I've done a lot of waiting in my life. These last few months, I've had a lot of practice at it but it's not helping. There is measurable evidence that I'm not any better at it than I ever was.
There are lots of places in life you end up waiting, for lots of reasons. Doctor's office, DMV, in line at the grocery store, stuck in traffic. The reasons shift with each place, but there's a common thread. These places are synonymous with helplessness. Whatever's going on, you can't actually do anything about it. All you can do is sit and wait for someone you hope knows better than you to do whatever needs done. Doctor's offices in particular.
I'm home right now, but tomorrow I'll be writing from one again. It's a special lounge provided for family members of people in the cancer unit at OHSU.
It's a pleasant room, decorated like the rest of the facility in that faux-Swedish-modern style medical buildings seem to be designed around these days. Since I consider even fake birch panelling a huge improvement over institutional beige tile, I approve of the move. It's just outside the unit so I am right there if she needs me but still off where I won't bother people. It's setup for what I need; it has several power outlets and tables some of the chairs aren't too bad. I'm grateful for that. It's far enough out of the way I can do my job from there while she's napping and stuff but close enough I can be there for her. If you're careful not to think too hard, you could feel like you were sitting here waiting for just about any sort of professional visit.
But it's not an accident that all the chairs and tables are faced away from one wall; it's covered in informational pamphlets about how to deal with the symptoms of various types of cancer and the accompanying chemo and radiation treatements.
I've been here a lot this last month, and that's where the measurement comes in. It shows in the trashbins full of empty cafeteria coffee cups and crumpled, damp tissues. You count it out in laps paced when I couldn't stand that chair or the contents of my own head anymore or the percentage of charge I've gotten on my plugged-in phone since the last time someone called for an update on her condition I don't have.
There are too many uncertainties for my mind. I mean, in the grocery store you can see the front of the line and you have a pretty good idea of the outcome. I stand here behind that lady with the squalling baby for X amount of time. Then that kid in the polo shirt will do his chants and dances with the point-of-sale system, and if the gods of the inventory control system are kind I leave with an empty wallet and full trunk. That will let me cook meals and run my household for X amount of time. There are complexities to it, but I've
worked those out over the years. Here you got nothing. I know people aren't cars, with interchangable parts. But when you don't know precisely what's wrong, have no real way of knowing what needs to be done about it (or, say it softly, if there is anything at all that can be done), and don't know where you'll end up afterward it's maddening.
I'm trying to blame this on the room and I know that's not fair. But it's not just the terrible things. Even waiting for the best stuff ever like babies to be born drives me straight up the wall, and for very similar reasons. The stakes are just too high and I can't do anything but sit there like a jackass in a hailstorm and take it.
And sometimes knowing doesn't help. You try to keep hope alive, but I can tell you exactly when that took what may be a critical hit. 1:12pm today, when I was staring at my iPad when they told us the tumor they took out of her was pancreatic cancer and had already spread to her colon, stomach, and lymph nodes
rather than starting in her duadanum and just filling in the available space inside the digestive tract both directions from there like they had hoped. I've got stage numbers and stuff now. It's not the worst it could be, but it's a lot worse than we'd all hoped. From what they said, they'd taken the hit to theirs earlier in the day and were trying to figure out how to tell us as kindly as they could.
So I'm sitting here trying to figure out where a new line between "keep your chin up" and "STFU Pollyanna" should be drawn based on this information as I prepare to head back to that room for a couple days to try to help her weather the news and keep going. I have to figure that out for myself first, though. I've got a long drive ahead of me to work on it and I will do it. She and her boyfriend who has been with her and helped her all this time need me to. And I need to know that, whatever comes, I at least managed to do this.
For a very quick referent to the start of this conversation, I had some drinks the other night. Like way too many. Then I posted on a forum where I usually hang out. Oy vey!
I was talking to a friend of mine who lurks around there and ran into me at the store yesterday and checked up on me. In response to my self-deprecating apology, he said some things that made me think awful hard when we parted ways. I looked like heck. On top of the hangover (which was still somewhat going on) I
have been fighting low blood sugars since then (today is doing much better). He didn't notice, and from what he said he never had.
It struck me it wasn't just that people don't notice stuff. I mean, they don't. I've been weeping openly in front of people and they didn't see it. Back in 2003 and 2004 I was such a mess I did a sort of boundary study about what seems to indicate to people "crying" and what you can get away with right in front of them that they won't notice. I should dig that up - it might make an interesting popular science piece. I have a story about losing a 2" in diameter button off the front of my blouse right where he -- along with many other men -- rested his eyes as a matter of course right in the middle of a job interview. I got the job, and a couple years later I brought it up jokingly and he honestly didn't notice. The man is an architect noted for his eye for details.
This person I had been talking to yesterday, who I have worked with off and on for more than 10 years and have been friends as well for that long has probably never physically seen me when I wasn't a mess to one degree or another. He knew me during my divorce, the mess with my ex afterward, dealing with my younger son's problems and raising my kids on my own.
I realize he's not alone. Those of you I've met at PAX have only seen me when I haven't slept for three days, stressed to the max, out of my element on every level, and in the second-most unflattering garment I own. The PAXEast Enforcer shirt is incredibly comfortable and easy to work with. It does it's job of being noticeable very well, but that color under those lights does not flatter me at all. (In case you're wondering, the first is a bright yellow sweatshirt with sunflowers all over it my monster-in-law bought me for
Christmas in like 1989 or something. I won't even wear that one to the mailbox.) Particularly by the time we get to evening boardgames; I'll be under-caffeinated, overwhelmed, under-the-weather, and over this whole thing.
I've been like this for years and I never frelling noticed. Well, I mean I did. But I never really thought about what it means for my life, and my relationships with others.
It's been a awful yet somehow liberating realization. It's going to take more thinking to figure out what I want to do about it.
I seem to have been having trouble communicating on certain things recently. Specifically, there are situations in life where our language hasn't really caught up with the times.
My mom has a "boyfriend". They're both in their 60's and have been together for 22 years. We're a little past class rings and going steady here. They're not married and neither one of them have any intentions of ever getting married again - they both have been been through that one multiple times and came out the worse for wear. My kids have grown up with the concept of him, but sometimes it's a little awkward. I can tell you that he doesn't consider them calling him "Grampa" a good option, though now that he has grandchildren of his own I think he's mellowed somewhat on that one. I just call him by his name. But where I run afoul is how to describe the relationship. If I say he's my mom's boyfriend it just sounds weird. But partner or signifigant other or whatever just sounds pretentious.
Adult children is another one our common usage really doesn't handle well. I've been accused of being a hypocrite for talking about playing M rated games with "my son". It was one of those friend-of-a-friend things through church, and the friend had talked up my game writing to this person but didn't say much detail about my kids. The son I was talking about is 24, and has served a full hitch in the Army as a Ranger. He's a combat veteran. I doubt they've put much on a disk he couldn't cope with (probably better than me) by now. But when I talked about playing Mass Effect 3 with him and I said "son" she assumed he was seven or something and sorta came unglued.
Other languages actually build concepts like this into them. Japanese, for example, has the word "tomodachi" which usually translates as "friend", but "ruitomo" translates as "friend because of shared interests" and it's used for friends who are also co-workers and school friends and the like. They use "ryouyuu" for a coworker you don't consider a friend, or "kouyuu" for a schoolmate you don't consider a friend. I'm not sure building in that kind of complexity is the answer.
I'm not sure there is an easy way to go. I'll just have to stick with the awkward and just throw myself on his mercy. Mom and her boyfriend are here Outside and I'll be seeing them here in the next couple days. Hopefully he'll think it's funny.
I was talking to my boss and his wife (his boss and also mine ;) ) who runs the Snoqualmie Valley Master Gardeners website here on Weebly. I helped her with getting her SEO stuff working and in the process I complained about the problems I was having with linking and stuff. She took pity on me and showed me what I was doing wrong (as you can see by the links above).
Turns out, I was over-thinking it. When I write, it's usually in a Notepad editor I popped up when inspiration got to burning, and I've been doing HTML so long I just automatically add the stuff when I'm writing. When I tried to paste that into here it ate it's shorts.
However, if I do this like normal humans do and write the text and and then go back and add the links via their toolbar, magic happens, and there's an end.
Now all I have to do is get back on schedule, and pull a bunch of links out of that text so I can get the offending entry in here.
Still working on things in and around my Daily Planet job. No rest for the wicked. Not even the EXTREMELY wicked. ;)
Quote of the Day
In the midst of the word we were trying to say,
In the midst of our laughter and glee.
We will softly and silently vanish away,
For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.
-- Lewis Carroll "The Hunting of the Snark"