Wednesday, May 20, 2015

But I don't want to get my shots!


For the mother's restless son...

Who says: hard times?

I'm used to them,

The speeding planet burns

I'm used to that

My life's so common it disappears

And sometimes even music

Cannot substitute for tears

Paul Simon


I get the sense that what I had to write about last week left a number of you concerned about my well-being.

I knew as I was in the process that it would not be a typical column. Sure, there were the usual glib observations and snappy repartee, if repartee can be a written thing. Even so, there was an air of defeat about it that even I didn't care for.

But, we made a deal, you and I, back when we had no idea what this column would become; how serious some of what I had to say would be. The agreement was that I needed to write about right now, and by reading on a regular basis, you gave tacit approval to the deal. I don't always feel great. I've seen people who have felt they have to act like they're happy and that everything is A.O.K, all the time. For me, that's too painful to watch.

Still, we all know I'm a funny guy. Right? Funny odd, sometimes. Funny haha, almost always. But, last week I gave you exactly what I had. In the area of positive thought, I realize it was fantastically underwhelming. But in the words of everyone's favorite North Dakotan songbird, Lynn Anderson, “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.”

Brothers and sisters, should you remain concerned about my sense of humor, I refer you to that last sentence. It's just chock-a-block with chuckles. See, I hate that bleepin' song. I don't like any Lynn Anderson song, though I'd be hard-pressed to even name another. I have never referred to any singer as a songbird, North Dakotan or otherwise. And when I say I hate that bleepin' song, I mean I hate everything about it. The music, the lyrics, the jacket sleeve the record came in. In fact, let me just say... hahahahahahahahahaha. Ha.

I did come to realize over the past two or three weeks that sometimes, some times, just not feeling bad can feel good enough. It's like the old joke about repeatedly hitting yourself with a hammer because it feels so good when you stop. So, do I feel wonderful? Not really, but I put the hammer away, didn't I?

Besides, I've got bigger fish to fry this week. I've known I was going to have to face this even before I had my stem cell transplant. I mean, for over a year I've known this was inevitable, but... well, a year? A year is a long time that brings with it a lot of “It's a year. I'll worry about that later”s.

I'm just going to say what it is. If I can say it, I can face it: I have to begin having my baby shots all over again. There. Ouch, right? Diphtheria? Yes. Polio? Yes. Whooping cough? Maybe. Measles? Yes. All of them. I don't even know what they all are. I just know I have to follow the same schedule a baby does- nine months, 12 months, eleventy-seven months. I don't even have a mother to argue that they're bad for me and I shouldn't do it.

This is necessary because of the thoroughness of the stem cell transplant process. The chemo I was given before my new cells went in completely destroyed my immune system. Completely. It wasn't like I had time to move things two by two to someplace safe. This flood was thorough and complete. Yes, it wiped out the cancer that was compromising my immune system, but it took the baby out with the bathwater.

Let me take a minute for a completely pointless aside. Did you know that the unicorn, which may or may not have been left off the ark, is the national animal of Scotland? Yeah. It is. Look it up.

Anyway... Baby shots. It's not so much the fact that I have to have yet another shot of something. I think it's the fact that I have to have these particular shots again. I already had them once and, it would seem, they were working fine. But... Over the side they went and it's “Roll up your sleeve Mr. Arnold and get ready for a pinch.”

I also sense karma lurking. I can't help but think about all the times I lied to my daughters when they had to have shots (“No, honey. This isn't going to hurt.”) You can call it comfort, caring, misdirection... it doesn't change the untruthiness of it.

You know, I wonder, if, just maybe, this is where the issue of trust between parents and their kids begins to get a little wobbly. “Trust me, kids. You'll be glad you had to learn algebra.” “Sure, dad. Just like those shots wouldn't hurt. Is that what you mean?”

OK. So, I'll roll up my sleeve and be a brave little scout, but there darned well better be a lollipop waiting at the end of all this. I mean it. I'm taking names.

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