Tuesday, January 30, 2007

So what the hell...?

So I took a little break from blogging. Felt a little burnt out blog-wise – a little under whelmed, a little over-Bushed. More than a little Cheney-ed.
So the truth is Christmas and New Year are always difficult holidays for me and this year for the first time, I didn’t feel alone. (Not that I’m not aware that there aren’t squillions of people suffering the emotional equivalent of the tortures of the damned, just that my closest friends are – surprisingly enough – pretty centered and no matter their spiritual stripe, tend to take the holidays in stride. I really do think I am comic relief for most people…)
So this most recent festive season, besides the lack of jolly snow, the near-tropical temperatures (that was then, this is now…) and the television and radio advertisements that began before Halloween with their ice-pick to the brain repetition, there was a different vibe; a near-universal aversion to the week of self-indulgence, useless gifts and It’s a Wonderful Life. Everyone seemed to be saying: “If I can just get through it… it’s only a few more days… 2007 has GOT to be better…” and various other sentiments in a similar vein.
So it quite cheered me up. My spirits were actually somewhat buoyed. I felt that rare sense of smug suitability that comes from hanging with the majority.
So as it turned out then, the holidays passed relatively painlessly, I got a few presents I am likely to use, I enjoyed the laughter and company of some seriously decent friends, and the stroke of midnight came and went without that familiar frisson of fear that, to the contrary, 2007 might turn out to be unbelievably, cataclysmically worse.
So then I got to go away to a tropical paradise for a week with a giggle of lovely girlfriends.
And SO, dear readers who are still with me, so it didn’t matter that for the single week we graced Nassau with our lily-white presence the skies turned grey, the winds picked up, the surf got rough and the sand went medieval on our asses, scouring our bodies and shooting into our ears and up our noses like an exfoliation gone terribly, terribly wrong. Did we care? We did not. We played cards, watched old episodes of Ab Fab and Black Adder, screened All About Eve for the thousandth time, drank, danced and read. At one particular hair-letting-down session, I actually picked up some surprising (and heretofore unheard of) sex tips, that should God see fit to bestow upon me the appropriate partner, I fully intend to make use of.
So who could ask for anything more?
So as it turned out, by the time we got home, (by which time the Bahamian weather had done an about face and was once again delighting and tanning the masses) we could have hoped for quite a lot less.
So one of our number returned home to the end of her relationship. An engagement begun just over a month before with fanfare and diamond ring and announcements presented to separate groups like a hockey team (not the Leafs) on tour with the Stanley Cup. There was and is no explanation. There was and will be no discussion. She hadn’t even unpacked her suitcase before she was loaded down with the baggage of this particularly horrible fait accompli.
So I don’t suppose I need to go into how completely gorgeous and kind and dear and undeserving of this she is, but trust me, she is. Could this mountebank (I feel a little Conrad Blackishness come over me at the strangest moments) EVER hope to meet a woman of equal qualities? I am happy to report that without question he never, ever will.
So then another of our number, my dear beloved friend came back to a test we were all expecting, but one for which we had high hopes would have benign results.
So many of us have different types of friends and acquaintances for whom we (and they) provide different functions and joys. One group of friends, for instance, I mostly play with – charades, quizzes, Trivial Pursuit-type stuff. Another bunch are my volunteering friends – people who I meet and laugh and interact with almost exclusively at the hospital. A third group are a sort of going-out-with group; not everyone wants to dress up and go to smart clubs and dance and quaff too-expensive drinks, but some do – and when I’m in the mood, these are the perfect souls with whom to do it.
So then there are the dearest, most beloved of friends, the ones who share intimacies, fears, frights and the deepest belly laughs. This is one such friend.
So she has cancer. As long as I’ve known her she’s had cancer. But because she is who she is, she’s never been ‘cancer girl’. It’s just an annoying, slightly terrifying fact that comes up regularly with trips to oncologists and radiologists and surgeons, who inspect and poke and draw substances out of her body with a nonchalance that comes with overlong familiarity.
So I am this friend’s memory. Along with a couple of bits and pieces of innards, any sense that her body is a private entity and any self-consciousness she might once have harboured, she’s lost her memory somewhat, and with what remains, the natural fear that comes from facing the horrors yet again, she finds it difficult to remember the questions she wants the answers to, reactions to recent miracle cures mentioned in newspaper articles, dates of past appointments, operations, scans, blood drawings and various other personal invasions. So I come. I take notes, I listen and ask the questions she can’t remember or is too afraid to ask. It works for us.
So I was with her when the latest in a long line of specialists entered the cold little exam room to give her the results of her most recent test, the one that told us that the cancer has returned for the fourth time.
(So not that it matters now, but I have to say I continue to be amazed at the rock bottom sense of empathy many medical professionals still come unequipped with; I thought it was an old story – the doctor who comes in, dumps hideous news on a terrified patient then escapes out the door (no doubt to do it to someone else) without an expression of sorrow, a word of encouragement or a glimmer of humanity. It’s not an old story. It’s the same old story.)
So we are frightened. We are horrified and disbelieving and shocked that three was not the bloody charm, that four has come to bite us on the collective ass with a sharpness that takes our breath and our cozy comfort away.
So I love her and I'm sick at heart.
So here we go again.