Saturday, July 29, 2017


     Dan told me yesterday that he has pancreatic cancer. He's a older client that I've befriended. One of my co-workers found out in advance and gave me a head's up, trying to ease my grief, but it didn't make a difference when he looked me in the eye.
     In his early 80's, you'd never guess it. Smart and quick witted, funny, and always on the move, Dan just doesn't slow down. He spent his working life as a man of finance and industry, made a fortune and protected it all for his kids and grandchildren. The last ten years have been spent in twice daily visits to a nursing home where his wife resides. She's long since forgotten who he is, but he goes morning at night to help her eat, to sit by her side, to just be there.
     He told me that he's got weeks of chemo scheduled, then weeks of radiation, and then finally surgery to cut the remaining tumor out. Dan told me that he's going to remain positive, but he's concerned.  His kidneys function at about 30%, and although he's been taking all necessary measures to mitigate any issue from that for years, his doctors are concerned about what impact the cancer treatment will have on them. He told me he's had a good run.
     This caused me to get weepy and say that his wife needed him around, and that's when Dan quickly shut my sentimentality down. He told me that she was extremely well cared for in the nursing home. She wants for nothing. But she has no idea who he is. He comes and goes without acknowledgement and with no expectation. He said, Heather, she stares off into space, has a hard time swallowing and has long since stopped being able to dance with me. And at that last image, my facade broke and I had to stop looking at him while he spoke.
     He told me about his upcoming plans and that I would probably not see a lot of him over the next couple of months, as he figured he'd be wiped out from the treatments. He also told me that he's going to a show downtown next week and he bought orchestra seats for himself and his daughter, figuring, what the hell ... why not. Why fuss and fret over the cost at this point, he said. He stood up and told me that he was going to be positive and that I shouldn't worry. Then he hugged me goodbye -- hugged me hard -- and whispered in my ear that it had been nice knowing me.
     It feels some days as though the older I get, the more I say goodbye.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Tonight's thoughts

     It's been a rough couple of months for me and mine since I last wrote to you, my loves. May is a really icky month, between Mom's birthday and Mother's Day, and this year it was made all the tougher by my job not honoring my request for the day off. My sister and I still went to Mom's grave, but it was two days before her birthday. We had to turn and burn to get there and back in a day and a half. It also impacted Mother's Day morning with my kids, which led to a whole other level of guilt. The schedule hasn't gotten any better, and it's wearing me thin. So thin in fact that I got the flu and was sick throughout the bulk of June. And now here we sit in July, the year half complete, babies older and hopefully we're a little wiser.
     But amidst this brouhaha, an amazing thing has happened. My first book of poetry has been released with Nixes Mate Books. I tell you this not to shamelessly hustle, but to share the enormity of this moment. Over these posts, I have described that my faith, music and words have in various parts of my life kept me alive, and sometimes not in that order. I'm not speaking in hyperbole. Books were a means to escape, to learn, to change, to become a better version of me. I've been writing poetry since the fourth grade. In  my teenage years, I kept most of it kept to myself and shared only occasionally with mom. Man, it was angsty and dark and filled with unrequited love.
     In college, I spent more time writing non-fiction, getting my poetry fix through Forensics and hours spent in the theater, my longed for vocation. Later in my twenties, I would ride the subway in Boston and write in notebooks. There were poems for babies that didn't exist yet, for worries for the future, for boys I loved. Then the children came and everything changed, as it does for most of us. Meanwhile, I worked for a bookstore, so I was around books all the time. I was always waiting to be found out as a fraud. Everyone I worked with read fiction and the classics, some could wax on about esoteric themes in literature, others had read every bestseller ever. I was the girl who read comic books and poetry and philosophy, so I memorized all the book jackets and learned how to confidently upsell something I had never cracked open.
     Books are light. They are freedom. They are hope. Unlike your pants, they never stop fitting, although you can outgrow them. They are knowledge, commiseration and growth. The first time I saw one of my poems online and then in print, I was giddy. Mom made sure we had library cards the moment we could print our names. To have a book with my name on the front cover would thrill her to no end. She was a writer, too. Honestly, she could do anything creative if she gave thought to it. I wrote her a poem for her birthday more than fifteen years ago. It was super sappy, and she ate it up. After her death, we eventually moved her desk into our bedroom. I haven't removed a thing from its original spot, other than to give my siblings their baby books that she kept in the lower right hand drawer. I've added a few items of mine in the hope that they will absorb her magic. I found the envelope with that poem I wrote her tucked between some files. She's in a lot of this book. I think she'd like that.