Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On The Eve Of Being Old Enough To Practically Die

I'm going to be 43 tomorrow.
On the day that my brother turned 43, he found out that the pain in his back and legs were the result of being colonized by blood clots, thanks to the monster that had taken over his bile duct. The big terminal "C".

He'd never really walk again.
His skin would turn yellow and green.
His legs would swell to ballon-ous proportions, while his chest shrivelled into itself and his eyes sunk into his cranium.

I've been trying to imagine what it would be like if I got that kind of diagnosis tomorrow. Silly thing to do, I know. But maybe you don't understand that I need to identify with the sense of life's fragility. That all my brother got was 43 years, and a gal ought to think about the gravity of something so unfair as that.

Having said that, I really hate the notion of "living every day like it was your last".

Can you seriously imagine doing that? You'd sleep through your alarm, feed the kids chocolate fondue for breakfast, and pack a lunch full of peanut butter because the principal can't really get mad at a dead mom, now can she? I wouldn't shower because I hate getting wet. Then I'd call the parents of my daycare kids and tell them that I was dying, and I didn't feel like wiping their kid's bums that day. And then I'd not wipe the counters or the table, or the floors. I'd figure that Brian could spend the rest of his lonely life looking after those trivial details. I would definitely not plan lunch or supper and I would most certainly not pay bills.

Well? Who can live like that day after day? Only a big, selfish dummy, that's who.

But here I am on the eve of being old enough to practically die tomorrow.
And I did wipe the counters and the bums. I took out the garbage, and packed peanut free snacks. I considered planning dinner, and I wondered if I'd ever pay off my mortgage.

I did a bunch of boring stuff that indicates I don't really think I'll die before my furnace filter needs to be replaced.

I remember when my brother was lying there all swollen and yellow in his blue hospital gown and behaving in such grateful and kind ways. I'll never, ever forget his words, and that soft grey vulnerability in his eyes.

"People tend to ask the question; "Why Me?";
but I have to ask a different question: "why not me?"
Can you imagine having that kind of grace on the cusp of slipping away, not watching your kids grow up, not hanging out with people you love, not even walking your own self to the bathroom?!
I can't quite imagine it.
Tomorrow I'll be 43. As far as I know, I don't have anything terminal.
I don't quite know how to explain it, but I feel like I need to mark this passage to honour my brother somehow. As if I could let him know that I haven't forgotten.
I could come up with a list of stuff that I'm going to do this year- get in shape, run a marathon, stop collecting random stuff, work at a soup kitchen. But I might fail, and besides, I don't really get the point of being all "list-y" to commemorate someone.
This year, I'll probably fantacize about being thin. I'll probably get broody and miserable from time to time. I'll probably eat a lot of cheese and bread, muffins and cookies. I'll wash it down with champagne whenever I can get away with it. I'll kiss my kids and beg my husband to rub my shoulders. I'll curse at the dog, read some great books, and write some rubbish. I'll walk to the thrift shop way too often, and visit my parents not often enough.
I'll feel bored and boring, grateful and happy.
And I won't forget.


Judy said...

Happy Birthday Eve Joyce.

Think happy thoughts?

And remember.

Anonymous said...

I have a locked memory of running into you at HSC... soft warm day... harsh realities.. and maybe I am adding creative embellishments, but a great cigarette!
ps.happy birthday!

mmichele said...

Happiest of birthdays, dear Joyce.

Roo said...


Mary KG said...

Happy Birthday (belated) my sweet Schwester! Great post.

Anonymous said...

Nice Joyce, real nice. Kathy

Anonymous said...

Wow, that is quite the statement your brother had.....what a soul. Happy Birthday Joyce and wish you many many more. We had a wonderful turn out at the Cancer Care Fundraiser yesterday, and my brother-in-law even made an appearance after his chemo treatment - so that was special! MK