My aunt collected those books for years.  Adding whenever possible, a shelf becoming a bookcase.  All of them carefully kept neat so that they could be re-read anytime.

I don’t know why she stopped buying them.  Maybe they didn’t make them anymore.  Possibly with the advent of WWII someone hit a pause button on their production.  It didn’t stop my aunt from buying piles of books throughout her life, but they were different from these.

When I was a child I was given this collection.  I’ve read them all.  Some where the copies I used for book reports in school and others just something that sounded fun.

My own collection of books has been a vice worth falling prey to.  Very few get bought in hardcover form, it’s just so much easier to hit the “Add to Cart” button.  Turn on my Kindle and there it is.

Ever been to a book signing where the only copy you own is in electronic format?  I’m a smartass who actually had an author sign the back of my device!

At some point I hope my nephew wants those books.  It needs to be something he falls in love with not something that is just handed over.  Maybe that same sense of wonder will come to him like ti did for me when reading Jules Verne.

The other reason I want him to love these books?  It will bring him closer to his own family’s history.  The way they came to him and hopefully people will tell him stories about his great-great-aunt.  Living history from words written long ago.

Two Lovers and a Bench

Miniature

The way he had his arms wrapped around her while they sat on the bench couldn’t escape anyone’s notice.  His mouth was moving but the sounds were caught long before they could hit passerby’s ears.  You see scenes like this captured on a postcard or some picture that put in a corner and hope someday to find yourself a part of.

Her dress just hit below the knee.  A simple floral print that hung front her body not exposing any curves but enclosing her slight frame.  Blond hair was mixed in his eyelashes with no attempt being made to brush it away.  You can’t see her face as it is buried in his shoulder but her skin has a simple paleness to it.  Pink fingernails and toes to match.

Behind them was the expanse of the Charles River.  A few people getting in their rowing while the day was still cool.  The water calm and only the slightest hint of wind blowing.

They sat there forever.  Just the two of them caught in a moment that for them looked like everything.  It would take a very hard person to not want to have their own moment.

Sounds nice, now let’s add a few details.

The bench was resting against a large window separating them from all the noise.  All that life going around them couldn’t change things.

He had brought her out from the bed she had been laying in after helping get that dress just right.  Something he had picked up on the way in, praying that she would like the pattern and not just force a smile.  Not only did he do this without help, he carried her to that window so she could see all that her room didn’t allow.

Her body, hidden beneath that dress frailer from yesterday.  And there was not going to be a tomorrow.

She died in his arms while the rest of us kept our heads down.  Knowing what we saw didn’t change what we hoped was just a different moment in time.  Eventually he carried her back.  Never swaying.  Never breaking his strides.  Never breaking down while the rest of us were.

Some moments are huge and the world sees them as nothing.  Other moments are miniature flashes that we all hope for.  This was the later.

The inner strength it took to share that with us all and still have it be so intimate is heart wrenching.

Now both of them are on different journeys and I hope they find each other later.

 

The Light and Shade of Things

Fifty

The levels haven’t gotten better.  Some days are filled with such pain I can’t explain it other than to say “you have to have been there”?  But in the past I would have done anything possible to make sure no one ever knew how this feels.  The physical stuff I learned to deal with years ago.  Sports taught me how to cover up minor stuff, being an asshole taught me how to cover up the rest.

Some days I pray that the cancer will just win and a nap turns into something permanent.  Guilt gets a large opening on those days.  The lose of control over my life isn’t who I am.  Long ago I accepted the narcissistic qualities of who I am.

Now I need lots of help to get through the days.  Some of it for little things you don’t even consider.  Every now and then not being able to get a glass of water?  The hallway is just too long.  I’m not used to having to sit on the floor to just let my body catch up with my drive.

Watching the sun rise through the window is still a wonder.  And some days I consider it to be a gift.  Even if the sky if covered in grey and the guy next door is entering week two of concrete removal from his driveway, I try to hope.  One more chance to get things right.

And then it creeps back…

The darkness that makes me think of those old cartoons where the character has a cloud dripping on their head.  Even when the umbrella is open, the water still soaks them through.  The waters on the inside?  Guess that is some reference to inner turmoil?

Hope left the building some time ago.  Parts of my life that were funny, aren’t.  The doctors have told me that with so many things that occurred in my personal life in such a short period of time, my brain just isn’t wired the same anymore.  It goes far beyond a defense mechanism, my emotions have just stopped.

Could be protecting others?  Might be protecting myself?  When you close the circle around yourself it hopefully falls into a little of both.  Mostly I think it is protecting others because I still have such emotional response to certain people.  I keep grasping for the light and only come up with

I feel like I let them down.  Even with the cancer?  But you can’t control that one!  Stop acting like an idiot!

See the battle isn’t as easy as some people think.  You can’t just will your way out of a mental state.  You can delay it.  Push it off.  But it always comes back.  This change in myself isn’t one I like.

The darkness will win someday.  The sun won’t come up and that damn jackhammer will be silent to me.  I’m only wondering if the pain goes away as well?

 

 

Pull of the Moon on the Tides

Moon

It’s a give and take.  Or maybe someone might think that it’s more like a push and pull.  The Sun and the Moon in a constant struggle.  The Chinese got it right with the yin-yang thing, two dolphins chasing each other’s tail for eternity.  Never quite catching up to the other, but never giving up either.

Calling relationships a simple give and take really undervalues what each person brings to it.  Economists would call it Asymmetric Information, one person usually having different knowledge than the other.  Experience, maybe education in a subject, possibly they just saw a news article and felt like sharing their new bit of the world.

My brother stopped playing basketball with me years ago because having a 6 inch height advantage limited his game.  I stopped playing tennis with him because I got tired of always losing to him.  So as adults, Madden Football on the XBox!  We adapted so we could keep a relationship, even one that most days is very strained because we are very different people.

The lawyer involved with helping me execute a series of plans wants to kill me before I get the chance.  Years of knowing each other has placed him in a strange position of caring about me as more than a client.  It’s a shift from when we were in college and might have gotten into a fist fight if either of us thought there would be no consequences.

And life is about consequences!

I went to him years ago when I needed someone who would protect my ex should something happen to me.  Being the one who brought the house and other things into the relationship, I didn’t want her to struggle.  That need became intensified when the kid came into the picture.  I didn’t like him, but I knew he would be the best thing for them.

After I was left to my own devices, he became more concerned with me.  Sometimes you learn more about people by the things they don’t say than by the words they chose to speak.  His wife accidentally mentioning a book he got from the library on my cancer was a big wake-up for us both.

For two guys who were never competitive about anything that crossed over, we butted heads far too often.  Never had a class together, didn’t chase the same girl, it never made sense!  But I have needed to rely on his abilities to help guide me through some of life.

He knows the cancer is terminal.  He doesn’t care for my exit strategy.  Giving a lawyer a stack of papers and asking them to put a plan in place rarely gets an argument.  The client is sometimes right?

After all that was done, we made a few changes in our relationship.  When we talk, it’s about his son or some news thing that we both know the other doesn’t care about.  I also know it’s because putting down the phone sometimes means silently hoping that a few days later they will answer.

By looking through my daughter’s eyes I saw things I needed to improve.  At the same time when I looked through other’s eyes I wondered about everything.  Was I right?  Were they?  Confidence is one thing, but my knowledge that absolute certainty is always a failure keeps me grounded.

During the day, the sun pulls the water in one direction.  Much like me trying to do the right thing for the right reasons.  Even when they fail, just hoping it works is sometimes enough.

At night when the moon is pulling the other way I’m alone with my thoughts.  The inner turmoil that doesn’t see the light bounces in my head like watching one of those tennis matches with my brother.  The ball going back and forth, but most times passing right by me.  I always reached out but sometimes my arms just weren’t long enough, my feet not quick enough.

I have doubts about how this all ends.  Picking a day sometimes means wondering if on the next something different will happen that I will miss.  Not a cure, but maybe something?  You can’t know that your doing this for the right reasons but can only hope you are.

Ghost in the Machine

Ghost

28 years ago her aunt sat in a very different Volvo and had to learn to drive a manual transmission in a matter of minutes.  Patre might have been 16, but I was only 15 and my parents were willing to loan the car if she could drive it.  Nothing motivates teenagers who long for some alone time someplace away from their parents like the freedom of a car!

Yesterday Susie was driving an updated version of that Volvo down a country road while we hunted for ice cream.  This time she is 15 and well I’m a much older 44!  She knows the car will be hers one day.  The summer job has been helping her save money for the day she turns 16 and has to pay for fuel and a bit of her insurance.  I’m not going to need to car, and since I’m anal retentive about maintaining this thing; she’ll not have to worry about those issue.  The dealer knows to eventually send the maintenance bill to the lawyer [yeah, that whole estate planning thing.  She couldn’t afford to pay if something big happened, teenagers!]

There no manual to worry about.  The car has every safety option they sell.  And like most people in Massachusetts, a grey Volvo won’t surprise anyone.  So I get to be a hero for one last time.

Amusingly I let her friends come along.  A few are 16 already and have their licenses, this one barely has her learner’s permit.  I even put one of those giant red “L”s on the back window for people to know they should be cautious.

The fun thing about a bunch of teenage girls in a car is the music choices.  I hate Justin Bieber!  Most modern pop music all sounds the same to me.  Oh, I did mention I dislike Justin Bieber, right?  As long Susie can hear me yell stop, we’re good.  [bonus, those seizures that still pop up from time to time?  The ones that make hearing things difficult? Right now I’m slightly thankful for them.]

Susie knows all of the stories about her aunt.  At least the ones she should know, I get a few to keep private.  So she also knows I’m the one who taught her to drive a manual transmission.  What she doesn’t know is that we drive some of the same streets today that we did 3 decades ago.

There are some ghosts that float around me and they scare me.  Memories of people and events that haunt my waking hours as well as those when my eyes are gently shut for the night.  This isn’t one of those times.

That night, my parents would have easily driven is to the movies or any other place we wanted to go.  They also could have given us the keys to the car with an automatic transmission, but my dad was not parting with his 2 door convertible for crazy teenagers!

Just like that day, I held Susie’s hand and told her that as long as she was sure of her actions everything would be great.  Back then I might have made a few dirty jokes, today it is about building a confident young lady.

As I looked over that ghost of her aunt was looking back with the same smile.  The same eyes but slightly darker hair.  I couldn’t have been more grateful for the time her parents have allowed me to have.  [I also taught her father to drive stick, just on a different Volvo!]

I know I don’t talk about the parts of life I’m grateful for having.  It’s a shame that I don’t look at the world quite the same anymore.  I see the rainbows and all the colors, they just don’t bring out those same emotions.

Yeah, I bought ice cream and sodas, a couple of sandwiches for later.  We ate the ice cream there and I have no idea what they did with the rest.

The sound of their laughter was everything.  It kept the bad away and brought back all that was good.

 

Carrying That Knowledge of…

Carry

 

 

In making this decision to end the slow march of cancer, I’ve had to separate so many factors that it required talking with various people.  Carrying the kind of guilt I have for so long has to be a factor removed from the discussion at all costs.  While this is going to be a selfish act, I am trying to make it a selfless act as well.

I’m not sure how to make that part work.  The lawyer has said a few things, but he has also admitted that having known each other since we were teenagers colors his opinions on this topic.  The therapist has had her chance to chime in as well.  That has been about the absolute weight of my emotions that curl my shoulders and strain my legs most days.

It’s easy to plan for what becomes of your things.  Who gets what and who gets told they get nothing.  [sorry I have an aunt who would clean my house out before the body was cold.]  But the emotions that go into that are tough.  Some items mean a great deal to me and finding them a new home with someone who might also grow to understand that can be draining.

Strangely I have a teddy bear that will go up in smoke with the rest of me because that has been the pattern for the others who have the matching 5 other bears.  Odd since they are all handmade and I still know where each of the others are.

There’s a drawer full of letters.  All sealed and signed across the back so no person opens another’s without their consent.  It has taken time to write them.  Not a single one out of spite or anger.  I’ve done my best to only talk about funny or meaningful stories.  No reason to add weight to their journey.

I have even written a draft on this blog that eventually will get posted.  I won’t be the person pushing any buttons that day, but I’m a planner and a few people here need to hear how much I have enjoyed their writing.

My nightmares come from dealing with a few of the ladies in my life.  My mother, other mother Kathy, my niece and the two she has brought into my life to help get me through the days.  I saw what happened to the first three when we had to say goodbye to my daughter.  Family grieves differently than those reading my words.  I’ve spent a lifetime protecting them and I would give everything to protect them from what comes next.

It’s not like my father or brother aren’t going to be bothered, that’s not my point.  But they handle things so quietly I couldn’t tell you what they are going to do.

Like a few posts, I’m not sure of what the point has been.  My emotions are at times very difficult to get a handle on.  I’m confused about how to handle a few people and experiences.  That female who keeps knocking on the door asking what she can do has asked to be there.  For all of it, damn the laws.  But really who goes after someone who sat in a chair while another person drank a very medicated milkshake?

Maybe tomorrow we can talk about the road trip to get ice cream?  That sounds like more fun.  Especially since we ‘re letting a 15 year old drive part of the backroads!