Sunday, December 09, 2007

Disengaging

I'm saying goodbye to two old friends today - friends that have served me well for 15 years, and which saw me from grad school through single-woman-in-Brooklyn-dom and on into marriage and 2 kids.

Today I say farewell to Yellow Ikea Chair and Unique Upholstered Loveseat Sofabed.

Folks are coming to get them before noon, when we will leave for Green Acres to drown our sorrows in hot chocolate and snow tubing.

And I am more than a little sad. They have been good, old friends - but it's time to let them go. Neither fits in the living room and both need (badly) to be reupholstered.

I would just remake the slip covers, as I have several times before, but the padding in each piece is getting so thin that you can feel the wooden frame.

And Gerry has much LESS padding these days.

Besides, I got an amazing price on two new padded chairs on clearance.

Part of me is sad because I'll have no place to sit until the new chairs arrive; part of me is sad because we're sizing down to smaller pieces of furniture, which means less snuggling and crowding onto the loveseat or oversized chair. But mostly I'm just sad to see them go.

But it's time. Bargains like the one I found don't come around every day. We've (I've) known for a few months that these pieces just aren't fitting. But I kept putting off thinking about it because of lack of funds and much more important issues. Now the situation has presented itself to resolve this easily and frugally, so I will.

However, the new chairs will be the lions' share of our Christmas gift giving (at least between Gerry and me) and they'll make the living room more comfortable and homey. So we say goodbye.

I'm on antibiotics for this cruddy infection thing (lung infection, bronchitis, the doc said it was good I came in because it was moving toward pneumoni) so I'm feeling a bit more worn out than usual. I went to bed early last night, but hovered online, reading blogs off of Gerry's laptop that I don't normally read.

Multiple Myeloma blogs.

And I was surprised to find my own blog listed on a few pages as, "Gerry's Wife's Blog" - which is definitely what it is. Yes, less knitting - but more life.

I read about folks with this disease, spouses who are dealing with it, and - perhaps not wisely, but necessarily - spouses who are dealing with being alone.

This disease is such a mystery. One blog written by a young mother (early 30's) surprised us when we realized that she and Gerry share a doctor at Mayo. She was diagnosed years ago, but is just NOW undergoing her stem cell transplant.

What we're discovering (which we had been told, but I hadn't quite processed) is that Gerry seems to have a rather aggressive form of the disease.

The huge amount of spine disintegration at such a rapid pace is unusual, and it seems that generally the disease is a little slower in other folks.

Or not. It's such a singular experience, this Myeloma thing. As in any important life passage, comparisons to others can be as confusing as it is helpful.

Everyone has their own experience, with their own way of coping and their own saturation levels. We can come together (through blogs, among other more face to face venues) but ultimately we're solo on this trip.

Reading about other spouses who had their moments when they'd have to face the fact that no, we probably are not going to go 'poof' in the exact same moment as each other when we're 88 after a long and happy life, is helpful. Really.

Yes, it's devastatingly sad, but it's less lonely than dealing with the folks who haven't experienced something like this, but insist - sometimes cavalierly - "Oh, Gerry will beat the odds, they're just statistics!" They mean so well, and they are so kind, but their kindness is terribly expensive in how much energy it takes to absorb it and not scream.

Yes, statistics are nothing to hang hope - or fear - on. And every case is different. But refusing to face the worst that could happen, and calling it 'Positive Thinking' is as unhelpful as saying that being Brave means never being afraid.

And this is a terminal illness.

Folks have commented on how well our family is getting through this. But I think it's because we haven't lost sight that MM, like life, is terminal (to quote Elizabeth Edwards)

I'm afraid - and I'm brave. I'm facing the future, accepting that the worst could happen, but I'm hopeful and positive. Perhaps holding these complex feelings together in one mind is hard for folks who'd like live simplistic single-emotion-at-a-time lives, but I can't do that. It's not how I'm made.

And we're all different.

So if I'm chatting someone and they tell me that everything will be fine - I'll agree with them. Everything will be fine. But I may not mean the same thing that they mean.

They may mean, "Gerry will make a full and perfect recovery, he'll live to be 105 and you'll have to legally change his name to Methusala!" They may try to cram our current experience into a single-emotion perfection that is easier for them to comprehend.

I will mean, "Gerry will live until he doesn't, but he will LIVE until he doesn't. We - his family - we'll live, too. And we'll use the love we share to pull us through the hardest parts."

Which is different. We - life - won't be perfect.

But we'll be fine.

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26 Comments:

Anonymous Elizabeth Edwards said...

I think that buying brand new chairs in which you and Gerry can sit is act of incredible optimism. An act that will help me today be as brave as I need to be to get through another precious and imperfect day.
Thank you.

December 09, 2007 9:57 AM  
Blogger Khalila said...

Thank you for sharing your feelings and life so freely. We all live until we don't and that's just the way it works. You are a strong, brave, beautiful woman and I'm happy that I got to meet you once.

December 09, 2007 10:16 AM  
Blogger Lynn said...

Bless you Annie, your soul is so elegant. I know you will get through it, how that will happen, I've no idea. What I do know is that I'm here to give you what support I can. I will do my best to be there as someone to listen wholeheartedly. We are close in age, as are our children and you and your family are seriously never far from my mind. One of the odder positives of your situation is I think you've caused others to give pause and reflect on what life is really about...especially since it's the holidays and that view can be slightly skewed this time of year.

Thank you for sharing your life. I hope it helps/comforts you half as much as it touches me.

*hugs*

December 09, 2007 10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said, Annie! Going through something like this makes you realize you have to live the life you are given as fully and joyfully and meaningfully as possible, because it will end and you never know when.

Happy Holidays!

Marta

December 09, 2007 10:54 AM  
Blogger Auntly H said...

Well said! The only thing I'd add, from the glimpses I've had into your life is that your sense(s) of humor bolsters the love that gets you through the hard (and the easy) parts. It's something magical that's found in every corner of your home.

December 09, 2007 12:19 PM  
Anonymous Luise said...

Indeed, you will be fine, and live a good life with those you love. And you have lots of love around you as well as humor -- not a bad combination. I've learned that you can get through most anything, predictable or not. And when we look around, we see that most people have done just that. Life is change, life is loss (not just of people). Somehow we adapt, and with any luck (and help), learn and grow I guess that was too hard a tale for parents to tell us way back when. I think we're more realistic today. And we cope. Good wishes to all of you for 2008.

December 09, 2007 12:34 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

The new chairs are important, just as your move was important. Although we may tend to think of such things as 'normal' they are benchmarks of our being.

December 09, 2007 12:46 PM  
Anonymous Kathy Sue said...

Wow, you said so many things so perfectly in this one post. I am thinking of printing it and putting on the wall at work (I'm the chemo nurse). Patients and nurses alike would be inspired--and not just the cancer patients. Anyone dealing with life could glean that wonderful lesson that life lasts as long as it does, and that we need to give all the love and effort we can while we can. The thought you aren't expressing is that we, the survivors, need to feel that we did all we could for our loved one so that the memory of their passing is not filled with guilt and regret. And I know without a doubt that is one problem you will not have. And hooray for Gerry getting you to read "his" websites--balances the picture a little more. How cool that Elizabeth Edwards was the first to comment!! Lots of love and good thoughts to you all.

December 09, 2007 12:57 PM  
Anonymous mwknitter said...

Yes, life is a terminal condition. In a weird way, Jerry's illness is a gift in that it has made you think about this & you can prioritize your life & feelings. My sister died at age 59 after a one week illness last year (she was sedated or in a coma the entire time) which was all the more cruel because she had been in the ICU with an entirely unrelated illness earlier in the year, had survived despite very high odds against her, had spent months in rehab to regain her lost muscle mass & had only more or less regained her normal strength about a month before her death. Then sudden abdominal pains, a trip to the ER & death within a week. We were unable to say goodbye to her or reminisce about our childhoods. My only consolation is that my last words to her (at the end of a phone conversation a few days before she entered the hospital) were "I love you." From your posts, it appears that MM, while a cruel & unwanted intruder in your lives, has heightened your appreciation for each other. That, along with your strength, will carry you through.

December 09, 2007 1:53 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

Goodbye to your old friends, the yellow chair and the cushy couch. Welcome to the new cushy chairs that you and Gerry both can enjoy.

I know what you mean about the silent scream or the energy it takes to accept what is being said as being meant with the best intentions but fighting the urge to strangle the speaker for his/her lack of understanding. So many times I've wished for words that could bring comfort, or hope, or some kind of peach. The best I can come up with is that I'm thinking of you all...and I'm here for you if I can help.

December 09, 2007 2:56 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Annie, once again i'm moved by your honesty. With all of us and yourself. You amaze me. So happy that you all are choosing to LIVE !

December 09, 2007 3:10 PM  
Blogger Loren T said...

"Gerry will live until he doesn't, but he will LIVE until he doesn't. We - his family - we'll live, too."

Thank you for that. I really needed to see that.

December 09, 2007 4:25 PM  
Anonymous Harriet said...

A very wise man once told me, Courage is not the absence of fear, it's action in the face of fear. You and Gerry and the rest of your family show incredible courage in that you are all continuing to live your lives in the face of the enormous fear you are facing. May you continue to carry on so courageously.

My father continues to say "About life, the thing is, no one gets out of here alive. Some people get advance warning, the rest get surprised."

December 09, 2007 5:53 PM  
Anonymous twinsetellen said...

I think one thing people are saying with "everything will be all right" is "I am deeply concerned that Gerry won't make a full and perfect recovery, but I haven't an idea of how to give you support in this situation. I wish I did, but no one ever taught me. And if I say everything will be all right, at least you won't have to use your energy comforting me in my worry." Too bad they don't see the energy needed in your mind to integrate their platitude with your reality.

One thing you are doing, Annie, is teaching a lot of people how to do a better job of supporting each other.

I hope you are feeling well soon. Rest as much as possible. Pneumonia-like illnesses seem to respond as much to rest as they do to antibiotics.

December 09, 2007 6:09 PM  
Blogger Katherine said...

Take care of yourself.

I know that dissonance well. My husband has been seriously ill for a long time, mostly chronic but with acute episodes. I know I could lose him at any moment. We did lose our son a little over a year ago. People just don't know what to say and some of what they say is the opposite of comforting.

I was always one of those who had no idea what to say, so said nothing. At least now I that I've been through it, I have some idea. At least I know what not to say!

December 09, 2007 7:53 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

I'm sitting here weeping after reading your post (not the first time.) Thank your for your honesty. Your family is in my prayers.

December 09, 2007 8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are both amazing beings. Thank you.

December 09, 2007 10:23 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

What you wrote about what you mean about being "fine" is a bit inspirational to me... and I don't use that word a lot.
Thank you.

December 10, 2007 12:39 AM  
Blogger . . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

A big internet hug from a almost-total-stranger....

December 10, 2007 1:13 AM  
Blogger Roobeedoo said...

Yes, it made me smile when I came across a link to "Gerry's wife's blog" on an MM blog! I wondered if you knew you had this alternative identity in blogland - not as a Big Famous Knitter but as an MM spouse! Thanks for writing this. Mortality hits hard sometimes.

December 10, 2007 5:40 AM  
Blogger DeltaDawn said...

"folks who'd like live simplistic single-emotion-at-a-time lives, but I can't do that. It's not how I'm made."

And this is why we love you Annie. And we send our hope and warm energies.

You gotta lotta grace baby - no other way to say it.

Can't wait can't wait can't wait can't wait to meet you for real in March!

December 10, 2007 12:58 PM  
Blogger catie said...

Someone said to me once that courage is not not being afraid, but carrying on despite the fear. Live well and enjoy your family to the fullest.

Best,

Catie

December 10, 2007 10:16 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

Hi Annie,
For something less profound (but maybe a welcome distraction!) could you check out the Romantic Hand Knits KAL site at
http://yarncrawl.typepad.com/romantic_hand_knitsalong/2007/12/what-the.html?cid=93118482#comment-93118482? There is a pattern question there that maybe you can shed light on. Thanks!

Robin

December 11, 2007 12:16 PM  
Anonymous Annie said...

Your family is in my prayers and I wish you much joy this holiday season sharing simple family times in your new cushy chairs!

December 11, 2007 5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I had CA twice, I really had to come to terms with my own feelings when people would say "yeah, I could get hit by a truck tomorrow" or "my aunt died from that same thing last year"..etc ad nauseum. Why do they say those things? I guess it's because they want to talk to us, but they don't really think through what they're saying to the patient. HOWEVER, at least they're saying "something" rather than avoiding us. I finally just thought to myself "they're trying to be helpful". And NO I didn't feel brave like they said...I felt like I was just doing what I had to do. I didn't have a choice in what had hit me....but I dealt with it day by day, hour by hour, with the help of family and friends. Annie, it certainly shows how much you love Gerry and your children, and your new home, and MN. ENJOY EVERY MINUTE. The Drs only gave me 2 months to live in 1984 !!!!!!!

Carol in St. Louis

December 11, 2007 6:07 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Annie,

I remember a Christmas season many years ago when my father was terminally ill. You're right -- Gerry is alive *now* and that's what matters for today. The rest -- whatever it is -- will come as it does, and you can't make a future loss less painful by mourning it now.

I hope the chairs come soon and are comfy for a long winter of lounging and reading and knitting!

December 14, 2007 8:32 AM  

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