Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Saturday: a docudrama in three acts

The book of love is long and boring, no one can lift the damn thing
It's full charts and facts and figures and instructions for dancing
But I... I love it when you read to me,
and you..... you can read me anything

Peter Gabriel

Saturday turned out to be quite an emotional day for us, We didn't plan it that way. There were a couple of items we needed to buy and it would be the first time the two of us had been out together for at least 10 days. Win/win, baby. Well... Maybe...
The whole day unrolled like a three-act play, complete with two intermissions.

ACT ONE
In the afternoon we entered a store to make our first purchase. We were the only two people in a store which shall remain nameless, and still couldn't get waited on. Sheri finally got the attention of one of the retail personnel, who were about eight feet away from us, and told him that we needed some assistance. It seemed like a bother to him, but, to his credit, he came over and was kind enough to bring his condescending attitude with him. He also brought his phone, which he continued to play with while Sheri talked to him.
He immediately started talking down to us, a style to which I really don't respond very well.. Using as few “big” words as possible, he made a halfhearted attempt to answer Sheri's questions. When he answered “No” to the same question he had answered “Yes” just a couple of moments before, and acted like we had misheard, I put my gloves on, and started heading for the door. Using my indoor voice,thank you very much, “I wouldn't buy free air from this guy,” or something like that, and left.
I shouldn't have left Sheri in the middle of the store, but I know myself well enough to know that my outdoor voice was about to make an appearance and, trust me, no wanted to hear that. Sheri can certainly take care of herself in an awkward situation like that, but she shouldn't have had to and I felt bad about that and apologized.
As for the condescending, rude and unprofessional “customer service representative?” I did not apologize to him. Any chance of that happening one went out the window when, after she had joined me in the car, Sheri did say that the CSR had been very rude and very condescending. No apology for you mister. Besides, you started it!!

ACT TWO
There are two things Sheri and I do very little of when we're together; cry or talk about what the cancer/damaged chromosome have done to my life expectancy.
We cry plenty on our own, but being together is a time we can really talk and focus on what we're doing and what's next for my treatment, There's no crying in talk and focus!
So after the shopping shenanians, soon after we got home, I looked over and saw that Sheri was crying. “That comment really made me scared,” she said. I didn't have to ask what comment, I knew.
We had been talking about all the new medicines that will be added to my treatment, beginning Thursday, and I said something about shortening the time on the back end, shortening my life expectancy and it frightened Sheri. Hell, I'd never really spoken out loud about it and it scared me as well.
I think the big thing, though, that had us hugging harder, and crying longer, standing there in the middle of our kitchen, was that, if only for a few moments, the thought came to both of us that we could lose this fight with cancer. We aren't idiots. We've known from the start that we could lose the battle. The difference was, as near as I can figure, the two of us standing in the middle of our kitchen, holding on to one another as we had done so often before when fear was trying to take hold, made the thought of loss tangible.
Well, we stood there for a few more moments. Then we released ourselves, one from the other, and with no words spoken, we were back in the fight, with beating cancer our only focus.

ACT THREE
As we separated, Sheri went into the study to check phone messages, emails and Facebook. I...well I just wandered around the house. Why? No idea. Maybe... just because I could?
Anyway, Sheri called me to the study. “You have got to listen to this. You'll love it.”
Well before I could explain that perhaps I wouldn't love it, she had already hit play. “Hi Mr. Arnold. I'm calling from Waterville, and just wanted you to know I've been reading and enjoying your articles. I'm an older person, like yourself, and I think they're great and I wish all the best as you take your journey.”
He talked a little bit about Leslie Gore whose song lyric I had used in a column, before wishing me good luck again and hung up.
Sheri and I were both extremely touched by the message. He didn't leave a name; no phone number. He simply wanted to let me know I wasn't alone. And for us to hear the message after the earlier events of the afternoon...
So there you have one afternoon in the journey Sheri and I are taking through cancer. Typical day? Not exactly, but not quite atypical either. I just have to enter each day with my heart and mind as open as I can manage, then wait to see what happens. Pretty exciting, if you ask me.


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.