Respecting "bucket lists": ones comprising action figures, ponies, and nabbing a leprechaun probably were started too early; on the other hand, it might be a little late in the day if yours comprises cheeseburgers, pizza, and all you can eat Chinese food. The former born out of hope and daydreams; the latter born out of hope and desperately fond memories of adult food. Either way, maybe start somewhere in between.
You would think having spent too, too much time in the humanities, and having bent my brain these years toward line-fashioning and verse-forging that I'd be waxing philosophical at this point of my goofy trundle toward decay instead of waning sarcastic. Or not, maybe we knew it would be this way.
A question of etiquette: You are approached in a public place by an acquaintance who you may have seen you six months ago or yesterday or, worse, has never really seen you but is willing to lob a optimism-grenade in your proximity and almost invariably offers something like, "You're looking good!"
Of the variety of unacceptable responses, which would be most effective toward restoring the balance between rubbish and veracity in the cosmos? A] “Oh, rubbish!” 2] “Who are you again?” 3] “As compared to whom . . . Gollum . . . Nosferatu . . . The asphalt-baking, slowly-emaciating corpse of a fly-swarmed, road-kill opossum?” Because your face is gaunt, your limbs are skeletal, and you are as likely as not daubing drool from the corner of your mouth? [Facial functionality still minimal at this time.]
To my reckoning, fortyish is as fair enough age to clock-out as many others; by then, you've probably lived twice as long as you should have and half as long as you could have. Call it a push and be grateful.
***8/ 9/ 13
The phraseology of terminal sickness comes locked and loaded—fraught with machismo and steel resolve. "He lost his fight with cancer today after a courageous battle." "They bombarded the tumor cells with aggressive treatment but in the end her body could not withstand the attack." Whatever the case, if you're not fighting, you're not trying, at least not in the approved terms.
Grit, grapple, growl.
Problem is, I'm not a fighter. I don't think in those terms. I don't put up my dukes. I'll put up my guard, sure. I don't join the front-lines but if I stumble into one I'll borrow a helmet or a canteen, you bet, and thank you.
If I've been anything in my life, I've been a student. And not a particularly good one at that. So, I understand the phraseology of tests and inquiry. My sickness has been a test, this most recent development, something of a pop quiz I should have been ready for anyway having been in this class for over 15 years.
In the scholastic sense, it does not courage to take the test. It takes a bit of studying, a bit of patience, a bit of wishing you were fishing not fretting over potential essay questions from the blindside and probable temporary amnesia from straight on. It takes a bit of will-power to stay in the class, is all. To pass. To take more tests—some with zeal, many with dread, most with that dull, unimpressive sense of survival—to pass, to take more tests, to graduate with your friends.
In the scholastic sense, I struggled but finished above average and not too addled to carry on.
In a medical sense, I hope to fare as well; but I do not expect to finish summa cum laude or anything.
A student: I've studied my diagnosis and what I can do, my prognosis and what I can't.
Not a fighter: I've blocked and parried with meds, radiation, chemo, and a bit of patience.
Courageous of me? I don't think so. It's the difference between gritted teeth and bared fangs.
My metaphors are getting mixed and my grammar willy-nilly. Time to stop this train: wait! where'd the train come from—rather. . . whence the train?
*** 8/ 17/ 13
"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Sure, if what didn't kill you was a multivitamin that you choked on for second but managed to get down shortly with 8oz of V8. Sure, if what didn't kill you was a skydiving accident which occasioned a pair of bionic legs, an unhittable fastball, and a miracle ear to end all miracle ears.
But if what didn't kill you was an insipid yet wildly catchy pop song can you be so sure that it truly boosted your well-being rather than sapped your soul an ounce or two causing a brief euphoria more like oxygen loss to the brain than cannabis contribution to higher consciousness?
What if it was a grade one glioma? Triggered seizures, tripped you-up with invisible wires? Grade two: stable, benign, pesky but manageable? Ok, you've made it through the early stages and they haven't killed you. Grade three did not kill . . . wait, grade three, what, when? Oh, probably some early spring while the azaleas splashed the south with red and white vibrancy and the green-gloss magnolia leaves dipped gold from the sun to fling into your eyes--distraction's potion as old beauty itself--and then . . . grade three . . . through your garden on tiptoe, the squealing screen door with care, your kitchen filching leftovers, into your bed for a few nights, into your head, flitting into your dreams, a cameo you can't quite place--grade three, come and gone by Easter, your house warmed for grade four. What is grade four? Oh, it's gonna make you weaker well before it kills you. So too, will platitudes and insipid songs--a slow, eye-rolling death.