Friday, August 22, 2003
i remember many of life's little revelations in startling detail. moments where i realized things, moments where i was frightened by things, moments that changed my life forever. i'm going to offer up three of them to you - three epiphanies. two of them are true as north. one of them is a baldfaced lie. good luck.
although my family is nomadic and thrown-to-the-wind, i've always been very close to my maternal grandmother. i feel very intensely, the strand handed down to me, the strong firm line of femininity that my grandmother jean passed to my mother patricia, who passed it to me. she died when she was ninety five years old, after years of going in and out of the hospital. i was fifteen. i was living in kenya, and my mother called from brasil to tell me she was dead. i walked out to the yard. it was dusk, that kenyan dusk where the sun seems reluctant to set, and lingers sensually on the landscape, dripping off cupped leaves onto rich dirt, sparkling in water droplets from a leaky faucet. i noticed all of this, when i knew my grandmother was dead. i thought about her - about her long brown hair, her quiet way of speaking. i thought about how she'd lived a life of near-servitude, taking care of ten children, being an almost wordlessly obedient wife to my grandfather, and still being so kind and tender and full of laughter. i thought about her face, and her stories, and i couldn't feel sad. i stood there in our yard, feeling very very guilty over my lack of sorrow. but her death, her disappearance from the face of the known earth, it meant so little! i mean, she was there, and then she was gone, but she was still in my memory, so what did it mean that she was dead? i stood under a tree in our backyard as i asked myself these questions, as i felt guilty, terribly guilty, for my lack of tears. i stood there under that tree and felt alive - felt blood rushing through my veins, felt the instinctive way my body held its balance, felt the goosebumps form on my arm from a breeze, felt my bare toes clutching that red dirt. this is alive, i realized. even standing still, it's a chaotic tumbling enterprise and it requires the constant movement and revolution of atoms and molecules and vessels and carbons and... life is busy. it's .. what do they call it in science .. perpetual motion.
so then, the opposite of this - is nothing. the opposite of cold or hot is no temperature at all. the opposite of breathing is empty lifeless lungs, the opposite of feeling is void, the opposite of life is nothingness. that's death, i thought. that's where grandma jean is. stopped. still. dead. that's when i cried, under the tree in our yard. i cried for the blood that rushed through my veins, i cried over the joy of moving my toes at a neuron command from my brain, i cried for the many years i had still to live, years full of senses, years full of blood-rushing-in-veins, and because that rushing, that perpetual motion, had stopped for grandma jean. she stood still - i kept moving.
i had always taken my family for granted. because my parents had almost wordlessly done everything they'd promised to do for me, it never occurred to me how very great their sacrifices had been, how very heavy their choices had weighed. they were simply my parents - two people who usually made me a little crazy and doted on me. they weren't the first people i went to when i needed help - that post was foolishly reserved for friend/companion/boyfriend du jour. they weren't the two people i loved the most in the world - they were merely the people i'd loved the longest. but when i was twenty-one, my world fell apart. personally, i was going through my own hell, that late summer of 2001. then, the world really fell down, in a nightmare of dust and glass and screams. that week, i had come to the point where my own bad decisions had left me painted into a corner. i won't tell you what, because those decisions are private, but trust me when i say - i'd fucked up good and proper. and the morning after 9/11, when it became atrociously clear that i had left myself up shit creek with no salvation paddle, i picked up the phone.
"mom? dad? i messed up. bad. and i need your help."
they did exactly what i should have expected them to do, all along. they helped. without a word of judgement [they could see i'd judged myself enough] and without a thought for themselves [wasn't i always the apple of their eyes?]. they helped me. their only criticism was that i should have come to them sooner. it was then i realized that they were, and had been, and would always be, my first and last line of defense against the world, that it was them i should love and cherish more than anyone because they were the only sure thing in this world for me. it was at that moment, being hugged by my mother after she drove five hours to come help me, that i finally believed what they'd been telling me all along - everyone else, everything else, will come and go, but the love between parent and child is beyond forever.
i led a rather sheltered, spoiled life. i'll be the first to admit it. i was shuffled around from country to country, with everything a little girl could want. i had other people in my life, sure, but they were transient vapors of people. i didn't think about their lives nearly as much as i thought about what it'd be like to own my own pony, or whether willy wonka was real, or how to build the perfect treehouse. when i was fourteen, my mother and i were spending the summer in new york and we stopped at the big post office on 34th street while running errands. my mother went inside and i sat on the steps, warming myself in the summer sun. i watched a few people walk by, but i don't remember thinking of anything spectacular when the revelation hit me. it just did - smacked me in the chest with a brute force.
every single person walking by me, right now, has an entire complicated painful joyful life. they're all ... completely whole people.
this may sound like an absurdly asinine thing to realize at fourteen while sitting at a post office. but up until then, other people had simply been... props. in MY life. then suddenly, watching a woman's face as she walked by, chewing her lip in thought, i realized: she probably had a husband. and kids. maybe a stressful job. maybe she'd been adopted. maybe she was worried about her cat, who'd thrown up his breakfast that morning. perhaps, this woman was an actress, and she was practicing a sad face for an audition. it didn't matter what it was that crossed her face at that moment, what mattered was - i realized the vast complexity of this world. how each of us travels through life surrounded by our hopes, fears, desires, connections, loves, hates, pasts. each one of us, i realized sitting on those steps, was just as complicated as me. whoa.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2003
from: the powers that be
to: the rest of the universe
re: krissa is the new job!
we (the PTB) were thinking. you know how we gave krissa appendicitis during a week when she had 2 dates, a jewelry sale, and a play to watch that weekend, and a birthday party to plan for the following weekend?
and you know how we compounded things by causing a major blackout in the northeast so she not only missed out on blackout new york fun, but also didn't get to see her friends?
and you know how this whole thing has made her quit smoking because being in the hospital freaked her out so much she never wants to be sick ever ever again?
we don't think that was enough. by jove, she's still perky! that's not RIGHT, man. so we were thinking....
HOW ABOUT GIVING HER AN INFECTION IN HER LEFT ARM!? you know, where the IV was stuck for five days? YEAH! an INFECTION! in her ARM! and she'll have to go on TRIPLE the antibiotics! and she'll have to WEAR HER ARM IN A SLING, you know, to prevent ... THROMBOSIS!
*brief pause while PTB laugh themselves silly and wet their pants with general collective merriment*
man, us powers that be, we slay ourselves sometimes. now, universe ... MAKE IT SO!
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Monday, August 18, 2003
to clear the smoky air....
yes, i am no longer an active smoker. this does not mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that i am a NON SMOKER. i hold my stance that smokers are more fun than nonsmokers. as such, i will be calling myself:
a Non-Smoking Smoker.
that is all.
p.s. BOY do i want a cigarette right now.
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Sunday, August 17, 2003
sliced and diced
i have no blackout stories. here's why.
tuesday, 8/12: cigarettes: 10 showers: 1 food: slim fast shake for lunch. had i known i wasn't going to eat for three days, i would have had a steak. went to work. promptly came home at 3 with pains in belly area making me walk like i had to poop severely. cab driver back to queens must have thought i was going to have a baby in his car. wish it HAD been a baby - at least with babies, the pain is somewhat worth it. got home. took peptobismol. promptly retched peptobismol. scratched head and thought, hmm, rather ironic, no, throwing up belly-calming pink stuff... let's call mommy. called Personal Physician [mother]. mother made soothing yet panicked noises and threw around words like "appendix" and "burst" and "surgery" and "ER". convinced patient to drag self to dreaded purgatory known as emergency room. hung up phone. cried cried cried, wailed like starving infant, heaving racking sobs. realized unlike infant, no one would come when i cried. shook off tears. went to ER. cried a lot at the ER. was ignored a lot at the ER. mom and dad show up at 11. throw up more stuff, entire bottle of liquid grossness required for CT scan, to be precise. sleep, fitfully, while Mother wages crusade against unfeeling devil-people of the ER to get me into a private room.
ED NOTE: FUL CAME TO VISIT ME IN THE ER AT LIKE, MIDNIGHT. I REPEAT. FUL. VISITED ME. BECAUSE HE WUV, WUV, WUVS ME.
wednesday, 8/13: cigarettes: none, woe woe. showers: none. food: none, unless you count the incredibly painful needle sticking out of my arm and connecting me to a bag of "food". which i don't. jason came by and brought flowers. was deliriously happy to see jason. then had surgery. laperoscopy, to be precise. doctors/nurses/aides all of foreign persuasion. while i am open-minded et al, it's annoying when i can barely understand directives/diagnoses/etc. laperoscopy left me with three holes, a groggy brain, weak legs, a tube in my nose, and yellow skin. wasn't allowed to get up, and was thus subjected to ignomity of bedpan. on the plus side, there was morphine. rah rah rah.
thursday, 8/14: cigarettes: YOU KNOW I DIDN'T HAVE ONE. showers: none, and hair was starting to form sculptures. food: none. well, food was EATEN, it was just promptly thrown UP again. thursday sucked. ate jello - threw it up. took percaset - threw it up everywhere (even on beloved teddy bear. poor teddy). i mean, PERCASET! i threw up every celebrity's favorite painkiller addiction! a little part of matthew perry DIED when i retched that little green pill. only highlights of day: jason visiting and tons and tons of loving phone calls from people all over new york, america, and the globe. blackout only affects me insomuch as ful and shiv cannot come visit, and i don't have airconditioning or TV. slept well that night, probably due to copious amounts of morphine. mmmmm morphine.
friday, 8/15: cigarettes: baahhhh. showers: eww. getting stinky. food: finally held down the jello. still, all i've had to eat is jello, for crying out loud. this is the day i decide that hospitals absolutely suck. my new roommate is nearly catatonic and her machine beeps all the time, fit to make me crazy. i eat jello. woo HOO. i stop taking the morphine. walk up and down the depressing hallways, clutching my swollen belly and taking china-doll, fragile steps. hair disgustingness is reaching catastrophic states. beg Foreign Doctorman to send me home. barely understand Foreign Doctorman's response. highlights include: being visited by beth and josh, mom giving me a washcloth-bath, and catching an hour of buffy on TV. lowlights: STILL BEING IN THE HOSPITAL, feeling silly being a grown woman and being washclothed by my mother, Beeping Catatonic Roommate's little moany noises.
saturday, 8/17: cigarettes: sigh. at this point, you realize, i've decided to just quit. showers: none until i get home to rhode island that night. hair has already formed revolution plan. food: TURKEY SANDWICH! new house doctor speaks fluent english, hurrah! has funny hairlip scar, but who cares? when he says i can go home after i eat solid food, i almost asked him to marry me. still walking like stupid invalid, still wearing stupid ugly gown, still being driven crazy by Beeping Roommate, but at least i get to go home! dad feeds me turkey sandwich from local deli, nurses laugh at my constant pestering for discharge papers, mom and dad have frantic near-arguments about how to arrange picking me up, and finally, i see sunlight and fresh air for the first time since tuesday. drive home to rhode island. get pampered. rinse. repeat.
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