Friday, May 4, 2012

Thoughts For Friday: On Love and Fear and Death

Maybe the hardest thing for a human being to do is tell the truth. I used to write this Thoughts for Friday piece every week or so at WNYMedia and it was always a frivolous thing. I'd drink too much beer on a Thursday night and vomit out whatever was on my mind. I tried to make it funny or poignant, but it was really just a letting of the blood, a way to extract the little poisons from the system. The Big Poison, though, that had to stay and a little relief was all I ever allowed myself.

Things are different now. Life is different. The people around me aren't what they were just a few months ago.

Thoughts For Friday was always a silly thing, but now I want it to be about the truth. If you're expecting politics here, you'll probably get it from time to time, but I'm going to indulge myself a bit as well. The Big Poison needs an outlet and once a week or so I'm going to give it one.

I just started writing again. It's been about eight months since I put anything together for public consumption and I'm going to tell you why. Truth. 

There was a brief period when the last site I wrote for was falling apart, but i wasn't in any condition to care. My uncle started his last vacation in October of 2011. That was also the last time I wrote anything of substance. Sometime in that month I spent a night with the Occupy movement in Buffalo. I wrote about the experience and I wrote it well. I was proud of what I did there and I think I deserved to be.

At the end of October my uncle came home from his vacation with what we thought was a bad case of pneumonia. He couldn't finish a sentence without coughing uncontrollably, but we all thought he'd get better with some medicine and a bit of rest. A week or so later he was diagnosed with stage four non-small cell carcinoma. Lung Cancer. FUCK cancer. Just FUCK IT! I'm crying now. Truth.

About a week after that he had an episode that landed him in Strong Memorial Hospital. Truth.

Two days after that, my grandmother, his mother, had an internal bleed that put her in the same hospital. Truth

Two days after that, she was diagnosed with mother-fucking stage four non-small cell carcinoma. Lung Cancer. Truth.

The cancer had spread to the spine and the kidneys in both of them. Truth.

My family spent the next two weeks riding the elevators at Strong Memorial upanddownandupanddownandupandown. Truth.

My grandfather would go from one room to the other, sit in a chair and hold their hands. I took a picture of his hand and my grandmother's hand locked together, but i had to be sneaky about it because I was embarrassed to want it. Truth.

I've always been embarrassed about the things I want. Truth.

I don't think I'm going to get through this, but it matters so I'm going to force myself. Vacillation.

They sent my grandmother home for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving dinner was the last time I was able to communicate with her in a meaningful way. Truth.

She spent most of the rest of her life in a hospital bed that they brought to the house. I don't believe in God, so I stood next to that bed, held her hand and made my confession to her. All of it, every bit of pride-shame-hate-love-fear and I wished over and over again that I'd done it this way three years ago when maybe it mattered. Truth.

She died just before her birthday in December. The night she died I was at home. I had thought I might to go down to Crossroads House and sleep in the room with her, maybe talk to her one more time, but I was drunk so I couldn't drive over there. My father says she waited for everyone to leave before she let herself go and that she wouldn't have been able to do it if one of us was there. Truth.

I've always thought that was bullshit.

My uncle was too sick to attend the wake. He was able, with some help, to come to the funeral home the morning we buried her. I helped him out of the car and into a wheelchair. That was the last time I saw him outside of a hospital. Truth.

He went to her casket. He called her mommy. He said he wasn't afraid because she'd be waiting for him. Truth.

I don't believe in heaven, but I fucking wanted to. Right then, I would have traded anything in the universe to have the comfort of belief. Truth.

My uncle died in the hospital a little more than a week later. Truth.

When my phone rang in the morning and I saw my father's number on the ID I thought he was calling about work. Truth.

When he told me my Uncle was dead all I felt was rage and I let out a growl/scream that scared my daughter awake. I sat on the stairs and pulled at my hair. Right at that moment, because I am a selfish person, I wanted to die too. Truth.

The priest was good friends with my Uncle. The funeral sermon was about how Jesus wept upon seeing Lazarus' friends' and family's grief. Truth.

My Uncle wept openly upon seeing the fields of Gettysburg. Truth.

My Uncle was cremated. Truth.

I visit my grandmother's grave on Tuesdays. There's no headstone yet, but I know which one it is because there are always fresh roses there. I'm not sure which day my grandfather goes, maybe he goes every day, but he's the one who leaves the flowers. He doesn't just lay them over the dirt; he makes a little hole and plants them right in the topsoil. I think he considers every time he plants those roses upright that it's the closest he's ever going to get to his wife again. I sit there on the ground and think about that. I sit there and I make my confession over and over again. I tell her the things I've never been able to tell anyone and I wish I'd done it while she was alive so she could have nodded her head and said, 'Hmm... well Chris, your Gram has an opinion about that.' Sometimes it rains so I have to go home and change afterward. Nobody ever notices because pretty much all my clothes look the same. Truth.

So, there's a bit of the Big Poison. It's in all of us and it gets nastier the longer we avoid the truth. It gets stronger when we shed just a few tears instead of screaming out our sorrow and rage. 

Here is that picture that I was so embarrassed to take. It's beautiful. Truth.

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