Calling: I have always been told that eventually, I would find my calling. My destiny, that rainbow leading to the shiny pot of gold at the end. That somehow some invisible force would place a map to the Future in my hands and boom, that was the only ingredient for success. Was there a specific type of phone that I had to buy? Oh that’s right, no questions allowed. No preparation, just blindly follow the public school system in pursuit of some insane goal beyond a dream and your life would turn out perfectly fine. How? By not just being a good person but being a good girl in school and always listening to my teachers. Following authority is apparently the way to get what you want. Like that actually makes any sense. The obstacles in life do not matter because I was the one who answered the call. Religion, the man upstairs texting you to come where they say home is.
Cancer: The most disturbing word in the English language. Countless spotless hospital beds filled with linen washed clean of stains but fresh with the scent of death nonetheless. Feeding tubes, breathing tubes, and being bit by a radioactive bug that never quite turned you into Spiderman the way you always hoped it would. It forced wills to be written too soon along with incomplete trust fund paperwork. Created the pit in my stomach on that warm August afternoon at the family dinner table. An atom bomb in the middle of the working class neighborhood I had no choice living in. Astrological sign for months that I do not know or care about. Hair falling out, check. Stereotype fulfilled almost instantly. Droopy eyes and yellowed skin. Infection that could not ever be cured. Sucking all the life out of you like a purple crazy straw in a cup of Welch’s grape juice. The act of taking up bodies and leaving weightless memories in their place. Therapy after therapy after therapy. “Don’t come in, you’re sick.” I had a cold that could be cured with Nyquil and yet I was still the one in danger. White Styrofoam masks to hold in your breath and nurses with ugly off white orthopedic shoes. Cut time in half. It’s what took Papa away from me.
Careful: Listening to Grandma when she said never go outside without a jacket because you’ll get sick. As long as I followed the rules, everything and everyone would be okay. Keep your new shoes clean on Thanksgiving even when you are running through patches of freshly cut grass. Going up a gray metal ladder to get the birdie that was hit too hard and ended up on the roof in a random game of badminton in the front yard. Re-reading even though spell check said everything was fine because Microsoft is not always right. Wearing shoes even when the garbage just had to be thrown in the backyard because if not, there was a 100 percent chance that I would stub my big toe. Not putting a metal fork in the toaster while it is still plugged in because Angelo still remembers the shock that went through his arms all the way down to his feet. Looking both ways before crossing the street, of course. Jumping in the motel, yes motel, swimming pool without the ring shaped sea lion floatation device clinging to your eighty pound pre-adolescent body. Keeping the music low enough so you apparently do not lose your hearing. Cautious, aware, ultimately paranoid in the end. Taking a shower at night because if you waited until the next day and went outside in the morning the cold would slap you in the face and the sniffles would follow up not too long after. Always using your turn signals, driving the speed limit. Not getting sick.
Catch: I was designated right field when I played Little League in the fourth grade and never remember a ball making it into my glove. Well girls were not even supposed to play in that league so I still am not sure how I even made the team. Jimmy was in a different division so it couldn’t have been family connections. It was obvious that I was a few notches down from being the next Barry Bonds. One time I was at bat and my face must have looked like a huge red target to mister lanky freckles on the mound because the ball hit me right in the face. Busted lip, there is not supposed to be any crying in baseball. No crying when our Pomeranian ran away. No crying when I lost the gold bracelet Grandma gave me and it ended up being deep in the living room couch. No crying when my lip had to be bandaged up and I had to walk around the playground with everyone asking why I did not wipe the chocolate off of my lip. Not chocolate, not even close. No crying when I caught lice and Grandma cut all of my hair off with barbershop clippers on a stool in the driveway of the motor home they lived in. No crying when I had to take my second grade school picture three days later. No crying when I had to get that flu shot while he got injected with poison. No crying when the poison was ready for round two but his mind chose to throw in the towel.
Celebration: They called it a “Celebration of Life.” Call it like it is, this was a funeral. Pasted smiles on faces that were attached to bodies that could still function. Bodies that were not plastered in my head with the image of hospital gowns. People who were not forced to be on a “custom bed” that was actually a gurney in the middle of the living room when it all ended. Happiness a thing of the past. Swarms of bodies walking in out of the same room that held the man of the house dead center only minutes ago as if nothing had changed at all. Fake fake fake. Am I the only one burned with the image of life literally floating away in my brain? I will never understand how you can fight and beat colon cancer only to end up with lung cancer. After that day, I knew that it did not matter if you were a good person or not. Obeying traffic lights and going to bed on time does not guarantee that you will be around for your next birthday party. It does not insure that an IV will not become a part of your identity. Momentary joy diminished by more radioactivities. Fishing poles traded in for heart monitors and rocking chairs that make you look more like a lunatic constantly swaying than a person going through chemo. Why commemorate anything? If something good happens, it only means something bad is going to follow. Cynical, I know. I guess that’s what happens when the wrong person answers the doctor’s phone call.
Cold: How I feel everyday since that one Sunday in September. The absence of warmth, the withdrawal of life, and the temperature of his hand once it fell limp on the white sheet covering that hopeless attempt of a bed. Papa was never sick a day in his life. Then his colon and lungs decided to pass the ball back and forth until he waved the white flag after four weeks. The lack of a sufficient answer as to why the Noni lotion that the lady conned him into buying while we were in Hawaii did not work. Magic herbal teas and trips back east together to somehow ease me into the impending doom. I was the healthy one being babied while he silently became a photograph on my wall.