Monthly Archives: November 2010

Life Isn’t Fair

Whoever coined that phrase is such a genius. They probably know the person who also first decreed, “Everything happens for a reason.” I hate those people. I know life isn’t fair…welcome to some of mine. But I’m never copping to things happening for a reason. The best you’re getting from me is that shitty things happen to good people, and if you dig hard enough you might get a lesson out of the crap.

When Mark was diagnosed with a rare, certainly fatal cancer in November 2005, he faced various treatments with the single most positive attitude that existed; he died 23 months later of peritoneal mesothelioma. They don’t make a ribbon for a cancer that strikes less than 100 U.S. citizens a year; they certainly don’t make one for a cell biology ultimately deemed one-in-a-million. He always called cancer a journey he never expected to be on. We thought if anyone was strong enough to fight and win, it would be someone who completed the New York City Marathon twice and had also been an anonymous bone marrow donor.

So what lessons can be taken away from experiencing life, love and loss in an intimate relationship ripped apart by an unseen force?

First, I learned about infinite courage from Mark’s everyday example of coping with the first shocking news, ensuing treatments and coming disappointments. He set the tone for a positive attitude, mixed with a dose of reality, that we don’t always get what we hope for in life – but you kick and scream every moment you’re still here. He showed time and again that the most we can do is to do our best to get through the devastation of cancer together without it defining every aspect of our life.

Mark was inspired by the public struggles of Elizabeth Edwards, Tony Snow and Jonathan Alter. Likewise, he inspired those in his life by championing the cause of living with cancer through our local cancer support center. And yet when praise for his outstanding example came back his way, he was genuinely surprised that people thought he was anything but a regular person just trying to get through an irregular circumstance.

I also learned that laughing your way through numerous doctors’ visits, treatments and other procedures helps keep your sanity. I referred to Mark as a Chia Pet or Chihuahua much the same way I teased him Before Cancer Defined Our Relationship. And it was okay for him to remark upon my very startled reaction to his appearance during a head-to-toe rash episode, “Didn’t I take your breath away years ago?” After catching him in a pair of bleached-stained undershorts in the doctor’s office, I never failed to remind him afterwards that procedures involving the removal of clothing require one’s Sunday-best britches: “What would they think of me after seeing your crummy old underwear?!”

I learned that full-body baldness, blistering skin and numerous surgical scars do not diminish true attractiveness. The inner beauty of a cancer fighter shines through any surface side-effect: Mark’s blue eyes radiated his true self no matter how he appeared on the outside. An immediate allergic reaction during chemo which turned him a sheet of red in minutes just made those baby blues blaze even more. His smile returned once six nurses and a crash cart restored his vital signs, and he joked about stealing the spotlight from all the other chemo patients and having a flock of women at his beck and call. Having once been the lead singer of numerous obscure local bands, it was just his nature to want the center of attention, even with cancer. Mark’s favorite joke was that since music didn’t make him famous, perhaps his unusual case would bring him immortality in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Someone who found his own image increasingly repugnant turned to me and said, “I look terrible…but you look beautiful.” Being 11 days from death at the time didn’t lessen his capacity for seeing me the same way he always did. He still had a smile for me, our kids and those around him who came to shake his hand one final time before he was forced to leave us sooner than the 120 years he was planning on.

Life doesn’t sparkle as much without Mark in it. Our ears are empty for his big loud voice leading a topical conversation or cheering at a basketball game. He was only 48; we had things to do. But the lessons and examples he imparted during our time together continue to support and inspire me.

 “Have the courage to live. Anyone can die.” ~Robert Cody


Rite Real Good…Or Suffer My Wrath

From a young age, I loved language arts as it was known in elementary school. In sixth grade, I only missed one spelling word the entire year: accommodate. I think it was the second m that tripped me up. I loved how Mrs. Lewis taught us to diagram a sentence, placing modifiers and participles on the right lines.

I loved me some Mrs. Lewis, in her sensible shoes and practically nun-like garb. She was a far cry from Mrs. Manville who wore really short skirts and sometimes sat on the edge of my bestie Sally’s desk while giving a lesson. Even at 12, we sensed there was something disturbingly attractive about Mrs. Manville that belied our paradigms of the profession.

I don’t care how much anyone knows about their supposed area of expertise. I do care about how they communicate that information. And I cared a lot when reviewing my kids’ schoolwork as I noticed frequent grammar mistakes left unchecked. “They don’t take off for that stuff, mom.” A pox upon a school system that would allow Mrs. Lewis to turn over in her grave for this effrontery!

I wish Mrs. Lewis would walk around today correcting people’s work because I’m sick of being the bastion of All That Is Righteous And Good in the name of communication. I get it that e-communication has loosened some standards. Hey, I’ll let a comma or two slide now and then. But I will simply not allow people to get away with fracturing its/it’s or your/you’re, or saying, “I seen where…”  I might die happy if ‘picture’ could hereafter be pronounced as such, rather than pitcher.

The Urban Dictionary describes ‘Youse” as “something that isn’t a word but which you may hear from the lowest, most unintelligent, least educated, morons on this Earth.” I heard this word a lot growing up in a working class ethnic town. I believe its etymology goes back to the influx of Irish. (Shout out to part of my heritage…thanks a lot, youse guys!) I just don’t get it…you is one person. We is two people. Youse don’t make no sense. Just axe Mrs. Lewis!

Fragment connected to another fragment by ellipses…no punctuation.

Dangling participles and split infinitives creating havoc.

Dogs and cats mating.

Him Tarzan. Her Jane.  Me Throwing Up.

I know: it’s not them, it’s me. I guess I need to draw them a pitcher.

Allow Myself To Introduce…Myself

I stole that line from “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.”

I like to think borrowing movie lines is homage to really great writing. I love movies. If I didn’t have to work, and didn’t enjoying working out so much, I would watch a movie every day. The Coen Brothers rock my world.

I like sweating. I don’t mean the minor glow the average person gets from fitness. I’m talking dead-on, balls-to-the-wall workouts where you’re slightly spent afterwards, but totally satisfied with the effort. Looks good, too.

I’m the second oldest of six kids. I was the smart one. My little brothers deserved many poundings to be kept in line.

I have two kids. I didn’t pound them, although I remember spanking a hiney or two.

I am secular, but my Catholic schoolgirl friends still seem to like me…unless they are full of shit.

I am single. I was married to two different men with the same first name. I really miss that second guy a lot. Fucking cancer.

My sense of humor appears to be more manly than girly, although I am most definitely a chick…who likes to sweat and swear. But I like guy movies like ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Step-Brothers.’ My non-sexual male friend says I remind him of the guys he grew up with back home. It must have something to do with the frequency with which I tell him “F you.”

I hope you will read my ravings, and perhaps be regaled from time to time, if not occasionally repulsed. That’s just the way I roll.