Saturday, October 27, 2007

A letter to the past

Dear Dad,

It's coming on Christmas; they're cutting down trees. I can't believe that this is another holiday without you already. It's been two years, almost 3, and I guess I still haven't let you go. I try- I think to myself what a better place you're in, that you're out of pain, that you have nothing to worry about anymore. You were always such a worrier. Now you're surrounded by peace, and yet...

And yet when I heard about Granny last week, I immediately thought, "Has anyone told Dad yet?" only to realize in the same second that I can't call you.

And yet I still wonder what to get you for Christmas.

And yet I feel that deep gash every Thanksgiving, and remember those few years when we both felt like we finally experienced what family really is- with 17 of us around the dinner table, holding hands and saying grace, giving thanks for each other. You squeezed my hand when you said you were thankful for your family.

And yet I wonder sometimes when I'm watching t.v. what you're doing, wherever you are.

For so many years, we were the only family we had. On holidays, we made plans together and cooked each other's favorite dishes- I made you Italian Cream Cake and you made me chocolate pie. Over dinner you'd talk about work and I'd talk about school. But that was how it had always been- you and me, our only kin. For I don't know how many years (10? 15?), Tuesday night was our night to have tuna melts and fritos; our night to not cook and just chill and watch whatever it was we were into that year.

And when I went to college, I sometimes got so busy and had so much fun I forgot to miss you. But you never forgot to miss me, and we never missed holidays. And because I was away at school, you finally gave yourself permission to date. It was a tremendous relief for me to see you doing something for yourself, having fun again. You started to travel and do all the things you'd waited to do until I had moved on. What a good dad you always were. Then the day came when you asked me to meet her, and we were instant friends. Not too long after, you asked me if I'd approve of her being my stepmom. That was the happiest I'd ever seen you, and for ten years you glowed, like you'd finally found your joy. Like all those years of sacrificing for me had paid off.

And those ten years we found out together what a family really was. You always included me in that, with a step-brother and step-sister for the first time. We were all amazed how natural it felt. Suddenly, we were a family of 17, with aunts and uncles for the first time, with people we liked in large numbers. I don't think either of us missed those Thanksgivings and Christmases of 2.

It seems almost too good to be true, now. But I think of it and miss it still. The food, I guess, is what always brings me back to you. No one loved the food more than you, with you taking small little scoops and portions so that a sample of every single thing could fit on your plate. And afterward, you'd always say, "Let's take a nap," and we'd lay there on the bed and chat before the cat nap, just you and me, like old times. Like you were checking in on me, like you didn't want me to miss the times when it was just us.

I guess you know now that it's all over, that the step-family isn't a part of my life anymore. I miss them, but there's no use in trying to force them to want me there. And so now it's back to two people at the holidays, me and Bobby. You'd love him, Dad. He's so much like you. He's so wonderful and considerate just like you; he makes me laugh and we really make each other happy. And we do exactly like you and I once did, we take those days at the holidays to catch up and to really enjoy each other. We make sure the other one gets their favorite dish- he loves pumpkin pie with extra ginger. And we cat nap after dinner. It's great.

But I miss you still. I think of you when we bow our heads and I say I'm thankful for having such a wonderful family. And I pray that wherever you are, you are as happy as those last years, when you'd glow and smile as we'd all hold hands and say grace.

I love you,

Lori Pooh

Monday, October 15, 2007

A horse walks into a bar...

sits down, and sighs. The bartender walks down to where he is sitting, throws him a napkin and says, "Hey buddy, why the long face?"

Well, no long faces here. Everything in my world has been unbelievably good. It's actually kind of a strange thing to find yourself in the middle of an awesome life. It's been a while since I"ve felt that way, but it's exactly what's been going on. If you can believe it, I've even been having a little antsy, just kindof feeling like things areTOO good. Too good you say? I know, nuts. Like maybe I should tone down the happiness a little just in case cancer comes back. Isn't that crazy? It's an absurd thought, but it's true. I'm just so damn happy. Somebody slap me.

Which I guess is why I haven't been able to write much. I still check all my usual blogs regularly, still read up on my peeps out there in cyberland that are keeping me grounded and inspired. But when it comes to offering something to them, I'm sort of at a loss. A couple of them are really battling right now, really pushing through some rough times. Fighting like hell to keep melanoma out of the picture, but it's just not working. I know that the struggle takes so much life out of you that you can barely get out of bed in the morning. That kind of struggle fills your every thought. Every minute of the day is zapped by that kind of struggle. They could use the support that a survivor can offer. Yet, when I write to them I feel like I have nothing of worth to say. No real words of wisdom, no advice that will help them carry on. It's like I'm somehow lost at providing any kind of uplifting words.

I know that the truth is that part of it comes from the guilt that everyone who survives while others don't carries. It's an illogical guilt, but forget logic. It's what's there no matter how illogical it is.

And speaking of illogical, then there is that seemingly built-in instinct to prepare yourself, that distance you feel you have to put between yourself and those who are in the midst of their fight with cancer. It used to anger me back when I was first diagnosed, the fear that people get in their eyes when they know you're in the midst of fighting cancer. But b/c we blind ourselves daily with dissilussions that we're all invincible, reaching out to those with cancer has to, in the beginning at least (until you train yourself to do it instinctively), be a conscious act. I still do that every week, b/c I know I won't be able to live with myself if I don't pay forward what so many did for me.

Nonetheless, the thought of cancer of cancer- what it's doing to friends, what it did (and could still do to me) and others, sends chills down my spine. Even now, it's difficult for me to write that I'm NED and a cancer survivor. I guess b/c I know that I could've been like my friends- Leah, Sarah, Shannon, Oscar, Dad- whose cancer spread faster than they could fight it and their lives were cut short. It seems silly to think that I can say I "battled death." It's silly b/c it was hardly a battle; it was not valiant at all- and more like dumb luck that I came out alright. In reality, though, if you've been following me for a while, you were there when the PET scan lit up, when I came home to write and say, "I really hope it's nothing. It's probably nothing." And when they told me they were almost certain that it had moved to my illiac node, you know that it was a battle just to get through that. The surgery and rehab after was nothing compared to the mental fight I had just to keep my spirits up. It feels like Death is always there, just waiting for you to drop your guard. And you start to question the point of doing anything.

Which is why I decided to stick close by all those friends I mentioned before, the ones I didn't want to say good-bye to, but had to. And I assume my hesitation in doing so now stems from them memory of the pain that I felt in hearing that they'd died. And that they were gone forever.

Maybe that's what it is. Or maybe it was just realizing it for the first time, how possible it all is. Either way, I'm glad for all of this, believe it or not. Every pain and every joy I've received from this journey of mine, and every chance I've had to get to know someone else going through the same thing, even though it hurts so bad sometimes to see what they have to bare. At least we're all alive to see it.

I'm sending out good vibes to all of you in the midst of your own battle right now, and to everyone who's ever had to battle anything. And giving thanks for you, too.



I'm Too Young For This!