Sunday, July 24, 2011

Out To Lunch

Recently, as Dennis was being infused, we had an interesting discussion. We had been inspired by, of all things, the Geico gecko.  Now ordinarily I am not influenced by a green lizard to buy car insurance, or by cavemen who are easily offended by how easy it is to switch to this company.  Actually, I tend to avoid allowing any opportunistic burrowing nocturnal marsupial or beast of burden to determine how to invest my money, or my conversational priorities. Personally, I’d prefer consulting with a skin tag.

Nevertheless, while Dennis was in a posture of repose, (and incapable of escape), I asked him with whom he would have lunch if he could choose anyone in the past or present, and what he would ask them.  Single stipulation:  The Holy Trinity is excluded.

Dennis, bosom heaving and nostrils flaring, making sounds like rapid-fire glottal stops,  sighed like he’d just expelled the air from hand bellows.  (I recognized this as a familiar reflective response, with a slight undertone of annoyance.  He was, after all, being saturated through engorged tubing with a highly potent cocktail of napalm and kerosene, akin to primeval mud, the spilling of which would require clean up from a Haz-Mat squad.  And this after several weeks of popping pills comprised mostly of nitroglycerin and methane from cow dung.)  I know he wonders if I will ever get custody of my tongue. Sometimes my questions don’t always require a response. Not this time.

But pondering has always been higher on Dennis’ hierarchy of emotions than irritation, a fact that has allowed our union to be preserved.  So after some thought, he posted his short list, which, oddly enough, was parallel to mine.  After so many years of marriage, people tend to cross-pollinate each other.

  1. Dennis:  Abraham Lincoln – Do you have any regrets?
  2. Joan:  Lizzie Borden – Yes, but did you do it?
  3. Dennis:  Thomas Jefferson – Didn’t you have a debt ceiling?  Why didn’t you free your slaves upon your death?
  4. Joan:  Cleopatra – An asp?  Really??!!!
  5. Dennis:  Aristotle – What is the meaning of life?
  6. Joan:  Eleanor Roosevelt – Do you have any idea how beautiful your compassion has made you?
  7. Dennis:  Hannibal – How did your elephants get traction?
  8. Joan:  Mom – Thank you.

Friday Dennis was scheduled for a CT scan that would reveal the current status of his condition.  In the past, there has been a reduction of the disease burden.  But results are not always predictable. These moments can be stressful. However, the report came back that there has been further reduction and stabilization.  It was what we had hoped for.  Could there be any greater privilege than to witness miracles? 

So in that light, we revised our list of lunch guests.  We decided our greatest desire would be to break bread with all who have loved us, prayed for us, supported us.  It has been said that you live life forward, but understand it backward.  Perhaps our only contribution to the conversation of that meal would be “Thank you.”

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What's in a Name?

Shakespeare’s young (much, much too young) lovers, Romeo and Juliet, first asked that question centuries ago.  What’s in a name?  Turns out, there’s a whole bunch of stuff in a name.  (Remember Anthony Weiner?!)  I always think as this tragedy moves inexorably to its conclusion, that somehow things will turn out differently. For once, the timing will change, and the pair will live on into middle age as a paunchy, bickering couple as it’s supposed to be in the grand matrimonial scheme of things. But it never happens. It’s always too late.  Just like “Gone With The Wind.”  Every time I watch this movie, I’m convinced that surely Scarlet will prevail. When Scarlet asks Rhett, “Where shall I go?  What shall I do?”  he invariably retorts, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a dang.”  (Sorry. This is a family blog, after all.)  Just once I’d like to see Clark Gable turn around in the mist and say, “Oh, all right.  Let’s give it another try!”  Hasn’t happened yet.  I continue to hope.  Ah, but I digress.

This past weekend, the nation celebrated its birth with fireworks and an inexplicable obsession with British royalty.  No one seemed to notice the 800-pound oxymoron in the room.  Independence Day is a time when high-spirited citizens, armed with a match and everything from rockets to bottle bombs that rival Molotov cocktails, take to the street curbs and scorch the road with explosives ignited in the name of our illustrious forefathers until, mercifully, the garbage trucks arrive, grinding and flatulent, to harvest the debris of this pyrotechnic, patriotic celebration.   

Dennis and I, in a flourish of health, good intentions, and mind-numbing insanity, decided to celebrate the Fourth AND accomplish a “one of these days we should…” things on our “one of these days we should…” list.  So we filled the car with petrol and headed for, where else?, Little Bighorn battlefield.  

Having seen numerous documentaries about this historical event, we were well prepared to be an eyewitness to history.  And there’s no better way to observe our nation’s birth and adolescence than by making a pilgrimage to the site of a bloody clash between two nations, two cultures, two philosophies, two polar opposites.  However, the more we learned, the more difficult it became to decipher which opponent should rightly be labeled “savage.”

The Black Hills were green, lovely and reverent, and concealed their history.  The landscape was silent, as if the hills had all conspired to take a vow of omerta and not yield up its secrets willingly.  Of course, this calm was in stark contrast to what had taken place exactly 135 years ago.  Then, Cheyenne, Miniconjou, Oglala, Blackfeet, and Arapaho warriors clashed with the U. S. Seventh Cavalry, and saturated the soil with bloodshed.

Now here’s where names come in.  The consortium of tribes was under the command of leaders and holy men like Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and Gall.  Indian warriors were called Wooden Leg, Low Dog, Bloody Knife, Rubbing Out of Long Hair, Standing Bear, and Two Moons.  These monikers would strike greater terror in the hearts of the enemy than, say, Tom, Bill and Jim, (actual members of Custer’s Company). Sometimes, names carry great significance and spiritual power. It is ironic that some of the fiercest carnage occurred at a place called Rosebud.  Sounds more like the opening scene of “Citizen Kane.” 

One cannot walk these hallowed grounds without being inspired by courage, determination, devotion, and unyielding bravery in the face of overwhelming odds by warriors on both sides of the conflict.  I am familiar with such characteristics.  Brodi dedicated her book, “Everneath,” to her father.  She wrote, “For my Dad, a quiet man, a fierce warrior.”  It made me ponder. I have contemplated what Indian name would be appropriate for this man.  Sitting Bull was a Hunkpapa Lakota.  Dennis is rather bony at the moment, but that won’t always be the case.  In fact, his bone structure protrudes in so many directions, one could actually calculate longitude and latitude and navigate the seas just looking at him. Nevertheless, spiritually, he’s every bit the “hunk” that Sitting Bull was. Perhaps, because of his diminished butt dimensions, he could be called One Moon.  Or Peeping Tom-Tom.  Or maybe Mini Ha Ha (aka LOL).  My personal favorite would probably be “Silver Stud Muffin.”

Today, he will once again wage a battle to rival any in history. And I will recognize the same traits our nation’s forefathers possessed that went into the forging of this nation. He will sit patiently as he receives his transfusion, grateful for the opportunity to go to war against an insidious interloper. No war paint or feathers – just a port surgically installed near his collar bone to transport the toxic fluid to the battle site.

Friends and family make a difference in every cancer patient’s war.  They are the battalions that cover our backs and say, “I am here.  Let’s heal together.”

Dennis’ personal manifesto comes straight from George C. Scott, although Sitting Bull might well have said the same thing.  “The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.” 

He continues to distinguish himself.  Fortitude is his nucleus. I do not doubt that, like all courageous warriors in the history of this nation, he will triumph.      

Sunday, July 3, 2011

That was the Week that Was

Last week it was my birthday.  I turned…flabby.  So I watched some Wimbledon, where there seemed to be a peculiarly unholy gathering of hard bodies concentrated at one time in the cathedral of tennis.  This put me in quite a crappy mood.  I found myself tempted to flip my middle finger at the lot of them and scream accusations of plastic surgery zombies to no one in particular.

But the biggest joy-buster of all was the round of doctors I had appointments with over the course of these past few days.  What’s up with that?  Was I born with some kind of built-in obsolescence?  They sucked out my blood, made me pee in a cup, pounded on my back, and placed bets on whether I had a pulse.  It made me quite weary, and I fought valiantly to stave off depression. 

So I did what every woman does when things look bleak.  I went to lunch with people who are just as flabby as I am.  Of course, we reminisced about the good old days, and recalled a whole dictionary of terms that are obsolete in today’s vernacular. 

We used to buy Yippee Cups and milk nickels from the Good Humor man who came down our street each evening at supper time.  And then we’d  pop tar bubbles in an era when there were so few cars, we could actually sit in the road for hours and not endanger ourselves.

Our Moms cured every ailment with ointments like merthiolate, cod liver oil, and paregoric, and cautioned us of the dangers of sucking on tooth picks soaked in cinnamon oil.

And teenage boys with “dagoed” cars hubristically drove laps around Liberty Park after they’d laboriously scrubbed the white walls and coiffed their hair into elaborate pompadours held in place with the grease extracted right from their own carburetors.

Everything was either “cherry,” “boss,” or “groovy.”

Ah, those were the days…before Facebook, texting and Anthony Weiner. Back then,  people who exposed themselves were perverts.  Now they’re Congressmen. 

But I am not exactly ready for laxatives and conversations about my latest pains. Oh my no!  I have decided to cannibalize my inhibitions, release my emotional liabilities, discard my mode of decorum and associate only with co-narcissists.  On my next visit to the dentist, I plan to get an NBA mouth guard and  become so skilled at twirling it, I’ll make it do a one-and-a-half gainer off my lower lip without dropping so much as a string of drool.  I will be the featured star of “America’s Got Talent,” and await the phone call from “Dancing With the Stars.”  I want to become like those fish that live so deep in the ocean, they must produce their own light. 

Since Dennis has a break from chemo treatments, we are going to visit some sites of true historic significance, starting with Custer’s last stand.  The Battle of the Little Big Horn saw fighting almost as frightening as the thought of Lindsay Lohan being released from house arrest. 

There is so much to learn from history.  Voices from the dust manage to inspire us still.  For instance, an Ogalala Sioux chief rallied his warriors by telling them, “We have everything to fight for.  If we do not fight, we have nothing to live for.”  I find that most applicable to many of the battles we face today.
Finally, one of my favorite authors, William Faulkner, once said, “I believe that man will not merely endure, he will prevail.”  That is our game plan:  to produce our own light, to fight and to prevail.  We will not be deterred.