Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Life Flashes.

Tom + Aimee + the TO Gang (1)

Legend has it that when you die your life flashes before you. That may be true but since no one has ever lived to tell the tale, we’ll never really know for sure, will we?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Little thoughts have been coming to me when I’m meditating or out walking or when I’m in the shower. What I’ve been seeing in these moments of reflection is my life unreeling like a backwards upside-down inside-out movie. Not chronologically but episodically and completely random. Like watching Season 3 Episode 10 of something on Netflix one night and then jumping arbitrarily to Season 1 Episode 4 the next and then watching the finale of Season 6 right afterwards.

I’ll be sitting in my meditation chair all quiet and holy-like trying to remain focused on my mantra when my little mind starts to wander. And then before long the movie sequence of some snippet of my life starts to play. Like last week’s episode about the Toronto days at 402 Northcliffe Blvd. No big deal. Just a sweet little slice of domesticity unfolded that involved kids and bus rides to Yorkdale Mall that made me sad and left my heart pining. For what, I’m not even sure. Maybe I need a new pair of shoes and a good visit with my kids.

This movie re-wind thing can happen anywhere. During one of my morning walks with Coco a few weeks ago, a pair of Canada geese flew overhead. There is just something mournful about their honking call that makes my throat squeeze. Instantly I’m back in Northwestern Ontario. It’s autumn and the leaves are starting to turn. The air is growing crisp with winter on its edges. The large blue skies are dazzling as they start to shift into the next phase, a new season. The sunlight is moody and casts uneven shadows on the earth below, and it has lost its heat. I’m ten years old and I’m on my way to Algonquin Avenue Public School when overhead I hear them calling. Good-bye for now, see you in the spring. I look up. Wave discreetly. This movie fragment makes me weep. I cry for the entire walk. I’m grateful it’s early morning and there’s no one around to see or hear. Coco is deaf.

Tears come easily these days too. Everything is touching my heart. Not piercing. Just a gentle prod of confirmation that I’m still present. Still alive and feeling. Awake to the passage of time and the fleeting transitory evanescence of this thing called life. Here today, and tomorrow’s movie.

I wonder if this is how it actually goes. We wend our way backwards then forwards, and back again. Episode by random episode, season by scattered season until it all makes sense, tells the full story. The things we live and the things we remember, real-time and reel-time.

We press play and pause, rewind and replay. Nothing flashes.

DSCN0239

IMG_0807

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter. What Were You Thinking?

E before he quit smoking.

E before he quit smoking.

I’m not a mind reader.  I don’t have X-ray vision. No telepathic abilities that I’m aware of.  I’m definitely not a clairvoyant and the last time I checked I don’t have ESP.   But on occasion I do have an acute sixth sense.  Like Spider Man.  Sometimes I just know something’s up.

Such was the case the night we went to visit a gravely ill friend at the hospital.

After two decades together I thought E and I shared everything.  Our thoughts.  Feelings.  Fears.  But I learned that with this cancer thing, that wasn’t true.  Fact is, no one really knows for sure what’s going on inside another person’s head.  Nor do we know the things kept tucked away in timorous hearts.  Our interior worlds are ours alone. We share what we share.  Give what we give. Reveal only what’s comfortable or safe.  We’re transparent at times.  But more often than not, opaque.  The proverbial window into a person’s soul is often dirty.  Foggy.  Obscured. Dark and scary.

We rode up the hospital elevator to the seventh floor in easy silence. Each in our own private world. Elevators have this affect on us. I watched attentively as the red digital numbers over the doors changed.  Floor by floor.  Thankfully no one else joined us on our ride upward. I wasn’t in the mood for company. A fleeting thought of our sick friend crossed my mind.  Followed by an unsettling twitch of anxiety in the pit of my stomach.  I took a gulp of air and let it out with flapping lips.  I sounded like a horse snorting.

Just before the doors swung open, I glanced over at E.  There was something about his expression that concerned me. Did it bother him to be back in a hospital?  Was he looking down the road to the day he’d have to return?  Was he afraid?

The doors opened.  We stepped out into the bright glaring lights of the corridor.  A startling contrast from the dimly lit elevator car with its hypnotic hum.  The steel box that confined and contained our emotions.

Boom.  Reality hit.  Raw.  Intense.  Chilly.  I couldn’t hold it in anymore.

“How do you feel?” I blurted out.

“I’m fine,” he auto-responded.

“No, how do you really feel?” I persisted.

“I’m tired,” he exhaled fully, releasing weeks of held emotions.  “And depressed.  I don’t know if I’m tired because I’m depressed.  Or depressed because I’m so tired.”

“I understand,” I said.

Finally some truth.  A place to start.

For the first time in a month, E fully understood that he wasn’t alone.  He had me.  No matter what.  Although the cancer was inside his body, the journey was ours.  We were in this together.  The good.  The bad.  And the ugly.  We were a shameless spaghetti western.  Clint Eastwood, this movie belonged to us.

The next day I sat down at my computer and wrote this poem.

The Truth About This Thing Called Cancer

Yesterday when we got off the elevator at the 7th floor

And we were heading towards room 721

To visit our friend who was back in the hospital

Having a blood transfusion

In preparation for surgery the next day

His third in nine months.
His body was covered in scars

From years of cuts and mends

Repairs and retribution

A missing foot

An ulcer on the other

Now in peril.
But this isn’t about him.
I asked you how you were feeling

Really feeling

No fake bullshit

No more keeping secrets.

 

I’m a big girl

I can hear the word cancer

The Big C

Without wanting to dive

Into the river of terror.
I’m your love

And you are mine

We’ll do this together.
So you confessed.
You said that even though

You laugh and joke

Put on your happy face

There are times that you feel tired

And depressed.
You sleep

Because you are tired

Which makes you depressed

So you sleep

To make the depression

Go away.

 

You can’t tell

The cause

From the effect.
I told you that I understood.
But the truth is

I only understand

Half of the equation.

 

I don’t know cancer

But I know depression

And the desire to sleep it away.
I know love

And the power it wields

The healing it contains

For both of us
I told you right from the start

That all I ever wanted

Was for you to

Tell me the truth.
And that goes for this thing too.