Deep Cut or Complete Cut?

<a href=””>A Tale of Two Cities</a>

It always starts out as something simple.  This time it was a bump on my left arm that we honestly were treating like a clot.  Too bad it kept pushing on my muscles and after two weeks we finally decided to run those stupid tests I long ago stopped worrying about.  You get diagnosed with cancer once, you rarely think about the continued new locations it might show up.  I’ve been doing this round for a year plus and nothing surprises me anymore.

Monday comes the bigger decision, how much do we take out?  Just the tumor itself and maybe some surrounding tissue?  Or are we going to find something worse while I’m laying there listening to them talk about my options?  The best case for any of this is losing some feeling and definitely some range of motion.  Where do I draw the line?

One of the last things that still gives me hope is the feeling of a hug.  There’s nothing stopping someone from giving me one, but I wonder how much effort it will take to return that simple gesture.

Years ago I had some muscle cleaned up from my right arm.  It was a combination of old baseball injury and a cyst that was easy to repair.  Walked out the same day with a sling and was dumb enough to drive myself home.  Those were the early days of my relationship with the ex and I still needed to figure all of that out, leaning on her might have been too much.  Her showing up with a plant later was definitely a surprise since I didn’t tell her I was home at the time.

But that was simple.  I’ve had sports injuries over my years, this is different.  When I have to think about it attached to bone you enter a new level of concern.  Yep, and no I will not let them take any portion of my arm beyond some muscle/tendon/fatty tissue!

I realize this isn’t the prompt, but I write enough about bouncing between Boston and Annapolis.  Running away from one life in Maryland and being completely scared of the life I have in Boston.  I came here to get help, and I’m getting it but sometimes I forget the cost to myself.  And others…

Can I add some level of stupid now?  I’ve become attached to my left arm?  Sorry, needed to do that, even I grimaced!

Hopefully the family I live with will understand why some hug might be too long.  And yes, I’m going to be completely trapped in a world were the only thing that matters was holding my daughter.  Can’t be helped, times like this I need those thoughts to get me through.  They are powerful, they have  a strong ability to ground my emotions, even when they sometimes get too strong.

Those hugs and maybe some time with a piano will be my afternoon.  I don’t want to squander the opportunity.


Receipt in a Box

<a href=””>The Outsiders</a>

During my brief visit to Maryland, I took the time to walk up and down my street.  Just to see if anything had really changed in the months since I had been back.  The houses looked the same, the people as well.  I don’t know how the timing worked, but the woman who is always seeming to be running when I’m out came up from behind me and gave me a big hug.  It was enough to make my 15 year old guardian look cross-eyed at me.

The entire time I was waiting for something bad to happen.  I had made a point of sitting in the car when people ran into the store to grab some food.  No way was I going to expose myself to rumors and speculation about how I was or even that I was in the state.  My biggest fear was that I’d end up in the hospital while here and not able to leave for some time.  That would have been difficult for me to accept.

But as I sat there I kept staring at this coffee shop.  It changed ownership last Fall and is no longer the place I remember with such fondness.  The decor is basically the same, just new faces.  But I kept remembering this time when it was such a focal point that I got lost in the memory.

One day I had been going to dinner with my mother.  She had an hairdresser’s appointment beforehand, so I just drove over and was going to wait.  But as we rounded the corner, I saw the figure of someone I needed to chase after.  I dropped my mom off and told her to just call my cell when she was done and I would come back.

I raced over in order to make sure I didn’t miss her.  Of all the places to run into her, this coffee shop was not even on the radar.  But there, standing in line was the woman who would eventually mean everything, or at least until the point where things went in separate directions.  It was just one of those bright, sunny days and the conversation was nice.  It was still that feeling out process in a relationship, so there was always lots of questions followed by carefully constructed answers.

Anyway, Sunday as I sat there waiting for Kathy and Susie to finish picking up breakfast, my mind kept watching each person walk in.  Trying to capture if they were just customers for a minute or whether they were going to relax with a cup and a book.

A couple of kids walking in with backpacks, an elderly couple who looked like they had just come from church, and a guy in sweats that were still soaked from whatever the exercise routine of the day had been.  I envied each of them.  Looking out on a world I recall so vividly, with such emotional attachment, I felt like everything was just pages in a story.

Susie ran back and wanted to know if I wanted anything else while we were here.  The house was pretty bare of food staples and there was no point in replenishing when we were outbound Monday morning.  But she kept looking at me and eventually asked, “Hey, is that the place you were telling me about.  Where it all really began?”

“Yes.  It’s not the same, but the feelings are there still attached to it.  Let’s just finish and get back.  There’s something I want to show you before we leave for the birthday party.”

In a box at home is the receipt from that chai tea latte.  The ex had her drink by the time I even got to the door.  Susie just put it back in the box and place it back on a shelf.  She understood.  All those teenage books she reads, all those silly television shows, everything she knew about her own expanding world was brought home in that moment.  What she had read in a diary of another was now more a reality than before.  She understood a little better why I find it so hard to come home.





A Ladder of Lies

<a href=””>The Great Pretender</a>

The moment we walked into the house I knew there were going to be questions.  It had been months since I had been back and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The last I knew of my house were the picture my brother took shortly after moving out.  Proof that things were back in order, my stuff all back in it’s place.  Some picture we all had of what it should be, rather than how things really are.

Kathy and her granddaughter made the trip with me so that I wouldn’t be alone.  They knew I hadn’t told my family I was coming back and I wasn’t sure if I was going to my nephew’s birthday party.  I needed their help and was grateful that I didn’t need to pretend otherwise.

Things with my family didn’t go so well.  They were happy to see me, but not happy to look upon me.  I wasn’t willing to delve into things that I just didn’t want to deal with for a few days.  My mother was very disappointed I didn’t try to speak with a single person while in town.  Four days and I just didn’t know who to call.  Pretending that no one would want to see me was easier than I expected.  Too easy in fact.  I lied to everyone by saying I was just to tired and didn’t want to disturb the fantasy of others as to how or what I was up to.

What was I going to talk about?  How the cancer has been kicking my ass lately.  Sure I can get up and do things, but later I just sleep.  I didn’t want to hear about the problems that could easily wait.  I don’t care about people’s cellphones or computer issues.  Leave me out of some broken piece of molding in the house because they didn’t know the person to call.  And certainly don’t sit there asking me to fix some other issue for you just because I’m around.  I wanted nothing to do with being the “Fix-it Guy” anymore.

I’m broken in a way that I keep trying to patch together, for myself without being forced back into a life I ran away from.  It was what caused me to break down at one point.  Life wasn’t normal, pretending that it was only made things worse for me.  It might have been easier for them, but it left such a crushing weight on me I couldn’t deal.

Work at times forces me to conceal things about my life.  It was the price to pay for needing the security clearance.  Things I lied about so that no one had to worry about my emotions, the choices I sometimes had to make.  They always thought it was just guilt working its way through, knowing I let people think I was okay with being the heavy, the nasty guy who would step on your throat to make things work.  It’s the worst feeling in the world.  All those times having to lie to my ex about office things, just to spare her feelings and be able to have her look at me.

It’s hard enough getting out of bed some mornings just from the stiffness in my body.  Add in that loneliness from missing my daughter and at times her mother [that guy who you see looking at some picture on a tablet with the misty eye, that’s me!] and I just have had about enough.  Pretending to be strong hasn’t been working.  Smiling through all this pain has left me more concerned about others than if I’m truly okay.

Whining about this only makes it worse.  I wish I knew how to deal with it, but I’m not as smart about my own emotions as I am about economic theory.  At least then I can fall back on a book to remind me of a mistake I can avoid.

Pretending I’m okay has become a way of life.  I absolutely am not okay.



I’ll Let You Be the Judge

When the school Psychologist handed me a composition book all she had to say was, “Maybe you need to write down what you are feeling.  This could help.”  This was my school’s way of checking up on a very confused 15 year old who once again found himself facing something different from his classmates.  She was right in a sense, I need to be able to talk and how many sophomore’s in high school had just buried a girlfriend?  My friends were still trying to figure out their own thing and how to deal with me, no one is prepared at that age.  So writing became a habit.

Every time I needed to talk, in those pages it went.  Eventually those pages become other composition books and finally I went full Doogie Howser and used my computer to keep my thoughts locked away from prying eyes in college.  My concerns about cancer returning, dating issues that just didn’t seem like they would be good conversations with the frat boys over Saturday morning cartoons, into the computer they went.

I was writing every night, even if only a few sentences to record the day.  The longest one had been the night I kissed my ex for the first time.  It had been years of keeping my head down and avoiding romance.  When it came back, so did the need to think it through.  Every fear about her health, our families, work issues all had their time on some page.  And then we hit just the worst year ever.

2014 was started with loss and just continued when the relationship couldn’t handle the stresses.  Those six months of writing was pain, endless pain.  That cancer recurrence didn’t help my mental state one bit either.  So yet another suggestion was made, find an outlet where I knew someone might see what I was writing.  Maybe they were going through some of the same things, maybe I needed someone to know how poorly I was handling life.  Conversations that weren’t happening in a room full of people could happen with a group I only know through an avatar.

Most mornings I wake up a wreck.  My emotions are all over the place until I get through a checklist of ideas of what needs to be done.  Trying to keep those negatives in balance with the everything else helps me through the day.  Sometimes I need to reach out and feel heard.  I don’t look at statistics or pageviews, but knowing that one other person might click on the page means someone knows I’m doing well or maybe not on any given day.

My family likes to keep things silent.  Too silent for me to be able to handle them.  I know my mother has hidden my health issues from others, even gone so far as to say “Oh, he’s doing fine.”  Makes it hard to reach out to people knowing that I might contradict something my parents have said.  So quietly I sit in the corner and ponder life.  I watched it destroy me ex, the way her mother just controlled everything and there was nothing I could do to help stop it.  She considered it a fact of life with her family.

Even while finding myself having come full-circle, living with the family of that same girlfriend whose death started me on this path, I wonder how they are dealing with my craziness.  I know the granddaughter writes all the time about how she feels.  My niece is getting a leg up on dealing with her emotions at 15 that most of us end up waiting for some life-altering event to figure it out.

There’s a lot of loneliness I didn’t expect to feel.  My rational mind knowing it’s a chemical imbalance brought on by all of the emotional turmoil since February 2014.  But we all know who wins when it’s a battle of rational versus irrational, always bet on emotion winning.  It’s a powerful force!

Without this outlet, I would be spending my time in a padded cell under the direct control of heavy medication and round-the-clock video surveillance.  And that’s maybe the better option to others that have been contemplated and discussed in private and public.  Or more bluntly, taking a chemical cocktail off to sleepy time from which you don’t wake up.  [sarcasm is the only way I can deal with those thoughts, they also have been powerful at times!]

I write because the alternatives are not pleasant.  I’d rather let out the demons or the angels and see how the world deals with them.  My unconscious mind is hoping to find the meaning in my life, again?  Every person has a voice, mine just is more dark and guttural then some others.  In order to let that light back in, like burning that candle in the window of my mind for my daughter; sometimes you have to speak up.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Million-Dollar Question.”

Beast Mode

Just keep pushing that button Lady!  If you hit it for the tenth time, it might respond.  Oh, not really part of your plan, just keep pushing until you get a response?  Some ding that goes off letting you know you’re efforts weren’t in vain?  Well that describes how my Wednesday afternoon went.  Only we weren’t in an elevator or even a place where there was a real button to push.  This was about getting me to reply to a series of prompts, only I didn’t want to play the game.

The harder she pushed, the further into myself I went.  That is until she just hit upon the right button to select and I started to talk.  And the more I talked, the louder I got until the people next to me started pushing their chairs a little further away from me.  Eventually there must have been enough room for me to swing a baseball bat because the women who had been next to me saw now sitting almost directly across from me.  I didn’t see them move, I was so wrapped up in the growing anger that I didn’t see anything but the blinding emotions coming out.

I wasn’t in the mood to talk, I was there to listen and maybe pick up some advice along the way.  But that button got pushed and I couldn’t ignore the finger poking me in the arm any longer.  I turned into that rage monster I don’t like to let in the room and most times don’t want other people to even know exists.  It’s easy being a difficult person, but once you cross over into Raging Beast Mode, people will always step back.

It was a simple question, why don’t I get upset with people anymore?  The individuals in this group have seen me go from upset at the course of things to being almost passive anymore about my personal life.  Anger has been reserved for work things that haven’t gone quite right.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m anger with people.  I’m at times blinding angry and know not to pick up a phone or look at an email because no matter what the topic is, I’m going to become nasty.  Quickly at times!

I don’t need to worry about an imaginary friend, I write about how life might possibly be different at times and that’s enough pain to make most people shut their mouths and wonder if I’m truly okay.  I’m not!  Far from it.  Not a single rational person would say that I handle the topic of my daughter with anything other than unremitting guilt and anguish.  So having it brought up when I just knew I couldn’t handle it at that moment, it hit just the right button.

There are lots of unpleasant side-effects that come into play with the drugs they give me to deal with the cancer.  Sometimes they are the ones you see or read about, other times I have such lucid dreams that I sometimes need to take a step back later and figure out fantasy from reality.  But the one constant, the imaginary friend who encourages me to do the right thing would be that ghost I fear during my best days.  Once in a while I give into the need for a painkiller and then the marching of costumed children walking by enter the brain.  Is she behind mask #1 or #5?  [guess I shouldn’t make fun of my aunt for having seen Micheal Jackson and his llama when she was in the hospital!]

The interesting part for most people is that I’m not even mad with the person who intentionally set me off.  The world recognizes a fellow traveler on some broken highway, sometimes we flock together out of necessity.  Once in a while we hold hands and give support to someone other than ourselves.  Some times we need to hold onto that hand so we don’t fall down.  Other times we just sway with the breeze and hope we can take that next step forward.

After I was done screaming, I apologized and walked out of the room.  The last thing you want is someone being afraid.  Fun part was I was the one afraid.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Imaginary Friend.”

Can I really go home?

Opening the door and walking through it, having to look around the house I occupied for almost 17 years before packing up two suitcases and running away.  That’s the hardest thing I’m going to need to do.  And if my niece has her birthday wish, that’s exactly what I’m going to have to do.  Seeing a place that has only been pictures for the last 6 months as people have gone in to paint or replace something before I get the strength to admit it’s time to sell it.

The birthday might be a week away, but Susie says it’s time to deal with the ghosts.  Big words and thoughts from a soon to be 15 year old!  Those ghosts she refers to are more like demons like occupy that space like a deranged squatter and have made it their job to ensure I don’t step over the threshold ever again.

The therapist has said I left so that I continued my hero complex about wanting to protect the people who live there.  To not know how badly things have gone and to not have to face some of their own ghosts about how things have played out.  It was bad enough when someone thoughtlessly posted something on Facebook earlier this week.  I don’t even use the site anymore.  Haven’t for almost a year!  But now my health and eventual death was out there for people to read.  {still can’t really blame an old man for doing something stupid.  Social media isn’t the world of 80 year olds!}

I don’t want my ex to know anything about this.  I’m sure she has been working hard to get past her own demons, or at least I’m hoping she has been able to.  Having someone see me will only start that rumor mill.  I left everyone we knew because I wanted her to have the best possible support from anyone she was willing to turn to.  I didn’t even care if in the end people bad mouthed me.  That doesn’t make me a good person, just one who made a stupid decision that left me raw and hurt.  I gave up on them, or maybe myself, can someone ever be completely out-of-sight, out-of-mind?  I’ve tried to test that theory.  If no one knows where I am, how I’m doing; I guess in some ways you are dead already?

My neighbors know some of the details.  I’ve needed them to look in on things from time to time.  The kid down the street mows the lawn and his father said he’s take care of any snow.  (of course he has for several years now with his giant mid-life crisis of a tractor!)  I want to see the little girl who lives next door, she’s wonderful.  I’d like to see my dog as more than pictures my parents send.

You can’t go home is more than just a phrase in my life.  I’m as frightened of my house as anything a doctor can say to me.  It’s no longer my home, it’s just a structure with some bills attached to it.  Every corner is a memory that I run from, I can see them as clearly as a news program in my mind, or maybe it’s my heart?  This gift of excellent recall is a nightmare of its own at times.  Walking from room to room, recalling when we picked out furniture or colors, this is the one point I envy my ex for having just left.  I got to pick up the pieces though.

Susie thinks she can handle it, but I don’t know if I can.  I’ve spent a lifetime building a reputation as being a significant hard-ass about things.  I’ll breakdown later when no one is watching.  But I don”t think anyone will believe me when we walk past a box of my daughter’s things just sitting in a room.  No one is that strong.

I was there three days after Susie was born.  Back then I was still a grad student in Washington D.C. and couldn’t just leave for Boston.  Her wrinkled up little face was spectacular.  An antidote for her family, a kid not even really related to me by blood who bears my name as her middle name (Laura since I’m Lawrence).  I missed a few years in between but she doesn’t care.  We’re going to make this trip, even if it kills me!  [seriously, that’s a horrible line to use given my medical stuff.]

Well lots to plan for.  Getting me across state lines requires some thought and a little planning.

Oh and don’t ever touch my neck!  I completely freak-out when someone touches my neck.  Primitive reaction kind of stuff where I flail and get really jumpy.  Possibly even knock you over from the gentlest touch.  Weird, isn’t it?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Fright Night.”

Bridges in the Sky

Right now I’m trying to understand how to prioritize time.  What was measured in decades is now a matter of months, maybe a handful of years if something changes along the way.  My best way of handling all of that has been to start writing this blog.  I’ve always kept a journal, but that was for me alone.  No reason for people to know about some girl I had a thing for when I was 21!  Exploring how I’m handling things, leaving a record of what I think I did correctly and acknowledging the things I know I screwed up, that’s what has saved me at times.

By writing there might come a time when those I left behind in Maryland might understand that I didn’t know any better way of dealing with the level of pain I was feeling.  That I feel so guilty for having left them that I don’t know how to even reach out to them anymore.  Silence isn’t golden, it’s a bridge that is in such disrepair that you are afraid to walk across it for fear of ending up at the bottom of the ravine.

After my daughter died I lived in such panic that it took away from the life I might have been living.  Cancer and abandonment within the same week, well let’s say that you lose all perspective on life.  At times you don’t care if you even live to see the next day.  Yet I keep oddly trying to reach out to people who read this so that I have some imagined conversation that helps me get out of bed each morning.

There’s still that wall that means I rely on a 64 year old women to help me, her granddaughter as well!  I ran to my safe place when I didn’t feel safe anymore.  Those feelings of wanting to hurt myself still happen from time to time, but I’ve been down that path with Kathy years ago and don’t want her to relive that pain.

For years I thought the best thing I ever did was knock on my ex’s door and give her those flowers years ago.  It changed everything, gave me a support that meant the world to me.  My mother told me the best thing I ever did was assure that the people who worked for us had a chance to further their educations.  Even at a time when the company was losing money, we still paid those tuition bills.  I wanted to give them a future.  My nephew told me the best thing I ever did was take him for walks in the woods (he’s in first grade, his scale is simpler!).  And lastly my “niece” told me that the best thing I ever did was tell her how I was feeling, even when it wasn’t the smartest thing to do to a teenager.

What I’m getting at is that I keep fighting my own brain.  Here I am a year later, and I still feel trapped in the mud.  I’m scared far more often than I want to be.  I rely on my intellect and education to shield me from being honest about that at times.  And I fear getting angry because it means that those same two tools could be used to do some real damage.

Those who have had people in their lives fight a roller coaster disease, you have my complete affection.  It isn’t easy dealing with someone like me and I imagine that some of my thoughts and ideas are not unique.

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