October 24, 2014

Tickled Pink

Oh October, how I used to love you with your crisp cool air and your apples and pumpkins. As a child and even well into adulthood, I would long for October as the official start of fall weather in New Orleans, or at least a glimpse into something other than broiling heat. But then, at some point, October became more than scary costumes and endless plastic cauldrons of chocolate; it became breast cancer awareness month. Ugh.

I know, I know you are thinking, wow, how heartless you are? Where is your Save the Boobies spirit? Where is your pink? I will tell you where it is. It died with my mother.

My mother I suppose technically did not die from breast cancer. She died from radiation induced sarcoma that was caused by the treatment for her 1989 diagnosis of breast cancer and eventually spread all over her body. She  died 11 days after her 70th birthday, her body ravaged by cancer. She was healthy except for the cancer so we had to sit and wait for a week for her organs to fail. We sat vigil by her side as she lay there in a coma. 4 days in I broke and demanded we put her out of her misery, arguing that we would not do this to the family dog, but I was told in hushed voices that it was not done that way, as if ending her pain was in some way more criminal than slowly watching her kidneys fail.

So now when October rolls around with all of its pink, I brace myself for the hit. I screw off the little pink top of the Walgreen’s medication bottle and wonder what Mom would think of all this. Would she take it seriously or, like her prosthetic breast that she said she expected to feel like a chicken cutlet, would she laugh at it all to ease the tension.

As I board my Delta flight home, I am tired and want to be home.I miss my son and I miss my husband. It is times like this that I miss my mom, even though she died nearly 9 years ago now. I want to rip the flight attendants little pink ascot off her neck, wad it up and shove it down her pretty pink mouth while she claws at me with her pretty pink nails. But I don’t. I say please and thank and yes I would like a water, thank you. Because that is what Mom would want me to do.

March 10, 2014

Do You Believe in God?

One time, I was flying from Denver to Chicago in the spring when the winds are awful. It was my first week at a new job and I moved mountains and made lots of calls to get onto that flight with my boss so we could hightail it to Chicago for a sales meeting. 

I ended up in the middle seat near the front of the plane and she was in the back. About an hour into the flight, the plane started dropping out of the sky, literally. We were heading down and the pilot came on the PA and shouted, “Everyone, in your seats now!” The flight attendants ran with the little carts to the back of the plane and told everyone to put their seat belts on.

It was quiet, strangely and eerily quiet except for a few gasps and cries each time the plane would lurch up or down or side to side. It went on for what felt like hours, but it was only a few minutes. But I was scared, really, really scared. And I prayed to God. I did not pray to nature or the wind or Good Orderly Direction or Yin or Yang. I prayed to capital “G” God and I begged to live. And when I thought that might be asking for too much, I reduced my prayer to please let me die on impact so I did not burn to death in the fuselage. 

In those last moments of thinking the plane was going down, I simply wanted not to suffer physical pain. I did not ask for forgiveness, I did not ask for anything other than the release of future pain.

The plane leveled out and we did not crash into the earth at a million miles an hour. Everyone was quiet and weird and scared the rest of the flight. The pilot came on and said it was unexpected turbulence that did not show up on the radar and that it happens sometimes.

Did my prayer to God save us from crashing? No, because I never even asked for the plane not to crash, I really just did not want to feel pain. And I didn't. So, I guess there you go. I guess someone else must have prayed for the plane not to crash.

Do I believe in God? I don’t know, but I pray every day anyway. Because I did not burn to death in the fuselage. And because one day I might.

June 12, 2013

Go Gentle Into That Good Night

I was thinking about death, which I often do, because I am often convinced I have some terminal illness that all the doctors I have seen in my life have missed. Every headache could be a brain tumor, every sinus pressure a stroke and every weird ache some rapidly growing cancer. I don’t know why I am like this.  I guess it just seems that life is so tenuous and we are all just one random accident away from meeting our maker.

Both my mother and father died of cancer and had funerals at a church. The casket was open at the front of the church and people milled about and went up to the coffin to “say goodbye” and then chatted with the family and told us how wonderful our mother was. In fact, one person at my Dad’s funeral was like, “You father was a good man, but oh lord, how I miss you mother.” Which was pretty funny and apt. I think Dad even felt that way – “Man I am a good person, but oh how I miss Celeste.”

I also recently attended the funeral of my brother in law. Pat was a good guy. He was quiet and lurked about not wanting to take up too much space, but he was funny when you got him going. When Mike told him I was pregnant with Max, Pat said, “Are you sure it’s yours? I mean, she travels a lot.” Which I thought was hysterical. The thought of me running around in sensible business clothes having affairs in small cities is funny.

At Pat’s funeral, people of course shared good times and how much they loved Pat. Almost everyone said the same thing – I had not seen him lately. In fact, I had not seen Pat in over 2 years. He moved across the lake, things got busy, you know the scene. It made me sad to think he left his world not knowing how much I and others cared about him and how much we valued him exactly as he was, as we all are – an imperfect child of this Great Universe.

I started thinking that if I ever do find out I have some terminal disease, if I have notice that I am going to die, I am going to plan and attend my own funeral. I mean, why miss the party? How awesome would it be to invite all your friends to your funeral? They would treat it like the real thing – wear black, take bereavement leave, bring a casserole and then they would stand around and talk about how wonderful I was. And I would wear a white robe with wings and flit about the room from conversation to conversation saying things like, “Bless you my child” and “I am watching over you.”

I would get to enjoy all the peace lilies and bouquets of Stargazer Liles. I could personally write my own thank you cards for donations in my name to the charity of my choice. I could see if Mike keeps good on his promise to have a bagpipe player at my funeral.

And after the funeral, there would be light snacks and a buffet at my house for family and close friends. There I could dole out my belongings and read my will. Who could contest it then? I mean, if you don’t understand it, you can just ask me! Wonder if I had any regrets? Just ask, I’ll share the scroll-long list of them! I might even be able to check off a few things on the list before I pass over to the other side.

And then, when I did finally die, I would go off knowing that all those people cared enough to come to the funeral and send me off. And they would know, that I knew, that they cared all along.  Just as I suspected they did.