Can I go Play?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Me Time.”

Starting the day with a cup of tea is the perfect beginning.  There are so many variations on that theme, drink while reading the paper, watching the news, listening to something on NPR or if your lucky enough to have someone to share the bed with, propped up just watching them sleep.  That last one used to be complete and total enjoyment, I get up relatively early on a weekday basis, so it carries over to the weekend.  The blanket pulled up to her chin, hair covering her eyes, the way her nose used to scrunch up when she was fighting staying asleep.  But I digress…

Saturdays used to be the days when I would take my “long run”.  Rather than run 6 miles, I would increase it to 8/9 miles.  As long as the road wasn’t covered in ice and snow, out I went.  There were times when it hurt, sometimes making me a little slow the rest of the day; but I needed the rush.  This morning they will allow me to pace the treadmill at a leisurely 2 miles an hour for maybe 15 minutes, the watchful eyes of the nursing staff hovering.  Funny thing is my body will be sweating just from that effort!

After cleaning up the house for an hour or so, off to the Amish market!  They have a very popular booth that makes pretzel dogs.  Yes, you read that right; a hot dog wrapped up inside of a pretzel stuffed with cheddar cheese.  The line can reach outside the building some days, people waiting 20 minutes just for the privilege.  If I’m there solo, well pondering my feet as we shuffle along is the option.  But if you bring a friend, someone is going to end up in line while someone else heads over to get something from the baked goods selection.

Donuts, Apple Harvest Donuts!  Little round pockets of dough filled with apple pie filling.  Cover them in white icing and sprinkle some crumble on top, you have donut perfection.  You can’t each more than two, really you should only eat one!  And because Saturday’s are cheat days on my normal healthy eating, chase it down with a Coke Zero.  Sitting on the benches outside, or taking it over to the tables overlooking the water feature – absolute calm.

The rest of the day doesn’t matter, spend it with friends, spend it reading, go play in the yard.  Right now each and every one of those activities sound like heaven.  As I look out the hospital window, it is beautiful outside.  I know it’s cold since the news keeps telling me, but I would love to do anything outside.  Anything…

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The Crowd Applauds, The Curtain Falls

Last Words

This is much harder than I thought.

The drugs that you are administered when dealing with cancer eat at not only the disease but the memories you have.  The cloudy nature of life and people become jumbled, interspersed in details that might not be accurate.  I gave up writing for a large part of January because of that.  My brain was forgetting details, the essence of the experience was being lost.  There was a point where I thought I might have written my last anything.  But then things cleared up.  There are still times when I’m confused, asking for people who aren’t there.  Transposing dates so that my mind is only dealing with the pain of my physical being is another fun event.  But I know what my last words would be –

“I love you Bug!”

They are words I say to myself constantly.  Every holiday, every time I see a small child, every time my neighbor’s daughter comes over and drops off a card, it brings me back to that memory.  The constant pounding in my chest is gone, replaced by a dull thud.  When we were first trying to figure out when to talk to our families about the impending birth, we nicknamed her “Bug”.  Every morning it was “Hug the Bug”, every time Whitney wanted to joke about the kid poking her way around it was “the Bug” is trying to escape.  Those words mean more to me than anything else on the planet.  Hearing them makes me well up with pride and rips my heart out at the same time.

“You are surrounded by a great, white light.”

I argue religion with anyone who wants to just for fun.  I’m not against any religion, just some of the ways people practice it.  But I do cling to the hope that I will someday be reunited with my daughter.  That means I actually believe in an afterlife!  A friend has told me that she hopes her daughter is playing with mine in heaven, I hope that too.

As I sit in this oversized chair, pressing the keys of my tablet trying to get it all straight; I hope this makes sense.  The afghan my mother made me wrapped around my legs, the sweatshirt Whitney gave my keeping me warm, a faded Red Sox cap sitting on my head.  Pictures of people flash in the background of my screensaver, some who I wish I had the strength to call, others I wish had the strength to be here.

I hate these thoughts!  I hate that I still love someone with such intensity that I worry about her!  Maybe this wasn’t the prompt for me to participate in.  It’s definitely time to stop…

The words that come before are important, but my last words will be “I love you Bug!”

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Faded Pink Sweatpants

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Fight or Flight.”

I’d been watching her from across the room for some time now.  Small conversations about how things were going, a furtive piece of chocolate offered for no reason other than it allowed me to be in her proximity.  Everyone in the office seemed to know what was going on, the guys poking about while the women thought it kinds cute.  Two people who had no idea exactly what was building, an experiment in relationships.

For a little while I even changed my work schedule so that she and I would be in the same place at the same time.  The young lady never knew it, just assumed I was trading places with someone who might have had a conflict.  I watch as she shuffled across the floor, later telling her that she reminded me of a penguin.  The odd things I would bring in to “share” became more focused on her likes, me being allergic to chocolate yet bringing homemade fudge later became a joke shared in the quiet moments.

It was time to make “my move”.  The simplest things are usually the things that hold the most meaning, so flowers were a simple showing of my growing affection for this woman.  Now the interesting part begins!  How do you get someone’s address [this was 2004] without asking outright?  Well I had access to her personnel file, paper still ruling the corporate world; in with my Post-It Note to gather intel.  Sneaking back out to my office space my plan was finally hatched.

The next Saturday I took myself over to the local florist and asked them to put something together.  The simple question “Wife, girlfriend, mother?”  It was obvious this wasn’t some simple task for me.  “How about something simple, classic?”  The people behind the counter were having fun with me, they knew I was trapped.  Burgeoning love can do that to people!  I ended up getting this oversized vase filled with lilies, roses, and a few other white colored things that I honestly don’t know the names for.  “Give us 20 minutes and $70!”  My now sweating palms hand over my credit card and I go wait on a bench outside.

You know the stares people give when they wonder what is going on?  Plenty of them were cast in my direction as I tried to secure the flowers in my car.  Eventually settling on the back seat, strapped into the belt, safe as possible.  The drive was pulse raising.  Each mile further my breathing was getting a little weird.  Not like a panic attack, but just like a panic attack!  As I approached the door, a simple thought came to mind “Who else might be at the house?”  Too late to run when you are on the front doorstep, so ring the bell!

She came to the door in tattered sweatpants dragging the hose for a vacuum cleaner behind her.  Faded pink sweats, an oversized t-shirt and her hair was just stuck to her face from the warmth of running around doing chores.  She couldn’t have been any more attractive to me.  The look on her face was priceless.  Absolute shock, fear of the unknown, muttered apologies for her appearance.  Muttered apologies for my appearance, my only reply.

Whitney always had this tell when she was happy about something but unsure how to respond.  Her lips would quiver just a tiny bit, her face scrunched up in thought.  We spoke for a couple of minutes and I excused myself, letting her know I would see her at work later.

I don’t recall if I was more nervous taking her the flowers or waiting to she her later to gauge her longer reaction to my statement of affection.  What I do know is that I would do the exact same thing, in the exact same manner if given the choice.  That florist closed years ago, the coffee shop next door that we used to call our own changed hands and just isn’t the same.  And as I have written, the relationship ended last September.  But now I know what I have done today, writing this down, allowing myself to relive it, is something that has me wanting to run away.  But damn that is a good memory!

Progressions of a Theme

Three Perfect Shots

During my more lucid hours I spend my time building these crazy Economic models to describe just about anything.  One day I’m putting number together to get to factor in the group mortality of residents in a certain geographic area, other days it’s a little more amusing tracking spending per capita on pet supplies.  Seems like a wide spread, but there are plenty of things that you can build models for that you wonder why someone is building the models to begin with.

In the first sequence from today, the picture would be captured as such.  A skinny, white male sitting in a recliner that is obviously of some industrial design.  His head covered in in some silly looking striped cap, something picked up years ago at a flee market in Fort Lauderdale.  Wooden edges holding together this placid blue vinyl that squeaks every time the occupant moves.  The window fortunately shows a small gathering of trees and not the section of the city where students he once moved along with now shuffle off to class.  The table is covered with a laptop, iPad, and a phone.

Our second photo shows more detail of the collection of paperwork.  There are equations showing someone how to build a regressive model to make a forecast of the future.  [Looking into the past to see the future may sound odd, but that’s how you build yearly projections!]  An ornate box rests on a side table, beige envelops with various names written on them collected over time.  Some will be delivered under the worst of circumstances, others written to help deal with what I thought was the worst I could experience.  Almost as many letter to a daughter who will never read them as to friends who I wanted to know how much I have appreciated them, how much I care about them.

The last in our tour shows a hand.  There are scars and cuts on the fingers from years of aimlessly hitting knuckles on a table when trying to think through things.  A few puncture wounds, some fresh, others healing; a series of needles being taken in and out over time.  A blue Cross pen rests at an odd angle between the index and middle fingers, point exposed much like the man in his hospital issued attire.  The handwriting on the page small and sloppy, the only legible words being “I love you” scrawled towards the bottom.  My typical, confusing squiggle of a name trailing off to the right.

[Consider these in black and white.  My brother used to take great pictures that way!  Wish he would put down the cellphone and pick back up good old film!]

Today, then Repeat Tomorrow.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Cut Off.”

Cut Off

 

Someone once wrote me the following phrase “I started to write, then I hit delete.  Than I started to write again, only to hit delete.”  She was referring to some advice she was offering that was going to come out harsh, no matter the timing, and she wondered if she should send it at all.  This topic of being cut off is very much like that to me.  I feel completely cut off from people, some by necessity and others because they have walked away.  With the totality of my past year, I sometimes just want to stay in bed and forget what I need to do.

Cancer, death, and divorce have been my past year.  In some ways they are all topics tied to one another, yet have caused such a rift that I don’t have much recourse but to sit back and let things happen.  I’ve written about the death of my daughter and my “divorce” [I call it that since when you are with someone for a decade, even if not married; you still are in many senses married.  Thus divorce…].  I don’t write much about the cancer because I know that at some point it will win.  I don’t want to give it that kind of power.  Right now it is another part that defines my days, keeps me away from some people.  Hell I’m at the doctor’s office with a tube in my chest, another in my arm as I’m writing this.  A way to occupy my mind!

When you deal with all of that in one year, you feel alone.  Not too many of my friends know how to deal with the daughter issue.  They don’t understand that by talking about it sometimes is the only way I have of keeping her alive.  I never wanted to outlive her, I only wanted to live with her.  Simple request, yet one that life somewhere decided was outside the realm of possibility.

Whitney leaving was something that I also didn’t see coming.  I should have, but to this very minute I still love her with a ferocity that I can’t explain.  It snowed like crazy here and the first thing I thought of was sending her a text saying to drive carefully to work, to be safe.  It wasn’t how am I going to get myself out to the hospital, it was about her safety!  One of my aunt’s said something nasty about her and I tossed her from the room at Christmas.  5 months into this silence and I don’t have it in me to get angry.  It was hard enough waking up from yet another round of surgery and having her name be the first thing to come to mind.  My mother tries to understand, this was a woman who bought Christmas presents for someone who she knew wouldn’t be there, but still hoped on some level she would!

Cancer is something that touches everyone’s life.  You’ve had it, someone close had it, someone you know will have it.  Those are just facts!  One of those is going to happen, hopefully not all three; but one will.  I’m not afraid of dying, nothing really scares me anymore.  What I’m afraid of is losing the memory of some events due to the drugs.  Asking for Whitney was one thing, not remembering what happened to my daughter was something else entirely.

Am I cut off from the world?  Yeah.  This blog has been my way of reaching out to the world.  Faceless individuals who have offered kind words, read my ramblings, thought enough to possibly “follow” me.  Will I cry later tonight?  Yes.

Lots of whining in this.  Before anyone asks, yes I take an antidepressant!  Yes they have me talking to someone about the weight of all of this!  It’s just a lot to handle, and I’m not doing a very good job of it.

It’s time to stop writing, my eyes are getting heavy.

Playgrounds!!! Huge Playgrounds!!!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “A Plot of Earth.”

The first thing that comes to mind is wanting to buy my own little island in the middle of nowhere.  I’m not sure what warmer than average climate it would need to represent, but then my mind shifts to other notions.  The Island of Dr. Moreau?  Maybe a little Lord of the Flies?  In some romantic sense it could be The Blue Lagoon, but more suited to my age!  I think I should go with a more realistic set of expectations.

Every time the lottery hits some absurd value, you hear lots of people talking about what they would do with the money.  The second thing that comes to mind after becoming completely debt free in every sense is building a playground.  I did this once several years ago with a charity group and it was one of the most satisfying things I had ever done.  In the middle of Washington D.C. less than a mile from the Capitol Building sits this simple community center with a sweet little park.

The scale of mine could be considerably larger, maybe something on a lesser Disney World type level?  I live in a community where every child has a swing-set in the back yard, some of which I have helped build for others over the years.  Then I take the dog to the local park and in some ways it is completely lacking in activities for children.  Odd thing to say about a park, but it is more about organized sports than family time.

There would be swings and slides, monkey bars and geodesic domes, those crazy spring loaded creatures where you rock back and forth trying to touch the ground.  Multiple levels of platforms for every pirate fantasy to be fulfilled, the ground covered in soft material in case the games of tag get a little wild!

There would be a hill for sledding regardless of the season.  Dozens of bikes any child could pick from to ride, maybe a skate park?  The possibilities are endless, the dreams of this something that I desperately want to live.  With whatever time I have left on this planet, this is the goal!

Summer Concert Series

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Local Flavor.”

Every June as the schools let out, the local businesses look for a way to keep people entertained.  Like many locales, they created a series of concerts held at two parks in the county.  Both located right on top of the water, so that even during the 90 degree spells that occur late into August the breezes off of the Chesapeake Bay keep the temperatures down.  They are open to people of all ages, musical tastes and is one of the few family friendly events where children are expected to run a round.

One week it will be some localish Jazz Fusion ensemble and the next the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra.  My personal favorite would be the Kelly Bell Band.  Part of the reason being they combined their own music with intertwined bits from more famous musicians.  Since they also like to play to their audience not just for them, they have become famous for playing the theme to SpongeBob SquarePants while jumping around with kids on stage.  Music is so important to people, this gives all families a chance to spend time enjoying the evening while their children are having fun.

Pack a blanket or a couple of chairs, put your favorite picnic items in a basket and surprisingly alcohol is welcome [if you can behave yourself, some don’t]!  I’ve always brought a chair and found myself sitting along the left side of the audience.  The view has never been important, it’s your typical outdoor concert shell.  Conversing with a loved one, meeting new people, running into friends who had the same idea; the sense of community is very welcoming.

While attending the series at Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis, MD, make sure to take advantage of the paths meandering throughout the waterfront.  If you have a dog, they are welcome guests.  A separate park for them to run free, only to later return by their “parent’s” side for the music.

So when you are done wandering around the historic parts of Annapolis and find that the lines for some of the restaurants are maybe a little longer than you want, consider picking up some food and heading on over.  I promise that you will enjoy the adventure.