Doom. Double doom. Final doom.
Already, because of a persistent pain in my abdomen, that fancy word for belly, I had been worried enough to email my current Tiny Doctor and tell him about it. Kaiser lets you email so they don’t have to hear your voice quaver. My doctor said to come in; we’d talk. I did and we did and he asked me questions that went into those embarrassing realms of pee and poop and I was happy be able to answer quickly and no-problemo-y, so we ended up deciding to keep a watch on things.
So I watched, or rather, felt how things were going and they didn’t go any better. Instead of only feeling the pain when I rolled onto my stomach at night, I felt it while I was sitting or standing or driving or any thinging. So I wrote back to him and told him that. And he went straight down Medical Highway and ordered some tests and a cat scan. Bam. So I added a piece to my own concerns that he was worried too. Nuts. But also, good, because we could get to the bottom of this pretty quick and I could go back to my ordinary paralyzing worries instead of adding the anvil weight of the new one, my imminent death.
And then on Sunday, I did that usual thing one does every day, sorry to mention it, but I pooped. Not being a voyeur, actually being slightly prissy about such things, I didn’t turn to watch it go away, but out of the corner of my eye I caught a color that was better off on a Titian painting. Red.
I washed my hands and went downstairs, astonished at how calm I felt.
So this is it, I said to myself. Hmmm.
I walked outside to my reading brother and broke his concentration with my, “You know the two worst words in the English language?”
We looked at each other, longer than usual but not dramatically, movie-like long.
“Why not?” he laughed. We both knew that it was because it was one more thing to be added to the list of things that have recently gone awry in the household.
I went into the house and sat down at the computer table in the British Reading Room and looked at everything anew. What about the books, those beautiful, wonderful books that are staring back at me? Will I have time read them, re-read them? Who will I give them to? I swiveled to the hummingbirds at the feeder outside the window. “Buh-bye.” I looked over at the bulletin board with all of the family and friend pictures tacked to it. How long would it take me to take them down and put them in envelopes and add a nice little letter? I could get bankers boxes from JDM Packaging, and start filling them up with these things. The couch is too squishy; I could donate that to GoodWill. The writing. What do I do with all of that? I stewed a bit. Thought it might be a fine time to nap. Figure out who to write Last Letters to. Tell everyone how much they mattered to me. Apologize for dumb things. You know. Wind things up.
I went into the living room and joked around with Mark. It’ll be all jokes from now on, I figured, jokes and backrubs and movies. Will I have to have one of those hospital beds around the End? It’ll take up too much room in a living room that is already too crowded with stuff. I mentally rolled my new hospital bed around the house and couldn’t fit it anywhere. Nuts, then, no hospice. And still the problem of the books and the photographs and the artwork from as far back as 1955, those awful but now funny posters I did in high school for the band concerts where I didn’t know how to make hands and the trumpet player seemed to be playing trumpet with his sleeves. The big, chesty ballerina that looked to me now like a drag queen, one-legged at that. I had painted her leg up so high that it disappeared. These were priceless, surely. Would any one even want such gems?
I mulled and looked, looked and mulled. I was waiting to fall apart. Doesn’t one fall apart as soon as they know they are dying? It bothers me that I can’t solve the “one” and “they” thing, still. Now I wonder if I’ll ever have time to do so.
Afternoon showed up. My brother walked in and disappeared into the bathroom. After he came out, he stood by my table. I looked up at him and he was grinning.
“Not likely that we both came down with cancer on the same day,” he said.
“It’s the beets.”
“No, I already thought of that. It can’t be. We had those two days ago.”
“Doesn’t matter. There’s no possibility that you and I both have bloody stool cancer at the same time. And lemme tell ya, my results just now are the same as yours.”
“Oh my god.”
So. No bankers boxes just yet.
I was kind of impressed by how calm I was, just the same. Maybe it takes longer than one afternoon to fall apart.
When I told this story to Adair, she said the first thing a person had to do when faced with her demise, before thinking of where to give away the books and artwork, was to plan the memorial service. Who would give the eulogies, what music to be played, who to be notified, etc. Sounded reasonable. I’ll keep it in mind.