santa cruz wharf

19 November 2008

a new gang member

I greet the usual gang.  After four months they are as familiar in my routine as coworkers and neighbors.  Down the hall...through the doorway, I notice new faces.  Without meaning to... I catch them in an intimate moment.  Their raw emotion hooks my attention. 

Two very attractive with his eyes closed relaxing in the recliner...a blanket pulled up to his shoulders.  The other man leaning over the chair lovingly running his hands over the resting man's face...massaging his head.  Gently rubbing his shoulders.  He stands up. I can hear him apologizing sadly.  He has to leave.

He softly kisses the top of his loved one's head.  Common courtesy dictates that I should turn away, but their poignancy is riveting.  He can't help himself....he starts the therapeutic touching again.  Face, neck, chest, head.  He straightens and even from my stand point I know he can not pull himself away.  Adjusting the blanket. Checking the water bottle. Touching a cheek. Smoothing the beard. He turns to speak to someone out of my sight. He is already late and he has to leave. One last kiss and he heads towards me.

Passing next to me in the narrow hallway he catches my eye and says,"Good Morning."

There is a strident sense to his voice that is all too familiar.  He so wants this to be a good morning. I smile and say, "Hey".  I watch him scan me and then my Mama with the nurse. I watch him figuring out our gig.  He touches my arm... turns... and strides back into the chemo room.  Reaching out for the other man once again...he needs to get going....but in his face I see that he can not bear to leave.  He is torn between love and obligation.

We walk from the lab office to the doctor's office.  The man standing sees us and greets my Mama "Hello".    He watches our slow stroll....her arm through mine.  At 5' 2" I am never tall but these days I tower over her.  I have this ragg-mopp of hair...she has none.  He watches us walk by...his fingers still stroking.  I smile at him and make some typically smartass comment to the chemo staff.  They have finally become accustomed to my irreverent banter and laugh out loud. Humor is my shield. As we pass I see the man resume his affectionate goodbyes.  

After our time with Dr.A (for whom I am most thankful) we join the chemo group.  A circle of lazyboys with colorful blankets and pillows hold a half dozen warriors reclining with their poisonous IVs. Lengths of tubing. Drip bags of venom.  On days like today there is room for embedded family and friends.  As Mama gets situated I realize the anxious man is gone...and I get a first look at his loved one.

They are virtually identical...the same man a couple decades apart.  This is not his lover...this is his SON.  There is a tug on my heart. Those endearments were not that of a lover's distress... what I had witnessed was parental anguish. I feel that hot pressure threatening to flood my eyes.

I gather Mama's coat and hat to stow during treatment.  Crossing the threshold out the side door tears escape and I am ticked.  I haven't cried at chemo since the very beginning and I am not about to do so now. 

Later.  When I can think it through and control the tears.  Then I will cry for the father's torment. It has been a year of tears.

Back in the chemo room I sit between my Mama and this boy. He is well over six foot. Handsome. We exchange names.  He graduated high school in 2003 and just transferred to Sonoma State. He's read about LittleMissy. He is majoring in kinesiology....wants to be a physical therapist. I remember his father's attention.   Like my BearCub he wears those stupid ass corduroy bedroom slippers as if they are shoes.  Today is his first treatment.  He has a ream of paperwork to complete.  He needs to schedule other sessions.  A girl calls his cellphone.  He draws designs in sketch book.

I look about at the other players in our little drama.

Knitting lady who is dropped off and picked up by her husband...but her friend always joins her in the chemo room.  Usually eating...they sit and talk the entire time.  The entire time. 

The black guy who can sleep and snore through everything. A linebacker type who barely fits in the chair.  I wonder if his shiny bald head is by choice or a circumstance.

The elderly woman from my church who comes with her oldest son.  She lost her husband in January and her younger son in July. To look and talk to her you would never know of her illness or loss.

The police detective who is always reading. He carries an accordion file stuffed with work. His chemo quit working (why does it do that??)   He will transfer to Stanford for a clinical trial.

The well dressed quiet fred astaire type who seems so sad...but whose face becomes brilliant when his three year old grandson brings him lunch halfway through.

And the new kid on the block.  Chatting with me to keep the other stuff at bay. I know I will think of him...and his father for a while.  I start to sigh...then manage to take up a deep breath before the sigh has a chance to take hold.  

I've gotten pretty good at that.


crazy working mom said...

...unfortunately it seems as though more and more families are dealing with this exact same thing. Some day, there WILL be a cure and the suffering will subside!

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

You will remember this father and son the rest of your life. What a hard thing you are doing. What a hard thing. Do some things for you too. Big hug Katherine. :)

Desert Songbird said...

I feel as if I was in the room with you. I've been there with a friend, and it is tough and emotional and uplifting and unnerving and so many indescribable things.

Sending warm hugs and best wishes to you and your Mama. In some ways, I envy you - my Mama never made it this far.

Mel said...

Better poise than I--but I was in the safety of my livingroom.

Yup. Lost it when you noted it was the son.

((((((((((( katherine )))))))))))))

Well written, hard to touched places I haven't 'allowed' to be touched for a bit...dammit...

Jeff B said...

From the outside we all selfishly hope that its the other person. Not that we'd wish it on anyone, but that we wouldn't have to endure the emotions that encompass it. Your description of those sitting in the room though, clearly indicate that it could be any one of us at any time.

katherine. said...

Tish: no kidding. I don't know if it because I am older....or know so many people...but cancer is everywhere.

Sandee: I will. Sometimes it is hard...but I know so well it could be much harder. thanks.

DS: thanks. sending to you hugs thinking of your mama. I know I am blessed.

Mel: truthfully I thought of you. (but I have no poise... none... humor... and all.) Sending you much hugs back!

Jeff: as CWM was saying... there seems to be more and more families. When I hear of someone I know with cancer... I am sad...but no longer shocked.

Linda said...

Ah, Katherine ...

This post takes me back to when I was getting iron IV infusions a couple of winters ago and would be in the same room as those brave souls getting chemo. I often wondered what their stories were and what their lives were like and I would always, always, always remember that it was in that very same room that my own father received his chemo treatments.

It hurts the soul sometimes. It really does.

Akelamalu said...

I hate cancer. I wish there was a cure. :(

I'll remember all those you have written about when I'm sending Reiki. x

Bond said...

My mom told me stories about her "group" while she had to have chemo...a mini-family in a way...

Your words touched me today Katherine and you may have stifled them, but my tears flow.

Bond said...

OH and for Mama:

be strong ma'am...and my you be covered in love always

rebecca said...

this story was riveting. you are a good storyteller and my eyes began to well with the pain that poor man must have been going through. this was written so well and you captured the anguish of all -- the caretakers and the ones going through this arduous, painful trek. thank you for writing this. i will come back to read more.

blessings to you and your mom,

Odat said...

You express this soooo well. I'm going to keep your Mom in my prayers. I too use my humor to get thru things.....sometimes people think I'm really crude...but hey, it helps....Don't stop using your humor!

Mimi Lenox said...

Oh Katherine.
No words.

Travis said...

I'm selfish.


Because I was able to avoid that room during my illness. I have other stories, but I'm selfishly grateful to have avoided the anguish of the chemo room.

All my best to you and your mom.

Marilyn said...

You are so eloquent and strong. I wish there was something I could say to make it easier, but I'll keep adding you and your mama to my prayers.

I, Like The View said...

dear katherine


dear katherine

altho I'm sobbing, I found reading this so very cathartic

while my mother was ill, I never got to do any of this stuff with her

I'm so glad that you and she have this time together

as have the father and son

time together

treasure it!


david mcmahon said...

Bless the strength with which you write, Katherine

And bless those whose story you've told.

Matt-Man said...

Well while not nearly 100% effective, at least you have this vehicle as part of your therapy. Good luck to your family, Kat. Cheers!!

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

Powerful writing....your strength and bravery must run in the family...great POTD

Louise said...

So much life is packed into these words. So much realness. Well-written.

Over from Authorblog.

Anonymous said...

I have no words...they are not enough...words like, brave, courageous, caring. I must invent a new one that takes in your suffering and that of those you love, and all the people who suffer.
I hope it helps to share...all we can do is listen.

Hilary said...

Beautifully written. Father and son, daughter and mother, lovers of all kinds - the heartbreak is unimaginable. I'm so sorry that you're going through this. But you express it so eloquently. I'm here from David's.

Tina said...

What a path you walk...and you do it so well. I'm like you..humor is my armor. A smile can hide so much. god bless you and your mom and all those people in the chemo room. You bring them all more strength. I admire u!

Mimi Lenox said...

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, Katherine.
Be safe and be well.


Another Desert Rat said...

Oh, Katherine, how beautifully you write! I just ache with sadness for you and your mother and the rest of "the gang." As I count my own blessings I am sending love and hope in your direction.

Sanni said...

I'm so sorry - I have no words...


Starrlight said...

This was beautifully written, Katherine. Thank you for sharing.

Laura said...

Thanks for sharing your insights and observations. Who knows where a person's strength comes from? Does the person who needs strength give it, or share it, or take it? Is there a pool of compassion and caring that we each dip into, for ourselves or those we love?