Never Just One Thing


Oh, did I mention that my sister has Stage 4 colon cancer? It’s never just one thing, is it. Notice that’s not a question. When I write a grant proposal, it’s called “providing the context.” So the main event in my life is Vince being in prison. And on top of that, my sister has cancer.

Or, is the main event that my mom has totaled two cars within a span of a few months, causing multiple hairline fractures of her spine (thankfully not killing herself or injuring anyone else), which means she’s in pain all the time and has to wear a brace and use a walker and can’t drive anymore or do most of the things she used to enjoy, like go for a walk?

Or wait, is the predominant thing in my life that my sister’s roof leaks, she can’t work, and she’s overwhelmed by bills, housework, two teenage kids, and an abusive ex-husband? That’s on top of the radiation, surgery, having to wear an ostomy bag that keeps falling off, chemotherapy, more surgery, being told she’s cured, being told it’s back, more chemo, more surgery to come, then more chemo….

Or is it my own apartment, because the maintenance guy who came in to fix the slow kitchen drain punctured the pipe, causing a flood that necessitated the entire room be torn up for—no sink or dishwasher, floor and countertops gone—for seven weeks. A yellow tape across the door that said “Do Not Enter”. A little comic relief: I complained to the building manager about having to wash dishes in the bathroom sink. His suggestion was that I put my dirty dishes in a shopping cart, take them via elevator to an empty apartment on another floor, wash them there, then take them back to my place.

To practice self-care, I went for a hike along the banks of the Mississippi. It was muddy and I thought, “It’s slippery here—someone could fall!” And then the someone was me. Torn knee ligament. Crutches for a month. Here is where I will admit that I love an inanimate object–my car, my beloved turquoise Mini Cooper—which a manual transmission. I found a coworker who traded cars—her old tan sedan was an automatic. The battery died the next day. The engine light kept coming on. The plastic under sheath, which I had never even known existed on every car, came off while I was going 80 on the interstate. That’ll make you feel you are really alive!

And so it seems that challenges just fan out and out and on and on. Going to work at a torture treatment center feels like going to a spa right now, although I sure am having a hard time concentrating. So then I worry I will lose my job, but I can’t even focus on that for very long; my worry jumps back and forth from my mom to Vince to my sister and back and all over the place, like a ping pong ball in a clothes dryer.

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