Sometimes, when I am lying in bed at night, waiting for my night sweats do dry up, I like to try and recreate the road that got me here. Here being 50 years old, divorced, kind of a little poor and job hunting. Of course there are many good things in my life as well, but being Jewish, we don't like to dwell on that.
I always go back to the day four years ago. I was in my laundry room, folding my new green striped bath towels (Macy's hotel collection, OMG, heaven!) when a hulking shape filled the doorway and darkened the entire area around me. It was my husband, and I was quite surprised because, as far as I could remember, he had never been to the laundry room. "I need to talk to you," he said in his booming voice, "And, it isn't good. It isn't good."
Obviously, this can mean only one thing. CANCER! I mean cancer. We Jews never say that word out loud. We only whisper it so that God doesn't hear us. We don't want to call attention to ourselves.
I looked him up and down — 245 pounds, great head of hair, nice healthy complexion, and no weird rashes or moles. I'm guessing very early testicular. I pictured myself next to his bedside after the surgery and holding his hand during the chemo. Yes! I can do this.
Here's the thing, my kind tend to deal with illness and death as though it isn't really happening. For instance who can forget the letter we received from my grandfather with this little tidbit: "Hi Everyone! How are all my angels? I hope you are not too hot in Florida! We are all well here, except for Uncle Stanley who died last night. Love Gramps."
Once the soul has left this Earth, we don't keep the body around. We put it in a pine box, drop it in the ground, and start eating. We have a ritual called "Sitting Shiva" where for seven days the bereaved do not cook or do any type of housework. Friends and family come in with food and good cheer so that the person in mourning is never alone. We wear a tiny piece of black cloth pinned to our clothes to remind us that we have lost a loved one. All our mirrors are covered with sheets, as this is no time to be vain.
At the end of the seven days, one is expected to tackle life again. It is a lovely ritual, and it brings peace and closure to the grieving. It is like, "O.K., you're done, let's go play mahjong."
Well, needless to say, he did not have cancer. He had a young, Swiss girlfriend whom I will refer to as Giselle. After explaining this new development to me (actually not so new; it had apparently been going on for over a year), he said, "I think if I could have some time alone, I could figure this out."
Next thing I know, his soft-sided Tumi is on the bed being filled with underwear and Tommy Bahama shirts. I read "It’s Martini Time Somewhere" on the back of one that I had never seen before. I noticed his hair — once something I was so proud of as the skulls of my friend's husbands became more and more visible — was longer and blonder than usual. I pictured young, European, Swiss hands running through it. I forgot: What were the Swiss known for? Chocolate? Are they blonde usually? Aren't they all gymnasts?
Anyway, that was where the road began, and I have always had a bad sense of direction. Along this road I have stopped to procure an attorney with pink hair, made a u-turn and went back to college, and traveled a construction zone, with a lot of Match.com dates, one which included spankings. This darn trip will be the death of me. I mean the death of me.