Sunday, August 19, 2012

Afternoon Sun

Last week I couldn’t muster a substantive post. The best I could do was a page about why I wasn’t writing more. I struggled with Should I or Shouldn’t I send around notification that the only thing I was putting up was a weak explanation of why I wasn’t doing anything else. It seemed a waste of people's time to read notification that I wasn't posting much of anything, so I let last Sunday go by.

As it turns out, I heard from quite a few people who were wondering what was going on. So, I learned something about this whole blogging thing. I appreciate those of you who check in each week. Thank you for bothering with me!

This week, I was moved to think ahead by remembering back. It started with a bad day. You know...when you look bad, you feel bad and you probably even smell bad.

It had mostly been a nasty day at work. Dealing with clients in crisis can be so consuming. They are in the throes of divorce, or fighting for custody of their children, and they are needy and sometimes I feel like a lot of them are hanging all over me, clinging like some living thing with claws that won’t let go. Not that I blame them; I don’t. It is my job to untangle their mess and make it better for them. It’s just hard sometimes to remember that their mess is not my own.

And, of course, I do have mess of my own, like everyone else. This was one of those days on which it was hard to feel happy, and even harder to think things would get better.

I decided to lose myself in some writing. Escape is such a friend at times. I threw open the French windows on my sun porch and welcomed the music of birds in our woods. They seemed to be harmonizing with the sound of the pond fountain tumbling and splashing. The lilies—pink and yellow and orange—danced on the water while they settled for the evening. As if on cue, a breeze freshened my face, the way breezes do, and then there it was, the feeling better part.

Off in the dining room, the afternoon sun had cast itself through golden lace and shadows on the floor. This little sliver of beauty reminded me that the doldrums always pass. It could be in the next minute or maybe on the next day, but sooner or later something lovely will happen. When it does, your perspective shifts, your resilience factor notches up a peg or two, and you are able to deal with life's challenges, sometimes even with a smile on your face.
Ten years ago, the feds were trying to put Cecil in prison for the rest of his life. We were engaged in battle, consumed by hatred and fear that I thought would never go away. But then it did.

Ten years ago, Cecil was diagnosed with cancer. He lay down to chemotherapy and radiation, and all that goes with both of them. He nearly died, but then there was remission. His remission gave way to relapse, which was followed by another remission. But then came MDS, a secondary anemia.
Down again, but lifted up by the news that there was treatment for MDS. Except then we learned the treatment wouldn’t work for long and sure enough it didn’t. Cecil stayed alive only by transfusions, and then they weren’t working anymore either and the only thing left was the death that had been stalking him.

As we readied ourselves for that darkness, a light crept in through some door that hadn’t been completely closed, and there was hope again. If he met an endless list of criteria and, if two suitable donors could be found, he might be a candidate for a stem cell transplant. Before we had even contemplated what all that would entail, they told him to come on; it was time to get started. Another crisis had passed.

This transplant was so scary no one should attempt to reduce it to words, though I have tried a time or two. Let's just say it was all encompassing. Tubes and alarms and sterile gowns and suffering things none of us had ever even thought about. Cecil clung to life’s precarious edge while everyone around him jumped every time he sneezed or coughed, and they had good reason to. The slightest fever could mean he would die before the sun came up. At first, they measured his lifespan in terms of days. Then, people started talking about weeks, and then, cautiously, the word months came back to the vocabulary. When his doctor said something about the end of his first year, we started to think maybe he might make it.

When we were going through this, life seemed to end at our door. There was no promise of anything. I only half slept at night, reaching every hour to touch Cecil’s face, hoping I would not feel the heat from several inches away; hoping there would not be yet another race to the hospital in the middle of the night.

At the time, all of this was all there was, but Cecil fought off one insurgent after another until, finally, they stopped coming at him. Gradually, there was color in his face again and he could walk instead of shuffle and—dare we believe it?— he was stable. Though I never consciously transitioned, suddenly I was looking at him without trying to memorize his face for fear he’d be gone tomorrow. I started leaving the house without worrying I’d come home to find him lying unconscious on the floor. Pillows on the couch are actually in place these days because he is not camping out there all day long. He’s up and taking on projects. 

Cecil is skinny enough to be cast in the part of Dead Man Walking, but I used to complain that he was too heavy. Yesterday, he came with me to a gathering of Valley Writers, a wonderful group of friends and writers who work together to make each other's writing better. Cecil yakked their ears off and was actually even spunky.

A few months ago I didn’t dare look ahead to these sorts of things. Now, I can almost take them for granted again. Best of all, we find ourselves talking about more than just his health, and we actually feel it’s okay to laugh. The other day we learned that his stem cell donor, an infant girl, is black.

I bragged that, not only do I have a same sex marriage, but it’s interracial. We informed the kids they are now biracial, and all of us are walking tall because our interesting factor has shot way up. We’ve readied ourselves to be hounded by both political parties because, with our new DNA, we encompass so many voting blocs. By any measure, that alone should be enough to make us happy.

While we were consumed by Cecil’s failing health, and then his transplant, I found it hard to write, and I completely stopped trying to place my book with an agent to get it sold. There just wasn’t enough time or energy or focus. Though I understood the pullback, it was hard to accept. My book is about things that should never have happened; things that could happen to anyone. If there is some cluster of stories that need to be told, I think this one should be among them. When Cecil came home and stopped trying to die, I got busy again.

I believe things come around when and how they are meant to. I waited until the time was right to go forward with my book. When I reached out, I was looking for an agent who understood the significance of what I had to say. Suddenly, he was there. Within a week, I had found the right person. This agent and I are now working to get a proposal out to publishers. With any luck, the book will be picked up and available to readers before too long.

Within the past two months, a storm destroyed maybe a dozen of our trees and toppled them throughout the yard, my son and I had a blowout on a busy highway as night fell in the middle of nowhere, and a broken valve in the boiler caused a flood in the living room. To make sure we were really having fun, one of the dogs went around the house and peed on several rugs. (Obviously there are some issues here that need to be resolved!)

A little side attraction came to me this morning after I got both a flu shot and a shingles vaccine yesterday. Where was my head? Did I really need to get them both at once? Wasn’t it just last week that I got a damn tetanus shot, with the latest whooping cough piggy-backer cuz there’s a new outbreak of something we all thought went out with the Dark Ages, or at least by the fifties?  My left arm feels like it was blown off at the shoulder and threatens never to be the same.

There was a time when each of these things would have sent me to a therapist, or a meditation guru or some sort of relief just short of the bottle. Today, they are but minor inconveniences. My family has traveled a path so littered with hazard that nothing can rattle me anymore. I have come to trust that, however bleak things might seem, they will move away sooner or later. The afternoon sun will always shine through the window again and bring with it the promise of beauty yet unseen. Tomorrow should never be dreaded. It is, by definition, where possibility begins. 

I am happy to say this will be my last post about Cecil's transplant, barring unforeseen developments. There is no need to talk about it anymore because we have moved on and there is much else to bring perspective. Thank you all for bearing with me, and for supporting us through these difficult months.

1 comment:

  1. Terry and I were so glad to see you and Cecil at the Valley Writers potluck yesterday. For a while, I wondered if you'd come alone. And then I looked through the screen door to see this most wonderful man in a straw hat talking with my husband. Cecil had arrived. Thin, practically gaunt. Pale from being indoors. But his blue eyes twinkled and I knew we were in for exciting arguments, er, discussions, about almost everything. I love the way you phrased it above: when Cecil stopped trying to die... From his participation yesterday, even going back for a second helping of banana cheesecake pudding, I knew we'd be laughing and arguing about something for years to come. Welcome back, both of you. And now onward to whatever life holds for us all.