What not to do

The Forgotten Memories Theatre, by Ulisse Albiati on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

The clock is running down rapidly before Yom Kippur, the solemn day that we atone for our wrongdoing and are either allowed to continue living, or… not. High stakes.

Three years ago on Yom Kippur, I skipped the holiday completely. I couldn’t face it. I had been recently diagnosed with the lung metastases, and begun treatment, and I opted out of the whole day. I had never done that before. It was restorative. And it was productive — that was the day I conceived of this blog, which has sustained me through some very dark times.

This afternoon the kids were being difficult. When we got home, I decided to try to have an umpteenth talk with them about their behavior. What I found myself talking about, instead, was my illness. I suddenly needed them to know that while I am feeling fine right now, I can’t count on it being that way forever. Young J’s tears slid silently down his face, mirroring mine. Young A was quiet, and fetched us tissues.

At the end of my speech, I had no idea what the point of it had been. Did I mean to upset them? I really don’t know. Did I mean to pull the rug out from under them? Why would I do that? I did underscore the fact that I’ve been lucky. That medicines are working. That there is hope. But that there is also uncertainty.

There is a lot of parenting knowledge to be picked up from your family, from your community, from television. Some of these are skills which will help you do right by your kids. Some are shining examples of what not to do. 

I don’t have many parenting role models with cancer. I was supposed to meet up with someone who might have become one, a friend of a friend… but she died before we got a chance to meet.

So I get to be my own cautionary tale. It must be scary enough to be the child of a parent with a serious disease that you can’t really tell she has, a disease that she insists you too might catch, if you’re not more careful with the sun. So maybe… don’t remind them about the death thing again so soon.

It is the custom before Yom Kippur to ask for forgiveness from people you know. And so I did, tonight at bedtime, in the dark, before I sang to them. I asked their forgiveness. In general. I got it, and I was grateful. I will be more careful from now on.

Speeding away

Public domain photo by Marsel Minga on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons
Public domain photo by Marsel Minga on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

I just finished my latest translation job. It had to do with cars, fancy performance cars, produced in a bleeding-edge state of the art factory in Italy that anchors the economy of an entire region. The interviews I translated were conducted on a noisy factory floor. It took me over fifteen hours to complete the job. I had to crank the volume up very high to be able to hear well, so I feel as though I have spent weeks on the factory floor, myself.

But my mom is visiting, and we went out for coffee this morning because it’s an off day for my meds, and I realized that right about now, three years ago, is when the whole metastatic melanoma mess began for me. Three years tomorrow since the lung biopsy that confirmed it was indeed melanoma, and three years ago the day after tomorrow that I realized my lung had collapsed as a result of the biopsy, and I wound up spending a day and a half in the ER, contemplating all that would come next.

This means that I have been trying to write an essay about that day and a half in the ER for three years now. It has been through more drafts than I care to remember. Now that I’ve finished my latest job, I’m of two minds — hoping some more work drops into my lap very soon, but also craving some down time, to get back to the writing. If I’m lucky, maybe both things will happen. 

If I’m lucky? Actually, I know I am. Because it has been three years since my cancer went deep… and here I am sharing that anniversary with you.


Sometimes it takes a constraint — I need to go to sleep soon, early wakeup for apple picking tomorrow — to get me writing again. It has been an eventful few weeks of wrapping up camp (Young A), packing up the car for a week at the beach, unpacking the car after a week at the beach, the week at the beach punctuated by the need for medication that was for once not mine (Young J had to bring a nebulizer on the trip). And then a visit with my parents, and then, at last, coming down like a long-awaited blessing from heaven, the start of the school year.

Here’s some proof it wasn’t (all) aggravating!

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Once the kids were back in school, meaning about an hour after they were back in school, I was back at my computer to work on my latest translation job. This time, television work, so I’m spending my days listening to and subtitling interviews conducted on a noisy factory floor. I still stop at certain moments and marvel that I have really done it, I have changed jobs, I have work I can do now. It is reassuring. This week, we bought a new dishwasher and had it installed. Knowing that the work I did over the summer paid for it felt so good.

Over the Labor Day weekend, we took the kids to see the 40th anniversary release of Close.Encounters of the Third Kind. It was a film I remembered fondly from my childhood, which I don’t think I had ever watched again. Seeing it forty years later, I was surprised at how much resonance it had for me. I wondered whether in fact the film had planted a seed in five year old me which would not germinate for nearly forty years. The film shares my very strong preoccupation with the importance of communication, the need to find ways to communicate with others by any means necessary. 

Translation is important in this movie, from the very first moment. 
The fact that music turns out to be the chief mode of communication is also not lost on me.

Nor was it lost on Young A, our resident budding pianist, who latched onto the alien’s riff and has been playing it incessantly. As I must have done after seeing the movie.
I have more I want to say about this film, but it may turn into an essay. I’ll save the rest, for now.

Taking my cancer medication every other day has been a joy. I hope I can continue this way indefinitely. Knowing I get a break every other day makes the fasting on the “on” days more manageable.