Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Sometimes insight comes from unexpected sources.  Or maybe it's "out of the mouths of babes...."  I was teaching 7 ESL first graders late in the school day.  We were tired, maybe a little silly but they were working hard on learning words for parts of houses.  I pointed to a picture of a door.  "What's this?" I asked.

Darwin answered, "A door."

"Yes, good," I said, "that's a door.  And what do we do with doors?"

Many answers poured forth: we go out, we go in, we close them and open them.  All good.  I pointed to the classroom door and said, "Is that door open or closed?"  

"Closed!", they exclaimed, as if I were so silly that I didn't know a closed door from an open one.

Then Kevin spoke up in his solemn voice.  "I have to say something," he declared.  He thought for  a long moment and then said, "First you can not close a door unless you open it."

He was talking about literal doors.  That's not what I heard.  To me it was the second chapter of my personal ring saga.  For me to be able to close the door on my past life, I had to be willing to open it up, to take a chance on the pain of taking off those rings that symbolized Mark's and my love and our commitment to each other.  I have to recognize that that door is now closed but I can open another one.  Early I wrote about being a "liminal person", standing on the threshold of who knows what.  Maybe someday I'll have the courage to step through that door.

Monday, January 14, 2013

My Left Hand

I took them off, my rings.  My left hand is bare and empty.  No gold, no silver with diamonds winking up at me or glittering in the sun.  My ring finger feels oddly light and maybe a little lonely.  There is a faint indentation where the rings nestled for almost 35 years.

 I've been taking them off in stages since last October 9th.  From that dreadful day in 2011 until the one year mark, I wore my original rings and on the next door finger, I wore his ring too.  At the one year date, I replaced my rings with the small 25th anniversary ring he gave me.  I put his ring away.  And in my heart I was telling myself, "You are not married any more.  You are alone.  You are a widow."

The other day, a friend noticed that I was still wearing my wedding rings.  It made me immensely sad and tearful but it was also a sign to me that it is time to take them off.  Taking them off means I am not married to Mark because he is not here and is not coming back.  It means I'm single, I am not married and I accept that.

Pandora's Box

What do you think when you hear the word "Pandora" these days?  Do you think of the planet in the movie Avatar?  Or the Internet site that allow you to create your own radio station? I  have one of those.  It's called Suptertramp Radio.  It does play Supertramp songs now and then but I have to carefully tend it so that it doesn't go too heavy on Indian music or bluegrass.  It's sometimes melancholy but then, that is a reflection of me right now, I suppose.  If I just let it go without weeding, then all sorts of awful music would probably result.

But today I am thinking of the Pandora of Greek mythology.  She whose curiosity got the better of her.  The one, like Eve, who let evil into the world.  Pandora was warned but she couldn't resist.  After the disastrous opening, one thing was left behind in the box.  Hope.

Mark received the cancer diagnosis on June 6th, 2006 at 1:00 in the afternoon.  It was a Pandora's box that had been opened for us by Dr. Biggers, not by us.  All sorts of evils and horrors flew forth from that box and swirled around for 5 years and four months until Death came, the final evil.  Or was it the savior, the release for him and for me too?  I don't know yet. 

Many of the ills of our personal Pandora's box were also the results of crucial medications and procedures.  They performed as promised until the cancer overwhelmed all defenses and swarmed in to complete the siege on October 9th..  They prolonged his life while making parts of it miserable.  We were chained to the twice monthly chemotherapy sessions.  Twice he had to carry the "chemo purse" around with him so he could receive continuous spurts of expensive, toxic drugs that poisoned the cancer cells but damaged other parts of his body.   The skin of his feet and hands were ravaged by Xeloda; his internal organs hurt by two rounds of powerful radiation, which also burned his skin.  He endured "chemo brain" where he sometimes forgot things (not so much), he suffered nausea from various infusions (5FU, Erbitux, Avastin), high blood pressure.  He had the life saving indignity of a colostomy which meant cleaning, changing, potential embarrassment.  Two surgeries attempted to remove the monster but had to be abandoned.  Twice he had to have a "port" installed in his upper chest to make his infusion sessions more bearable.  Our drawers were filled with large amber bottles of large pills of extreme pain killers that took the edge off for him.  As for me, I had to stand by and watch and wait.

Was there hope at the bottom of our Pandora's Box?  After the November surgery of 2006, we thought no, it's gone.  One more year and he would be gone.  But Dr. Smith, the medical oncologist took the lead and kept Mark going for another 5 years.  He was our personal deliverer of hope when in December of the year of disaster, he told Mark that he wasn't (then) terminally ill and that there was hope of a prolonged life.  And that was what we got.

And now, 15 months after his death, sometimes I do have hope that I will find happiness and if not that, then maybe contentment and gratitude for all that I had and do have.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Wedding Ring Blues

I had a dream last night or early this morning.  My wedding ring was lying on the cement, in a grubby corner of some outdoor public space; like a train station or the light rail station in Tukwila. It was raining and I was in a hurry.  My rings had come apart.  After our wedding, I had them soldered together but in the dream, the were separated into the engagement and wedding bands.  They were also very small, shrinking. This dream made me very sad and tearful which is not a good way to greet the day.