Wednesday, February 27, 2008

a few shots of today

I took my camera outdoors this morning, thinking that perhaps it would behoove me to see my world through the camera lens.

These finches feed here every day, right outside of my kitchen window, always available for viewing. I go to the trouble of keeping the feeder full, yet I ignore the sight of the birds flitting to and fro.

The gargoyle outside of my front door mocks my icy pensiveness. I could learn a lot from him if I'd glance his way.

The Buddha, normally jovial, appears forlorn. Is that an icy tear emerging from his eye? Whatever's bothering him, he's sitting with it, allowing it to be.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


This is what dusk looked like just outside of my house tonight. Not a bad view. Yet I scheme to change it. My mind obsesses perpetually over how I might move to a Victorian house near downtown.

Perhaps if my sister had a view like this, she wouldn't be in the pickle she's in now, facing a 10-hour surgery on March 18. Her jaw will be broken surgically so that the cancerous tumor at the base of her tongue can be excavated. Her neck will be sliced open to remove lymph nodes. She will be given a feeding tube and a breathing apparatus. This week she's been having all of her teeth extracted in preparation for this surgery.

I've known her all my life. Things never really went her way. I have a photo of her all dressed up at age 17- she looked like a movie star. Instead of Movie Star, she became (Pregnant) Teen Bride, then Young Divorcee, then Chaos Personified.

I don't remember her having a period of peace. Ever.

She is smart and talented. She sent me this card which she made this week:

I try, foolishly, to make sense of it all. Where did this cancer come from? When my mother died of cancer I asked the same questions. I ask the questions so that I can avoid the answers. If the answer is that the cancer came from loneliness, then I don't want to be lonely. If it came from sadness then I don't want to be sad. If it came from dissatisfaction then I don't want to be dissatisfied. If it came from not being true to oneself, then I don't want to not be true to myself.

Here is a closeup of the stamp my sister placed strategically in the center of the card:

Monday, February 11, 2008

sobering news

When I was very young, my big sister would tell me all about her dates when she returned to our shared bedroom late at night. I was a captive audience, far more interested that a 6-year-old ought to be. I developed strong opinions regarding the worthiness of each boy.
Then, when I turned 7, she dropped a bomb. She'd be leaving me. She was pregnant and had to get married- a teen bride. At least the father of her baby was my favorite of her suitors.
I disliked the lonely bedroom after she left, and had a hard time getting to sleep. She lived in a nearby town and still showed up for emergencies, like when I was home alone at age 9 and sliced my thumb open while whittling a horse.
She showed up to send me off on my first date, too, which did turn out to be an emergency. My mother was trying to force me to conform to her standards of what a marketable young girl should look like in order to snare a boy, and when my date rang the doorbell, I was in tears, hysterical. In a move highly uncharacteristic for my family, my sister actually put her arm around me and led me down the stairs to answer the door, telling me everything would be all right.
Still, my sister and I were not close. She was much older, and her life diverged from mine early on, as her marriage, followed by her divorce, followed by a succession of failed dysfunctional relationships, kept her occupied.
I have always worried about my sister. She was smart, beautiful and endearing, and could have done anything she wanted to. But she whithered away, hiding from life itself, saving her brilliant personality for the ne'er-d-wells in the bars she frequented. She cut herself off from my parents, resenting them for not raising her well.
And when cancer took our mother, the family deteriorated completely, having lost its only stabilizing force. My sister and I did not get along after my mother died, and talked long distance only sporadically.
It's been 7 years since I've seen my sister, when I was in NYC and she took a train down from her apartment in Boston to meet me. We walked through Central Park with my son and her daughter- my niece, who was born when I was 7.
She is the only person who has consistently remembered my son at Christmas and birthdays, even though she never had much money. She always sent stunning handmade cards to go with her gifts. Once recently she admitted to me over the phone that she had thought of moving to my city to be my son's nanny when he was born. I never knew.
Tonight I received an email from my niece. She dropped a bomb. My sister has a cancerous tumor on her tongue. It's advanced enough that the oncologists ordered a CT scan and then will decide among the options of surgery, chemo and radiation. The fact that it's not a small enough tumor to just quickly remove is daunting, along with the fact that chemo and radiation are options instead of just surgery. The CT scan means that there is concern that the cancer has spread to the neck.
I'm still trying to take it in.