Ice skating

Saturday, December 16, 2017, Beethoven’s Birthday

Last night, for the first time in maybe 20 years, I put on a pair of rented skates and stepped–very reluctantly–on to the ice rink downtown beneath an enormous, lit Christmas tree.  It was much worse than I had imagined.

I had hoped a couple of times around the rink holding on to the rail and I would balance well enough to wobble around sans handrail.  No.  It was not exactly like I had never been on skates before–but it was a very close relative to it!  I shuffled and clung and pictured bones snapping like twigs as I went down.

I had not wanted to go from the beginning.  At 3:00 pm I had texted Thomas, Are we still doing this? Yes, he texted back.  Period.  Later, as we waited in line, Thomas apologized for the wait to rent skates.  Oh, no, I said, this is the best part:  my bones are still intact and my legs are under me–no complaints!  Really, I kept looking at the people walking by, including one in a baby carriage, and thought, they don’t have to skate.  Why me?

I continued to enjoy every minute–up until the skates were on and I hobbled out to the rink.  If I can’t balance on them on dry land how will I ever manage on frozen water?  (I prefer my water in soluble form.)  And then we waited again, for the Zambonie machine to finish and for the rink to open. Finally, I had to sit down. My ankles were going to snap before I ever got out there!

Once on the ice it was, as I said, worse than I had imagined. I had hoped for the old, “it’s like riding a bicycle” thing to happen.  No.  Instead, it’s like I am a 5 foot and 120- pound 6 year-old–only this time my skates are not double-runners and my mom is not skating backwards holding my hands.  Seven months of chemotherapy, 3 months of physical therapy and this is how I treat my body?  My oncologist is going to kill me if I break a bone.

So I shuffle around the rink remembering only one thing, try to push off sideways with the blade, like I was cross-country skiing.  Of course, they have given me “boys” skates:  hockey skates, instead of figure skates. So every time I reach out to put the tip of my skate in the ice to push off, I nearly go head over heels.  I shuffle along behind a young man who shuffles behind a little girl who has 8 legs, going in every direction except forward.  I am thoroughly shocked when I find I have circumnavigated the rink once.  Oh my god, I am still alive and intact!

My second time around a gentleman my age standing outside the rail (on unmoving ground) looks me in the eye as I struggle by and says, “The Black Hawks are looking at you!” It is not long after that that I hear the music playing, Christmas carols, traditional versions and not too loud, but loud enough to hear over the squealing, laughing, and jibing of ice skaters.

And on the far side of the rink–the City’s Christmas tree glows enormous out of the darkness, ringed by skyscrapers with red and green lights, and even a few tiny lit trees in windows overlooking the park.  Snow has started falling, a light brush of flakes, almost imperceptible except on my face and against the street lights.  A hundred kinds of laughter ring up from the ice.

It is a United Nations on the ice, some Asian Indian or maybe Pakistani young men clinging to the rail, all with the stylish dark, big glasses young people are wearing, smiling self-consciously as I careen into them.  The young hispanic father with his tiny daughter sweeping the ice in front of him, Asian couples holding hands and skating freely in the center.  A hispanic parent watching her teenage girls calls out to me as I lurch past, “You are doing it!”  Couples speaking Polish, German, Spanish.

And all the young people who, as I bear down on them saying loudly, “I’m coming around you…watch out! Here I come around you,” as I  let go of the rail and strike out alone to navigate a tiny semi-circle of ice around their little group–in order to get to the rail again.

All the young people who look up at me, or down on me: my legs splayed, ankles turned in, bent over and wobbling, calling, “Watch out! Here I am! Coming around you!”

–All the young people who look up at me and smile, who extend hands and gloves and mittens, arms and bodies and say, “Here!”  Who reach out to me–reach out for me–smile as I careen into them or edge shakily around them, who extend themselves with their eyes and voices, “Here!”  –To me, as if they were so many young, welcoming shores and I an aging, rickety craft struggling against waves of ice and time,  “Here!”  Here.  In this moment.  Now.  God incarnate.


Monday and Day Off

It’s 11:30 in the morning and I have done 4 loads of laundry and washed (some of) the walls in the bathroom and washed the floor because it was just too dusty and dirty in there.  I spent a lot of not-quality time in there last summer during chemo and bowel blockages. It was time to reclaim my bathroom.

It is so odd, I was feeling fierce as I scrubbed dust and marks off the walls and the tile floor. I even said to myself “This is my house. It is my name on the deed. I am taking it back!”  From?  From lymphoma, or maybe from illness. Most especially from hopelessness. From the feeling that I could no longer take care of this apartment and everything in it because my head was too full, my heart was too empty and my body too untrustworthy.

Paulie peed on the bed in his room again. This may not work.  It doesn’t have to work to have Paulie here.  I played with him this morning after I fed him and he played with me, though cautiously. I am keeping an eagle eye on him (and the bed). I have now washed all the linen but have not put any back on the bed until I trust him a little more. If he pees on it again I will contact Ruth about “returning” him to HPCats. There is only so much I am willing to deal with at once.

The day after tomorrow I fly to Maine to see Dad and to say good-be to him. Nan feels he could go at any time. She’s having him assessed for hospice and we will do some legal paperwork while I am there. It doesn’t seem real to me yet. I can say it, but not feel it. I expect that will change once I get there. I hope to clear the air between us if that is possible. But again, there’s only so much I can do. At least I can tell him I love him and say goodbye in case I don’t get the chance later.

Mary and I are going for a walk this afternoon. It will be nice to get outside and be in the sun. I have not had any anxiety this morning, except for the low level house-is-a-mess kind. Which is pretty standard.

Paulie is asleep in an afghan on the couch with me. Well, “with me” might be putting it strongly. I am going to make myself a real lunch instead of grazing.  Just that thought makes me feel hopeful. It’s a little thing, but I will settle for little things right now. And while I’m at it I will carry out some of the recycling that is taking over the kitchen and lighten a little more of the house-keeping load.

This all seems so mundane to write about. Who cares? I guess I care. I care about having enough energy and hopefulness to clean my apartment because it is my home and pretty fundamental to my living–with or without illness. I feel really, like it is a beginning of moving back in. Of whoever I am now, moving into this house that someone-I-am-not- anymore used to own. Yeah. Something like that.

Getting Wet

This is my first post. I am sitting in the living room with the windows open even though it is October. I am filled with all sorts of emotions and thoughts I don’t have a place for. I am hoping this blog will become the place for them.

Saturday night I watched “Collateral Beauty” for the second time. At one point the Helen Mirren character says to one of the other characters who is ill, “What is it?” And he answers, “Multiple Myeloma.” Real people don’t have cancer. They have Multiple Myeloma, or Follicular Lymphoma, or a Glioblastoma;  they have Rectal cancer or Colon cancer or Breast cancer, or Thyroid cancer. No one just has cancer. No one is diagnosed with an abstraction.

The difference is that by saying he has Multiple Myeloma, the character was saying (to me, at least), “I have a history with a disease that has a history. I know the name of it because I have lived with it for awhile now. And it has lived in me.  And we are on closer terms than I ever wanted.”

I am so tired of being brave. Of looking healthy. Of having a good attitude. Of being strong. I am even tired of having a sense of humor.

I am so confused and tired. I am anxious almost all the time. The things that used to give me pleasure, now weigh on me. The places I took refuge, I now avoid for the lonesomeness I feel in them. There is not even any rest inside of me. I am hard on myself. I find fault in whatever I do to distract myself.  There really is nowhere to hide. –Except maybe, my work. –But I still have to come home every night.

The things that give me great pleasure: swimming in the Lake and breakfasting afterwards with the other swimmers, their pleasure is fleeting now. –And I still have to come home.

I am not the same person I was before being diagnosed. And I don’t know who this new person is. I look a lot like the old person and I am healthy; I am in remission; I am back at work; I have a social life. But I am still someone different. And I am lost.