Monday, August 30, 2010
Through Sickness And In Health
It seems to me that so many of the most life-changing events we ever experience come directly from the most haphazard of circumstances. As I have said, it was me wearing a blue angora sweater which would not stay on both shoulders at the same time which caught Mr. Moon's eye in a bar and he asked me to dance and I looked up, up, up, and did the math of the difference in our heights and thought, "What the hell?" and said yes.
Next thing you know, I'm standing in front of a notary and saying, "I do," and having no idea what I was promising.
I mean, there you are, in perfect and ruddy health, young and beautiful and sturdy and strong and you promise to stay together through sickness and health 'til death do you part and all you can think about is how fucking gorgeous this man is and how beautiful a day it is, clear October and cool and crisp and yes, it's serious but really? Sickness? Death?
Whatever. Bring on the honeymoon!
You do promise and you think maybe you know what you're promising but you don't. Which is as it should be because if you did, you'd absolutely have to say, "Hold on. I need to think about this," and go off to ponder the whole situation for so long that the guests would leave and the leaves would all fall from the trees and your groom would go home and drink all the champagne and eat all the smoked turkey and still, you'd be there in your white dress considering all options.
Sometimes you just have to let it fly.
I DO! You say and you kiss and you dance and you cry and you eat cake and you mean it.
As far as you can consider the meaning of what it is you mean.
Same with having children. Sometimes you do consciously call the papa and say, "Now's the time," and you have your way with each other and you lie back and a Mona Lisa smile forms on your lips and you know that in two weeks, a pregnancy test is going to show that you've created life together. But mostly, it doesn't happen that way. Let's face it. You do it in the backseat of a car because you're overcome with desire or in the early morning and you don't take the time to take precautions and next thing you know, there's a baby on the way and your life is irrevocably changed because of one moment of abandon and that's good. Mother Nature makes it that way because again, if you took the time to really think about what it takes to go through a pregnancy and a delivery and then raise a child to adulthood, you'd be so intimidated you'd never take off your panties.
Sorry to be so crude, but honestly- isn't that the truth?
So not to change the subject but this IS the subject, one day Kathleen and I were sitting in the pulmonary doctor's office and she was filling out a twenty-nine page form with every bit of medical history on it she may have accrued during her lifetime with questions like, "Do you ever wake up with heartburn in the middle of the night?" and then suddenly one of the questions was, "Do you have a health care surrogate? What is his/her name? Address? Phone number?"
And Kathleen said, "Would you be my health care surrogate?" And I said, "Sure," and that was that and we had no idea we were on a journey together, her filling out those forms and me sitting there bitching about the TV programming in the office.
And so here I am. Her health care surrogate.
Which seemed as ridiculous at that moment as worrying about birth control this one time or as far-away as considering 'til death do us part.
And she, of course, can change that at any time. It's easy. They give you a form every time you go to the doctor or step into the hospital. But for right now, this moment, I am hers. Not Vickie, who Kathleen doesn't want to put that sort of pressure on, or her family because some of them are, uh, very Christian in their beliefs (can you say Terry Shiavo?), but me. And she wants me to share the responsibility with our friend Rich because she knows that his moral compass is firmly set in place and that he is intelligent and as good a man as ever walked the earth and because she loves him and trusts him. And also, she knows that Mr. Moon would be involved if push came to shove and she knows how much my husband loves and cherishes her and how Zen he is. She knows.
But I have come to realize, as the reality of this cancer journey continues, that being a health care surrogate means far more than saying, "Do not resuscitate," and "No, she does not want to live on a respirator."
We were just sitting in a waiting room waiting to see the doctor because she had pleurisy, dammit. And so sure, I said, "Of course! I'll be your health care surrogate."
And here she is, with cancer. On treatments which makes it hard for her to eat and drink and which make it hard for her think clearly and I am taking this responsibility very seriously. I want to do the very best for her and her well-being and her health that I can do and believe me- I do not want to piss her off.
She may look like a 90-pound weakling but she's a force to be reckoned with like a hurricane, like a tornado, like a tsunami which presents itself as a small, innocent wave in the ocean, five hundred miles out to sea. That woman, that sweet little woman wearing the sky-blue hat will come at you like a mama lion and I love her for that with every cell in my body.
But she's the one who signed the form and I am going to use all of my knowledge and intuition and strength and compassion and LOVE for her that I have and I am going to tell her what I think, whether what I think is, "No, you can't go to work," or "You have to call the doctor," or "You're going to come to my house and let me take care of you now."
And that's just the way it is.
No. We had no idea in that waiting room what we were signing or talking about. Of course we didn't. But like wedding vows or spontaneous sexual activity, one thing can lead to another and even if we don't understand what we are saying or doing at the moment, we can be the best we can be and stand up to the results. We can even, despite our ignorance, come to understand that a million years of internal debate couldn't have led to a better outcome.
A marriage that brings you comfort and joy and laughter after lo! these many years.
A person who loves you so much that she wants the very best thing for you even if you don't quite know what that might be.
I love you, Kathleen. And as long as you want me to be your health-care surrogate, I will do the best I can with all of the support of those who love you, helping me along the way. We will respect your wishes as best we can and we will do for you the best we can.
I promise you.