After the Fall
September 17, 2010
I...don't really know what to write next, but a formal Internet-wide thank-you note seems appropriate, for all of your lovely and kind comments, emails and tweets. Reading them felt like...well, like an actual physical hug and actual physical arms propping me up.
Thanking each and every one of you personally would probably be the best thing to do, and a much better use of my time than what I've actually been doing. Which is...not much. A lot of staring into space. Watching cooking shows. Swiffering up our yearly mid-September ant infestation in the foyer because the wipe-out-the-colony-in-a-blaze-of-Jonestown-glory traps aren't working nearly fast enough for my liking. I've made significant progress through the box of Godiva chocolates Jason ran out to fetch me almost immediately after I got the news, but that's only because it fits so well into my established plan of sitting on the couch and staring into space.
The one thing I haven't been able to do yet is cry. Which is a weird feeling for me, because I cry over everything. TV shows, movies, commercials, any YouTube video involving a dog, news stories about the triumph of the human (and/or dog) spirit. But for the past 48 hours or so, I've been a STONE. I doubt evenSteel Magnolias (BUT MAH DAUGHTER CAAAAAN'T) or A Little Princess (PAPA! PAPAAAAA!) would trigger anything more than a snort of derision and a crack about the visible teeth marks all over the scenery.
A friend of mine called yesterday after reading my post and she immediately burst into the tears that I was unable to shed, but oh, I was so grateful for her call and the sound of her voice. She let me ramble on and on for as long as I needed, though I realized I sounded oddly military in my list of Things That Of Concern: having to explain things to Noah, for one. Ezra's young age and lack of memories. Their house, my mother, hospice care -- all of which I rattled off like logistics from a a spreadsheet before brightly mentioning that Hey! I'm getting ahead of myself. Still need to wait and see what the lab results tell us, right?
She paused, awkwardly, knowingly, and I suddenly realized what I was saying. Oh. Denial. That.
But it's true. I managed to write that entire post yesterday without really actually letting the news sink in. Like I would jinx something by talking about the obvious likely outcome. Like tomorrow's call from the lab could still magically make it all go away. Like the next time I Google acute leukemia I'm going to get a completely different set of results, so instead of a prognosis that took his age and health and medical history into account, would look at the comment numbers and Twitter outpouring and be all, "OOPS! NEVER MIND, YOU'RE SPECIAL! YOUR PROGNOSIS IS OVER HERE, BEHIND THE FREE UNICORN."
This probably would have been a good opening for that cry, but instead I just went back to work for awhile before spraying the ants with the can of super-toxic Raid that Jason doesn't know I use when he's not around because I don't think the environmentally-friendly stuff he buys does anything and I FUCKING HATE ANTS SO MUCH.
So then I decided to scan more of the old photos my mom sent me a few weeks ago. In preparation for the Move That Was Supposed To Solve Everything, she's probably spent a hundred hours over the last few months meticulously sorting through hundreds of photos, so all seven of us could receive gallon-sized Ziploc bags' worth of orange-y memories. Scanning them seemed like a nice mindless activity. Load photo. Hit button. Stare blankly at wall. Occasionally push tongue back into slack-jawed mouth. Repeat.
The latest batch are particularly hilarious -- ripe for cautionary photo essays about Jams shorts and tube socks and decade-long awkward phases -- but of course I had to start with the photos of my dad. Most of which were taken with the exotic touristy background locale in mind, so he and I are blurry squinty-eyed figures standing way too far away from the camera.
I plucked out a few that seemed to reflect my mind's memory of him -- sunglasses and a baseball cap when I was really little, then years and years of various plaid ivy caps, coats with patches on the elbows like every good high school English teacher, church clothes every Sunday. Sitting in his chair, or posing at Easter in front of the forsythias he planted so my mother wouldn't have to look at our neighbors giant RV from her beloved screened-in porch out back.
I have better photos of him, of course. Gorgeous ones from my wedding day, as I pin his corsage on in my parents' downsized townhouse living room and he escorts me down the aisle at a church they attended by I did not, anymore, at that time. And more recent ones with our digital cameras that include him and the boys, photos I could immediately check for closed eyes and bad lighting. I have photos from hospital rooms where we still made jokes and treated it like no big thing, here, hold Ezra and make a funny face for the camera. Photos of him at home, with his oxygen, lying down but smiling anyway.
I'm glad to have those photos, particularly for Noah and Ezra's sake. Ever since they were born, I've been particularly careful to take photos of them with their grandfather, because I knew. I have been walking this path of a kind of...knowing denial for years now. It's coming. Don't panic, but carry a towel. Just in case.
Right now, though, I admit I prefer the old pictures, from before I knew.
I never want to forget the before.