It’s “Tooth Fairy Day”

Ben loves the Tooth Fairy. He might be getting to the age where he’ll stop believing in such make-believe things, but I’m planning to encourage him for as long as he wants to believe. He has enough reality in his life. Why shouldn’t he get excited over the Tooth Fairy leaving one of those gold Presidential dollar coins? We have a mint here in Denver so I get them fresh off the press. Clean and shiny. Something so little brings such a smile to his face.

We took a tour of the Denver Mint once when my parents were visiting. It happened to be the week of Ben’s semi-annual scans and since we were already downtown at the hospital we made plans to take a tour of the Mint, too. The security there is pretty tight. Everyone has to go through a metal detector before entering.

We were all standing in a single-file line waiting for our turn to walk through security. I was in front, the kids were in the middle, and Matt was at the back. When I walked through the alarm started screaming. I don’t have any metal plates in my head or tin-foil wrapped cucumbers hidden on my body so I wasn’t quite sure what it was all about. The guard pulled me aside and started asking me questions. He said that it wasn’t the alarm for metal, it was a radioactive material sensor. And I was making it scream. The gates closed behind us, we were trapped in this small area, answering lots of questions. Finally, the guard asked me if I had received any dental work recently. My face took on a look of question as I wondered why he would ask me such a thing, then I realized, It’s MY SON making the alarms go off! He’s radioactive from his scans! Poor kid, he wasn’t even through the detector yet and he’d made all the alarms go off. Questions were answered and we were able to go on our tour, dragging our radioactive kid along to admire all the shiny new coins.

I know this has nothing to do with the Tooth Fairy, but I just didn’t know when I would get the opportunity to share that story about the Mint. Sorry for the detour.

I’m not a fan of the dentist. I do okay now that I’m older but when I was about nine years old I had to have a tooth pulled to make way for an adult molar. I went to our family dentist for this procedure, Dr. Marcel Daneault, a very skilled dentist in Reynoldsburg, OH. He was from France. And he hated Jane Fonda. Don’t ask. But he seemed to always be talking about his disdain for her while he worked on my teeth. I would always think “I’m nine” when he’d start his tirade. No matter. I’d tune him out and stare at the poster he had on the ceiling – the one with the kitten dangling from a branch with the statement “Hang in there”. I always thought that was an odd choice for a dentist’s office.

Anyway, the tooth pulling experience. I’m not fond of needles to begin with, but even more so when they are placed anywhere near my mouth. He had to give me two shots – one in the roof of my mouth and one over the tooth in question. As he went in with that hideously scary metal syringe I closed my eyes. I felt the dreaded “pinch” and then a heavy French accent saying “Damn”. Damn? What? Come to find out he had broken the tip of the needle off in the roof of my mouth. As my brain swirled toward unconsciousness he reached in and pulled out the offending piece. I’m sure that it was a complete accident. That, or I reminded him of Jane Fonda at that particular moment and he wished to cause me intense pain. Either way, it was traumatic.

The same dentist took out my wisdom teeth several years later. He said that it would be no issue whatsoever for him to take out the one “normal” wisdom tooth and the three others that were impacted and growing towards my newly (finally braces-free) straight teeth. I should not see an oral surgeon, I should let him do it. So, I let him.

When I arrived he said “Oh, you are a baby when it comes to zee needles” (in his French accent). And I’m thinking, “Duh! Your fault, professor!” But I didn’t say it out loud. After all, he was the man with the needle.

He gave me some laughing gas that ended up making me entirely paranoid instead of relaxed and ready for the shot. He stuffed wads of cotton in my mouth, had it pried open so he could access the very back, and then started to come at me with the needle. I freaked out. And started hyperventilating. Since my mouth was stuffed full of cotton I couldn’t close it. So, the sound that came out of me was a very long and terribly loud snort. The snorts got worse as my embarrassment grew. And then I decided to throw in some “I’m sorry’s” since my embarrassment was out of control. “SNORT! – I’m sorry! – SNORRRRRT! – I’m sorry! – SNORRRT! – I’m sorry!” The man had cut out the three impacted teeth before I stopped snorting.

By the time I was able to walk out of his office the people in the waiting room erupted in applause. They’d heard my entire performance. I was completely mortified.

And that crazy Tooth Fairy, she brought me NOTHING.

More tomorrow. 🙂

It’s “National Senior Citizen’s Day”

Former President Ronald Reagan declared today, August 21, as National Senior Citizen’s Day.

In his Presidential Proclamation (August 19, 1988), President Ronald Reagan said “For all they have achieved throughout life and for all they continue to accomplish, we owe older citizens our thanks and a heartfelt salute. We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older.”

I had a client back in my social worker days who was 85 years old. Since I was a member of the “Extended Care Treatment Team”, my clients were the ones who had been institutionalized for many years. This particular client was given the diagnosis of being a paranoid schizophrenic and had spent the last 65 years bouncing from hospital to hospital. One minute we’d be having a conversation about the weather and the next she’d sit silent – arms folded across her chest – insisting that I could read her thoughts thanks to the wire implants I had placed in her molars. According to her, she didn’t need to actually talk to me because I could record what her brain was thinking. She’d stare at me with a suspicious look, sometimes shaking her head with a knowing expression on her face, like I had no issue whatsoever in deciphering what she was thinking. Then she’d get up and walk away. I adored this lady.

Part of my job was rehabilitating these clients to where they could operate in the community. Schizophrenia usually strikes when a person is in their mid-twenties. It can strike earlier, and it can certainly strike later, but the average is somewhere in the twenties. Many of my clients had some sort of “training in a normal world”; understanding how to do laundry, ride a bus, care for their own belongings, go grocery shopping, etc. Some people knew how to do this before I got to them. Some just needed refreshers. But my 85-year-old client had no idea. She’d been in the institution for 65 years! There were cars! Television sets! Washing machines! The whole world had changed while she’d been inpatient.

But Ronald Reagan was making efforts to close down all the state-run mental health facilities. Everyone had to get out, despite their abilities to function in the community. When I first started my job we were able to take as long as we needed to rehabilitate a client. By the end of my tenure we were given a maximum of two weeks. Talk about a crash course. This poor woman didn’t stand a chance.

I was searching for a group home for her to live in, but none of them suited her. Too crowded (which was true), too dirty (often times this, too, was true), or she just didn’t like the smell. There was always a reason behind not accepting any of them as her new place to live. I believe that she was just terrified of leaving the place she had called home for so long, even if it wasn’t the best of living arrangements. She was feeling like there was nowhere for her to go, so she kept trying to run away. I’d get calls from the downtown Greyhound station telling me that she was there, trying to hop a bus to Utah, but with no means to do so. I’d go down to the station, pick her up, and take her back “home”. All the while, time was ticking down on her ability to stay at the hospital, the only “home” she’d known for years.

Then, one day during that second week of rehab, I went to the hospital to pick her up. She wasn’t in her room. The aid working the desk didn’t know where she was either. In fact, nobody had seen her since the day before. I drove down to the bus station. Nope, not there either. I decided to get on with my day and visit other clients. I figured that I’d get a call from the hospital saying she was back in her room or from the bus station saying that they’d pulled her off yet another bus heading for Utah.

I got a call, all right. From a mental health facility in Utah saying they had a sweet 85-year-old lady in their care. She had told them that she had ‘escaped’ from Ohio so they were just calling around until they hit on who had previously cared for her. I have no idea how she did it, but she was finally where she wanted to be. I sure hope she found a place to live that suited her.

I ‘escaped’ Ohio, too. Oh, it’s not such a bad place. There are things that I actually miss about Ohio: Skyline Chili, Clippers baseball, many friends… and my eligibility for a Golden Buckeye card. Ohio, being the Buckeye State (yes, Ohioans pay homage to a poisonous nut), offers a discount card to those who have reached the age of sixty. If you’re an Ohioan, you’ll be glad to know that sometime during the month of you turning 60, as long as you have a State ID or Driver’s License issued in the State of Ohio, you’ll automatically receive your Golden Buckeye card. This “golden ticket” will give you eligibility to a myriad of  “Senior Friendly” venues.

On National Senior Citizens Day, we should:

  • Spend some time with senior citizens
  • Show our appreciation for senior citizens
  • Do volunteer work in support of the elderly

I plan to chat with the senior who “mans the door” at our local WalMart. I just love him.

Otherwise, I’m kinda scared of seniors. I’m confident this stems from a mandated outing with my local Brownie troop to the Pine Kirk Nursing Home in Kirkersville, Ohio (circa 1975). Dude, this place smelled hideous. Out of all my senses, my olfactory system is by far the most developed. I can remember exactly how that place smelled. It was a not-so-special fusion of “hospital” mixed with “old”: old books, old clothes, old food… ugh! It still haunts my nasal cavities and creates flashbacks of frail people lining the hallways of the Pine Kirk Nursing Home moaning in despair. It’s a debilitating memory for me.

I think getting older is going to stink and not just in an olfactory sense. The aging of our bones. The stiffness that our lives will take on. The forgetfulness we experience as well as being forgotten by those we love. The sense of loss: our friends, our families, our youth.

Ain’t no way the eligibility for a Golden Buckeye card can make up for that.

More tomorrow. 🙂

It’s “National Thriftshop Day”

I’m not very thrifty. I enjoy clearing out stuff and donating to our local thrift store but I can’t say that I’ve ever shopped at a thrift store.

I take that back. A former boyfriend of mine hosted a Halloween party many years ago. Costumes were mandatory. I decided to go as “Carrie”, which required me to find a prom dress that I could get blood on. Seeing how I couldn’t locate my actual prom dress that probably DID have blood on it (high school was rough for me) I had to resort to stalking the local thrift stores. Unbelievably, I did find the perfect dress and after adding a little corn syrup laced with red food coloring, I made a pretty scary Carrie. It was really gross and sticky – much like the floor of a fraternity house after a party. Not that I know anything about that.

I recently heard that donations to thrift stores get sorted through by the employees and the “good stuff” is sold on eBay. This news aggravated me because I’ve been under the impression that my donated stuff is bringing happiness to those less fortunate – NOT going to the highest bidder. But since I’m too lazy to sell my stuff on eBay, I guess I get what’s coming to me. It still kind of makes me mad. Why should the stuff I’m donating be lining the pockets of the thrift store employees? Oh, who am I kidding? Why do I think my outdated clothes are going to fetch top dollar on eBay? I guess one never knows. I bet my re-donated Carrie dress would have garnered a few bids.

Whenever I look at pictures from my youth I immediately think “thrift store”. The clothes from the 70’s were just awful. I remember one photograph of my “blended” family – my sister, step-sister, step-brothers, me, and my mom, we were all standing close together, mugging for the photo. I suppose we were fairly attractive as far as people go, but the clothes! The worst! It looked like we were at some sort of street fair because there was a candy apple booth in the background, but it couldn’t have possibly been summer because we all had on winter coats. Mine dragged the ground, was a very blah brown, and had a matted fake-fur collar. My older step-brother had two gigantic wings protruding from under a sweatshirt that said something like “Keep on Truckin'”. The rest of us were dressed in like style. We looked like the Brady Bunch on welfare. Horrifying. I’m sure you could find these very clothes, or their close relatives, at your local thrift store. As soon as we’re released from the hospital today, I’m on a mission to find that picture. I know I am not doing it justice with my explanation. You have to see it to believe it.

Today’s hospital visit is nearly over. Day One of Round Two. Four more days to go. Ben’s feeling well, no nausea to speak of. He still has his racing stripes from his mohawk outlining his sweet little skull. The short hair on the sides just refuses to fall out. I think it’s pretty cute. I have to say that he has a perfect head. It’s nice and round, no serious flaws. A few freckles, but that’s to be expected with our genetic makeup.

I’d forgotten how people react to Ben’s condition. Everywhere we go I catch people staring at my kiddo. Some of them do that “pretend I’m not looking but turn around and stare once you go past”. I always bust those people. Sometimes I put on my “mom face” of “that’s not a very nice thing to do”. Sometimes I give them the stink-eye. It just depends on my mood.

Then there are the people who are visibly afraid, like Ben’s condition will rub off on them. They pull their kids close and hurry by, probably holding their breath in case Ben expells any cancer germs. I’m currently making Ben a shirt that states “I’m not contagious”. I’m planning to market it.

Then there are the people who look at Ben with a sweet smile and love in their eyes. Unfortunately, this is a very small group. These are the people that look at Ben and understand that he’s going through hell. I can almost hear them saying a prayer under their breath, a plea to let my Ben just be a normal little boy. The tears form as I hear their children say something like “Look at that kid. He doesn’t have any hair.” And then I hear their response “No, he doesn’t. But I think he’s beautiful.”

You are, Ben. You are beautiful.

More tomorrow. 🙂

It’s National Creamsicle Day

I love oranges. The smell, the taste, sectioned into pieces or as a juice, and I find them aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Heck, I used to eat baby aspirin as a kid because I loved that delicious orange flavor.

It’s a fact that I bought out all the “Henri Bendel Orange Flower” products from Bath and Body Works when they discontinued it a few years ago. I don’t know how WHY they discontinued it. It was the best smelling stuff EVER.  I estimate that I have about another cycle of the earth orbiting the sun before I run out.

I don’t, however, love creamsicles. I mean, they’re okay, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get one. In fact, I’d be more apt to just take a small bite of yours instead of enjoying a whole one by myself.

I rarely go down the frozen food aisle, mostly because I’m not a fan of prepackaged meals or frozen vegetables. If I’m picking up anything from that aisle, it’s vanilla ice cream for the other three members of my family or garlic toast. I just never thought to pick up creamsicles. I guess I’m surprised to learn that they still exist.

There’s something about ice cream surrounded by a popsicle that just doesn’t mesh for me. Just because they’re both frozen doesn’t mean they belong together. I like popsicles. I occasionally like ice cream. But together? That’s just wrong. It doesn’t mimic the amazing union of peanut butter and chocolate, or even Sonny and Cher. Creamsicles, to me, are more like Laverne’s Milk and Pepsi combo.

As I was researching Creamsicles, I learned that there are other flavors aside from the traditional orange. They include  raspberry, blue raspberry, lime, and grape. Ick. These flavors don’t make creamsicles any more appealing to me. I would figure they’d try a root beer flavor… at least that’s sorta like a root beer float. I don’t like those either.

Summer does call for a tasty frozen treat from time to time. I’ll spring for an Ice Cream Truck run about once a summer. Despite all the kids in our neighborhood, the Ice Cream Man doesn’t really drive by our place very often. That carousel-like tinkling of circus music gets my kids so excited. The kids stop fighting momentarily, grab each other, jump up and down, and shout out “ICE CREAM”. It is just like the Eddie Murphy skit. My kids have never heard his routine about the Ice Cream Man (of course) but by the way they act you’d think they’d memorized it word for word.  It’s worth the $3.50 per popsicle just to get them to calm down for a few minutes. It brings peace to my “middle east”.

Today is a weird day weather-wise here in Denver. There’s no sunshine. We usually enjoy about 300 days of sunshine a year, but today is definitely not one of them. Ben and I are sitting here in the waiting room at Children’s, waiting for his blood work to come back. I’m working on a massive headache and Ben is bored out of his mind – despite having a DS and a computer at his disposal. I’m anxious for today’s report and that just makes the waiting more unbearable. I’m cranky. Short tempered. Borderline scowling. Maybe I’ll take Ben for a creamsicle. And get a bottle of orange flavored baby aspirin for myself.

More tomorrow. 🙂

It’s “Left Hander’s Day” AND Miracle Treat Day

I have to let everyone know that today is MIRACLE TREAT DAY! Go to a participating Dairy Queen and buy a BLIZZARD. The proceeds go to your local children’s hospital. This is Ben’s 3rd year as a Miracle Treat Kid. He’s not presenting a plaque to any of the local DQ’s this year because we didn’t know how he’d feel, but he’s got his Miracle Kid shirt and we’re going to go pick up a blizzard later.

IMG_0914Here he is presenting a plaque two years ago.

Ben is feeling pretty good. Last night, the manager of The Outback (Ben’s favorite restaurant) gave Ben a “Manager’s Card”. It has his name on it and entitles him to free meals! My wonderful friend, Angela, works there and told her co-workers about my incredible son. In fact, she was our server back in 2006 when we first moved here. I guess she liked the look of me because we exchanged phone numbers right there and have been friends ever since! Anyway, she told her c0-workers that Ben had relapsed and they’ve been so supportive. They gave Ben a gift basket while he was in the hospital, the Manager’s Card, and they’ll be holding a benefit for him in September. Awesome people! I have the greatest friends in the whole world.

Okay. It’s “Left Hander’s Day”. Two of my best friends in elementary school, Holly and Cortney, were left-handed. I remember this because they had “special” school supplies, like notebooks with the spiral on the opposite side. Many of you know that I’m obsessed with office supplies and paper, so I was envious that they had supplies created especially for them. I was curious as to when they would create special supplies for redheads. Maybe paper with an SPF factor? Anti-freckle erasers? Alas, it never happened. After all, according to a popular study, redheads will be extinct in 100 years. I wonder if our phasing out will be handled like “renewal” in “Logan’s Run”? We’ll all be called into a special chamber and spontaneously combust. Perhaps there will be an underground movement of redheads fighting to  maintain our existence – after all, the best place for a redhead is underground and out of the sun.

How do I always get so far off topic? I guess it’s my special gift.

I had to be left-handed once in middle school. My right wrist had a hairline fracture  – from gymnastics or general clumsiness – which required me to wear a half-cast for a while. I didn’t have many problems converting to left-handedness but I was far from being ambidextrous. I learned, however, that I’m prone to putting my left foot forward for sliding, surfing, and snowboarding (which I’ve not yet tried but plan to do someday). This trait is called “goofy-footed”. Most people, even the left-handed type, tend to put their right foot forward for such activities. Not me. I’m “goofy”. Explains it all, doesn’t it? If you’re curious about your status, crouch down on the floor, jump up in the air, and let your body do the rest. It will know which foot you prefer to place in the forward position. If it’s your left foot, you’re goofy, too. Welcome to the club.

Okay, Madeline’s off at school and I’m going to go snuggle with the Bean. It stinks that his counts are low but it’s pretty sweet that I get him all to myself. And speaking of sweet, don’t forget to go get your Blizzard at DQ.

More tomorrow. 🙂

It’s “National Middle Child Day”

I’m a middle child. Sort of.

My mother had two biological children. I am the youngest. My sister and I have different fathers. My father had two biological children. I am the oldest. My brother and I have different mothers. My sister is 6 1/2 years older than I am and my brother is exactly seven years younger than me. My sister and my brother have no biological bond. But between the two of my half-siblings I am the middle child. Try to find THAT birth order in any of those psychology journals. No wonder I’m a mess.

We’re finally out of the hospital. Ben was sprung late Sunday evening because his ANC had finally started to come back up. It was around 50 when he was discharged. We went back in Tuesday for blood work but Ben’s ANC had only climbed to 72. He needs to be at 500 to be “safe” (able to go to school) and at 750 to start his next round of chemo. He’s supposed to start that next round on Monday. We’ll go back in Friday to see if his counts will support him starting this next round. He might not be ready, which means we’ll postpone the next round for a week. He didn’t need a transfusion of red blood or platelets though. That’s a good thing. I’m just surprised that he’s not rebounding faster.

He’s feeling just fine. He’s upset that he can’t go to school (especially to see his girlfriend, Skyler). Meanwhile, we’re cooped up here in the house. No visitors. Madeline has fulfilled her duty as younger sister by antagonizing the hooey out of him. He actually says this to me: “Mom, she’s antagonizing me again.” I have to remind her that Ben is “sick” and to lay off. And then Ben antagonizes his sister. I have to remind him that just because he has cancer doesn’t mean he can get away with everything. Hard to say that, though, to that cute little bald head with big brown eyes.

Madeline is feeling a little left out of everything lately with all the attention going to her brother. After her first day of school she came home, stripped off her clothes, and drew red dots all over her body with a marker. She said “I’m putting my night-nights on. I’m sick.” I tried to pay a little extra attention to her to ensure her that she is, indeed, a very important part of our family. She doesn’t need to be sick to get our attention. Siblings. Such a delicate line to walk on and very difficult to find any emotional balance.

We did enroll Madeline in a program called “Super Sibs”. It’s specifically for kiddos who are siblings of cancer patients. The siblings get little packages in the mail, letting them know that they are special, too. Madeline got her first package yesterday. She immediately tore it open and loved all the stuff that was just for her. She needed that.

So Ben said the prayer last night before dinner. I haven’t been good at praying lately because I’m completely peeved with the Big Guy Upstairs. But Ben says “Thank you for this wonderful day. Thank you for this wonderful food. And, please, I need your help. I just need to get this over with.” Tears are falling because I just don’t understand any of this. As I’m soaking my spaghetti and meatballs with my waterworks, I wonder. So many questions. No answers. But knowing this sweet little boy is fighting for his life just makes me sick. If there is a God, which I am sincerely struggling with right now, if He didn’t hear that prayer and make my Ben all better immediately, then I just don’t know what to think.

Everything I’ve ever believed is crumbling. Is this a test? Punishment? I feel so helpless and am finding absolutely no comfort. I’m trying. It just seems to get harder. I feel isolated and alone. Sort of like a middle child.

So instead of wallowing in my inability to find answers I do the only thing I can. Hold Ben and love him. Hold Madeline and love her. I know how to do that. I’ll do it with all the energy I have.

More tomorrow. 🙂

It’s “National Lighthouse Day”

Funny that I just mentioned lighthouses in my prior post about the Coast Guard.

My brain is really fuzzy today so I probably won’t make a lot of sense. Last night was probably the worst sleep I’ve had in a long time. I was starting to doze off after Ben’s platelet transfusion when the nurses came in to do the nasal wash. It was a completely unpleasant experience – mostly for Ben – but I have to admit that I was not fond of holding Ben’s arms and legs down with all the strength that I had while the nurses shot water up his nose and tried to suction out boogers. Hearing those cries again, his pleas for us to stop torturing him, well, I’m going to need some therapy.

Once I did fall asleep it was fitful. I kept waking up with visions of bloody noses and having a carton of broken eggs at Target. I have an explanation for the bloody noses dream, but am completely curious about the broken eggs at Target. And there was only one checkout line. And it was self-service. There were no employees to help with my broken eggs. Plenty of people milling about in the traditional Red Shirted Target Uniforms, but absolutely no assistance. And a line of vicious customers yelling at me to hurry up. They didn’t care about my broken eggs. Nobody cared.

I could use a lighthouse about now. Something to shine a beacon of light to guide me through all this mess. Lead me home. Bring me safely into the harbor. Help me avoid the angry rocks that are trying to break through my hull and drown me. I’m sinking. Where’s my lighthouse? Spiritually, I’m completely lost. And I’m afraid I’m not going to find my way back.

The only attribute of a lighthouse I have right now is the horrendous sound I make when I blow my nose in the morning. It could rival any foghorn out there. For being a fairly small person I can make a tremendous sound with just my nose. It’s quite embarrassing actually. And now that we’re back in the hospital setting with no privacy, well, the entire floor can hear my foghorn in the morning. Calling out to them. “EEEEEEEE-OOOGH” But I have nothing to offer my fellow parents living this nightmare with me. No guidance. No support. No answers. Helpless in all aspects. Sinking. Flailing. Pasting on our smiles for our children to guide them through but being empty inside.

I guess that’s something. I can be a lighthouse for Ben. But I think I need a new light bulb. My foghorn, however, is in tip-top shape.

More tomorrow. 🙂

It’s “Wiggle Your Toes” Day

Up until about 10 years ago I was completely terrified of feet. I wasn’t born with this trait, it was learned when I was six years old. As most phobias go, one usually experiences a traumatic event that makes the blood chill, skin crawl, and yes, toes curl, when presented with the one thing that makes their system shut down. Mine was toes.

When I was about six years old, my biological father remarried a woman with two children. Stacey was one year older than me and Angela was a year or two younger than me. Built-in sisters! How lucky for me! I learned quickly, however, that they were not interested in having a new sister.  One-on-one we did just fine. I could play with Stacey for hours on end and then I could alternately play with Angela. It was peaceful until they got together and decided that I was “going down”.

The terror came at night. I shared a bed with Stacey and all would be well as my dad and step-mom tucked us in and said their good nights. Once the lights were out, the girls would start with ghostly sounds, you know, “ooooo” in that trembling voice, changing pitch and octaves, designed to give a six-year-old in a strange bed the creeps. My pleas of “Stop it. That’s not funny,” encouraged them to ratchet it up a notch. That’s when Stacey brought out “the toes”.

This is technically a tragic story. Stacey, a year or two before my appearance, was involved in a terrible accident. I’m not sure of the specifics but what I do know was that Stacey’s grandfather was mowing the lawn, Stacey was in the yard playing, somehow the lawnmower and Stacey’s toes interacted and Stacey’s toes lost. She was rushed to the hospital. The two toes could not be saved so they did a skin graft to cover the area where the two toes had previously lived. Underneath the skin graft you could feel two little nubs. The skin covering the little nubs was all puckered and hard. They were perfect for scaring the hooey out of a little six-year-old girl. Talk about making the most of your adversities… Stacey had it down pat.

Mostly, what Stacey did in the deep dark of the night was say to me “They’re coming to get you”. I’d tense up in preparation of the two dried up “raisins” making contact with my spindly legs. I’d stay perfectly rigid, like a victim in a horror movie hiding from her pursuer, and take the raking of her nubs up and down my leg while choking back groans of intense displeasure. It was terrifying. This went on for months of weekend visits until I wised up enough to make use of the Holly Hobby sleeping bag that was hidden under the bed. I might have to sleep in the same room with them, but at least I no longer had to share a bed with “the toes”. Whew.

My dad stayed married to my step-mom until she took her own life in 1987. I was 18 when she died. In the years between being six and my step-mom’s death, Stacey and I got along for the most part. Stacey was an “early bloomer” compared to my being a “late bloomer” so she was interested in boys way before I even gave them a thought. We didn’t hang out with each other very often, so my interaction with “the toes” dwindled greatly. They rarely came out after the first couple of years and the only time I ever saw them was if we happened to be at the swimming pool together. I know she’s married and has a couple of children now. I wonder how her kids feel about “the toes”.

It took me a long time to make peace with toes. I think the turning point was when a friend visiting from out of town suggested we do “girly spa stuff” and offered to give me a pedicure. I was 30 years old. The thought terrified me and she laughed as my face twisted in horror as I explained that no one had ever touched my feet. Or, I clarified, touched my feet without sustaining physical injury. It’s usually a precursor to any intimate relationship I’ve ever had – “touch my feet and die” sort of thing. I fought her with great desperation and only after having a couple of cocktails did I let her touch them. It was heaven. My fear of toes slowly melted away into a world of aromatherapy and pretty pink polish. I’ve never looked back.

Sometimes,  however, I think of Stacey’s two little toes, out there lying in the lawn on a hot summer day, wiggling around looking for their owner. I hope they don’t find me first.

It’s National “Work Like a Dog” Day

I’ve not owned any dogs that would do this particular holiday any justice. Perhaps on a destructive level they’ve earned their keep, but serious work? Not on your life. The dogs I’ve owned are prone to digging holes in my back yard, chewing the wood blinds on my front window, destroying any number of toys left on the floor by the children, peeing wherever they feel like it – stuff like that.

The only thing I ever saw Stella and Kya (our most recent dogs) work hard at was knocking the crap out of each other. They did such an incredible job at beating each other up – over a stupid rawhide bone – that there was copious amounts of blood, a trip to the Vet ER, and ultimate surrender of our two beloved pups because we couldn’t afford the vet bill. Oh, we might have worked it out somehow if we hadn’t had Ben’s emergency biopsy the day before this knock-down bout, but seeing how we were teetering on the edge of finding out if Ben’s cancer had returned or not, we didn’t have the strength (or the financial resources) to do anything about it. So we left them with the vet. It was a very difficult thing to do, but our options were limited. Plus, finding out what we know about Ben’s health at this point, two fairly young and energetic dogs wouldn’t have been a good idea. I sure miss them, though.

Cancer has made a mess of things over the past month. Not only is it trying to destroy my beautiful son, but we’ve had to make a lot of changes. Pet surrender. Hospital runs. Financial strain. Yes, insurance is nice, but there are still copays. Just since all of this started about a month ago,  we’ve put out $700 and then today’s little trip to the ER was $150. I’m sure there will be an additional co-pay for actually being admitted, since that is exactly what will be happening within the next couple of hours. Ben’s ANC (ability to fight infection) is at 46. It needs to be over 500 in order for him to have a somewhat normal ANC. And Ben is really trying to go to third grade. He’s gone just one-and-a-half days out of seven. This is going to be a tough year. Madeline was supposed to start school yesterday. Her first day of Kindergarten. Damn cancer. Hopefully, she’ll start Monday.

This is another thing that is tearing me apart. Since Madeline was born six weeks after Ben’s initial diagnosis in 2004 her first year of milestones were all experienced in the shadows of Ben’s treatment. I remember Madeline getting up the strength to walk across the kitchen while scooting a chair across the floor. I wanted to jump up and down but we were in the process of taking Ben to the hospital because he’d spiked a fever. Just like today.

Cancer doesn’t care what your plans are. It affords no normalcy. It makes you work like a dog yet never gives any sort of cookie for good behavior. I am dog tired.

Ben is sitting in his little hospital bed with a bag of sour cream and cheddar ruffles, a bottle of Hawaiian Punch, and watching Animal Planet while his antibiotics run their course. I”m not sure this is the best viewing option for us, as it’s the show where the animal control officers are chasing feral animals with those little head loop things. I sorta feel like one of those feral dogs right now. Any minute now one of the uniformed staff will come in with one of those gizmos and try to trap me in the corner. “Oh, there you are, Mrs. Brewer. Don’t you look pretty today? Just stay still while we put this around your neck… it’ll be okay… we’re going to take you someplace really nice… just be still… this will just take a second… shhh, be a good girl now… almost there… GOTCHA!” As I flail and attempt escape, twisting wildly around while they drag me off to the animal control vehicle. I hope they give me a sedative.

More tomorrow. 🙂