(Note: I wrote this blog early into Tad's chemo on Sept 3. His hospital stay is almost over and it was a rough ride. An infection migrated to his kidneys and liver around day 10 rendering him weak, confused, aggressive and -fortunately- mostly amnesic. He is better now. I discovered in that period that when my fear gets the biggest - I stop communicating with the outside world. Good to know for the future...)
Last night I had a lengthy dream about a former lover of mine and myself. We were involved in a complex adventure to get out of a country. Our escape plan included border patrol, trains, walls to climb and buildings to skirt. Our plan was genius and --it was quite clear to me-- would get us around and beyond all these obstacles. But in the end for reasons I couldn't grasp he decided to stay on the train just as we were supposed to hop off. He knew he was sick and that our escape plan would exact too much of a toll on his body. I wept as the train rolled away.
But shortly after hopping off, I suddenly found myself back in my home country in a fancy restaurant trying to explain my sorrow to acquaintances who just didn't understand.
Tad is back in the hospital for round three of chemotherapy - politely called "consolidation".
This is a good thing we're told: round two managed to put him into remission and consolidation will prepare him for the grand slam, a bone marrow transplant. The not so good new is we're also told that given Tad's particular make-up this final and necessary round can only be conducted in Seattle, Washington. For those unlucky souls who have yet to discover the beauty of the Pacific Coast, Seattle is about 15 hours by car from San Francisco.
Thus yesterday we found ourselves calling there to find out about housing, length of stay, prices, to try to understand what is covered by Tad's insurance and more importantly what is not. My mind began wandering as some sweet woman explained to me how certain insurances crossed state lines and others didn't. Within a short time my head was spinning with uncertainty. It's not impossible by any means but it may mean an expensive stay, for at least two months, away from our community, in a city we don't know. It's not clear to me how much I'll be able to stay there while Tad is undergoing all of this and how much I'll need to be in San Francisco.
Tad once told me (wisely) that it's important to look at the past, but just as important not to stare. As we cross this strange leukemia desert together I see that the idiom holds true for the future as well. It's important to look ahead and see the goal in the distance but it's equally important to come back quickly to the present, to our feet in the sand, the breeze on our skin, to one foot in front of the other.
What my dream reminded me of, a notion I like to leave out of my everyday thinking, is the painful idea that we may not get to our destination together. Cancer has already separated us in a way; he has it in his body, I have it in my heart. Occasionally this reality leaves us with a gulf of misunderstanding at times hard to overcome.
Then we have moments like the one we had two nights ago in which I put his hospital bed up high, turned down the lights, pulled the curtain to block out glances from passersby, put on Brian Eno's Airport Music and gave him a delicious massage to try to ease the throbbing headaches he's been experiencing this time around. Afterward we sat holding hands, watching a brilliant Swedish thriller that had me gasping like a school girl. In those moments we remember that we are still side by side in this journey, just living it from different angles.
In the final scene of last night's dream I get up from the table to go the bathroom only to discover that the toilet is in the middle of a vast, bustling, 19th century dining room full of elegant diners, all of whom can see me doing my business.
A lovely metaphor.
Here I sit with those normally-not-seen parts of my life in full view: at times I cry on the subway or while shopping for my weekly groceries. The good news is I no longer hear those old playground voices: "Boys don't cry", "Be strong", "What will people think?" I just sit and do my business.
It's just life folks. Go back to your meals.