Betsy owns the Inn at Old Orchard Road in Holland, Mich. She’s a big part of the reason why Don and I fell in love with Michigan’s west coast, so much so that we decided to get married there on July 4, 1999.
“Tell me about your day,” she said.
My days post-diagnosis start the way my days always have. We are creatures of habit and as much as possible, I’ve tried to stick to my normal routine. I think it’s good for me, and it’s good for Don and Theo. Wallowing in self-pity and refusing to get out of bed serves no one, and besides, I love mornings. Always have. So, I’ve got that going for me.
I’m up and at ’em by 6:30 a.m. I make Theo’s lunch (he always wants PB&J), feed the dogs, offer a cheery Good morning, Toad the Wet Sprocket! greeting to our American Toad, who sits atop Don’s old-fashioned popcorn maker and cart in our kitchen.
Yes, the kitchen. I have a terrific and very understanding husband. And yes, toads do have ears. Poor thing.
Next comes the ruckus of Don getting ready for work while he’s trying to get Theo ready for school. I hear the usual, But why can’t I work on my dinosaur excavation project before school Daddy? You never let me! Never, as defined in the world of Theo, meaning “since yesterday.”
As it’s my week off of chemo, I blog while I wait for my cousin Christine to pick me up for breakfast. We hit one of our favorite spots, the Red Apple diner in downtown Belleville. Then it’s off to things of everyday life, some of which I’m not able to do during chemo weeks.
Go to the bank. Stop by Walgreen’s for refills on the seemingly endless number of prescriptions that are crowding my life. Kroger. It feels good to push my cart aimlessly down the aisles. I’ve not been to the grocery store in a while.
Last stop: pick up antibiotics for our chow, D.O.G., who is allergic to himself. Yes, I said allergic to himself. In the early years of the decade since D.O.G. became a member of our family, we took him to the vet numerous times and finally out to Michigan State University, one of the finest veterinarian schools in the country, to try to figure out why, every now and again, D.O.G. itches like crazy and can’t stop chewing on his limbs. Occasional courses of antibiotics keep this condition in check.
Back home, I’m starting to wear out, so Christine comes in and helps me unload the groceries and makes a pan of red Jello jigglers that will be ready to cut into heart-shaped favors by dinnertime. She gives me specific instructions to rest, and she’s out the door.
Around 3 o’clock, I’m pooped. I’m thinking I should try to squeeze in a short nap in an effort to refuel before Don and Theo burst through the door. I go upstairs to lie down, but rest doesn’t come. Instead, fearful thoughts invade, the faucet turns on full blast, hot tears stain my cheeks. What if this is my last Valentine’s day with Don and Theo?
I am quite certain that I will be here same time, same place, next year. But I also know that the possibility that I will not is quite real, much more so than last Valentine’s Day.
I liken this period of my day to my sister Julie’s description of summer in the tropics of Florida, where she lives. Sunshine and blue skies prevail. Then, right on schedule every afternoon, there’s a deluge of rain. It stops as quickly as it started, the sun, the sky reappear.
Rest does not come easy these days. And the choices are few. It’s either knock myself out with an anti-anxiety med, or just allow myself to experience what I feel for a few minutes, then move on. Today, as I often do, I opt for the latter.
I give up on the nap and decide I better get that meatloaf in the oven. And truly, this meatloaf is too big for three people. It’s Valentine’s Day. And I miss my neighbor, Alice (pronounced A-leese). I call her CFW for Crazy French Woman, this slender, spit-fire of a friend who makes me laugh. She calls me NUG — Neighbor of Useless Genius — a nickname I earned after the countless times she’s had to show me how to do something mechanical, the same something, like hook Theo’s pull-behind to my bike.
So, I call and invite her and the kids for dinner. Her hubby, Mark, is working, she tells me, and she was just trying to decide what to do about dinner when the phone rang. They’ll be over in an hour.
Dinner is festive, a potluck. Many a time in the years we’ve lived here, we’ve potlucked. In the middle of winter, we often bundle Theo up and pull him by sled across the lake to Mark and Alice’s house, our dish-to-pass tied on to the back.
It is great fun — not to mention that Alice is from France and has never cooked or baked anything less than marvelous in all the years I’ve known her. Tonight is no exception. She brings a veggie tray with a bowl of homemade dressing that, even with the recipe, I’ve never been able to duplicate.
The kids run pell-mell through the house, super-fueled by the sugary treats that are the unspoken prerequisite of all classroom Valentine’s Day parties. We get them to sit down at the dinner table long enough to take a few bits of meatloaf and scalloped potatoes, all the while dangling the promise of those heart-shaped Jello jigglers.
At one point, the kids actually sit down and watch TV. It’s such a wonder that I stop clearing the dishes and tug on Alice’s sleeve. “Check it out,” I whisper. “The kids are actually sitting.”
Alice and I steep mugs of blueberry tea teaming with antioxidants that arrived over the weekend from my friend Sherri in Chicago. We get in a couple minutes of quiet conversation before the kids are back at it — noisily racing monster trucks on the kitchen floor.
It’s a school night and time to call it a day.
That, Betsy, is a Day in the Life. And a beautiful one at that.
Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson