Thursday, August 6, 2020
Sunday, August 2, 2020
Sunday, July 19, 2020
Saturday, July 4, 2020
Friday, June 26, 2020
"Please take off everything but your underwear. That includes all your jewelry, " Maddalyn said while sizing me up. "Earrings, too."
"All my earrings?" I asked, scrunching my nose up and rubbing my fingers over the four in my left lobe.
"Yes. They show up on the film and make things messy."
"Ok. I'll see you in about half an hour." I joked, unscrewing my hoops and studs.
She smiled wearily for my lame attempt at humor and left me alone to change.
Entering the imaging room while pinching the back of the huge blue gown together with my good arm for dear life, lest me violet bum (underwear is permitted) scare anyone ambling by in the hallway, I sigh at the sight of the gigantic x-ray machine and ask if I may please remove my mask, worn for the purpose of keeping my nonexistent cough from spraying anyone in my nonexistent 6 foot field of reach during our 6th month of Covid 19.
"Sure, no problem" the masked technician chirped, flipping expertly through the paperwork my new doctor had sent over. I set my mask down on a chair and caressed behind my ears, nearly raw from the constant rub of elastic.
"Were you in a car accident?" she asked.
"Well there are so many images requested here, I just..." and she peered up at me over her own bulky white face covering with a look that screamed pity even though all I could spy were her irises and eyebrows.
"I have Lyme." I explain and leave it at that even though my story is so much longer and involves so many other details, problems and realities. It's just that I am tired of explaining myself and have just come from another 90-minute appointment, so I am whipped, frazzled, tattered and I want to make this quick.
She walks toward me and makes a move for my ponytail, which, because of my frozen shoulder, took me approximately four tries and 20 minutes to ‘pony’ this morning. Her close proximity to my hair sends me hobbling sideways in an attempt to skirt her grasp.
“Oh! Well, I need to see if there is metal in it. Yup. There’s metal in it,” she proudly declares. “It’s got to come down.”
I yank my hair, nearly halfway down my back now, out of the purple ponytail holder, carefully plucked straight from the package, new this very morning, because it matched my skort and I wanted to look like I tried.
My locks, gray and soft, fall down my back and tickle the rears of my naked armpits. I stifle a giggle, but ‘Maddalyn’ pays me no mind while she sets me up by scooting me a little to the left and a smidge to the right.
She smells of maple syrup and some sort of disinfectant that reminds me of urinal cakes. I’m sure it’s not urinal cakes. It must be some Covid-approved Lysol that is necessitated between patients. Just the thought of how sterile this place must be kept, by governmental decree, starts to give me a headache.
“You got all the piercings out?” she queries with a raised and perfectly plucked brow. For a red-hot minute, I want to pretend that I didn’t and that I had some nasty barbell hidden deep in my fleshy bits not seen by the public. I wanted to say, “Whoops! Forgot that vulva ring – be right back!” but of course I didn’t, because I don’t have one. I’m 50 and I have a beautifully sensible four door sedan, a prepaid Stewart’s card with which I am going to get a tuna salad on rye and a ginger ale when this is over and I have a doctor’s order with 17 different x-rays necessitated on it. I also have a clear understanding of the mid-life crisis right about now.
I get why the 75-year-old guy next to me on the drive down is going 90 mph in his 500 series BMW, fresh from the car wash and nodding at me in his Serengetti drivers resplendent with their smoke colored Corning glass lenses. I get why my neighbor down the street rips out and re-sods his lawn every Spring even though it is perfectly fine and looks no different once it’s been replanted by 3 twenty-something guys in muddy boots and dingy wife beater ribbed tank tops blasting Megadeth from their truck speakers. I get why the boy who had a crush on my best friend in the 5th grade keeps sending her private messages via Facebook asking her if she understands what is happening in our country right now while his kid is out front holding signs declaring how down she is with the struggle even though she is living rent free in his basement sporting her gel nails and Ugg boots after he and his ex-wife sadly broke their marriage working two jobs a piece to pay for her hundred thousand dollar education.
I get it.
When the radiologic tech is almost young enough to be your granddaughter and all the two of you can chat about, other than your wonky back and constchondroitis during your plethora of x-rays is where to get good pizza in Schroon Lake (incidentally, I have no idea, I was just playing along for the sake of conversation because she saw where I lived on my papers and she is heading North this weekend) it might be time to get that tattoo, that jet ski, that condo by the shore. It might be time to visit that ashram, buy those courtside seats to the Celtics; might be time to stop asking ‘What do I have to do?’ and start asking ‘What do I want to do?’
After Maddalyn finished taking my pictures and I got dressed, I drove home with my Met Opera station at a volume that would have scared passengers, passers-by and dogs if there had been any, but there wasn’t. It was just me and Donizetti and his tragic Lucia di Lammermoor, the adoration of which might be a sign of my own impending mid-life crisis. Who doesn’t delight in a tragic cabaletta with a three-way affair, bodice ripping and family feuding and stabbing and dying over love? Don’t answer that. I know full well my enjoyment of opera isn’t shared by many in my circle. But screw all that. I full well dig it.
In fact, my love of opera is directly attributable to my sixth-grade teacher who used to play Carmen and Madame Butterfly on vinyl for us kids in our classroom during “quiet” study time. She’d read that music, especially classical and opera, helped students retain information. I believe it to be true. I remember almost every single detail about that school year.
When I got home and slipped all my earrings back in, I grabbed my laptop and, very uncharacteristically, watched three YouTube videos back to back about applying makeup to middle aged faces. A stunning self-admitted 54-year-old with over 300 thousand views on her channel, applied eyeliner like an artiste. I watched her utilize eyeshadow primer and lash fixative. I google searched the products she recommended and then after 40 minutes I went to the bathroom mirror to check out my own sans-makeup complexion. That’s when I started laughing hysterically, the maniacal laughter of a woman gone mad like Lucia di Lammermoor or the wife of the guy up the street who keeps decimating the lawn when that money could be used this time of year for unlimited mimosa brunches, Jack Rogers sandals, and spa days in Saratoga. I laughed until I nearly threw out my back because I am never going to be any younger than I am today, and no amount of fancy Urban Decay eyeliner is going to fix my aging, aching body.
I am hopeful that my x-rays come back with either a treatable condition or no condition at all though I am not naïve or high enough right now to imagine that will be the case; but if it comes back with Ankylosing Spondilitis, which is one of the things we discussed in earnest today, I might just start searching for the 1937 Chris Craft I have had my eye on since I was 15 years old when my then-boyfriend took me to a boat show. We sat in one owned by a NY state senator who was a friend of the family. I have coveted that gorgeous vessel ever since. As I recall, that boat owning elder statesman had a well-done comb-over, a captain's hat, an expensive navy blazer and multicolored madras shorts. Those who passed by ogled the boat and remarked about how gorgeous “she” was. He nodded sagely, smiled widely, and adjusted his pinky ring while crossing and re-crossing his Sebagos at the ankle, midlife crisis on full display in the boat he christened “Crew Sin”.
Saturday, June 6, 2020
Monday, May 25, 2020
Where is Vinny? I can't find him.
My heart races. I brush the hair away from the back of my neck, cloying with sweat, and then as I emerge from the haze that is is a dream, uncommon because I haven't slept in 16 years, I remember that Vinny is gone.
Vinny is my son. Was my son. Was the little one that we worked to conceive and who has haunted me every day since we found out his little heart stopped beating.
Vinny's birthday was supposed to be July 14, 2009. He would be 11 this year. Something about that kills me...slays me like a dull knife to the back of the head where someone is sawing my skull off but doesn't have the strength or the perseverance and leaves me half hanging because they have run out of steam. Maybe it's that I love preteens with all of their bravado and their adult but not really adult-like ideas. Maybe it's because my most favorite part of my professional counseling experience was with middle schoolers and they trusted me and I adored them and we were so connected that I physically felt it when they hurt. Maybe it's because he would've been a scrappy and tough little league all star, following in the footsteps of his father. Maybe it's because he would have been a smart but stubborn boy with broad taste in music following in the footsteps of his mother. I believed he would have loved hockey and Christmas and nature and God and animals and he would have been the first to hop up and lend a helping hand, all in the footsteps of those who went before. Who cares what he looked like since looks have never meant that much to me, but in the cavern that is my soul I know he would be the perfect combination of all the genetics that were afforded him.
But Vinny never breathed air or cried. He never announced his gifts, or his presence in our world and I was too heartbroken and grief stricken and too fucking broke and tired and insane after two years of constant trying to try again. Broken and broke went hand in hand. And because we kept things private and no one was intimately involved, we inadvertently chose to have no network on which to rely for rallying and support and casseroles and cards, and it all ended with Vinny, though he also had a half dozen unnamed precedents who I am hoping he met in heaven. My daily prayer is that they are all together.
So memorial day means soldiers and it means the fallen and it means those who went before and it means cleaning graves and it means prettying things up at the cemetery which we faithfully do every year but it also means my son is dead and it means I never got to hold him and it means that because of this I ache for him every day in my heart which was actually shattered like a fragile wine glass dropped from a ten story building long before he existed. I suppose you aren't supposed to give a kid a job...I've read that...but Vinny was already at work repairing my heart when he died. Maybe he would have been a cardiologist. Maybe he would have been a bum. I don't know...but to me he is the little kid in the Memorial Day parade...the pumpkin with his hat on backward which I focus on a little too intently and hoot and holler and clap for even though he's not mine, because if I don't spread this love somewhere it will eat me from the inside out. It will devour all that I have to give and it will bury me.
And Memorial Day will be something more entirely.
(Thanks for reading this...I know it's dark as shit but I am, as my friend Patti recently remarked, finding catharsis in my writing. If this resonates with you in any way, I wish you peace and I wish for you to have closure, whatever form that takes. Also, many thanks to my friend Kim D-H. who gave me the encouragement to put this out there again after I published it and then retracted it minutes later.)
(PS. People were very good to us after we lost Vinny, I took a little liberty as a writer here with the no casserole, no card comment. I mean no harm to anyone who happened to know and who lovingly expressed sympathy.)