A Change Coming

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.


9 thoughts on “A Change Coming

  1. I have been putting off reading this because I knew there was more to the story and I was sure it wasnt good….with that being said I only wished I was as good as you at putting my words together and expressing my thoughts. Just know that I am angry that anyone dared treat you this way and angry that you have been dealt this hand in life and even angrier that I cant do anything to help you or make it better. My dearest Rene’ just know it has been my privilege to know you to share a friendship with you over all these years even if it has been on Facebook for the last few years, I pray for you every night and for your daughters. Tears run down my eyes as I type this saying to myself its just not fair but I guess nobody promised it would be but if there is one person in my life I would emulate it would be you I wish I could see you again but dont know that will happen just know I love and care for you and you are in my thoughts and prayers daily……your Sitka friend always Linda

  2. My dear friend, I just read this blog post and it seems like the missing piece has been found. I had no idea there was anything wrong but I believe that is what strong people do-make everything appear as normal as possible. I’d caught a little wind about there being some abuse through Bill who had got it from Albert. I just couldn’t believe it but after reading your post, it all comes together and it is such a shame. I know you are still a very strong woman and also a person I admire for that strength. My eyes filled with tears as I read your story and I know there is nothing I could do to help. What blew my mind was being at your Father’s Day BBQ in June just last year and everything seemed normal when in reality it was not. It kind of made me feel bad but I understand. It’s unfortunate the cards you’ve been dealt but there you are again, super strong! I know you will live your life the way you want even with the obstacles placed at every turn. I’m sad that things did not work out with Kelly but I think he has issues of his own that he may be refusing to see. I don’t know the man other than that day at your house. It is said that things happen for a reason… I am not as good a writer as you are and I really am at a loss for words but just know this, you are in my thoughts constantly and I wonder how you are doing. I think of your daughters and I know that they will carry you with them for as long as they live. They can’t help it; they all look just like you!! That’s pretty awesome! I also know that you’ve instilled in them your strong spirit and it will take them wherever they want to go. I know you are very proud of them! I may not get to see you in person before it’s decided for you to move onto the next life but I hope you know that this person you worked with for just a short time at Ft Knox definitely cares and will miss you.

  3. Rene’, the tears were just streaming down my face as I read this. I visualized you with your shaven head, typing this with such emotion. No one deserves this kind of hurt. I don’t understand it. I’m so glad that you shared this. This was hard enough for you to go through by yourself, but you have so many family and friends that love and care about you. I know it still hurts, because there is no reason for it; no explanation. Why?

    I am here for you always my friend. I’m not very far. I love you with all my heart.


  4. Hey Rene’
    I’m sorry that you’re having to experience this disease. It would seem that after such a long time of dealing with it, the medical or scientific professions would have come a little bit further in finding a cure, but I’m certain that it’s not a simple thing to do. Thank you for your candor. I’m sure that I wouldn’t have the same attitude if I found myself in similar circumstances. You don’t need my permission by any means, but if your attitude should go south, if you should find yourself with the need to vent, I hope that you will. It would certainly be understandable. What you are going through is a terrible thing. It’s not fair and it’s not fun and it’s a hard thing to try to comprehend- why some people can live life willy-nilly and never seem to suffer, while others are singled out for what we would view as a tragedy. I wish there were something I could say to comfort you, some special words that would heal. All I can say is, you aren’t alone in this. You have the support of your family and friends and perhaps most importantly, the Lord. He isn’t going to shut you out in your time of need. I hope you keep in touch with Him as well as with all of your friends. God bless you gal.


  5. Wow. I am sitting here in California, you know why, with my mouth agape. I am so sorry that part of this edition has been a chapter in your storied life. It gives me even more perspective on a comment you made to me when I told you Denny and I got married and how happy you were for us. I have never been able to comprehend how someone who has once loved another can, at times of a demised relationship, become so cruel and inhumane toward the former object of one’s affection. I deal with similar situations all the time at work, in the heat of such moments and have never, ever understood this. I could never behave as such toward someone I love and respected even upon heartfelt hurt. I am so truly sorry for this in your life because you truly are a worthy and special person and deserve so much love. No one should have to “fear for their safety” in such circumstances. If things don’t work out get on with it. I know you are loved well, and this is comforting to me but to know someone put you thru that really pisses me off quite frankly. I do hope that putting this into words was somehow cathartic for you. I am still pissed however. And hope he never makes a trip to Oregon……..

    I will always and forever admire you for the strength you possess. I think some men are simply intimidated by strong women and have to “show their power” in truly inappropriate ways. The thing is, it’s not necessary and once they figure that out things could be much simpler. Life partnerships are not really suppose to be contest of strength vs. strength where one wins and another loses. They should be partnerships where both grow, nurture and support utilizing each ones strength to the advantage of both.

    On to the bald is beautiful! Did you try razor shaving after your buzz cut? I did that one time and was then able to obtain a nice shiny patina by using either “Eucerin” lotion or cocoa butter….or both. Try that and let me know if it works out to your liking. You do have a beautifully shaped head for this by the way, as do I. I actually get many comments about that very thing.

    I am filled with gladness that you are able to make a trip home to sleep in your own bed and moreover, get to enjoy some of the fall season and associated things that I know you love. Fall has always been my favorite season! It always means I get to wear sweaters…..and I love my sweaters. I also love the fall colors which to me include any and all earth tones. I have always found fall meditative, healing and reflective. Even though spring is known as the season of rebirth…..for me it is fall. I will always associate you with this season and look forward to the time I will spend with you on my mind as the years pass.

    Hmmmm, seems my thoughts sort of took off here this time. I have always loved reading every word you put to page and hope I haven’t missed any along the way. I rarely comment here….on your blog, well because it’s your blog but somehow today I couldn’t stop myself. If you ever did finish your book, I need to know how to get my hands on the words within, either online or otherwise. If not, I will re-read everything you have written to date and cut and paste in my mind. I also want to thank you for sharing your gift of the written word with so many. You truly do have a gift my friend, one that I will always cherish.

    Until next time….My love to you.

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