Spent a few days visiting my mom. She has “a” glioblastoma, diagnosed 3 1/2 years ago, and is struggling with the effects of long-term chemo, the latest “round” having gone on now for a year. She’s looking forward to the doctor-recommended break and hoping that it will allow her to regain some energy, but is also afraid that it will give the tumors a chance to grow. It is, and has been, a mixed blessing, because she has far exceeded the usual prognosis for this type of cancer, but the chemo is really wearing her out. My daughter and I gardened for her (she’s trying to sell her house, and her yard looks like something from a magazine, which is especially remarkable considering she can only work in 20-minute increments. She quoted my beloved great-grandmother to me: “I work for a while, then rest for two whiles.”) The next day I scoured her rather large deck and harvested lilac sprouts to bring home and plant in my yard. Exhausting, but good, honest work, and allowed me to reconnect with muscles I had forgotten about.
Yesterday I watched world cup soccer with my husband, and ordered flooring for our upcoming house-remodel project (old laminate crap and filthily disgusting mold-and-dust-and-pet-hair ridden carpet being exchanged for travertine and bamboo). Then we planted the lilacs, hoping the rampaging deer will leave them alone, and edged the flower bed. Another day of good, honest work, (GHW), and have become acquainted with even more muscles.
Today we decided that we couldn’t put all those beautiful floors in and not do something about the kids’ computer desk — a desk I tried to refinish once by painting it white to match the cupboards, but hadn’t managed to remove enough finish first so it basically peeled like a kid with a bad sunburn. Or glue — remember when you were a kid and painted glue on your hands so you could peel it off when it dried? My daughter had decided, helpful girl, that the desk looked better without the paint, so systematically peeled little tiny bits of it whenever she was at the computer, creating a wonderfully skin-diseased mottled effect. So my husband and I worked lengthily with hazardous, toxic chemicals, taking turns dashing into the house to wash the caustic substance off every time it dripped on us, and scraped and scoured and scrubbed. Still not sure it’s going to “work” but at least the paint’s off and we’re looking at mostly bare wood. I’ve now become acquainted with even aNOTHER set of muscles and have minor chemical burns on my arm. Tomorrow we get to start sanding! Yippee!!
At the end of the day’s exertions I made us a pitcher of strawberry margaritas (with half the tequila I used in the last batch; we’re too old to get hammered before dinner) and, sitting on the deck and enjoying a beautiful June evening, finished reading The Other, by David Guterson. A lovely book: two young men, one privileged, one middle-class, become friends in high school. The privileged boy, John William, raised by a mentally-ill mother and an emotionally absent and ineffective father, becomes more and more eccentric through high school and the beginnings of a college education, until he becomes a complete recluse and lives in a limestone cave in the Pacific Northwest “bush.” His friend and blood-brother Neil Countryman (a less-than-subtle but effective name which implies every-man, and the down-home values of the peasant) visits, and supplies, him on occasion while pursuing a middle-class life (“selling out to Hamburgerland”): high school English teacher, wife, two sons. John William dies, and is eventually found, at which point it is revealed that he has left $440 million to his friend. Neil and his wife struggle with what to do with this money, what will it change? What would they like to stay the same? Can it?
Eventually. . .”Jamie and I turned in the ’92 Civic and bought a hybrid, which we recently took to the Canadian Okanagan. . .We walked, swam, biked, sunned, tasted wines, ate well, bought pottery, and watched the sun go down, and though all of this was fun, none of it made us happy. We both wanted something else that was unnamable. It might be forever unnamable. In this regard, money changes nothing, which Jamie and I knew before we had it.”
Neil is an avid reader, and does find that the inheritance encourages his tendency to indulge at used-book stores. Near the end of the book he recounts some of the wisdom imparted to new parents by Dr. Benjamin Spock:
1. You know more than you think you do.
2. Parents are human — they have needs.
3. Some children are a lot more difficult than others.
4. At best, there’s a lot of hard work and deprivation.
5. Needless self-sacrifice sours everybody.
6. Parents should expect something from their children.
7. Parents are bound to get cross.
to which I think
1. Maybe; but maybe I know less and then we’re all screwed.
2. Definitely. Forgot it for about 20 years. . .
3. Ya’ think?
5. Yes, it does.
6. And be willing to wait 25 years to get it.
And so on, to the final line of the book, which is “It’s not the words but the music that counts.”
I like that.