Monday, June 9, 2008

Two doors

At 8:42 this morning, I decided the word of the day was "gratitude." (No, I'm not normally like that.) P. had left 20 minutes earlier, and what we had talked about had finally sunk in.

She was off for a shot to her knee and some tuning to her new hearing aid -- this casual sentence, of course, doesn't begin to summon the long-term pain and disorientation underlying these events -- and she kept on talking about being "lucky." Lucky to have a hearing aid, albeit an insane, over-amplified one that makes every word she speaks sound to her like it is coming from a public-address speaker; lucky for the capacity to walk and work and care; lucky to have an option to (temporarily) dull the pain.

Being that good and wise would be insufferable, but P. is my friend and our family's caregiver. She also meant it. She also curses and tells great stories, which helps.
So, gratitude. I couldn't do luck -- I am lucky in so many ways, but the rather large unluckiness of my sarcoma means I'm not gonna be celebrating my good fortune, not on CT day. Trying for gratitude made me feel fizzy for a while. Then, of course, I forgot about it and started haltingly trying to empty the kids' bedroom for the imminent arrival of the flooring contractor.

I worked, and rested, worked, and then ran out of time and wrote a detailed note to P., who was coming later to help with the move. I felt like a dick, a specifier, an employer, a nanny diaries type -- but I decided that sometimes folks need to know exactly how they can help you. Besides, the least the note would give L. and I a gameplan to finish getting things straight, since P. obviously wouldn't have time for everything given her typically over-stretched day.
L. called. She couldn't come to the hospital because of a work emergency. My line was that it was all mechanics, a familiar routine. I had magazines, all was well. The bad part, the emotionally loaded part, is waiting for the results... getting up in the morning, going to the hospital, waiting and waiting again, the sudden click of the door, the air draining out of the room as you laser in on the doctor's body language before she can open her mouth.

The mechanics stuff sounded good, and it's often true, but today it was bull. My stomach started seething from the barium just as they called me in. They couldn't find a vein for the contrast, and when they did, it stung like hell (or, as the tech charmingly said, "smarted"). My back twisted into spasms on the table. Blah blah blah. The "word of the day" was far away.

My stomach twisted into knots again just as the stentorian CT voice demanded that I breathe and hold my breath for the last, slow pass through the doughnut. I managed to stay together and get into the bathroom. After I was crouched there for a while, sick, a constant stream of cawing commentary started up outside the door.

"What's going on in there? Could it really be occupied? It says 'occ', but I don't think it's really occupied. What's going on? This is ridiculous! I can't believe it's really occupied." Grating on and on like that.

My thoughts were two: first, weirdly, to reason with them for being unfair (I hadn't been in there that long.... had I?); second, to kill them.

When I pulled myself together and prepared to leave the room, disheartened and wondering if I should go to the ER, I decided to give them the meanest stare I could. I emerged and blasted the stink-eye. But just as I opened the door, they started laughing. I rounded the corner -- so typical of me -- before I started cursing them.

Their laughter, I realized after my fury became comedic, was just nervous embarrassment. They had been blind to me -- and me blind to them.
Leaving the hospital after a few more twists I won't bore you with, I felt a giddy sense of relief. But still no gratitude. We forget everything; even pleasures vanish so quickly from the mind.

I started worrying about the room and the contractor again, working up a lather of anxiety until I finally got up there and opened the door. What had been a morass of books and toys and bedding and mysterious plastic toy fragments was suddenly pristine.

I was shocked -- then, almost immediately, with a surge of the kind of joy that brims like tears, the word returned: gratitude.

Thank you, P., for that. (And a whole lot more.)

Saying thank you only signifies gratitude, it doesn't embody it in the way I want to, but I'll say it more anyway. Big thanks to mom and dad, who endured their own cataclysms helping us out on an oppressive day in the place formerly known as cold. Hell, while I'm thanking about it, thanks to Big T. (trial pseudonym), for the lift and for (I hope) giving me some reax to Barack's cycling clothes. And to L., for making me feel grateful every day.

This is like M&M's; I almost can't stop myself.
Results Wednesday.

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