Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Today.

E relaxing by the pond with Coco and Rusty.

E relaxing by the pond with Coco and Rusty.

I usually like to keep a bit of time and distance between me and the stories I tell.  Sometimes years like I have with the Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter.  With others, it’s weeks or months like this blog about me and E and the Big C. This is the psychological and emotional space I need to tell a good story.  It’s the way I work.

Time allows me to separate myself from the story so that it doesn’t erode into sentimental sop.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love a good tear jerker.  I just don’t intentionally write one.  I’m not here to emotionally manipulate.  It is my desire to share what I know, what I’ve learned on this journey.  At best, it may only be an enjoyable read.  At worst, a waste of time.  But if it informs and illuminates, touches a heartstring, resonates with some truth you hold dear, then I’ve accomplished more than I could have hoped for.

My story is your story.  We’re all in this together after all.  You may not have cancer, nor be married to someone with it.  You may be lucky and this disease hasn’t touched your life in any way.  But I doubt it.   That’s not the point.  This isn’t about the disease, you see.  It’s about two people and their family and friends and community.  It’s about you and me.  All of us.

Oh yes it is my dear ones.

Because we’re all human and this is a very human story.  Not a tragedy.  Although sometimes it is heartbreaking.  It is often fraught with folly.  And great big belly laughs.  Tears are shed.  Curse words are spat like mouldy grapes.  But there’s a whole lot of loving going on too.

So today, Saturday, April 6, exactly four months after my world was rocked I am going to do something I typically don’t do with my storytelling.  I’m telling you how it is now.  On this day.  No time.  No distance.  No space between me and the story.

This morning E and I were in the kitchen making coffee and chatting idly about the things we had to do today.  For reasons I’m not even certain of – maybe I was born with it or maybe it’s Maybelline – I turned to him and said the following:

“I know nothing can compare to the way you feel.  Part of me can’t even imagine.  But I just want you to know that for the people closest to you.  It feels horrible.  Awful.  Everyone expects you to feel like crap. You’ve got cancer for Christ sakes. But I feel like crap too.  I’m worried and exhausted.  I’m so depressed.”

E slumped in the chair and said, “I’m worried too.  I wake up at three in the morning and I can’t sleep.”

“Neither can I,” I snapped.

But what I wanted to say and couldn’t because he’s the one with cancer and that trumps everything: “You just don’t get it. Yes, you have the disease, but you don’t have a monopoly on feeling bad.”

“I’m depressed,” he sighed.

“Some days I feel like I’m hanging on by my fingernails.”

And that was the end of the conversation.  Maybe hanging on by your fingernails trumps everything.

There you have it.  Four months in and the truth is, we both feel like crap.  Not all the time.  The mornings are the worst.  Fortunately life distracts us.  We carry on.  Get on with it.  Try not to wallow.  Nor allow this thing to swallow us whole like a snake eating a rabbit.  Take the best part of us. We ‘do not go gentle into that good night.’

This afternoon we took our dogs for a walk around the lake.  It was good.  As we walked the trail, I breathed in the beauty of the world surrounding us.  The trees were green with newness.  Life was exerting itself everywhere. Hope filled the clouds above.  The breeze whispered sweet nothings in our ears.   You have today, it said.

There wasn’t a trace of cancer anywhere.

Diaries of the Breadman’s Daughter: There’s Nothing Like the Smell of Coffee in the Morning.

Ma and boo in PJs enjoying a morning moment.

I’m a morning person. I get up early while my family remains nestled all snug in their warm comfy beds. This does not mean they are sleepyheads.  Or lazybones.  It’s just that I’m a particularly early riser.  For it is only at this time that the house is quiet and still.  Like the Herman’s Hermits song proclaims, “there’s a kind of hush.”  Just the way I like it.

When I’m in full-blown writing mode I get up, I make a cup of hot tea and head for my room.  But it wasn’t always so.  The room was there but I wasn’t.  I was in another room with a bed and a warm body next to mine.  That was, and is, nice.  But for a writer, and a creative spirit, it’s not enough.  I made excuses for why I wasn’t in my very special room doing creative things.  You know the kind. Family commitments.  Full time job.  Busy life full of distractions and diversions.  Pets to walk. Cakes to bake.  But excuses aside, the truth was it made me sad.  Glum.  Blah.  Whiny even.  Then I had this eureka moment about 15 years ago. The switch was flipped and the light went on. I had this notion that if I got up an hour or two earlier I could go into my room and do stuff.  At the time, I wasn’t sure what that would be exactly.  But as it turns out I had a novel to write.  Some poems. A ton more letters to God.  And a few song lyrics. Then some music to go with those.  I learned that much can be accomplished in the wee hours before 6:00am.

The truth is, it wasn’t all that difficult for me to get up that early in the morning.  Pre-dawn rising is part of my family heritage.  If geneticists were to look inside our DNA, I’m certain they would find some little atypical first-light wrinkle in one of our chromosomes.

Little back story.  Because the Old Man was a Breadman, his workday began early.  Crack of dawn.  He had to get to the bakery, load his truck and be on the road delivering the bread and other baked goodies by 7:00am.  This was back in the day, when it was essential to deliver the ultimate in freshness door to door.  Warm and ready.

Ma always got up with The Old Man.  While he was getting ready for work, she was busy in the kitchen.  A fresh pot of coffee was perking in the dinted aluminum Percolator with the black handle and glass knob on top.  Once the water-coffee mixture began to bubble up into the knob, Ma would turn down the heat and let it settle and simmer on low.  While the coffee was brewing, the well-oiled cast iron frying pan was in full-on action.  Four strips of bacon fried to a medium crisp.  Two eggs.  Sunny side up with a fringe of brown crunch.  Two slices of white Wholesome bread toasted to golden perfection, then buttered.  The table was set for one.  Next to The Old Man’s plate was a jar of Kraft strawberry jam or orange marmalade, a bottle of homogenized milk, a bowl of white sugar, and glass shakers of salt and pepper.  These were the scrumptious aromas of morning for the thirty-plus years that The Old Man worked for the bakery.  This was the first heavenly scent of dawn and waking up.

Sometimes I would get up before The Old Man left for work and join him at the table.  But mostly I got up afterwards and had breakfast alone with Ma.  I loved my morning time with her.  I was never really that hungry in the morning but I ate anyway.  Mostly to appease Ma, so she wouldn’t worry or fret that I was malnourished or starving to death.  Ever since I was a youngster I drank coffee.  The Old Man was a Finlander so coffee was a huge part of his personal culture.  Next to Vodka, coffee was the Finn’s beverage of choice.  The coffee of my wonder years was nothing like it is today.  We’re not talking Starbucks super strength here.  Back then, coffee was akin to dish water.  And we were blissfully ignorant of any harm it may have caused a child.  I enjoyed my daily morning coffee until I hit my early twenties when I quit cold turkey.  As it turned out, it wasn’t so good for my sensitive nervous system, causing my body to shake rattle and roll after one or two sips. Tea, in particular herbal or decaf, then became my beverage of choice for decades.  It’s only been recently that I have started to enjoy one cup of coffee in the morning.  All things wonderful.  Ma and I were also Tea Grannies and loved our Orange Pekoe and Earl Grey.  Especially with fresh-baked cookies.  Simply divine.

For the most part, Ma and I had toast and jam for breakfast. We kept it sweet and simple.  White bread.  Lots of butter slathered on first, then a big dollop of jam.  Sometimes we’d add peanut butter.  Sometimes we didn’t add anything.  Just butter.  It all depended on whether we were in a sweet or savory mood.  My morning coffee was really more milk and sugar than it was coffee.  And it was delicious.  Sweet.  And creamy.  I drank it down quickly in big gulps.  Sometimes I slurped it from my spoon like soup.  But mostly I poured it back. “Ahhhhh.  That was sooooo good Ma,” I’d exclaim.

I enjoyed this quiet breakfast time with Ma.  We drew together, both in our flannel nighties, and talked about things.  The kinds of conversations mothers have with their little girls.  Precious.  Intimate.  Confidential.  I shared all my secrets with her.  I knew she was the one person in the entire world that I could trust completely with my tender young heart. I told her funny stories.  She laughed.  I relayed the nightmare that woke me up in the middle of the night.  She comforted.  I confessed my unrequited love.  She consoled.  I cried over my broken heart.  She caressed.  I confided my dreams for the future.  She encouraged.   I hurt her feelings.  She forgave.

On special occasions or holidays, when the family gathers, I still like to get up early, even though I don’t write during vacation time.  Our entire family comes together at Christmas and I’m usually the first one up.  I like to putter around in the kitchen and put the coffee on.  And that’s when it happens.  The fresh brewed aroma takes me back.  To a little kitchen table with its cheerful homespun tablecloth.  It’s set for two.  It’s cold and dark and wintry outside.  But it’s warm and bright and safe inside.  Ma pours me a cup.  Life is good.