TYOLD Day 49: Not the Kind of Differently I Was Hoping For

I’ve never had shingles before.  Can’t say as I’m enjoying them much.

Painkillers, nerve pain medication, pain relieving patches, steroids, and antiretroviral medication .  I’m fairly certain that any post I make for the next few days will probably involve mostly incoherent rambling, but perhaps that isn’t much different than it already is.

BTW, the PET scan is still on – happening Thursday afternoon.  That’ll be fun since laying down is incredibly painful and I have to do that for an hour without moving… while radioactive.

Radioactive shingles.  I think that’s the start to some sort of comic book super villain’s story isn’t it?

I’m going to go enjoy my painkillers now.

Different kind of shingles

Different kind of shingles

TYOLD Day 48: Capital-izing

A few weeks ago I boasted that I could name all 50 states in alphabetical order in under 30 seconds.  Still true.

I used to know is all of the state capitals but that has faded over time to the point where I wasn’t sure if I could get past a dozen or so.

Today I took a couple of online tests and did better than I thought I would.  How good would you do?

After a little bit of studying, I am fairly confident in my renewed knowledge of all 50 state capitals.  Once again, you’re going to have to trust me that I’m not cheating as I type this…

Alabama – Montgomery
Alaska – Juneau
Arizona – Phoenix
Arkansas – Little Rock
California – Sacramento
Colorado – Denver
Connecticut – Hartford
Delaware – Dover
Florida – Tallahassee
Georgia – Atlanta
Hawaii – Honolulu
Idaho – Boise
Illinois – Springfield
Indiana – Indianapolis
Iowa – Des Moines
Kansas – Topeka
Kentucky – Frankfort
Louisiana – Baton Rouge
Maine – Augusta
Maryland – Annapolis
Massachusetts – Boston
Michigan – Lansing
Minnesota – St. Paul
Mississippi – Jackson
Missouri – Jefferson City
Montana – Helena
Nebraska – Lincoln
Nevada – Carson City
New Hampshire – Concord
New Jersey – Trenton
New Mexico – Santa Fe
New York – Albany
North Carolina – Raleigh
North Dakota – Bismark
Ohio – Columbus
Oklahoma – Oklahoma City
Oregon – Salem
Pennsylvania  - Harrisburg
Rhode Island – Providence
South Carolina – Columbia
South Dakota – Pierre
Tennessee – Nashville
Texas – Austin
Utah – Salt Lake City
Vermont – Montpelier
Virginia – Richmond
Washington – Olympia
West Virginia – Charleston
Wisconsin – Madison
Wyoming – Cheyenne

us_map

TYOLD Day 47: Four Years

For my Differently today, I have a story I want to tell. I’ve told pieces of it before to various people; some of this is from a book I wrote but then never did anything with. But I’ve never put it together in quite this way. It’s a bit long but I hope you’ll indulge me.

The story starts a long time ago in a land far, far away. It was 1989 and it was Hollywood, which may not be geographically far, far away but is quite distant in just about every other way that is important.

I was 22 years old. God. Even typing that makes my head hurt a little. Was I ever really that young? There were pictures that apparently prove it but I have burned most of them. It was the hair. I had a lot of very big hair back then. Little did I know.

I had lived in Los Angeles for about four years and found it transitory at best. Friends were easy to come by but friends that lasted were a bit more elusive. Those who know me will attest to the fact that patience and tolerance are not exactly what you might call my strong suits and I have mellowed a LOT in the last couple of decades so you can imagine what I was like back then. I mention this because it was those qualities (or whatever the opposite of quality is) that ruined a couple of good friendships that I had cultivated during those early LA years.

So at 22 (ow) I found myself mostly alone. I had one good friend, a childhood pal that I had known since kindergarten who had moved to LA the year before. But by then he had started dating the guy that he would eventually marry (while it was briefly legal in California) and I could sense that our lives, while always intertwined, were taking different paths.

Still holding on to my dreams of being a part of that far, far away land in whatever shape or form I could get it, I took a job at a small talent agency. I have often thought of writing a sitcom about this place but it was so outrageous that no one would believe it. The two sisters who ran the place were blondes of an indiscernible age primarily because of their addiction to plastic surgery – when the fax machine broke, they wouldn’t get a new one because they were saving their money for whatever nip or tuck was scheduled next. The 70 year old accountant – a cousin I believe – had frequent, apparently vivid recollections of being in Britain during the Blitz. One of the agents had a dog that came to the office every day and almost every day peed or crapped on the carpet in the reception area. I was the receptionist. Guess who had to clean it up? The biggest clients were 70-year-old singing triplets and a guy most famous for being married to one of the beloved TV moms of the 1970’s.

In fact, it was that guy who wound up getting me fired. Well, not fired specifically, but rather “you can’t fire me because I quit”ted.

This guy was a jackass. He wished to believe that he was still relevant and important and powerful but since he was none of those things to most people he acted relevant and important and powerful around anyone who was in a position that required them to do what he wanted. Waiters. Taxi drivers. Receptionists. He treated them all like crap to make himself feel bigger and better. I recognize this now. Back then it just pissed me off. A reminder of the lack of patience and tolerance is probably worthwhile here.

I don’t remember exactly what happened that day but it involved me calling the TV mom’s husband an asshole and hanging up on him. Shortly thereafter I stormed out yelling those immortal words about not being able to be fired because I had quit. So there. Nyah.

Luckily about a week before, as I had quickly tired of the scary faces, dog crap, and random air raids, I had submitted my resume to another talent agency down the street, a much larger and more powerful one. Instead of the singing triplets and TV mom husbands they had actual honest to God movie stars.

The day after I quit/fired the small talent agency, I went in for an interview at the big talent agency and wound up getting a mailroom job there in April of 1989.

There are two brief digressions necessary here that will become very important in a moment. The first is that I loved Gilda Radner. Who didn’t? She passed away in May of 1989. The second is that I loved the comic strip Bloom County. Who didn’t? It ended its run in the summer of 1989.

Sometime between those two events – I believe it was late May or early June – as Bloom County was winding down, a strip appeared where Opus the penguin was devastated by the fact that the series was ending, saying good things like that aren’t supposed to end. He listed a bunch of things that weren’t supposed to end and in the final panel, he hung his head and said “Gilda Radner wasn’t supposed to end.”

I cut out that strip, blew it up on the copier, and put it above my desk.

Although I have no specific recollection of the event it was this comic strip hanging over my desk that made Mary Herczog stop and talk to me. She was working at ICM as an agent assistant, a breed that I mostly avoided because the only thing worse than an agent is someone who wants to become an agent.

But Mary wasn’t one of that particular breed. She was the kind of person who would stop and talk to the lowly mailroom guys because of a shared love of Gilda Radner and Bloom County.

We went out to dinner shortly thereafter where, as Mary described it, we realized we had the same sense of humor and that I was gay and she was straight so we had no other choice than to become best friends for the rest of our lives.

Four years ago today, February 16, 2010, my alarm went off at 5am, rousing me from a dream. I don’t remember what it was but I remember being grateful that I was not dreaming it anymore. The lights were on this time when I went into the room, and Steve was sitting with Mary, the grief on his face like a mask. Sometime in the last hour he was awaked by her breathing, which had grown even more raspy and wet and labored. When he checked on her he found that she had opened her eyes. I’d heard of the term “thousand-yard stare” before but I hadn’t ever seen it until that moment. She wasn’t looking at anything. Or maybe she was. I hope it was something nice.

We knew that she had entered a new phase in the process and although neither one of us was exactly sure if it meant that the end was near or simply nearer, we decided it was time to start making phone calls.

Steve called the hospice nurse and family. I called friends to have them come. Within a couple of hours, the house was full of people again – about a dozen total. They all took a few minutes with her and I gave them their privacy. Each of us had our histories with Mary and I wasn’t going to intrude on theirs. But I still made sure that either Steve or myself was either in the room or close to it at all times.

The hospice nurse showed up around 8:30am and checked her out. She was a sturdy woman who spoke with a thick Ukrainian accent. I thought this would’ve pleased Mary for some reason. She liked the Baltics and people from them.

Steve was on the phone to Mary’s doctor and it was just me and the nurse in the room for a bit. After she examined Mary, she made her own phone call to the hospice to make a report. She talked about blood pressure and responsiveness and breathing.

“Patient is actively dying,” the nurse said.

After she finished, I asked her if that meant it would be soon and she said, “Could be hours. Could be days. You never know.”

Days, I thought. It can’t be days. There’s no way any of us can take this for days. I pulled Steve aside when he came back into the room and told him what the nurse had said. He nodded, looking a little pale. I think he thought the same thing. We can’t do this for days.

A second nurse arrived and they got to work on cleaning Mary up. While we all waited outside the room, they changed her bedding, her nightgown, and her diaper. They washed her and combed her thin, dark hair.

“You look beautiful,” Steve said when we walked back into the room. I agreed.

There was a bit of a lull after that and I sat in the room with Mary’s niece Bianca and we started chatting about Plucky Survivors. I pulled up the website we had done chronicling our adventures and started reading aloud to Mary.

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnddddddd…..we’re off!

Believe it or not, we actually left pretty much exactly at the scheduled departure time of 8:30am. Oh, yes; Rick has it all plotted out in the Big Book O’ Fun, complete with detailed maps, car games, CD lists, and more, more, more! Why so early? Well, we had to be there right at the doors of the Britney Spears Museum in Kentwood as it opened, don’t you know.

I made it through the Britney Spears Museum, laughing about that ridiculous moment when the woman turned on the lights of the recreated stage and I swear… I absolutely swear on everything that I believe in that Mary had the faintest hint of a smile on her face. Maybe I was imagining it or maybe it was something else entirely but whatever was going on, she hadn’t looked that at ease in days.

People started coming in an out again for brief visits but this time I didn’t leave. At some point we realized that it was Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, and this became quite a big deal in the house. Having spent many a Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Mary and Steve had plenty of beads so we broke them out and everyone put on a strand or two. We draped some on her hospital bed and talked of the big party happening in the Big Easy.

Other coincidences… it was also her father’s birthday and the day she got a signed copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” in the mail from Harper Lee, a byproduct of one of our Plucky Survivors adventures. I don’t know if there is such a thing as cosmic timing, but this seemed to have it.

A little after 11am, Steve, Nettie, and I were in the room when Mary’s mom Claudia came in. She sat with her for a few moments quietly, not saying anything, while the three of us chattered away. Claudia got up to leave but I stopped her for some reason. I don’t know why, but I did. We began talking about this and that and eventually worked our way around to the beads.

“I was saying earlier that we should just say to heck with this,” I began and then caught myself. We had promised Mary that we wouldn’t talk about her as if she wasn’t there – no “Steel Magnolias” moments for her. I turned to Mary and said, “We’re just going to say to heck with all of this and go get on a plane and go to Mardi Gras, right Mary?”

She turned her head slightly at that moment. It was the first time she had moved in hours. Her chin came up a bit as if she was looking up, and out. Away. It took me a moment to realize that she wasn’t breathing.

“You guys,” I said loudly as I jumped to my feet.

Everyone turned to Mary and began crowding around the bed. Pounding footsteps came down the stairs as everyone crowded into the room.

I stood at the foot of the bed, my hands on her leg. I held onto her as she left. I watched as my best friend left.

I don’t care what you read or hear or even what you have experienced, but those who say that the moment when someone dies is beautiful are lying to you or perhaps to themselves. It is ugly and horrible. It is like the end of a war when you realize that everything is destroyed and all that is left is rubble. It is final and uncompromising. It is the hardest thing in the world, ever.

The next few hours were the classic and clichéd blur. I made some phone calls. I sat in the room with her body and sent some e-mails. I watched as a hospice nurse came to collect the medications. I watched as somber men came to put her body in a bag, then on a stretcher to carry her upstairs as the dogs barked madly. I watched as they put her body in a van. It had the name of a rental car agency on the license plate frame, which I thought was weird. I watched it drive away as all of us stood at the edge of the driveway and waved. Then the van stopped as the driver realized that he was going the wrong way, turned around, and drove back by again while we all waved again.

Mary would’ve thought that was funny.

I stayed for a little while and made sure that someone was going to stay with Steve before I collected my stuff and headed home. I slept for a few hours as the emotional toll and the lack of real sleep for the last couple of days finally caught up with me.

When I woke up it was dark and I considered just staying in bed until the morning but I knew there was one more thing I needed to do.

I went on to the Plucky Survivors website and found six pictures of Mary and I together. The first from 2006 of us in front of the Biggest Ball of Twine; the second of us recreating “American Gothic” complete with costumes in front of the Grant Wood house in Iowa in 2007; a third was the two of us sitting next to a statue of Colonel Sanders at the Kentucky Fried Chicken Museum in Kentucky, 2008; fourth was Mary sitting on my lap in the Washington DC airport at the end of our trip in 2009; fifth was the picture we took in her foyer the morning of our Plucky Mini trip in 2010.

I put those pictures and this, a version of something I had written to Mary a few years earlier, on the site:

Mary and I often ruminated on the odd randomness of things; how one event, if it had happened differently or not at all, could change things so dramatically. If I had not picked up dog crap and been treated as same by TV mom husband… if I had not been a fan of Gilda or Bloom County… if a billion other things hadn’t happened, we never would’ve met. When Mary thought about this she got scared, the thought of us not connecting as frightening as an axe wielding maniac hiding under the bed waiting to pounce.

I just remain in awe of it.

For more than 20 years, Mary was my best friend. We saw each other through the grand events and the minutiae that happen over the course of a life. For instance I remember when she started talking about this guy named Steve (which for the record would be one of the grand events although that wouldn’t become clear until sometime later when she married the guy).

I remember her being the first one I called when a theater company decided to stage a play I had written. I remember her being the first one I called when a TV production company bought a TV show I had written, which happened through a series of events that started with her sending a script to a producer friend of hers.

I remember road trips to Vegas. In fact it was Mary that got me started writing about Vegas. We wrote our first travel guide together back in 1998 about Las Vegas and that led to more travel guides for the both of us, my Vegas website, and me looking like a dumbass on The Travel Channel.

I remember when I mentioned that for my 40th birthday, lacking anything else interesting to do, that I might go see the “Biggest Ball of Twine” in Branson, Missouri. Her response: “Cool. Can I go?” Four years later we had covered nearly 10,000 miles across the country in adventures that we called Plucky Survivors See America.

I remember how we kept each other alive in many ways, even before we both got sick.

To say my life would not have been the same without her is too small. I can’t find words that are big enough.

Perhaps there aren’t any. Perhaps there are no words that can represent the bond, the love, the unbreakable solidity of a best friendship other than the knowledge that it will be there, always, even if we aren’t.

At the bottom of the page, I put the photo of us sitting under the Friendship Oak in Mississippi at the end of our first Plucky Survivors trip in 2006. Its branches reach out around us as we sit smiling on a bench, a plaque at our feet. It reads:

“I am called the Friendship Oak. Those who enter my shadow are supposed to remain friends through their lifetime no matter where fate may take them…”

0918_tree

TYOLD Day 46: Examples of Irony

Example #1: I have always wanted to go to the Petersen Automotive Museum here in Los Angeles but the primary thing that has stopped me is that I didn’t want to sit in all the traffic I’d need to sit in to get to its mid-Wilshire location.

Example #2: When I finally decided to go today, on a Saturday afternoon mind you, it took me longer to drive to the Petersen Automotive Museum than I spent actually inside of the Petersen Automotive Museum.

Alanis should redo her song and include that.

The Petersen is two floors of automotive art, with vehicles from the earliest days through today’s modern electric cars.  In between are stops at hot rods, town cars, cars used in movies, pick ups, motorcycles, and even the world’s most complete collection of Hot Wheels (one of every body style ever cast).

The first floor is the most interesting where they put the cars in front of Hollywood-worthy backdrops helping to explain their context to society.  It is very heavily focused on Los Angeles, with explorations of how the car culture drove the development of the city.  Here’s a fascinating tidbit… up until the 1920s, markets were in street-facing buildings just like any other urban setting, mostly accessed by locals in the neighborhood on foot.  But the automobile created a need for a place to park, so they developed the first “drive-in markets,” which were set back from the street to allow for room for people to pull in and load groceries.  The modern mini-mall, with a strip of stores (often in an L-shape) and a small parking lot, is the direct descendant of those original drive-ins.

The second floor is mostly just vehicles grouped thematically and without a lot of explanation or context so it’s a little less successful, but it’s still got some crazy beautiful machines to drool over.  Even if you’re not a “car guy,” it’s easy to appreciate these as the works of art they really are.  Take a look at the photos below and tell me that you don’t agree.

They also offer tours of a climate-controlled “vault” with about 100 other cars for an additional $20 (over the normal $15 admission) but I didn’t have time for that.  I had to get back on the road to get home.

BTW, after the museum I stopped at the grocery store (using the parking lot, of course) and did a random act of kindness involving coupons.  I had a bunch that I didn’t want but instead of throwing them away, I left them by the products on the store shelves so somebody else could.

Work of Art

Work of Art

1939 Packard

1939 Packard

Showing the Drive-In Market

Showing the Drive-In Market

Dig the White Walls

Dig the White Walls

This Was Liberace's (big surprise)

This Was Liberace’s (big surprise)

Stylin'

Stylin’

Low Ridin'

Low Ridin’

I SO Wanted One of These as a Kid

I SO Wanted One of These as a Kid

From the Movie "The Hangover"

From the Movie “The Hangover”

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Who Ya Gonna Call?

TYOLD Day 45: Valentine’s Schmalentine’s

One the one hand, Valentine’s Day seems to be engineered to make all of us who don’t have a significant other feel as though we are pathetic loser who will never find true happiness or love and will die alone, surrounded by cats, sitting on our respective porches throwing empty gin bottles at the neighborhood children.

On the other hand, there’s usually bins of discounted, heart-shaped chocolate the next day, so really… kind of a wash.

I continued my Random Acts of Kindness Week observance with several of them including buying donuts for the office (well, at least the marketing department); getting flowers for my unofficial dates for the night Maureen and Katie; and by leaving a heart-shaped, Valentine’s Day balloon that Katie had brought to our little soiree tied to a fence in front of my building.

Regarding the latter, I was going to tie it to a random car but then I thought it would be just my luck that the person on whose car I tied the balloon would have a stalker and think they were going to get murdered or something.  I decided to leave it on the fence instead and hope that it will give people passing by a smile.

I also did a couple of Differentlies today including playing the game Scattergories (I kicked ass, I must say) and eating cauliflower.

Okay, it’s entirely possible that I have eaten cauliflower in my life before when it was in something else – like a soup or wrapped in bacon or the like.  But I don’t think I have ever eaten a cauliflower just as itself.  Now I have.

I’m going to stick with the chocolate, I think.vd

TYOLD Day 44: Random Acts of Kindness Day 4

Late in the day I got word that the PET scan had been approved by the insurance company, so now just waiting for scheduling.  Now that I’m seeing Dr. Kangaroo instead of Dr. Wile E. Coyote, they are sending me to a different place to get the scan done, which I’m a bit sad about.  The last place had a certain charm, from the Liberace inspired waiting room (see below) to the cute technician – you can read about that in my post Radioactive Donuts if you are really bored.

I did my random act of kindness early this morning, buying the breakfast of the person in the car behind me in the drive-through.  I know, not terribly inventive or eventful, but I have chosen to believe that it made her day.

I actually done that before so it doesn’t really count as my Differently for the day, but I got busy and the hours got away from me and now there’s a comfy chair calling so how about this… although I have bought the meal of the person in the car behind me at a drive-through before, I have never done it at breakfast nor have I ever done it at Burger King.

It’s a stretch, I know.  I’m intending to make up for it this weekend with a bunch of more interesting Differentlies, I promise.

Sorry for the blurry.  I didn't think the staff would be happy about me taking a picture of their waiting room so I could make fun of it later.

Sorry for the blurry. I didn’t think the staff would be happy about me taking a picture of their waiting room so I could make fun of it later.

TYOLD Day 43: It’s Always Something

NOTE: this is a long, rambling post that winds up being a little sad.  You have been warned.

A lot of disparate things happened today that qualify for the Differently pile but they all seemed to be connected, in ways big and small, to cancer.  I wish the theme for the day had been unicorns riding rainbows through a field of sunflowers, but alas.

I started my day with a new oncologist.  My former – the guy I called Dr. Wile E. Coyote on my Year of Living with Cancer blog because his actual name sounded like a cartoon character – left the practice he had been with and moved to Pasadena and I’m just too lazy to schlep that far.  So instead I transferred to a different doctor in the same group and today was my first meeting with him.

Dr. Wile E. Coyote was great, but his office staff was always a bit frantic; like they had too much to do and were freaked out about it.  The new doc’s support staff was obviously busy but were friendly and joking around with me and the other patients, giving people high-fives and hugs.  It was a nice change of pace.

As was the fact that I got there at 10:15 for a 10:30 appointment and barely had a chance to sit down in the waiting room when they took me to an exam room, did the weight/blood pressure/temperature stuff, and had me ready for when the new doctor walked in at 10:30 on the nose.  I’m not naive enough to believe that will ever happen again but it has never happened EVER before at any doctor’s office so I’m impressed already.

I’m going to call the new guy Dr. Kangaroo, because he reminded me a bit of the Captain of the same name only without the mustache or the bowl haircut.  It’s weird where my mind goes but I have learned to accept it and move on and I think you should also.

Anyway, I really liked this guy – he had read my chart, asked all the right questions, wanted to know my opinion on things, was concerned about both my physical and mental well-being, and just generally seemed like a nice man.  I’m a fan.

I wasn’t a huge fan of what he said, which involved the word “indeterminate.”  When you’re having a check-in with your oncologist, or any doctor really, what you want is “everything is fine, grand, great, and rosy and it was practically a waste of everyone’s time that you even had to come here today.  Your unicorn is parked out front.”  Instead what I got was “indeterminate.”

Every four months I have to get check-ups to make sure that nothing has gone awry with the whole “remission” thing.  I get a variety of tests including some blood work, x-rays, and a few others.  This time some of the results came back as “indeterminate,” which is to say that there is nothing specifically wrong but it also isn’t fine, grand, great, and rosy – or at least they are unable to definitely say so.  In other words, no unicorns for me, yet.

This most likely means nothing.  Dr. Kangaroo and I both firmly believe that it’s a blip but we have to make sure so I have to go in for some more tests including a PET scan.  That’s the one where I have to get radioactive and lay in a tube for a really long time.  This is all being done out of an overabundance of caution and I’m sure it’ll all be fine so nothing to worry about.  I don’t have a date for the test yet but it will probably be late next week or early the following, right before I go to Vegas to watch The Academy Awards with a bunch of friends.

The weirdness of all this is that it was exactly one year ago that I had another set of tests that came back indeterminate and then had to go get a PET scan right before I went to Vegas to watch The Academy Awards with a bunch of friends. That PET scan didn’t turn out well, so while I’m certain that it’s all fine this time, to say I’m not just a little spooked would be a lie.

Anyway, as I left the doctor’s office I went to stand in line to pay for parking and there was an older woman in front of me.  I don’t know that she had cancer – there are lots of doctor’s offices in the complex that is served by this garage – but since the Roy and Patricia Disney Cancer Center (where my oncologist is located) is there, I figured it was at least possible.  I needed something to make myself feel better after “indeterminate” and so I said, “Excuse me, Ma’am?  This is Random Acts of Kindness Week so I’d like to pay for your parking.”

She looked at me, stunned, and said, “Really?  You have no idea!  I left my purse at home and was standing here not knowing if I was going to have enough change to pay for parking.”  Turns out, she only had about $3 and the charge was $5.  Weird how the world works, huh?

The woman, the person working the register, and the guy behind me who heard the whole thing were all kind of gobsmacked by this random act and it made me realize that we just don’t expect kindness in our lives.  We usually expect everything to be a hassle and for people to be dicks and often it is and they are, but sometimes kindness exists even if we have to make it so ourselves.  I have to say that afterward I felt better and there was no “indeterminate” about it.

The last bit of cancer-related Differently I partook in was going to The Falcon Theater in Burbank (for the first time) with my friend Maureen to see “Bunny, Bunny,” a play by Alan Zweibel about his friendship with Gilda Radner.

I have a deep connection with Gilda that is related to my friend Mary In fact, in a way, Gilda is the reason that Mary and I met.

I was working in the mail room of a big talent agency in 1989 and I had a bunch of things on the wall above my desk including a copy of a “Bloom County” cartoon.  It was this:

bloomcounty

Mary, who was working upstairs at the same talent agency, loved Bloom County and Gilda Radner.  She saw it over my desk one day when she swung through the mail room and she stopped to talk to me about it.

Flash forward about 20 years.  I was getting ready to move and was cleaning out the clutter I had accumulated since I had lived in that particular apartment (about 14 years) and stumbled upon the cartoon strip – THE cartoon strip.  The one I had hanging over my desk.  I put it in a frame and gave it to Mary.  She told me that it was the best gift anyone had ever given her and she liked to carry it around with her, holding it tightly.

Flash forward another few months.  It was about two in the morning and her husband Steve took a break while I sat with her, quietly at first.  It had been hours since she was responsive in any meaningful way, although occasionally she would seem to respond to direct questions by trying to move her body or with noises as if she wanted to say something but couldn’t.  Whether this is true or not – whether she really was cognizant of her surroundings – is probably up for debate and yet not worth debating.

Although others were talking to her, I really hadn’t been all that much.  For some reason just being in the room… being with her was enough.  And on top of that I really couldn’t think of anything all that interesting to say.

But this time I managed to find my voice.

“This sucks,” I said as I sat next to her bed.  “I mean really sucks.  But you know it’s okay, right?  It’s okay that you go.  I mean it’s not okay.  It’s about as far from okay as you can get, but it’s okay.  And I’m going to be okay, too.  I know you were worried that I wouldn’t be, but I will be.  Okay might look different than it does now, but I’ll be okay.  I’m saying okay a lot, aren’t I?  I promise if I ever write this as a movie script or a book I’ll make this much more intelligent.”

I was quiet for a moment.  So was she.

“I’ll be okay,” I said.  “But I wanted to ask you… Can I have the ‘Bloom County’ cartoon strip back?”

She hadn’t moved or done anything in the entire time I was in there but as soon as I asked that question, she made a noise, like a low moan, and struggled a bit.

“Afterwards!” I said quickly.  “After you’re gone.  Not now!”

She calmed down.  Like I said, debatable.  But not worth debating.

She passed away later that morning – February 16, 2010.

“Bunny, Bunny” is not a great play.  It’s disjointed and a bit frenetic at times and the actors are good but not fantastic.  Having said that, the second act, as Gilda is diagnosed with cancer, has some really lovely moments in it including what I think is the best line of the play, almost at the end: “She’s been dead for years, but I’m still not ready for her to die.”

It’ll be four years this Sunday since Mary died.  I’m still not ready.  That, my friends, will never be Different.

TYOLD Day 42: Random Acts of Kindness Day 2

Lately I have been obsessed with fruit smoothies – I have one almost every single morning, often from Jamba Juice.

Today, I got my medium Razzmatazz, paid for it, and then handed the clerk a $20 bill and one of the ROAK cards.  I told her to pay for the drink of the next person to come in the store and that whatever was left over should go in their tip jar.  She thought it was really cool and wanted to know where she could get some of the cards so she could do something herself.

FYI, I just did a google image search for “random acts of kindness cards” and then printed out one of what I found.  You can also lift the image from below, paste it into a word document a few times, and then print it.

To prove that random acts of kindness don’t have to involve money, I also did two other things today.  I went to the grocery store at lunch and there was a parking spot right in front, just steps from the door.  But instead of taking it, I parked a little further back so as to leave that space open for someone else to enjoy parking right next to the door.  Maybe it would be someone who needed it more than I did.

Lastly, as I was leaving work today, there was a woman carrying a large box into the parking garage.  I offered to carry it for her.  She wouldn’t let me, but I still count it as a random act of kindness, especially since it seemed that she was grateful that I had at least offered.

I have several Differentlies on the docket for tomorrow including meeting a new oncologist and going to the Falcon Theater for the first time, but am going to try to squeeze in a random act of kindness just to keep up the week’s theme.

I highly recommend this folks.  It’s good soul soothing.

random

TYOLD Day 41: Random Acts of Kindness Day 1

This is Random Acts of Kindness week, so I’m going to do a bunch of them this week as my Differently items.

I started today by going to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf next to my office and I bought a $10 gift card.  I paid with a $20 and the barista said, “And I owe you $10,” as she laid down two $5 bills.  I said “No, you don’t,” and pushed the $10 back toward her.

She looked with suspicion at first and then confusion and then like she was a little freaked out.  She said, “No, you can’t…” and I said, “Sure, I can.”  And then she asked, “But… why?”

I thought there, right there… that a person who is most likely a minimum wage employee at a coffee shop who probably rarely gets a few coins thrown in the little tip jar by the register would ask “why” when someone gives them $10 is exactly why.

I showed her the little cards I had printed out (see below) and told her it was Random Acts of Kindness Week and then told her to pay it forward as I walked out of the store.

Then I went to the parking garage and left the $10 gift card and one of the RAOK cards on the car parked next to mine.

I wasn’t having a great day but I feel a lot better now.

To find out more about National Random Acts of Kindness Week visit actsofkindness.org.

random

TYOLD Day 40: Lifesaver

I have a vague recollection that at some point in my life I learned how to do CPR but it was probably when I was a kid or a young adult and I don’t remember much about this morning much less 30 years ago so I’d be pretty useless in an emergency. I can’t even get my phone unlocked quickly enough to dial 911.

So I went online tonight and went through four different CPR instructionals. I’m not saying I would be necessarily useful but I think now I would not be totally useless. At the very least I understand hand positioning (place two fingers at the sternum and then the heel of your hand in the center of the chest just above that), how many compressions to do (30 then two breaths, rinse, lather repeat), how fast to do them (about 100 compressions per minute – they say the perfect pace is the Bee Gees “Staying Alive” – no really), and how hard to push (about 2 inches in adults).

But reading things online and watching videos isn’t exactly the same as knowledge, so I’m going to sign up for a first aid/CPR/AED class with the Red Cross. I’m going to be just like McDreamy on “Grey’s Anatomy.”

It’s a beautiful day to save lives!cpr