Wednesday, December 16, 2015

'The Christmas we get we deserve'

Since I've been writing this column, I've always maintained that I would write it if no one read it. It came to me this week that that's only partly true. If it was completely true, I'd just write in a journal and keep it an a drawer.

But I've also said that I was doing it in the hope that it would help people. See, I know there are all sorts of people who do not have the good fortune to have a life like mine. Well, maybe I don't KNOW that, but I certainly sense it.

I also sense that there are plenty of people who are truly lonely, with no one to talk to about the biggest things in their life, good or bad. And we all have big things, good or bad.

I think the good generally takes care of itself. It tends to spill out of us and even strangers will put an extra little uplifting ooomph in their greeting as they pass us in the street.

But the bad... hmmm... the bad. To me, the bad lives in a lonely place and wants you to live there too.

That's why I hope my writing touches you and makes the bad more bearable. Heck, you can have all the friends in the world to help you through things, but who doesn't need at least one more?

I have an amazing support system. Family, friends, people I don't actually know wishing me well and praying for me. How could I have all that and not share?

This week, though. This week showed me there is a linchpin to all of this- my wife Sheri. She's been gone for the last six days on a trip to see family that we were supposed to take together.

When it came down to it, I was just too sick to go. It was nine-hour trip back to New York to see my daughter Alison and her family and to visit Sheri's mom. Too much. I was disappointed, sad, and felt that I had left everyone done. Still, there you are. That happens a lot these days. I make plans and then my body says, “Nice try, brother. Maybe next time.”

So, Sheri has not been here this week. Oh, I know that she's with me all the time, regardless of where we are physically. I get that, and it's true. Memories of her, of the two of us together, are everywhere I go, everywhere I look. But, here's the problem. When we don't get back together at the end of the day, a lot of those memories end up just making me sadder, more melancholy.

Back in the early 1990s, co-dependence became the next big thing in analyzing the human condition. It told us we tended to hang too tight to people we loved; we became too dependent on them for our happiness, for our own lives. I guess there's some truth to that. But, I also think the idea of co-dependency ties negative bits to things that are actually wonderful.

Look, when I'm sitting at night, in the big ole recliner that Sheri insisted we buy, I want to be able to look over to the couch and see Sheri sitting there with the laptop on... well... on her lap and I want to hear her keep up her stream of chatter about what's going on with our friends, her friends and the world in general.

I want to be able to see her excitement when our new cat offers further proof that he is Sheri's cat, not mine. Oh, I think I'm probably OK, as far as he is concerned, but Sheri is the bees knees in Wolfie's world.

I need her to take my hand to tell me she loves me and make my pain and the fact that I have an incurable form of cancer bearable.

Yes, she can tell me all that on the phone. Now that we have cell phones, which she absolutely loves using, by the way, she can even write to me (texting) and send me a picture of who she is with and/or what she's doing... and it's wonderful... and it's not the same.

Prior to actually finding out I have cancer, I'm convinced, if you'd asked, grateful would not have been one of the things I felt about it. But, it is. It has made me stop wondering if my behavior may be co-dependent. It's made me love my family and friends all the more and realize it's okay to need them; that it's okay to let them help me even though that's the last thing I want, it can still be the one thing I need.

Sheri will be back tomorrow, and we'll take our accustomed spots on the furniture and Wolfie will again show himself to be Sheri's cat. And I know this: no matter how sick I feel, I will feel better.

Let me end with my usual Christmas message from Emerson, Lake and Palmer: “I wish you a hopeful Christmas. I wish you a brave New Year. All anguish, pain and sadness leave your heart and let the road be clear... Hallelujah, Noel, be it heaven or hell, the Christmas we get we deserve.”

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