A year ago today, Gilly (our dog) was still alive.
A year ago today, Stacy (our friend and attendant) was still alive.
A year ago today, dbubley had 2 kidneys and did not have cancer.
The last one isn’t entirely true; we didn’t know there was cancer swimming around in her body.
Gilly died Aug. 29, 2008
Stacy died last February.
Dbubley has cancer and it may be inoperable.
What will this next year bring?
I'm sure I could make a list of good things that happened this last year, but I'm just not in the mood right now.
I know very little about Andy except he had the chops and pipes to pull off playing a green demon who ran a karaoke bar in L.A. A demon who could read your future when you sang. He often was the comic relief, a scaredy cat clown, but when his friends were in danger, he was there hitting a high note as needed. He could be a world weary cynic on minute and crack me up the next with a pithy spot-on comment. I know the words had to be on the page and the director had to do his thing, but Andy pulled this minor character off that page and made him the heart of the show.
In the last episode, the big battle against evil, Angel asks him to do something important, but something he finds despicable. He says, " Hey, Angel, I'll do this last thing for you, for us...but then I'm out, and you won't find me in the alley afterwards. Hell, you won't find me at all. Do me a favor. Don't try."
Now we'll never find him, no future "hey, isn't that the guy who played Lorne" when watching a new tv show or movie. And then the required run to IMDB to prove if we are right or wrong. Funny how a person I never met, most likely never would meet, even if we both lived into the next century, has left a little mark on my heart.
I sit here as a non-believer wishing I could pray. Stacy is very devoutly Christian. She's very involved with her church, sometimes spending all day Sunday in prayer and worship. Every Christmas and Thanksgiving she worked serving meals. She collected clothes for "my homeless" as she called them. There was always some in the trunk of her car and if she saw someone on the street that looked like they needed something she had, she'd stop and ask them. She gave as much as she could to support her church and their homeless project. In Dec. 2007 she collected money from her family and friends because she wanted to directly help someone. She didn't know who, but she knew she'd find someone. One day at the laundromat, she met a young woman with two children. The woman was a single mom living nearby. She had very little money or family support, but she managed to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. Stacy offered to give the woman and her children a ride home. Stacy told me the next day that she'd found her family to help. A few days later she knocked on this woman's door and offered her a shopping spree. Shoes, pants, tops, underwear and socks for everyone, groceries for a week and a couple of toys for the children.
Stacy never had a lot of money and she worked very hard for what she did have, but she knew she was graced with a large supportive family and her belief in god. These two things got her through a lot of hard times and when we met her in 2000, she'd become one of the pillars of support for her family. She and her mother raised her nephew from the day he left the hospital, neither her brother or the baby's mother could take care of him. Pooh (not his real name, of course, but the only name I heard him called for at least a year) is now 16 years old and plans to go to college. When she first found out how sick she was she didn't want to tell Pooh because she said "he's never been very good with death, when his gold fish died he was upset for a week."
Stacy saw her mom through more than a year of hospitalization and nursing home stays. She is diabetic and eventually loss one of her legs. Stacy has been her mom's primary caregiver. When it came time for her mother to get a prosthetic leg and insurance wouldn't cover it, Stacy collected money from her family and they brought her one.
Now I'm just rambling and procrastinating getting stonebender up. I have had to wake him up with awful news way to many times, but it's not like I can just wait until he reads this entry while he drinks his coffee.
One last thing about Stacy - she LOVED our Gilly girl. She was scared of her when she first started, but eventually she became one of Gilly's people. One day I realized I was almost out of cans of tuna fish. I thought I had a little stock pile. As Gilly aged and went through her own illness, Stacy would sometimes give her a can of tuna to make sure she ate in the morning. And more than one piece of bacon was slipped into her bowl too. She missed Gilly as much as we did.
Now I will be missing both of them.
I think about this stuff sometimes; if I don't come home what is the state of my space. How much laundry is waiting in the hamper - did I actually put all the dirty clothes in there or are there any laying on floor? What pages are open on my computer? Are there dirty dishes in the sink? Are there yucky items in the fridge I should have thrown out days ago? These are safe things to think about; I don't go near how the people in my life will deal with my death.
I've wandered away from my original thought. I didn't make it to the memorial because we took Gilly to the vet. She was in pain and she is a living, breathing creature. We are responsible for her and the need to get her help outweighed every other need. I also missed an important board meeting. Life is one big negotiation on how to meet our needs. Some days it feels like a triage, who/what do we "save", what can wait, what do we bail on? Yes, life as triage, that's how I'm feeling right now. And it doesn't feel good.
Sixty-four, while maybe not young, is not old either. First email I read this morning brought me the news of another death. Nancy Backstrom was a wonderful artist and a superb teacher. I meet her approx. 15 years ago when she began teaching at Studio One, where I worked. She was a quiet, kind soul who lived an examined life and she brought all of this to everything she did. A feeling of calm and peace flowed with her - when she walked into a room - the air changed. You felt more relaxed. I saw (and felt) this happen many, many times over the years; whether it was a classroom, a staff meeting or my office. She was a 10 year post diagnoses cancer survivor - no that's not quite right. She did more than survive; she took the measure of this experience and created another layer to draw on. During her treatment, cancer did not define her; it was an addendum only.
When she spoke to you, her eyes meet yours first. There was a concentration about her gaze that included all of me. Covering up how I was feeling was never an option with her; when she asked, “How are you?” it was not a social nicety, but a real question meant to have a real answer. Engagement in the moment, in people, in the issues was her social contract with the world and she did not default on it.
I had not seen
In all the sadness, I feel a little pocket of happy because that was my last, most current memory of Nancy Backstrom, person extraordinaire and friend.
The theory goes that young people are fearless because they think they are invulnerable. I remember that time in my life. The before time, when I couldn’t conceive of anything bad happening to me . . . to other people, sure. I’d see it on the news all the time, but that would never be me. There is no one moment when my identity switched from invulnerable to vulnerable. I can trace the gradual process back to starting in my mid-thirties and becoming more solid by my mid-forties. Even now, I have a trace of the invulnerable, but it is only a whisper. The louder voice tells me bad things not only might happen, but WILL happen to me.
Where once wishing parting friends or family a safe trip home was a formality, now those words carry the weight of a prayer.
Where once I had little fear of falling, knowing I’d get up with maybe a scrap, or sprain, now I fear the more serious aspect of falling and breaking a bone. I even fear I might not be able to get up at all without help.
Where once I thought having a cell phone was just a cool toy, now I see it as a lifeline and I panic when I’ve left it at home.
Where once a cold meant a few annoying days of coughing and sneezing, now I listen intently to my body for signs of an MS flare-up.
Where once I had little fear coming home late at night by myself, now I proceed with caution, checking the area before I get out of the car.
Where once I only sporadically wore my seatbelt, now I use it 99.99% of the time.
Where once I feared verbal taunts by young men on the street for being fat and female, now I fear physical violence just for being in that place at that time.
Have I really become that much more physically weak and defenseless? Has the world really become a much more dangerous place? Aging accounts for some of it. The barrage of media reports of violence has a cumulous effect, I suppose.
My spiritual well is shallow, so thinking about death, specifically my death, does not lend itself to volumes of word. When I was younger, my death was unthinkable. I had always been and could not truly understand a time of not being. Now this amorphous image of my death is taking on a greater firmness of shape. I cannot see it, but I can smell it. It may be years or decades away, but it has a measure of time I can comprehend. “Tomorrow or next week” was forever as a child. Now tomorrow too quickly becomes last month.
I'm not mad at the police, I know the pressure they are under. I wish the non-lethal weapons arrived earlier, they were on their way. It's the larger system that carries the shame of his death. A health care system that didn't monitor his drugs; he complained many times to his doctors and his friends that he didn't like how the drugs made him feel. An economic system that caused a 71-year-old man to fear he would lose his low rent apartment and end up on the streets. He was confused and scared; the system let him down big time.
The doctors don't expect her to leave the hospital this time. They've said this before. It's different now. More and more medical intervention to keep her breathing. The number of places to get good lines in are rapidly decreasing. And yet, when I saw her 2 weeks ago, she smiled, enjoyed my bad jokes, communicated in one word whispers, a little sign language, and lots of interpretation from her partner. We talked of silly things; her adventure in learning to drive a power wheelchair, just before she entered the hospital. Wheelchair- 1, her mother's antique coffee table - 0. The fence that "jumped" in front of her, snaring her front wheels until helped arrived. Future plans to get an accessible van and take road trips with their daughters.
I'm tired for her. At this moment, I'm too tired to cry.