Then there are times when I look across the room in which we happen to find ourselves, usually our living room. I'm sitting in the cliched old coot with cancer beige recliner which Sheri insisted I get last fall. As usual, she was right. So an old coot, suffering from cancer, sitting in a recliner is a cliché... Who cares? It's also comfortable as hell, which, I suppose, is why it has become a cliché.
My beautiful wife is sitting at the table, or on the sofa. The where isn't as important as the what. She is perusing Facebook catching up with her friends and reading clever things from people she barely knows. People argue about Facebook all the time; love or hate, devil's tool or political stump; and on and on. All I know is this: checking it on a regular basis gives my wife a great deal of fun and satisfaction and comfort. In the medical minefield our world has become, I love that Sheri gets as much pleasure from it as she does.
I love seeing her happy; hearing her laugh. She has plenty of reason not to, lord knows. This is not the first time she has had to go through the ordeal of someone she loves suffering from cancer. When her son Jason was 18 months old, he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a nasty cancer that had attached itself to the top of Jason's spine. It did go into remission, but came back when he was four years old. At that point, it was considered 99 percent fatal. Jason is now 37 and a true miracle.
So she knows there can be miracles, but she also knows there's years and years of checking to make sure it is really gone. The constant wondering if he's still okay.
So, if she wants to get comfort from Facebook, good for her.
There are days, though, usually when my pain is manifesting itself in ways that cause me to grimace, clutch at a particularly sore spot, or simply sigh with resignation. At those times if I happen to look over, I sometimes see the pain my wife is living with, which usually perks just under the surface. Her marvelous face shows fear, worry, concern, anger, sadness, distrust and deep love, all cemented together in a look that makes my heart hurt.
I want to get out of my old coot lounger and hunt down the person who has made my wife feel this way; who has taken her smiling, happy self and turned into a visage so sad, that it makes me want to scream and... and... make it stop. Make all that pain, in whatever manifestation, go away.
But, of course, I realize it is myself that is causing this. Me with my multiple myeloma. I love my wife and wouldn't allow anyone to hurt her, ever. And yet, day after day, she worries about me. She worries about the pain in my stomach; the ache in my bones; the nausea that comes, unannounced, without rhyme or reason; about all of it.
Love is an amazing thing. We've had so much happiness in our 21 years together, that it would seem selfish to talk to you about it. It would feel like bragging. But there is this dark side to it. When someone you love that much becomes ill...it takes on the feel of a bad joke; a prank. Hahahaha. Got you. I knew if I could get you to love that much. I could screw you in the end. Who would be saying those things? I don't know. Someone mean, though.
Why didn't we just go at this half-assed? I certainly have experience in those kinds of relationships. Why didn't I just do what I always did? We'd have our laughs, plenty of fun, our share of arguments, and after awhile, too long usually, she would have told me it was over and I would have said, “O.K.”
Then my having cancer would just be another post on Facebook to her; a little sad, perhaps, but nothing to cry over, at least not for long.
But, no. We both decided we were going to do it different this time. In the first few years, we had plenty of chances to call it quits. The arguments, the disappointments, so many times we could have cried uncle. But, no. Not this time. This time we decided we would work through all that and get to the heart of the matter and our bond became unbreakable.
It seemed like such a good idea at the time. And, for years, it's been wonderful. But then I look across the room from my cliched recliner and see that beautiful face saddened by what she knows about my illness and the pain it causes me.
But.... And it's a big but... She'll catch me looking sometimes and this amazing smile will come over her face. It's not faked. It's not “I was caught, so I must put on my brave face.” The smile is generated by 21 years of being together, through thick and thin; almost middle class and poor; big laughs and big tears. Twenty-one years of living life on life's terms and sharing every moment between us.
If incurable cancer is the price I have to pay for the wonder of the last 21 years with my wife, that's fine, I still believe I got the best part of that bargain.
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.”