"Those were hard things for me to come by, and I offer them to you for what they may be worth." - Toby Wolff

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Missing The Point


I'm listening to my mother ramble on along the nerves of my voicemail. Blah blah blah..."movie, I think you recommended it..." yadda yadda yadda "no need to call me back, I just loved the scenery, which I think you mentioned..." yackety yack...eye roll, finger drum..."I just shaved my friend's head and I'm heading back home."

My eyes snap to attention with pin-pricks of tears. I am surprised at myself and dab at the offense as if they were foreign objects instead of close friends.

My mother is calling me with more frequency. She is holding her words out to me like connective dots. She is reaching and I see her arms, one thin and one lymphatic, as they extend...wait...retract empty.

Monday, I asked her how she is. "I am....." (long pause and my toe tapping) "....sad." A woman she plays bridge with is Stage Four. It's like a chapter, no...a book...a monument, a continent. STAGE FOUR. I've battled stage four every which way but physically. I won't do it again. I will stamp it on my forehead like a destination and pack my bags for everywhere I've ever wanted to go. I've warned my family. They know.

But this woman has engaged in the battle and she is not winning. This round of chemo has her walking with a cane and trying to hide her clumpy hair under an ill fitting hat.  "I refuse to pay $17.00 for someone to shave my head," she says. "It's ludicrous." And I know how much cancer costs in dollars. I know how much it costs in other ways. I know how much it eats. My mother tells her, "I will shave it for you", and my first thought is those unsteady hands of hers. I wonder if she will have a drink first and give those cells over to their craving before she puts a blade in her hands.

My mother has actually called because she is sad about her friend and upset over the fact that she cannot get her hair clippers to work. The thought passed through my mind like the single filament of a cobweb...

mine work...

but I let it pass in the stiff breeze of my concern with time and distance...and proximity.

I should have gone. I should have seat-belted my clippers in for the three hour drive and just gone...held the hand of my mother, and shaved the head of a stranger. I should have. And I could talk about how I never seem to do the right thing, but the fact is...this deed did not need me. It got done. I just missed it.


  1. This is so raw and sad. My sister-in-law lost all her hair in chemo. She bought wigs, and my brother didn't care for them. He said that she was the most beautiful bald woman he ever met.

    Maybe that total acceptance and love is why they've been married for 49 years.

  2. Hi, Annie... I agree... you weren't needed for this deed. Maybe your Mother just needed to talk about her experience. I don't mean this in a negative or a mean spirited way, but this was something your Mom needed to do...


  3. Sweet Annie, sometimes you just have to look out for you. Just take care of & love ANNIE! Three extra hours of driving on a work day is damned hard. I would have thought the same as you, but the drive would have been a deal breaker. Just too much on a work day/night. You're not being selfish, you're being practical, so don't beat yourself up about it. She could have called another of her friends, I'm sure, or picked up a cheap set of clippers ($15) at Wal-Greens.

    Girl, this has been one of *those* weeks, here, too. I'm just glad it's almost over. Sending you buckets of love & blessings, my friend-girl. ;-) xo

  4. it happens. which is part of life. we aren't present at every opportunity.
    great photo:)

  5. June - Yes. I'm sure it tops the list of reasons why. If we could fill in that blank for the rest of our lives..."You are the most beautiful_______person I have ever met." I think that's wonderful.

    Shoes - Nope. Absolutely not. It's amazing what gets accomplished without my help at all :)

    Marion - I know, I know. But it kinda wrote up well. The shocker was those damn tears. Sometimes I just have no idea exactly what it is I'm mourning...but I sure know I'm at the funeral. Two more days til Friday. Counting down...

    Ed - True. And I didn't take the photo, but it's the kind of photo I like to take and wish I had. It says so much. Such a story. No words.

  6. we can't be everything to everyone. somehow we all muddle through.

    you are a good woman, annie.


  7. You were there in heart and spirit, if not in body. This one made my heart ache.

  8. You don't need to shave anything, just hold her hand and honey I'm so sorry

  9. Hmmmmmm.......

  10. ...you can't do it all...you are just fine as you have done...

  11. Erin - Not really, but then again, good women are hard to find, or so I hear.

    Eric - My spirit has far more wings than my body. It never seems to rest.

    Lorraine - Well...there's my legs love. Them buggers need a good shaving for sure. Thanks sweetie.

    Travis - Uh huh...

    Glenn - :) Always the wise one.

  12. I won't dare tell you how many buckets/rivers of tears I've cried since the onset of menopause. Ray used to say, "Marion, WHY ARE YOU CRYING?" I'd just shake my head and keep crying and now he doesn't even ask. I cried this morning reading a freaking 'Vanity Fair' article about a book about baseball. Perhaps I just have a leak, hell, I don't know. Getting old SUCKS!!! Tee-hee....but it sure beats the hell out of the alternative....xoxox

  13. Wow, this post is beautiful. I really like your blog.

  14. When it comes to the people we love, no matter what we do it won't be enough, for we so want to give them all they need, but - of course - we can't. Dare we hope that they will remember us for our acts of love and not our negligence?

  15. I'm struck by the strength of your writing. You take a problem/challenge any one of us could face, struggle with, and you manage to make it personal and universal in what ever way it suits the reader. Who gets the sympathy here? You?your mother ? Her friend?

    For me this bulleyes a question that always tracks me down. Can I give what can, just what I can, in peace and without guilt?

    It's your mother 's sadness that I find the saddest part. Because, if it's true she willnot cannot help herself, she makes it unfairly hard for a daughter to be a witness-er

    I read every word, Annie. Nice going

  16. Marion - Sheesh...I'm in trouble then. When the menopause comes, I'll be freakishly dehydrated. Better stay away from Vanity Fair too. Must have been on hell of a book review :) You're so funny Marion. You should write Monday Menopause with Marion....a column...sydicated. LOL. I'd sure read it!

    Maria - Thank you and welcome :)

    Andreas - I think they will. The kernel of mercy has to extend to others if we expect it for ourselves.

    KJ - You are very sweet. Perhaps there is sympathy enough for all. There is a lot going on in this life excerpt. I appreciate how much you caught. My mother, her own cancer, our rocky relationship, her alcoholism, my guilt over not feeling closer to her, my DNR and medical decisions...etc, etc, etc. In the end...all we can give is just what we can, and I think it should be without guilt. But, I've yet to accomplish ANYTHING without guilt :) I'm the Queen. Thank you for reading every word.

  17. You are the queen, indeed! I wasn't sure what to say, so I'll just say that.

  18. You can't always be there. This wasn't your deed. You're deed was to pick up the phone and listen to your mum x

  19. I feel like this often. I should have. They needed me, but didn't. I could have. I can't do the "right" thing. I find I am drained by too often having done the right thing while forgetting to take care of myself. You're okay, Annie. Change is damn hard work.

  20. Ben - Queen of What? That's the damn question. I feel the true answer :)

    Elisecrets - My deed. Good name for a novel eh? I did do that...pick up the phone. Now I feel better. Thanks!

    Amy - Yeah...we "should" all over ourselves, as my therapist says. We should give ourselves a break, but it's bloody unlikely.

  21. Will we be forever inveterate "rescuers" Annie? Or will we learn the art of balance ... the art of doing our best and being happy that we did what we could. Life is terribly hard sometimes and you don't have to look far to see very real and very deep pain. It's everywhere and you and I have our antennas switched to high gain mode too much of the time. We take stuff on that perhaps we oughtn't too and see ... her head got done after all.

    It is very hard when a relationship is so broken that we dare not trust in any attempts to mend it. If the reasons underlying the brokeness have not changed how can we be anything other than dubious?

    Sometimes I wish I could "be there" for everyone, but increasingly I realise that I'm not even "there" for myself. Learning to be real and honest is like pulling your toenails off one by one.

    Love you Annie. Just off to listen to the vid clip you sent. xx Jos

  22. Annie, when my little sister got cancer it took something from me. There were many times I felt there was something I should be doing, but I couldn’t, just couldn’t! And it killed me, tore me up inside. Within three months I relapsed, after almost three years of sobriety. I guess for me that inability to deal, costs me a great deal. I can't tell you I know what you are feeling, but I can say I empathize.

  23. Jos - Yes...I'm pretty sure I will always be the rescuer...because they're NEEDED :)

    You are so right though. I have to be there for myself first before I am any real help to anyone else. We'll be okay once our toenails grow back! Love you too Citrus.

    He Ment Well - I'm so sorry to hear that, about your sister and your relapse. I believe we can tear ourselves up inside, far more than cancer ever could. I have had incredibly toxic moments, but very few where I have actually been kind to myself. So much harder.

  24. you're right. this was your moms' moment.
    she is reaching out - hey and you are answering
    her -


Thank you for listening.