Bald is beautiful, except I wish I’d get there. We shaved the old noggin’ in the hospital room to a celebration of cookies fit for a palace luncheon with plenty to share on both the oncology and surgical floors, so we had no complaints from the staff about the buzzing and laughter and extra hair-style or two that got snuck in. The only drawback is we shaved to the nubbins and they’re still in there – my own dome-top 5:00 shadow. For giggles and out of a sense of impatience, I can pinch my “whiskers” between two fingers and pull the little suckers out but that’s an endless process so next trick was a big patch of Tegaderm stuck to the top of my head to see what ripped out along with the tape. Plenty. But not enough, and definitely not all of it. I scrub with little sponge gloves in the shower, rub my head all over in bed until my pillow case is covered in something out of a Gilette razor, but still no shiny pate of pure skin to glow softly in the rain. I definitely had higher expectations for my baldness; perhaps duct tape is next?
Ever spend much time wondering about colostomies? Nah, me neither, but I’m kind of surprised at how little it’s on my mind now that I have one. I could spend more time reading the paper in the bathroom than do maintaining my new “appliance,” so other than adjusting to a looser waistband, no complaints in that department, either, I guess. Well, okay, there’s the abrupt realization that you don’t feel a gas bubble coming on and it can be done in a mannerly fashion or, more likely, it’s “hey! That was me! I sound funny in this little bag!” In that case, I look around strangely to see who might be talking to themselves and share a knowing smile and a raised eyebrow with the person on the other side of the clothes rack. I dunno, but I think they’re talking to themselves so I’ll just wander on.
I was prescribed a “pot” pill to increase my appetite. Well, there’s nothing wrong with my appetite that I need a cannabis derivative for, at least not yet; I just didn’t want to fill my stomach and then wonder how it was all going south before I moved on to the cheesecake. So far, no worries, but I have so many well-wishers convinced I’d do a whole lot better inhaling and at least enjoying the benefits two-fold. Heheh, thanks; I’ll pass.
Today we’re going to squeeze a little shopping in before the chemo. Barretts and buckle shoes for little girls, flashcards and chapter books for a nephew and sweet little Sophia, then off to the jewelers to see what these pretty little stones are mom had kept in her jewelry bag over the years. What jewelry I have kept over the years has been apportioned out among the daughters, and the few remaining pieces have already been planned into new rings or keepsakes, so it will be a fun day. I need a new pair of Keens, a couple fleecy pants to get me through the early snows, and lots of cards & stationery complete with stamps. I’m feeling very organized about the end of my life – how I want to write, what to read, where to visit, and mostly relaxing with lots of truth and honesty and compassion for those who wonder after me. I’m the lucky one going to rest, and I’ve been good with that for as long as I can remember. My life, such a good one and full of more worth remembering than regretting, so I’ve had it all, leaving little undone except more loving.
My sole heartbreak at this point in life is losing the man I loved. One day a stranger woke up on the other side of the bed and didn’t recognize me as the woman he’d begged to marry, promised could make anything work, offered and sacrificed any and everything he could to make me happy. Maybe it was Alaska winters, the harsh environment, or maybe it was his fear of not working – he never took a day off, never turned down a request, and was constantly driven to achieve, produce, acquire, make more to replace all that he’d gifted. His was a security grounded in the material, the financial, toys, the accumulation of wealth and assets. I’ve never had that drive and there’s some incompatibility there when one’s security is contentment and the other’s is based on the tangible. I’m sorry for him, for what was lost when he decided I was the cause of all that he’d “given up,” thinking that’s what it took to make me happy. The past two years his refusal to elect company-provided health insurance prevented my following up on what I had expected to be associated with a parathyroid condition but, in fact, has turned out to be an aggressive cancer with no hope for cure and probable demise within a few months. All that being said, it’s not the dying that bothers me. It’s that I loved this man, a wonderful person who adored me, and one day my life suddenly meant so little to him that he would deliberately withhold life-saving care out of spite because he thought he’d been done wrong by me. The sincere death wish, the spoken conviction that I deserve to die, slides off the entirety of a wall upon which a million I Love You’s and You Deserve Only the Best were plastered that up until this point my life had been sheltered by. That is, until nearly two years ago when all communication ceased, any participation in the life of a couple, married or friendly or related or otherwise – nothing but contempt and resentment and accusations and an inability to communicate what kind of issues had created such a chasm of disconnect and lack of support and dearth of love.
Evenso, the pain doesn’t lie with the hatred. I mourn the love I invested in a really wonderful human being who found me worthy and special and unable to live with because I meant it all to him. He wanted to live my life with me – in the woods, in the mountains, mining, frugally, very basically off the land, but soon into it he was afraid. I’d asked a friend to mentor him in the work they did keeping remote mines operating – crushers, equipment, motorized vehicles, welding, fabricating – all of it done beneath a vast arctic sky dancing with borealis and moonlight. I believe he loved the change, the challenge, the opportunity to step outside the mold of mechanic and become sufficient and valuable in his own right, able to survive and be one others could depend upon. He was good, he was able, but lost his heart when his mentor died. Nothing was the same afterward and the bitterness at his perceived misfortune and predicament placed him squarely in the role of incomplete package, however skilled and talented he was. Ray had become that security blanket and now all that he’d invested in our future became the albatross to keep him from building independence and success beyond the point he could work side by side with the best remote craftsman known in the interior Alaska mining world.
I grieved the night I left. Fearing for my safety, I refused to leave with him present. He was a wild man, unpredictable, and fully threatening to do everything he could possibly do to destroy me in any way – financially, personally, through lies (a promise left on voicemail), or even a personal visit to help me understand just how serious he was about ruining my life. He put me out with what I could carry on my back or slide out the driveway, threw belongings into the dark snowy night, and said everything was his – walk; I’d given my truck to my father when we had planned to move to the property in the woods, and had since driven one of his. Whether I had money or food or a job or a place to go mattered not, just that I leave and leave NOW. So I did. He’d told me earlier I was no longer welcome in the home, to leave, so I’d begun packing, leaving everything open if he wanted to go through what I might be taking. When I left that night with a small load, he gloated. When I came back the next day while he was at work to load more, he said nothing. When it was all out, he accused me of leaving him high and dry with all the bills, all the responsibilities, while I left to go do my own thing. Trying time after time to speak to him, to get him to share what was causing all this, all he could say was “You just don’t get it. You just don’t get it, do you?” No, I didn’t. I’d made sure he could fly down for a month when his dad passed away at Christmas, and driving down to Idaho to spend the next month with his mother to get her settled into life as a widow. The brothers had me act as Power of Attorney for all her affairs and we made changes to her life and health insurance so she could see a provider in her home town rather than having to drive to Seattle. We acted in concert to manage her wills, properties, belongings and since I was PoA, she put me on as payable on death for the funds in her accounts. All of this was communicated to her oldest son by email; there were no secrets, nothing withheld, and he was in total agreement with how we were handling things. After a month to get her settled and into a routine, I returned home to my job in Alaska after making arrangements for housekeepers and folks to check in on her. In August Alberta called to tell me she had hip replacement surgery scheduled the next week, so I gave up the job and traveled down to stay and care for her through surgery and rehab before driving her back through Canada to spend the winter with us building strength, attending doctor followup and exercises, and general progress. She was doing well, 10 steps ten times a day up and down, walking the stores, eventually eliminating the cane and walker, able to move around outside. When Kelly ordered me to leave, she was fully mobile and handling her business affairs better and better. When he’d gotten her home and the house was opened up, he took her to her attorney and had the power of attorney switched from my name to his, and neither of them felt it necessary to inform me so when she asked me to follow up on where her new 2014 insurance cards might have gotten waylaid in the mail, Kelly accused me of meddling where I had no business sticking my nose in his mother’s affairs. He also accused me to stealing from her bank account because I was payable on death beneficiary, and nothing I could say or even prove convinced him I had done nothing untoward with his mother’s affairs. Eventually, she gave up protesting beneath the constant weight of his accusations against me and we have not spoken in months.
More than anything, this pain comes from the betrayal and loss of a person I valued in my life as a wonderful person, helpmate and partner. I don’t know what transpired to cause the change, but somewhere in my heart I know he must believe he has been wrong and I will never be able to tell him I hold nothing against the man I loved or who loved me, but do not know this stranger who would rather go so far as to let me die than work out a problem in love.
My daughters keep their counsel, knowing how grieved and hurt I am, but they’re also my foundation of strength. Nothing will ever come between us, and I know when I leave, they will always have that in their hearts for eternity. That’s what counts. Just the love.