Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Trying to Live in the Moment

Last night I emailed my friend, who has a brain tumor, between periodic checks on the kiddo, so he wouldn't throw up again from coughing. (Now I'm the one coughing; better this way.) It had taken me soooo long to just contact her after she'd chewed me out via one long email right after her diagnosis. To recap: She was diagnosed last year and my response had included the c-word, which she was highly pissed off about. Last night I basically took a deep breath and sent her an imperfect email (because I wasn't brave enough to call), saying that I'd been meaning to contact her for, like, forever, and have just felt very awkward and clumsy and haven't known how to un-awkward myself, but that I do want to be part of her life, and she mine, and is it okay if I come over and chat and whatnot and perhaps piss her off occasionally?

She said yes. She said she'd actually been feeling awkward about it all, too, although she said she doesn't remember much about her angry diatribe except that she knows she was extremely upset that I was the first person to say the c-word to her, and brain tumors aren't called the c-word because they don't behave like the c-word, and her doctors have, in fact, never used that word with her. So I stand corrected. But she said yes, and she was friendly, and that's good. And I for damn sure won't say c_____ ever again to anybody unless they say it first.

Her son is graduating from high school this month, and the family is having an open house for him in two weeks. This is partly what had prompted me to contact my friend -- I want to attend the open house, but I felt we had some residual stuff to address, however delicately. Now the air is cleared, and I will go to the open house with the kiddo, and we will bring folding chairs/table and/or food and/or anything else that ain't nailed down.

My friend was my college roommate, and she got pregnant with her first child when we were seniors in college. When we were freshmen, we hung out in the guys' dorm together. She had an enormous Alice-in-Wonderland-type alarm clock that I was forever hiding under her pillow because it ticked so loudly all night, and I hated that she slammed her closet doors when I was trying to sleep. She was a chemistry major, and those science classes started early; my liberal arts curriculum allowed me to sleep in. We once had a terrible fight as sophomores, in which we left each other nasty notes taped to our door -- room 246. She'd impulsively scribbled plus and equals signs in the appropriate places. I don't remember what that fight was about, exactly. But yes, we fight in writing, it would seem, and about every nineteen years or so. I was at her parents' house on the day of her son's baptism. We returned to school at the same time after our separate hiatuses; she wrote chemistry equations on her son's cloth diapers with a Sharpie. Now the baby I once tended while my friend was in class is graduating from high school and heading for college.

Where did the time go?

She has two other children who came along much later; I was present at the birthing center about one minute after she'd delivered her daughter almost two years ago. The kiddo saw the placenta on the bed and was mildly grossed out, but curious. I fed my friend's middle child some food I'd impulsively picked up in case either of the older kids was hungry. We all sat around the little room and watched the baby, and we had no idea then that my friend would later lose her sight while letting her middle child play at McDonald's, and, within a day or so, be diagnosed with a brain tumor. We'd gone there together once; I wish I'd been with her that day so she didn't have to call for help herself and worry about what to do with her kids, and...

Things change fast. I hate change. There, I said it.

But my friend's tumor has since shrunk, due to surgery and chemotherapy and perhaps all the Reiki the lacrosse moms (from her son's team) have been doing on her, from the size of a large egg to the size of "half a walnut without the shell," as she describes it. Hallelujah. I saw the films from the scan last year; the thing scared me then. I'm glad it's much smaller now. I wish it was gone entirely. My uncle passed away due to a brain tumor a couple of years ago; he was only 52 years old. I can't go too close to this topic, yet I must if I want to be there for my friend. It's about doing the hard stuff; if it were all easy, maybe it wouldn't be as valuable. Something like that.

Recently my friend participated in a survivor walk-a-thon. Since the time she introduced herself to me on our college move-in day, she's always been a go-getter (her second sentence to me at age eighteen was something about wanting to set a blood donation record), and also kinda goofy and eccentric and forgetful in some ways. It's hard to tell if the tumor has made her more so, or if she's just being herself, but I don't plan to ask or even wonder about this (much), because what would the point of that be, after all?

I just plan to go to her house (after I get done with my cold -- don't want to give that to anyone) and hang out and maybe wipe down the kitchen counters (because they always need it, don't they, and it gives me something to do), and see how the kids have grown, and just listen.

Oh, and piss her off occasionally. Just like old times.