On Tuesday morning San got in touch with Gary, our landlord, who lives in Iowa. Gary is a good guy and once San explained our situation he immediately approved getting a repairman in to fix it. San made more phone calls and by mid-afternoon we had a diagnosis (bad motor; frozen unit; some leakage), the air conditioning unit was repaired, and a new motor was installed.
That was when the second problem emerged: the water damage from the leak revealed a nasty mold that needed to be dealt with before we could safely turn on the air conditioner. More phone calls to Gary, to an insurance agent, and to a mold specialist. During one of those calls San mentioned the “C” word in relation to our need to resolve this problem in a timely manner, and that was when we learned that the reason we couldn’t turn on the air with mold present is that a person with a “compromised immune system” (that would be me) is at risk from the mold spores when they are released into the air. Depending on the extent of the problem, this could mean some extreme measures to kill the mold, to “scrub” the air in the house, as well as power vacuuming to ensure that no spores are present on the furniture, countertops, clothing, even on the fur of our cat.
The cat heard that. “Merrrooow!” Monkey said. He then retreated under Nic’s bed.
I did not make that up.
The good news (for the cat) is that he is now safely and comfortably boarded at a “pet spa” where the air conditioning works just fine. Monkey is a cat that cannot be without his cool.
The other news is that we are still waiting for verdict from the insurance agent that must be given before the repairs to the drywall and floor can take place, which is to say that we are still without air conditioning.
Before you think me a huge wussy for complaining about the heat or think maybe we’re just plain stupid for not moving into a motel or a friends’ home while the repairs are taking place, allow me to provide some backstory.
Another one of the things we take for granted (or at least I used to take for granted) is the ability to lie down flat in our beds. This seemingly simple activity then usually results in sleeping, but it is something I have not been able to do for the past two weeks. When the cancer spread into my back I could no longer lie flat on it. The pain meds are helpful in dulling down the ache, but lying down is still uncomfortable and rising up from a prone position still produces a sharp pain across my back and some difficulty in breathing. So it’s easier not to lie down. After trying out several options – the couch, two recliners, and (again) the bed while propped up by pillows – the best option is one of the recliners. I don’t know why. But I can sleep in it, and that’s the important thing.
So much for the wuss defense. But what about the idea that we might just be stupid? Why not just relocate our little family into a nice comfy air-conditioned motel?
Motels don’t have recliners. So relocating our little family makes little sense. I wouldn’t be comfortable nor would any of us be able to sleep. Although I hate to admit it, when Bud doesn’t sleep, nobody sleeps. Now it is true that San could make good on her threat to “pill me like a dog” and achieve some relief, but we aren’t “there” yet in either our heads or hearts. And in the interests of keeping some sense about me, I am only using minimal doses of the good stuff. I still like to be able to think more or less clearly. I think – and hope – that my mind is the last thing to go.
And yes, friends have offered the comfort of their homes. But that, too, would require a lot of shuffling back and forth between there and here while the repairs are being made and I still can’t sleep in a bed and besides, it’s really not that hot yet.
So, all things considered, better to tough it out sleeping in the recliner with the windows open and the ceiling fans on. At night it dips down into the 70s and really is quite pleasant.
There are other things I can no longer do that many of you probably also take for granted. Some of them are private things and will remain unspoken. But others are not all private, just sad in the way that any body known to be in the process of dying is sad.
Once, not too long ago, I took for granted taking long walks. Now the longest walks I can take involve pain medications to get me from the house into the Honda, from the Honda into the Clinic, and from one aisle to another in a grocery store. Each step is a conscious exercise in willing myself forward while keeping my back straight and my balance true.
I don’t know which is worse, not being able to feel my feet and lower legs, wherein a misstep can mean I fall over, or being acutely aware of the ridge of constant pain along the bottom of my shoulder blades, wherein if I allow myself to lean forward a searing twinge of pain cuts across the whole of it.
But it’s not a choice, either. Both the numbness and the pain are always present. And yes, I know I could swallow another pill and get rid of the pain, maybe entirely. But then what? I’d be numbed into a long dumbed-down semi-sleep that is at best a dim shadow, a weak echo of real life. I’m not “there” yet, either. So I’ll take a little pain, a little numbness. A little more of the full range of reality in what remains of this life …
Once, not so long ago, I used to derive a lot of pleasure from cooking, especially new dishes that required time spent in preparation, skill with tools, and the happy anticipation of bringing it to completion for family and friends. I haven’t done much cooking since the neuropathy in my fingers met the sharp lesson of the knife. I didn’t feel a thing but there was a lot of blood! After that happened, San and Nic took over knife duties. And I returned, however reluctantly, to the blue chair.
I still try. This morning, for example, I fried an egg, made some toast, put the fried egg on the toast and found the whole process both a little painful (my back doesn’t like me standing on hard tile floors) and fairly exhausting. It was only a couple of months ago that I could spend thirty minutes or longer making a Greek omelet and not think twice about it. I can’t even imagine doing that now.
Here again, San and Nic have taken over kitchen duties and there is nothing to complain about except that I am not the guy cooking. They go out of their way each and every day to make delicious meals, foods that I find interesting and that we can all enjoy together. I’d be an ungrateful fool to complain. Theirs is a constant gift of love.
It’s just that I miss what I can no longer do. I miss the “me” who used to do things. The “me” who took for granted all the things I can no longer do.
If you are regular reader of this blog you know I rarely complain. It’s just not my style. And it doesn’t help. Instead, I’d rather accentuate the positive and celebrate what I still can do. So pardon me if this post isn’t up to my usual stuff.
But it’s also true that I have sworn to tell the truth, to be as transparent as possible about this disease and how we deal with it. So once in a while I do give in to my inner bitch and, like Monkey at the prospect of being vacuumed, let go with my own version of “merrrooow!” Sorry about that!
Here’s a happier thought to end on. This Saturday there will be an amazing “supermoon.” The noted astrologer Richard Nolle (and Friend of the Rabbit) defines it this way: “a full moon that occurs within 12 hours of lunar perigee, or the point in the moon's slightly non-circular monthly orbit when it swings closest to our planet.”
This Saturday the timing of the two events will be unprecedented: the moon will reach its perigee distance of 221,802 miles at 11:34 p.m. Eastern Time, and it will fall in line with the sun (thereby becoming full) one minute later. Because of its closeness to the Earth and this rare cosmic alignment, the moon itself will appear to be huge!
Watch out! A huge moon changes all tides. Supermoons are therefore often associated with earthquakes, tsunamis, and a host of other disruptions and natural disasters that bring out the doomsday crazies as well as the interested scientists. The usual “window” for supermoon influences is plus or minus three days, so while I know I can’t blame the supermoon for the failure of our air conditioning system, you are certainly free to draw your own conclusions based on what events transpire between now and the end of the supermoon cycle on Tuesday. Who knows?
I don’t claim any special knowledge. And I have other things to do with that time.
One of the things I can still do is be dazzled by the sight of a supermoon. In the Grand Scheme of Things (GST) that you and I are already part of, the appearance of it reminds me that while a natural part of the body dying is about learning to accept what I can no longer do, another part of that same process has been opening myself up – my mind, my heart, and my soul – to a narrative rebirth of awe and mystery and wonder.
I think that is what I am supposed to be doing with this time.