My Toes Can Go Eff Themselves

11.8.11

My toes hurt every morning. They don’t hurt a little bit, they hurt like spikes have been driven into them.

They’re just toes, one might say.

Every morning when I lay in bed and open my eyes I feel fine. I swing sideways on the bed and stand up. Still fine. I take one step forward and now my toes are involved, it’s like childbirth. There’s a pain that starts in the joints and radiates up my spine ending in that horrible place between your shoulder blades. This is coupled with the sour taste of fear and pain that inevitably floods my mouth.

It’s been happening for a few weeks now and it’s sort of one of those aches that are both insult and injury. If I get some shoes on quickly it hurts a lot less, and I’m very happy that most of my morning stiffness is gone, but the searing pain in the toes piss me off every morning.

This morning was colder than most and as I hobbled to the bathroom trying to keep my toes up I thought of Lisa and her foot. That fucking foot with the cancer that killed her. So now I’m in my closet crying before the kids wake up, because I had waited to cry and today seems to be the day. Today is also the day I need to film two videos so it only makes sense that I should start with red and puffy eyes.

That foot, that foot that took Lisa and prevented her from saving more babies and changing our world. That foot that made her hurt for years.

My toes can go fuck themselves, because they made me miss Lisa and her one good foot. 

Highs and Lows

11.5.11

The past few days have been full of the highest highs and the lowest lows. My daughter turned thirteen, she is the light of our lives, delighting me, my husband and our son. Jane has brought us nothing but joy for thirteen years. I wouldn’t know how to be angry with her for an extended time.

On Jane’s birthday we had a special treat, Mama Lucy, Leah, Gideon, Stacey and Sanjay showed up for a three day visit. We can’t quite figure out a way to get us all to Africa, but it was with overflowing hearts that our family from Arusha came to stay with us.

On Jane’s birthday I got news, crushing news, that my friend Lisa Kelly had died. I don’t have words for it. Lisa was a neonatologist, an accomplished woman at the top of her field who saved babies every day. Baby savers aren’t supposed to die young. Women who never stop smiling aren’t supposed to die young. The world needed Lisa, and now there’s a void.

lisa kelly team in training

I was shocked but I stuffed it. I wasn’t going to ruin Jane’s birthday, and I know that Lisa would have understood that.

I spent Friday with Mama Lucy and the kids. I cried a lot, mostly from joy but perhaps some sadness and fear crept in. Friday night we celebrated Mama Lucy and Epic Change, this morning everyone left and it was back to high gear with BlogWorld Expo, soccer, baseball and Jane’s birthday celebration.

Now it’s quiet, and being in a hotel leaves me with no busywork to distract me from my feelings, so I’ll lay still and wait for sleep to get me. I fear that when I finally cry I won’t be able to stop. I’ll start soon, but not today. 

Neighborhoods, Deaths and Fear

10.28.11

This week our neighbor died. We used to live exactly across the street from him but now we live around the corner. He was one of the first people to know our children and I had the privilege of watching his children turn into adults.

He daughter was our babysitter, and his son was the produce manager at my local market, his wife teaches at the kids’ school and it brings me joy to see her each day. During the last eleven years I looked forward to bumping into my neighbor, we would have nice chats about our families. I always left him feeling a little lighter, happier.

He died unexpectedly, there was no illness or injury that I know of. His widow has asked for privacy and I want to respect that.

I bought an African Violet and a condolence card. I left both of these things on her front doorstep, but only after keeping them in my house for almost two days.

For two days the African Violet sat by my front door and the card was next to it. The card was empty, now that I  think about it I may have forgotten to remove the price tag from the plant. I thought about what to write. “With love from,” didn’t seem like enough but too much seemed like too much in an totally inexplicable way.

I decided to write a note to the three of them and tell them how their father and husband had touched my life. Handwriting is extraordinarily difficult for me as arthritis has taken much of the function from the first two fingers on my right hand.

Part of me hopes that the Violet lives as long as her grief, another part of me hopes she smashes it into the bottom of a trash can.

So now I’m crying and trying to write and trying to not make a mistake because I only have one condolence card and condolence cards are among the most horrible of all cards. They say too much and they say the wrong thing.

I was sad that my neighbor died, no doubt. I love the family he left behind, but we weren’t very close, he and I. What was scary, what terrified me (and perhaps others) was that he died at the wrong time. He was supposed to be there for his daughter’s wedding and his son’s graduations. He was supposed to grow old with his wife and tend to their grandchildren. He was supposed to be in the driveway when I walked the dog and we were supposed to chat too long making us both very late. He was supposed to always be there as that nice but quiet man with the really great family.

There’s this hole in the neighborhood and I don’t have very good words to describe it.

Someone I Love has Alzheimers

08.3.11

I think with this horrible disease there are many small deaths.

There’s the death of hope, and then the gradual death of independence, now there’s the death of midlife memory and soon there will be more steps. Parts of it used to be funny because they knew they were forgetting and they were still very happy.

It sort of stopped being funny, because you all have to giggle together or it’s just cruel. Now it’s just very upsetting and it shatters my faith.

Writing Our Own Obituaries

05.4.11

This morning I went hiking with another blogger and we both lamented the amount of time blogging takes from life. I have no great need to write. I could walk away from writing at any time, or so I tell myself.

She has a need to connect and to create. I have a need for solitude, blogging is good for solitude. I want to be with my friends and my family. I don’t necessarily want new friends, I’m cautious that way.

Then this morning Drew shared this link with me. It begins with:

Here it is. I’m dead, and this is my last post to my blog. In advance, I asked that once my body finally shut down from the punishments of my cancer, then my family and friends publish this prepared message I wrote—the first part of the process of turning this from an active website to an archive.

If you knew me at all in real life, you probably heard the news already from another source, but however you found out, consider this a confirmation: I was born on June 30, 1969 in Vancouver, Canada, and I died in Burnaby on May 3, 2011, age 41, of complications from stage 4 metastatic colorectal cancer. We all knew this was coming.

It is a beautiful tribute to family and to fatherhood. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the blog, but anxious about it too because there is a clear ending.

When my Grandmother died my mother wrote her obituary and she felt conflicted, because sometimes my Grandmother wasn’t happy or kind. My Grandmother broke the day her brother died in World War Two and although she was pieced together, rage simmered through the cracks. The Rabbi, the very kind Rabbi, told my mother that we write our own obituaries. The people left behind are simply sharing it with the world.

I don’t know that this will make me better, kinder or gentler. I can’t guarantee that I’ll be more introspective or generous. I do know that I’m living the life I’ve painstakingly created, and it’s good. I can make it better because ultimately we all write our own obituaries.