All I Can Do is Write

I hate Cancer. I had it and got lucky. I beat it, just in time.

I hear about it so much on social media that I just get angry. Dammit! It’s not fair. I have lost friends and relatives. I read about children who have it. It’s not fair. The treatments are getting better (as mine was), but there is always someone else who can’t beat it even though they try with every ounce of strength in their bodies.

Later, we read, this person lost their battle with cancer. Just wait a darn minute! How do we fight something inside our body that we can’t see? Advantage, cancer. Not fair!

I remember having my last appointment with my doctor after surgery. There was a woman at the counter who had been successful, and she whooped it up, but I saw another woman in the corner who clearly wasn’t doing so well. I mentally sent her good thoughts, but I wanted to hug her. Of course I couldn’t. I remembered people doing that to me, and although they only meant well, I didn’t want a hug.

I wanted to run after the loud woman and ask her if she know what she had done to the woman in the corner wearing the bright head scarf.

I got lucky, but I tried to leave the doctor’s waiting room as quietly as possible.

To anyone, anyone fighting, I send my love.

 

 

Sports and Other Oddities

Girls were just beginning to be encouraged to play sports in the late 1960s. I had half athletic genes from my Dad, but my mother broke her collar bone trying to execute a forward roll during high school gym class. It was gym class, not P.E., and the teacher was the gym teacher, of course. Today, most athletic teachers hate the term “gym.” I just hate the whole subject. Everything we did was prescribed for us, and thank goodness the sexes were separated in high school.

In the fall, we played softball. I couldn’t figure out if I was a leftie or a rightie, because no one had taught me how to hold the bat until the gym teacher yelled at me to use my dominant hand. (“No, Sonya, the other side of the base!”) The first time my bat connected with the ball, I threw the bat and got tossed out of the game. I didn’t do it on purpose. I was just so surprised I hit something! Being in the outfield was worse. We didn’t have gloves to catch the balls flying everywhere, and I backed away from the falling balls instead of trying to catch them. It must have been hilarious to watch me as I cowered down when a softball started to descend near me.

It’s funny now, but I still stay away from flying softballs and other objects. Even in a room, if someone yells, “Here! Catch!” I hold my hands out uselessly. Sometimes I get lucky enough to catch it with my body. It’s not that I think catching things is a required skill in life. I just remember the hoots of laughter (even the gym teacher) when I couldn’t manage the ball.

Guess who was picked last for gym teams.

I think if I had made up my mind to catch the ball, I could have done it, but my head said, “You idiot! What are you trying to do? Be a baseball player?” It was impossible.

**********

There was something I was good at in gym class: square dancing. I swung my partner and do-si-do’d all over the gym floor. I loved it; as far as I was concerned, we could have done that all year. My secret desire to take dancing lessons had come true! Unfortunately, square dancing lasted only a few short weeks, and then the boys went back to their side of the gym, and the girls to theirs. It would be mid-winter by then, and I knew what was coming next: gymnastics.

In the next gym class, the floor would be outfitted with a balance beam, trampoline, uneven bars, and something the teachers called a “horse.” I had watched the Olympics, so I knew how athletes were supposed to use this equipment. We were beginners, but there were always a few girls in my class every year who were good at everything. Everything. And they knew it.

“Please, Miss Loren, please! Can I show how to do a cartwheel and split?”

“Well, Jenny, you may, but remember girls, not everyone can do this!”

And with that caveat, Jenny would do cartwheels and handsprings and double forward rolls and end in a split that earned her the applause and attention she sought. I cowered in the corner and prayed for my period to start and last for several weeks so I could get out of gymnastics. It never worked.

 

Go Ahead and Cry

I have always considered myself a glass half-empty girl. If someone demanded that I put myself in one space or another, it would have to be introvert. Since I have had depression most of my life, that’s quite natural. I’d rather read than play outside, and I still feel that way.

But since my depression spiraled me down so low in the last five years, and I bounced off the bottom of the well, I have become a crier. I believe that when I was a child, I was told to stuff my feelings  down and not cry.

I remember clearly, the afternoon after my sister had been hit by a car when my grandma Lilly came to my classroom to pick me up. I had no idea what had happened, but one look at my grandmother’s face scared me. As my teacher helped me with my coat, my eyes never left grandma’s face, and finally, as I stepped near to her she whispered, “Deanna was hit by a car. She’s in the hospital.” As my teacher helped me with my coat, I began to tear up, but grandma told me not to cry, and she took my arm as we walked away.

I don’t remember much after that. Deanna had a concussion but wasn’t hurt badly. She got flowers and a lot of cards from her classmates, and I believe she might still have a small scar near her eyebrow.

It was my sister, hurt.

But I wasn’t allowed to cry about it.

So I didn’t.

And now, I am crying about a lot of moments. Yesterday, I cried while I watched John McCain’s daughter speak. I also cried when the military men carried the coffin and gave a slow salute to honor the dead Senator. Maybe I am making up for it. There are a lot of sad things in the universe, and I am crying about them.

Parking Garages: Convenient or Confusing Hell?

Sometimes I forget about what scares me until I have to do it Twice in the last week I have had to use a parking garage.

Oh, big deal. Yeah, I know some of you use them daily, so you are immune to the dangers.

I hate parking garages! They speak to my claustrophobic tendencies in a way that is almost too horrible to describe. They are dark. They echo. They have confusing exit signs. They direct you to drive around until you are certain you have entered a parallel universe. There is a mechanical arm blocking your entrance and exit. You must take a ticket, and like the Pennsylvania Turnpike, if you lose the ticket, you will pay the MAXIMUM AMOUNT. They never tell you what the maximum amount is. What if you don’t have it? And speaking of money, how is it fair that my time begins when I get past the mechanical arm and not when I finally find a parking space?

Parking in a city garage is like driving your car in an unmarked cave of doom. My city even has the parking thrill ride of a twisted spiral in order to exit! Round and round and round. Reminds me of a hated art teacher I once had. And if you don’t move fast enough, the guy in back of you becomes a ogre and beeps his horn. Which of course, because he is going to ride my bumper and squeal his tires on purpose.

“C’mon lady! I ain’t got all day here!”

I continue to creep, stomping on my brakes at every turn, until, there it is…a perfect space. I start to pull in and see the sign. “Parking is only for residents.” Well, who would want to live here anyway?

So, usually I end up on the rooftop where there is no one, but I can let my car get some air. Frequently, it is either raining or snowing. This adds to the ambiance which I try to enjoy until I find the elevator down.

Before that, I take a picture of my level, but in one garage that didn’t help because I was on third level to park and had to go down to the second level to find the walking bridge. I was fine until I wanted to take a bag out to my car. Third level. I walked all over the hotel trying to find the walking bridge until I just gave up and waited to ask the bartender. I tipped her for the information.

When I finally found the exit, there was no attendant, and I had to figure out how to insert my parking card and pay. I swear the same guy was behind me: “Lady!” I opened my window and told him to calm down, not nicely. Then I turned the corner, and there was the street at the bottom of a long steep descent. Who designs these garages? Stephen King? Oh, the horror!

 

 

 

Waiting for the School Bell

As I write today, I realize why my moods have been introspective, and I have had to fight the Bad Critic when I thought I have been experiencing a reprieve. I woke up Sunday morning, and like two big globs of dark jelly, depression hit me hard in the face.

There’s no reason for this, I thought. I don’t have to go back to school to teach. My summer can continue for a bit. Of course, I remain a grad student, but I have no books to stack, no pencils and pens to stash and no bulletin boards to dream up.

Can we do a big Homer Simpson “Doh!”

I have been going back to school every year since 1990. I knew this moment was coming, but I thought I wouldn’t be affected. I remain a student. What’s up with this, Bad Critic?

By Sunday afternoon, I retreated to my safe place, where I don’t have to think. I napped for three hours. Three hours? Seriously, that cannot be healthy. But the reality is, my world has changed over the summer, and I walked out of the classroom. I said good-bye and cried a little, but I wasn’t expecting the Bad Critic to show up two weeks before school even starts here in the city.

I guess it all goes back a lot of years to when I was a kid, jumping up and down and anxious for school to start. New everything: clothes, lunch box, papers, pencils, everything. I mostly loved school all of my life. Regina, who lives next door, told me she was excited to go school shopping, too. I asked her if she would miss summer, and she said, “No! I’m sick of my brothers!”

Okay then. I’m going to be just a little school-sick, instead of homesick.

When I know why I’m feeling the way I do, I can get out of the depression easier. For example, when I was driving alone on the highway last Sunday, I yelled, “Get out. Leave me alone!” And you know what, it worked.

Happy Back to School, and listen to the school bell (buzzer). You might miss it one day.

Eddie

Eddie was born at a farm north of where we live. I picked him because he was male and mostly white. Our cat already at home was dark in color. The two boys got along well, except Eddie was more like a person, and he got very lazy just like his brother Henry after an important visit to the vet.

So why am I writing about a cat? There are already so many pet stories everywhere. Eddie didn’t do anything remarkable or save a life. I don’t know of any cat that has saved a life. Eddie was just normal, fur everywhere, afraid to go outside, but he did love yogurt. He also talked a lot. You know what I mean. He meowed but it sounded more human.

Last October, Eddie had a seizure. I knew what people seizures were and had even witnessed one, but poor Eddie just flip-flopped on the floor, so out of control, we just watched in horror until he stopped moving. Then we would clean him up and hold him until he stopped shaking. I hoped this was a one-time occurrence.

It wasn’t. And it got worse.

When we got him to the vet, he had a seizure in the examining room. Afterwards, the doctor held him, ran some tests, and gave him some medicine. We hoped it would work, but the doctor told us to take Eddie to the emergency pet hospital overnight so he could be watched.

“We will do our best,” said the doctor, “but if he has a seizure even with the medicine…well….”

“I know,” I said. “We will have to make a decision.”

At three am, I got a call from the emergency vet. Eddie was still having seizures, no matter what medicine they gave him.

By the time we got to the hospital, Eddie was blind.

The doctor brought him to us, carefully laying him on the table. He was wrapped in a blanket and one of his front paws was wrapped in gauze with an IV. We all looked at each other, and my daughter couldn’t speak. My husband didn’t say anything because Eddie was my cat. I had to do it.

“We have to say goodbye to Eddie,” I said.

The doctor nodded and gave us some time before he returned. We all stroked the little white cat and I spoke into his ear so he would know we were there.  It only took moments for the final medicine to stop his heart.

I have his ashes in a wooden box with his name on it. The vet nurse also made a plaster imprint of his paw. When I collected these from the hospital a few days later, my daughter wanted me to put them away. She could not yet look at them.

I was and still am unable to tell Eddie’s story without crying, so if this were a piece of paper, you wouldn’t be able to read it. I have been lucky in life and had never said goodbye to a pet before, and it startled me to feel the grief.

Last Monday, my daughter bought a tiny wooden easel and said she was going to put Eddie’s paw print on it,  Yesterday she asked me to write about him. And so I have.

You may not believe me, but Eddie is still in the house. I see him out of the corner of my eye. It could be one of the other cats or Henry. (We adopted two cats that lost their home in hurricane Irma.) But I think it’s Eddie.

 

 

Jeans and Emojis? I’m Lost

I am very irregular. If I were a pair of jeans, I would be too wide in the waist, too long in the inseam, and all the pockets would be sewn shut. I would wear them anyway and spend the day pulling up my jeans and trying to find a belt that didn’t dig into my stomach when I sat down.

In fact, aren’t jeans somewhat a measure of ourselves? Go into a big store and look for jeans and you will find shelf after shelf of blue jeans: acid washed (that’s) scary; stone washed; straight leg; boot cut; elastic waist; comfort fit (whatever that means), but no more bell bottoms.

I’m not seeing pretty today. I’m having a pity party for myself (and my jeans). No emojis.I think we are beginning to use emojis to replace words in our language. We have already invented a sub-language with text abbreviations. OMG! LOL! Are these passe? If so then they were slang and not a dialect of English. I think emojis might became a kind of universal language. Seriously. From the hated and abused smiley face to the hundreds of choices that appear on my phone. Sometimes they add emphasis and sometimes they show laziness. OMG! I forgot to answer that text. Oh well, here’s a quick emoji for you 😊. I put a period afterwards because I thought it was the proper thing to do, but maybe we don’t need punctuation anymore, either.

Is there an emoji for a sigh?🤨