I had lunch today with a couple of friends. We talked of many things…for guys. We even talked of feelings, but only at the end, when it was safe because we knew that we would have to go our separate ways and therefore, not have to delve too deeply. These are good guys. They care. They really want to know what it is like to go through what I have been through. “What is it like?” they ask.
What is it like to learn that you have an incurable and fatal disease when you are forty-five with two children under the age of five? What is it like to hear from your lover’s lips that she may have an incurable and much more fatal disease the night you return from a two-week European trip, jetlagged to the max, longing only to sink into endless sleep in your own bed after being on the road for so long? What is it like to walk, ghostlike, through your daily existence, hearing folks complain endlessly about trivial, mindless, inequities, inconveniences, personality conflicts – parking tickets, ego slights, unfortunate working conditions – when you carry the weight of the world, wondering if your children will remember you when you are gone. What is it like to hold your love’s hand as she breathes her last breath and leaves you with all of the responsibility?
Lonely is what it is like.
“How do you do it?” I am asked.
“What choice have I?” I think to myself.
This is not really a matter of choice. I would have chosen none of it, but that is not an option. The choice is what you will have for breakfast; what will fill your morning, your afternoon, your evening. When will you take the little pills that assure sleep through the dark hours? These are the choices.
I have been told that what I have done over the last several years has been admirable, good, and even wise. I don’t feel admirable, good, or wise. I feel like a man without a lot of options who did what had to be done to get through the day. I did what I could and depending on your point of view, it was admirable, good, and wise – or maybe just painting by numbers. In any event, I could not, and will not, be able to change the big picture. The world spins round regardless of what I do every day. Life begins, and ends, without consulting me. My sphere of influence is much smaller.
I can directly influence my dog, my children, and myself (in order of ascending difficulty). Not much else – unless you count those thistles I summarily executed. Even here, in this little world defined by the walls of our house, it could be argued that my influence is weak. The children after all, are arrows that have already left the bow. What can the archer do but wait to see if they hit the mark, and even that may not be available to me. I control only by deferment, by intimidation, and by control of the checkbook, which is not to undermine the importance of the latter, for it appears that my offspring have a weakness for money and what they think it can buy.
When asked at lunch about all of this, I said that I suppose I could look upon it and think, “What a streak of rotten luck.” But then, I could also look at our lives and say, “What an unbelievable deliverance of good fortune,” for I live a life of richness that ninety-nine percent of the inhabitants of this world will never know. I have two beautiful, gifted, and talented children who will go out into the world bearing the fruits of this bountiful and rewarding inheritance that C and I were able to give them. We are surrounded by caring and supportive family and friends who truly care about us and who will do whatever is within their power to help us along. We are truly blessed.
So, how do I answer the question of “What is it like?”
I don’t know. I only know that when I wake up in the morning, I think about what to have for breakfast.