Saturday, June 26, 2010



Funny how when we “reconnect,” as the parenting magazines call it – “put the spice back,” as it were – funny how that’s all it takes sometimes. My dog brain confusedly responds as if it’s in love with a new guy. Morning-after optimism skipping home. Ha. Hardly.

This is Mr. Black, my old man. He’s the guy who argues that the dishwasher is “fine” when it smells like rotting milk stuffed in an old sweat sock; the guy who gives me that annoyed, confused look when I know I’ve been perfectly clear; the guy who clumsily stomps on my feelings and acts all defensive about it when a simple “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to” is all the situation requires.

Trying to explain again wouldn’t be worth the aggravation, so I just check out. Float away on another widow watch of empty distractions, happily tethered but floating just the same. He’s floating, too, in another direction, and our house is filled with mutual, benevolent silence. It’s hard to be grounded all the time. It’s so much work, so fraught with embarrassment and uncertainty and unfulfilled (probably unfair) needs that can only be met in the netherworld of the imagination.

But I’m not actually going anywhere. He is enough. More than enough. He does so much, devotes so much time, makes this charmed life of mine even possible. He doesn’t electrify me with adoration and compliments. Never did. Never swept me away, even in the beginning, with that reserved no-nonsense Spock-logic. But I was swept nevertheless, not by any words or gestures, but by his presence and the mere prospect of love from a man like that. Him showing up and loving me was enough.

We had this long, glorious leap of faith that stretched from Philadelphia to Seattle; a bright, soundless soaring that made everything else seem distant and past. Then we crashed and bumped down, got on our feet, stumbled around for a while and eventually just started walking along. This is what marriage is. Other humans are maddening and imperfect. They can’t change to suit us. Change is next to impossible. Settling, though? Well, that’s easier.

There’s so much I don’t even try to fight about anymore. I know he loves and respects me. Most of his actions indicate as much, even though he lurks around like a sullen teen sometimes. Not only is this as good as it gets, but it’s really good much of the time. We’re good friends, good parenting partners, great . . . um . . . partners still (sigh).

It’s just a little disorienting, is all. I get these lovey/crushy feelings and nowhere to really put them. This guy can only take so much school-girl adoration from me before he’s gotta watch Wapner. And besides, this is more about me than it is about him. It’s always been more about me than whatever guy happened to be standing there. I just feel these feelings of – I don’t know – love, poetry, intuition, bliss, life . . . and I start looking for somewhere to put them. I’ve always sought a human outlet for them, glorifying even the most benign, clearly wrong-for-me little non-relationships, confusing a suitable temporary recipient for some Great Love.

As a young teenager, flying a kite in the empty fields near my parents’ farm or strolling through the impossibly sensual aroma of summer evening tiger lilies, I’d imagine how it would be to share all this with a boyfriend. But when the time came, something would always fall flat. They didn’t get it. Some of them tried, but nothing could match the intensity of imagined love versus an actual imperfect being standing there missing the point. I don’t know why I thought marriage would be any different. Even under the best of circumstances, my experience is not your experience.

But, you know, it’s all okay. Love is one thing, and I do and always have loved Mr. Black. But this bliss feeling? This is mine. No crush can hold it, no human can match it or satisfy it. This is my experience of love and life, and it needs no recipient to fulfill itself. It simply is. I love my husband. And I love.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Follow Up

Well, the ultrasound was reassuring. That’s what the nurse tells me, anyway, after my whole week of pretending not to be waiting by the phone like some pathetic forgotten girlfriend. Checking and rechecking the answering machine, springing into action the minute the phone rings, sinking a little inside when it’s only that telemarketer again.

This morning, I promised myself I’d wait until the afternoon to call the doctor’s office. Ten seconds later, I was dialing the number, promising myself I was going to leave a breezy message. (“Iiiii’m breezy!” Remember that, from “Friends”? Sure you do.) Of course, my message was anything but breezy. I stammered. I repeated myself. And Little Girl threw me off even more, worried that I might be scheduling a doctor’s appointment for her.

The nurse called back soon afterwards to tell me that the ultrasound was normal. Reassuring, she said. Apparently they mailed me a letter earlier this week saying the same thing, although I haven’t received it yet. I hope they’re as efficient when it comes to sending the bill.

So, you know, hooray for good health. But while I’m relieved and embracing life and smelling the roses and whatnot, I can’t deny that I’m also feeling pretty cranky about the whole situation. I don’t like how it ends up reading like a Very Special Episode of some sitcom: “Oh, I might have a big serious disease. Oh wait – no I don’t. Roll credits. To learn more about female reproductive health, consult your local library.” I don’t like how it tugged at some pretty deep-seated fears (and possibly my readers’ fears when I wrote about it here . . . sorry, guys), only to make those fears seem silly and unfounded. It was a jolt we all could have done without, I think.

And, sure, I could have been more stoic about it in the first place . . . not written about it, not thought about it, not told anyone until there was a real reason to worry. But that’s not how I roll. By now, I might as well just accept the fact that I’m not breezy. Never have been, never will be. I’m all drama, love, and fear, wrapped in a crunchy cynical coating that flakes right off at the slightest provocation. If there’s the slightest disturbance in the force, I’ll be talking or writing about it. And if you tell me there’s a quirk on my blood test, send me in for a big juicy ultrasound, and then ignore me for a week only to say “Oh, you’re fine” . . . well, it’s going to take more than a “you’re fine” to restore my sense of peace.

But, you know . . . probably not much more. A nice walk and a delicious latte might do the trick. Maybe this past week just boils down to another embarrassing oversharing / overcaring incident to throw on the pile, but hey . . . what’s one more?

Meanwhile, I'm incredibly touched by all the support and kind words from you folks. Thanks, as always, for reading. You're the best. I'll be sure to post something funnier next time. In fact...why wait?

Friday, June 11, 2010



I’m probably fine. This is the way it always goes. Some anomaly pops up, some uncomfortable, invasive test is ordered and I sit around in some innocuously tasteful waiting room pondering my future. It almost always turns out to be nothing.

So, here we are again. The hospital sure is a drag when you’re not expecting a baby. I feel bad for the well-dressed gentlemen in the radiology waiting room who seem to be new to all this. They look so vulnerable and so bravely uncompromised in their work clothes, holding on to that last shred of their identity before it’s hospital-gown-and-probe time. Me, I can’t even sit down. They made me drink 32 ounces of water and hold it in before this test, and I’m standing on my tiptoes, shifting my weight from one foot to the other in a maddening internal struggle not to pee like Niagara Falls. Even the languid tropical fish tank is pissing me off. And a “Best of 2005” issue of Seattle magazine? That’s just plain insulting.

I don’t remember this being such a production the first time. My doctor had the ultrasound equipment right there in the office, and he let me look at the screen as he measured the ovarian cysts, instantly reassuring me that it didn’t look like cancer. Not today. It’s just me and the tech, and she’s got the screen turned away from me. I stare at the disturbingly sex-toyish instruments on the wall and try not to speculate. She presses my belly here and there, this way and that, presses until it hurts and won’t stop hurting. Probe, probe, click, click. I don’t want to ask.

I’m probably fine. Last time, sixteen years ago for goodness sake, it was only endometriosis. The biggest cyst was the size of a baseball and it swallowed one withered ovary like a fat burst of popcorn swallows its spent kernel. And it hurt. So much. Nothing hurts this time, so maybe there’s nothing going on in there after all. Or maybe my body’s so stretched out from the pregnancies and miscarriages and surgeries that it barely registers cysts anymore. Who can say? I could say, if she’d just turn the screen a few inches in my direction or let me know what she sees. But she doesn’t.

I was 24 last time, worried and fascinated. Endometriosis is no big deal. It’s just painful and inconvenient, and it can affect your fertility if it goes on unchecked. “If you were married, I’d tell you to have your children now,” my doctor had said. Gulp. I wasn’t married, of course. I’d just started dating some guy in a Grateful Dead cover band who, for all his pot-headed charm, was not what the kids call marriage material. Not that that mattered much to me. I was just barely getting a career off the ground, just barely setting up housekeeping outside of a university setting. Finding some guy to marry was the least of my problems.

But a few months later, waking up in the recovery room after my surgery, the first thought that flooded my consciousness was “I’m alone.” I wasn’t, of course. My mom was in the hospital waiting room, ready to take me back to her place to recover. But I was still young enough to take something like that for granted. All I could see was that I had no boyfriend (Grateful Dead guy and I had broken up by then), no real job beyond my various temping and tutoring gigs, and no children – not even the prospect of children.

I’m not sure why that mattered to me all of a sudden. I guess, like most female-reproductive-system diseases, endometriosis has an air of blame about it. It used to be called “working woman’s disease” because it mostly affects women in their 20’s and 30’s who haven’t started spawning yet. Don’t let your body make babies and the damn thing starts making little cyst-babies of its own. I guess on some level it felt like a punishment or a warning or some such. Mostly, though, it just underscored how very adrift and alone I was feeling.

So, all’s well that ends well . . . sort of. Yes, I ended up with a wonderful family and an easy, joyful life. But I’m still alone in this hospital. It’s pretty clear the tech isn’t authorized to tell me anything, so I start reading into her every move like it’s a first date. Did she take more measurements on the left side than the right? Is her stoicism a bad sign? Wouldn’t she say something reassuring if there were something reassuring to report? Finally it’s over and I’m sure a radiologist will come in and explain everything. No. But my doctor will have the results in 2-3 business days.

I patch myself together, put my clothes back on, and toss my hospital gown in a disgusted heap. I don’t go home. Instead, I drive a few blocks north to the neighborhood where Mr. Black and I shared our first Seattle apartment and wander around the old streets, trying to reason my way through it.

Sixteen years ago I was mourning the absence of a husband and kids. Now the saddest thing I can think of is dragging them along through whatever medical bullshit the future holds – maybe not this time, hopefully not this time. But someday. Didn’t I realize that it was better to be sick when it was just me?

I’m probably fine. This is how it always goes. Anomaly, invasive test, reassuring results, and back to life as we know it. I’m going to feel pretty embarrassed next week when my doctor calls to tell me I’m fine. But for now, for some reason, it’s hard to let go of the hypotheticals. Endometriosis doesn’t worry me. It’s not like they can scare me or shame me with tales of threatened fertility anymore. Bring it on. Just don’t let it be the other thing. The cancer thing. I don’t want that.

The chances of it being ovarian cancer are slim indeed. There’s nothing in the family history, and my initial blood test results weren’t that bad. I just wish they’d conclusively rule it out already, so I can put the worry away for good.
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