Continuous Cacophony

Saturday Night

We were all sitting in a circle on the floor.  Drinks in hand and blankets passed around to those who were a little cold from the typical Boston winter.  People had been teasing me for the last two hours about not really wanting to listen to the album and they wanted to watch The Kardashians!  A silly fluke in Amazon’s shipping schedule had allowed the package to show up a few days early and I was going to take advantage of it.

Others had been lucky.  Posting pictures of the cover just to harass those who weren’t as fortunate.  No one was mad, just jealous.  When the postmistress dropped off mine, I was able to switch sides and make my own good natured jokes.

When the album was announced, I wasn’t sure at the time I would ever hear it.  But I remember hitting the pre-order button anyway.

Kathy’s stereo is from the 1970’s.  There’s no home theater here, just a very nice couple of pieces that had only seen the addition of a CD player at some point during the 90’s!  I offered to buy some newer things for the basement, but she likes the feel of her old stuff.  She’s been in this house for 30 years, I’m not going even try to change her.

People had been warned.  Listening to two hours of continuous cacophony (that’s a good band name!) can be taxing on the ears.  The band was taking a new direction and had put out a concept album.  Full orchestra and choir to compliment the guitar solos and keyboard combinations.

I sat taking it all in.  While they must have thought I was concentrating on every note, riff, and break; I had closed my eyes to take in them as well.  They could just as easily could have been watching something, listening to something else; having slapped me on the back and walked away laughing about having other things to do.

“What did you think?” – the only thing asked of me…  tough question.

The music was wonderful.  My fingers trying to play along at points, my imagination recording certain movements for my piano at some later time.  The lyrics were much harder to listen to.

A couple of stanzas hit close to my own experiences.  Unlike most rock album, when this one is eventually performed people will be sitting in concert halls rather than some arena.  When they got to a point describing dealing with a loss my eyes welled up, this might have been a little too close to home.

My words starting shooting out like a small child trying to describe his favorite toy to a friend.  10 minutes passed without me taking a break, my breathing getting a little more rapid as the excitement of just talking about something that fun took over.

What I saw from them was just as important, smiles on their faces.  This was very different from talking about school or medical stuff.  Someone who didn’t know me would think it was manic, and maybe they might be right.  So rarely do I dive headfirst into a subject and just tell people how it makes me feel.  I can bore you to death with economics and physics, but I only feel pure joy about this stuff.

Wednesday evening was a good night.  I don’t see many of those.  Maybe because I’m not looking for them?  More importantly those smile, the light in their eyes because they saw something in me that I rarely let out to play, I love that.



Pill-Popping Lunatic

Just Another Day

I have a sheet that reminds me to do a few things throughout the day.  There can be some minor deviations from the timing, but they need to occur at regular intervals.  Such is the life of a pill-popping lunatic who needs certain medications to help with various things.  The ritual is the same, I’ve even gone to color coding the lines so that I take the correct pills (just a little trick the doctor told me for those times when I get a little confused!)  But that seems like a task list, not really something all too enjoyable.

Some with every meal and others at times picked at seemingly random points throughout the rest of my day.  Eat with this, drink with that, or take with nothing and hope it sits fine.  Some pills are chalky and feel like sand as I swallow them.  Others are smooth like M&M’s and slide down the back of my throat.  There’s also this strange little blue liquid that has absolutely no flavor but smells like socks left in a locker far too long.

There was a time when I was much less careful about the timing of certain medications.  I would meet the ex for lunch on a Saturday, but far too often an hour or two would elapse before I would take things because she would always be late.  There was a price to pay and sometimes it was worth it, other times it just annoyed me that other priorities would mean I stupidly waited and threw off the rest of the day as a result.  And later I just started to eat alone and apologize for needing to do the right thing.

When I’m not home I’ve gone far enough to program my phone to not only ring the bell but show a picture of what I’m supposed to take.  This is for the benefit of others so they also don’t confuse what has at times been a daunting pile of dots in a hand.  I know there are apps for that, but I like my method better.

The fun part of this comes from when I crawl into bed at the end of any given day an sit with a cup of tea warming my hands.  I see the list has been checked off and there is nothing more to take that day.  Getting through another day, that’s the payoff for all the annoying rituals, tasks, and beeping reminders to do something.  If I missed something, well then is the time to re-order my list for the next day.  And that is the important part of this all, acknowledging that the sun comes up and with it I hopefully will.

Are there downsides to all of this?  Yes, the people around me are cautious in asking if everything was completed.  They worry about it in a very different way.  Here’s where I get that mixed emotional response that teeters between guilt and love.  Sometimes I am reminded of being a kid and someone looking over my homework to see if I completed it.

So that’s my daily ritual that needs to be a part of my life.


My Crazy Uncle

Quote Me

For years the books sat on shelves in my parent’s house.  Later my collection grew as they became a portion on shelves in my own house, their dusty covers torn and aged from relatives who had kept them safe.  It took me until I was in college to really appreciate why they meant so much to people, but now I proudly am the guardian until they are eventually passed on to the next custodian.

When Faith is Lost, When Honor Dies, The Man is Dead.” – John Greenleaf Whittier 

At some point I should have asked my mother to embroider that on some throw pillow to remind me of something very simple.  When I stop being who I need to be, get wrapped up in the expectations of others, my life loses all value.  Maybe not to the world at large, but if in the course of trying for others I forget to stop and try for myself, I might as well not try at all.

Someone else’s narrative had become mine because I chose not to fight.  Well I was fighting the wrong person and for the wrong reason, so lots of things were eventually lost.  Sometimes there is no honor in falling on your sword and letting others think the worst of you.  Sometimes you just end up hurting because you can’t get that blade from your chest and carrying that anger and hurt seeps into everything else you do in life.

For a very long time I thought of my cancer as being some additional punishment for not being stronger.  I convinced myself that if I died as a result, it was earned for prior actions.  (additionally I cling to the hope that it might at some point allow me more time with my kid, unless I head for warmer climates?)  No one should think that way.  It sends you into a spiral that is very hard to pull yourself out of.  It takes the efforts of other people that they shouldn’t have to make.

Lately I have let someone help in ways I didn’t expect and still don’t know if I’ve grown enough to accept it.  It hurts thinking of letting another person into my world.  The simple act of someone offering to take me to the store or just to a movie requires me overthinking that destroys too many things.  Someone offering to just sit there, in complete silence confuses me.  I’ve lost the ability to just let another person try.

My faith in myself is the question, not them.

I was programmed from a young age to shoulder the weight of everyone’s actions.  Some people have used that knowledge for doing good and others have just used it.  But that also falls back on me.  I’m not a people pleaser but rather someone who will accept the blame even when not in the room.  The term I love is “Sin-Eater”, but I picked that up from watching The Blacklist.

There is something I heard in a song this morning-

I’m waking up, from a life left behind.  To see what lies ahead, I’m waking up.

Maybe there is a chance that this quote can become something of a new guideline.  If I can’t find a way to let hope inside, to open my eyes and let someone see whatever light is left inside of me; then my uncle is right.

I’m dead.

Saying a Name…

My Favorite

One thing that you have to get used to is not hearing a name.  Then comes those times when you do hear that name but it’s not the person you are hoping for because you know better.  I have some good people in my life.  I also know that if I tried a little harder, gave myself a little credit, there could be other good people in my life.  But the name that I want to hear, even if I’m yelling at her to behave, would be my daughter Abigail.

Lot’s of people take the politically correct route and answer their spouse or child.  I had waited so long in my life before having a kid.  By the time I was fortunate enough for that little miracle to occur, a ton of dreams were wrapped up in her before she even took her first breath.  I saw the way other people were with their child, and like everyone else I sat there and said “I’ll never do that!”.  At least until I found myself doing that same thing.

I grew up with a set of grandparents who made it very clear I was far from their favorite.  Knowing that when you are 10 years old is hard, even harder when later you are the only grandchild who is around to help them.  I was also lucky that the other pair of grandparents loved my brother and I and treated us like heroes whenever we came over.  Not spoiled, no presents every visit; but they made sure to let us know in the most important way they loved us.  They kept telling us.

I’ve seen what happens when “Favorites” are made known.  It always ends up hurting someone else.

Whenever I hear the name Abigail called from anything, even when I’m watching a thing on Abigail Adams for whom my daughter was named, I get a little catch on my throat.  When I turn around and realize that some young girl is wearing the same name, I can’t help but wonder if they would have been classmates, friends, enemies, or teammates on a soccer field.  It’s not knowing what to do with those dreams that can be the hardest part of missing someone.

It is my second winter without her and the spot reserved for her on the couch still sits empty.  There are fewer reminders laying around as well, the only Legos in the room belong to me!  The blanket my mother knitted now lays along my length rather than the length of a family.

I don’t feel like taking a walk down the dark path today, so I’m going to end this abruptly.  Let’s just leave it at Abigail will always be my favorite.

French Toast Alerts

( YAWN )

My news feed on my tablet looks like the end of the world.  Pictures from people and news sources that show shelf after shelf devoid of food.  People panicking as if their neighbors are going to show up with a gun and rob them of a dozen eggs or a cup of milk.  Endless new cycles of people smiling while reading from a screen some horror stories concocted to justify their own salaries.  Maybe they own stock on one of the companies that produces bread?

It doesn’t matter if it is 12 inches of snow, two feet of snow, someone is currently writing new theme music to be played while a graphic meant to shock scrolls at the bottom of your screen while you jump from channel to channel hoping that maybe International Wheelchair Bowling will break up the silliness.  (sorry for the wheelchair reference, but you get the point.  Anything to stop their insanity!)

I get warning people.  That is the job of the news, but days on end of buildup?  Not helpful.  I’m currently streaming the local news from Washington, D.C. because someone in my office is standing in for me.  I don’t want them doing something stupid because I’m in Boston.  For some reason this had to be someone giving the talk face to face.  Over the internet wouldn’t do!

The French Toast Alert System was created by some person who saw the insanity of people running out, buying food and praying that the power stayed on to keep things cold.  Sure in the winter, this isn’t an issue.  Go stick some eggs in the snow and you’re good.  In the summer?  Well you just can’t find the right place to keep your 4 dozen eggs and 3 gallons of milk when the temperature is 90 degrees and the power goes out for 3 days straight.

This is my break to tell people that using vegetable oil rather than butter makes for better french toast.  It burns at a much higher temperature so you get that lovely browning effect rather than darken bread.  Challah bread is my preference, but to each their own.  And cinnamon raisin goes well with peanut oil, sort of a odd Peanut Butter flavor!

The weather on Sunday is supposedly going to be snow.  Most people in New England will be watching football at home anyway, so the roads should be less congested.  But if you can’t hunker down in your house for 36 hours without ending up like a updated version of The Shining chasing your family around with an ax, you might want to reconsider therapy.

Somewhere, somebody in Minnesota is laughing at you and saying “Only a foot?!!  So Schools will open an hour late!”

So let’s calm down, act like rational people and remember that somehow the species has continued despite radio or television.  People spoke rather than tweeted.  The good old standards of a book or board game might be better for you.

Plus, you can count of the news reporting in October about the slight uptick in the birthrate.  Maybe people find even better things to do?

Am I Really That Blind?

Witness Protection

That chair was getting uncomfortably close.  But at the same time I was so glad to have it right there, only inches from me.  It was the easiest way for us to share the screen in front of us.  Watching a movie, while trying to pass the time between doctors walking in and out, seemed like a good thing to do.  No need to talk, most of the good jokes or stories to keep it light had been used up anyway.

I was taken by surprise when the knocking on the door reveled someone not attached to the medical garbage.  It was a huge relief and it showed on my face.  Not some big smile, but I hope my eyes conveyed my emotions.  The odd thing about this situation is that I’ve only just begun to know this woman.  Her daughter is friends with my niece.  For some reason she volunteered to come and wait for me to be sprung since my landlady/ other mother had to be someplace herself.

The movie was silly nonsense.  But I hadn’t laughed like that in so long I forgot the sound it made in my own ears.  My stomach was convulsing from the unexpected joy I was feeling watching this show.  That moment I treasure more than anything, having someone just bump up against my shoulder, acknowledging their own flight of fancy, made me more at ease than the rest of my surroundings would imply.

For the past couple of years not much has made me just want to continue laughing.  Life just hasn’t been very funny, or fun at times.  This came out of the blue and I needed it.  Maybe craved or longed for it might be a better description of how badly I needed it?  There wasn’t any fear of what hammer would be dropped next or how long someone was going to stay before running away again.  And that was the hardest revelation…

I can handle most anything.  Work is not really work to me, family is and will always be a chore; but while I have been ignoring some things about myself yesterday made sure to remind me in a simple way.  Just laughing at something and enjoying hearing someone else laugh is something I miss.  And it reminds me that there has been one thing I have forcefully pushed away at every opportunity, people.

There was one question I had to ask.

“Are you sure you don’t need to be somewhere else?”

I know the question might offend anyone, but it had to be uttered.  The reply was something I didn’t expect.

“I know more about you than you think.  My daughter talks about how you do such simple things, like bring them a cup of hot chocolate when they are watching a movie.  Just leave the cups, kiss your niece’s head and leave.  I know about your daughter and obviously about the cancer, but right now I just want to learn what it sounds like when you laugh.”

Honestly I’m caught up in being slightly confused by why anyone would be sitting there, that statement only deepens my thoughts.  But I’m still glad for a simple answer, too many things have been complicated lately by my having shut people out.

If I go a little deeper into my emotions, I really need a friend.  I’m at times desperate to have that back in my life.  And sitting across from me was someone willing to fill that role without having to be chased down, no endless text messages or voice mails.  All those times when I wished someone had just knocked on the door and said “I’m here!”, for some reason the universe is placing that in front of me.

Life is complicated and messy.  People who boldly state they don’t want drama usually aren’t prepared to be there for someone else.  And sometimes there are good reasons behind that, even if I don’t understand at the time or ever.

But why now, in this stupid sterile environment, is someone willing to come over after a long day of their own work and help?  That always been my role.


Bag on My Head

Can’t Stand Me

The picture I use for my avatar is cropped.  Something had to be removed in order for me to use it.  The original shows a little girl propped up on my shoulders as we are getting ready to do the annual begging for candy, Halloween.  It’s not my daughter, but my ex’s niece who was 3 at the time.  Her father took the picture and sent it to me within seconds for my collection of kid related stuff.

When I look at myself in a picture I still see the guy who was 250 pounds and rocking the man-fro (dark curly hair, an inherited trait!)  That person was about as insecure as anyone else you know.  Most likely the same person you see when you look in the mirror at times.  Confidence came later in life for me, but there are times when I still see that weird male staring back at me.

Years after graduating college I once told someone that I was thankful they loved me for the person I was back then.  For years I had been told my younger brother was “The Cute One” in our litter.  Someone once wrote an ode to him in the school newspaper when we were kids.  Nothing like walking into school and having your friends jump on your back for something you never knew about or had a single ounce of control over.  Most of it was just teasing, I knew it then as I know it now.  But it bothered me.  Human nature I presume.

Right now I can see my reflection from the mirror in the hospital room which I currently occupy.  A not great Friday afternoon turned into a weekend adventure.  (Getting out of a hospital over a weekend is impossible.  Add in the holiday, and maybe later today I get to go home?)

Too many people who have seen me over the past few months haven’t recognized me.  Some is the weight, some probably the fact that I don’t walk as tall or as fast anymore.  It’s not that I’ve changed over the past year, but over decades of having been away from people who knew me years ago.  It’s not until they hear the voice that they spin around.

Since stopping most of the medicine, the weight has returned to my still underweight 150 pounds.  The hair is still cut so close no one would know the difference between Chemo time and just a buzz cut.  The family I live with now says that most of the change is in the eyes.  They just aren’t the same, even if the color remains the blue that I was once told was lovely.  My niece tells me to wear my contacts rather than glasses because it doesn’t hide my emotions.  She’s rather smart for 15!

When I saw the title of this prompt, the guy from not so long ago might have jumped on it and really torn into himself.  That guilt and terror I carry still at times sits on the surface of my face as well as my sleeve.  I wish I didn’t see myself though someone else’s words, but they have stuck with me throughout all of this.  I still blame myself for too much, even things I didn’t know about or wasn’t around for.  Still carrying the title of “Sin-Eater” for others.

The funny thing about that avatar photo, I still have it stored in my cloud drive.  I like having some reminder of the person I once was.  Life changes for no reason, on sunny days without a second of warning.  At least that’s what The Disney Channel said the other day!