Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Life and Hard Times of a Raggedy Ann and Andy alarm clock

One of the first must-have gifts I remember one of my kids wanting was a Raggedy Ann and Andy alarm clock. I don't know how old Jennifer was at the time, but her age certainly wasn't in double digits, most likely six or seven.

Why did she need an alarm clock? She didn't. She wanted an alarm clock. Big difference. Why did it have to be a Raggedy Ann and Andy alarm clock? Not sure, but instead of an actual alarm ringing, the two characters would shout out happy phrases to get you to wake up. My personal favorite was “Please get up, brush your teeth and start your Happy Day.”

I hated that clock. I hated it a lot. In order for it to wake Jennifer up, the volume had to cranked... to an 11. This meant of course, that it woke me up as well. Day after day: “Andy. Andy please wake up. It's time to call your friends.” “Please get up, brush your teeth and start your Happy Day.” I wasn't much of a morning person then and being awakened by the falsely chipper, condescending, plastic screeching of two pre-adolescents who spoke in sentence fragments and wouldn't shut up through numerous snoozes didn't help.

This went on for what seemed like months, until one morning I heard Ann, chipper as all get out as usual: “Andy. Andy please wake up, it's time to call your friends.” Then nothing. Silence. It was a little worrisome because Jennifer would usually kick in some sentence fragments of her own, mostly having to do with not wanting to get up at just that moment. Time passed, then Andy: “Okay, Ann, I'm awake. Let's shout it out once more.” There was a vocal reaction to that. It was muffled and raspy, but it seemed to suggest shouting was the exact wrong way to go right at that moment. Silence.

“Please get up, brush you tee........” Halfway through my favorite morning welcome I heard the unmistakable whirring sound of plastic being flung with great velocity, followed by a combination bang/cracking/spronging sounds as the object hit the wall, then... broken bits/ shrapnel? falling to the floor.

Even from another room, it was obvious that Ann wouldn't be telling us to call our friends any more, or encouraging proper dental hygiene. So, I walked over to Jen's room. Oh the humanity! I was completely unprepared for the carnage: springs and other clock doodads lay everywhere; there... was an Andy leg; here... one of Ann's hands; the perpetual smile on Andy's head just looked gruesome as it sat atop a Pooh doll; Ann's torso had landed on some clock piece that continued to move and took her torso with it... I can't even tell you what that looked like.

As a parent, I should have been outraged, but I was so happy to see the end of that clock it would have been hypocritical to lecture. So, I just asked what happened.

“I'm not sure,” she said and it was obvious she wasn't. “I just couldn't listen anymore. I have a bunch of tests today and that's what I'm getting up to face. Not calling my friends, not brushing my teeth and starting my happy day. The next thing I know, Andy and Ann bits are scattered all over the floor.... And Dad... I was happy”

Well, I was happy too. Instead of telling her that though, I probably reached into “The Great Big Book of Things Dads Need to Say, Even if They Don't Believe Them.” Platitudes, in other words. The fact that I would do it differently now doesn't really change that it's all I had then. Sorry, Jen.

As it will, my memory took its circuitous route through the experiences of my past, and the other morning it brought me the Raggedy Ann and Andy alarm clock story while I was laying in bed taking my morning inventory of how I feel, spitting the memory onto the covers, like your cat bringing you the mouse it had caught for you overnight. See, knowing that clock was going to go off and be annoying brought a small dose of anxiety to my mornings. I think it was the anxiety that was the common denominator, making the story more applicable than I would have thought.

Currently, my morning inventory involves reviewing pretty much the same items each day, always beginning with my ribs.

That's where this whole journey began, after all, checking on a broken rib after being attacked by bees. There's always pain in my ribs. Sometimes it's a lot, but usually it's a little. It's always there though and I do believe my “bee” rib cracked for the third time the other day. Sounds painful, no doubt, and it was the second time I felt it snap. This time, though, not so much.

Then it's on to the rash that's a side effect of my chemotherapy. As soon as I started taking the medicine again, the rash reappeared. This time, though, it's nowhere near as bad as it was. Last time it felt like my skin was being burned; this time it's just a slight itch in only a couple of places. Woo hoo.

Next, I check on things that only bother me off and on, to see if the day is an on day. Usually that means my sternum and my stomach. I can't discern any constant in why they should or should not bother me, so my guess is that stress is involved.

The morning inventory always ends with a visit inside my head; Think Central. Like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, I never know what I'm going to find in there. My brain certainly causes me the most distress because, while the rest of the inventory deals with what is actually happening, given half the chance, my brain will make stuff up, just because it can.

That, in itself, would be okay if it ever made up stuff to help me cope: “That? Nah. That's nothing to worry about.”; “Everybody your age has something like that. Don't give it another thought.” But that's not how it works. My box of chocolates seems to be over flowing with nougats and I hate nougats: “Hey. Was that pain there yesterday? I don't think it was. ”; “Do you feel really flushed? I think I feel a wicked flush coming on and it's bringing a headache with it.” Gggggggggrrrrrrrrr.

All that remains then is to assemble all the data and decide whether or not I actually want to get out of bed and face the challenges inherent in living life with cancer for another day. So far, the answer has always been yes, but some days the chronic fatigue tells me just to stay in bed today. It's then that, God alone knows why, I hear echoes from the past: “Andy. Andy please wake up. It's time to call your friends.” “Please get up, brush your teeth and start your Happy Day.” And what's an aging, loving father whose older daughter loved her Raggedy Ann and Andy clock, until she didn't, supposed to do but get up brush his teeth and start his happy day?

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.