photo by Sheri Dixon

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I Need to Make a Reservation, Please

I made the hotel reservations today.

The reservations for our trip next month to Houston. Regularly scheduled scans, tests, blood work and appointments- the equivalent of routine maintenance on my husband- they take him back, poke him, check his fluids and the wear and tear on his bearings and send him out with a sticker on his forehead and an air freshener hanging from his ear.

It's difficult to feel special, unique, human when you're a number, a blip on the screen that says "Dixon- checked in/prepping/scanning/recovery/finished" with a different color for each benchmark achieved.

The actual appointments are better- we know the nurses, the staff, the doctors, and they query about our home, our family, our lives, and they listen to the answers we give and the questions we ask.

We don't hate Houston, we don't hate MD Anderson. They've both enriched our lives more than we could ever have foreseen, back in the days when Houston was just a huge blob on the map of Texas that we needed to circumnavigate to get to Galveston.

Before we knew the different neighborhoods you drive through from the outer edges, through the center and out the other side- neighborhoods we far prefer over the interstate highways that wrap the city like the tentacles of the cancer they removed from my husband.

We've seen things at the museums most people only see on TV. Attended live theater, been to gigantic festivals, eaten marvelous foods of every ethnicity.

Ward's life was saved and his body patched up not once, not twice, not thrice, but four different times. And every time he goes in with a courage I cannot fathom and comes out rearranged yet whole, different yet beautiful. He is, quite simply, my hero.

We're a Cancer Family, and Ward feels guilty about it when he shouldn't. He says "It's my fault" and I tell him that's ridiculous. Getting cancer was NOT his fault. If he had emptied our savings account, bought a hooker and gone to Vegas THAT would've been "his fault".

It just happened. Shit happens. Family deals with it, grows with it, thrives in spite of it.

I will never, ever believe or condone any ideology, tenet or scheme that tries to pin the blame on the downtrodden for their condition.

The bravest person I know? My disabled husband.

The most com/passionate person I know? My "mere child" of a son.

The one we depend on to keep our home safe and sound when we're gone? Our retired veteran Joe.

My inspiration for strength and perseverance? Joe's 92 year old mother Edna.

All of us expendable, according to "gotta share the sacrifice" dog eat dog bullshit.

This is my immediate family, here and now. We are NOT expendable. We are NOT percentages to be cut and numbers to be crunched.

And yet we're not special or remarkable, except to ourselves. Every person has a story, and every story matters. Every sick person, unemployed person, homeless person, young person and old person matters.

Every one of us wakes up every morning putting one foot in front of the other, refusing to quit, refusing to lie down, refusing to believe that we are expendable no matter what we see and hear every day every minute ad nauseum from the smug talking heads and experts who don't have any idea what they're talking about when it comes to this sort of thing- the sort of thing that can happen to anyone...even them.

So we turn the calendar and see the dates marked out and are hit with the wet blanket of trepidation/anticipation. I make the reservations and look forward to seeing our old friend Houston, our old friends both inside and outside of MD Anderson, to reacquaint ourselves with Big City culture, and sights and sounds.

We've spent so many nights at the hotel we know each and every room- which ones have crappy internet, which ones have squidgy TV's, which one has a bunny sticker at the bottom of the bathroom door.

The hotel staff notices how tall our boy is getting.

This time we're planning on visiting Occupy Houston...wherever it happens to be, and the museum of Natural Science, prowling the book stores and eating at our favorite places. As long as we're there ANYWAY we'll cram as much good experience into it as we can. But it's all in the shadow of the hospital.

We've made the trip so many times the car knows the way, we can drive it with our eyes closed but we don't. We've watched entire homes being built and/or renovated on our route. We notice if people have painted their homes, if trees have fallen or been cut down, if fences have been constructed or deconstructed.

We remember, like butterflies on migration, certain markers and signs, places of note and renown- not just the big things everyone notices like the creepy empty schoolhouse in Crockett or the pinheaded man in Trinity, but things only we know and remember- the bridge we were crossing when the eagle flew right beside our car for four mighty flaps of his wings and the spot we saw the alligator...just inside the "safe swimming zone" cones on the lake.

So many trips. Back and forth. Forth and back. In hope and despair. Pre surgery and Post. The pendulum of our lives is firmly anchored here at home and several times a year we emerge- strange mutations of cuckoo clock figures and groundhogs and follow our well-worn tracks down to Houston, pause, bob, listen to the music, wait...

...tick. tock. blood work. scan. appointments. tick. tock.

"Mr. Dixon, everything is all clear- see you in six months".

It's a weight you have to feel to believe, and it's not till it's gone that you understand just how heavy it's been to carry, it's a weight I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, and it's such a relief when it's lifted- an inverted jar over the lightning bugs of our hearts.

"Mr. Dixon, everything is all clear- see you in six months".

And our hearts fly up up and away, onto the next things, the next things we dare to plan, always daring, always planning, always.

Never look down. Never look back. Never take your eyes off of the ones you love.



  1. I was at a sheetrock plant in Fort Dodge, Iowa one day when I was nearly run over by a semi backing into a bay door. Closest to death I've ever come. Since that day, I've been more aware of how fragile I am. I don't let Tessa speak of her death as inevitably prior to mine. "I could go before you," I always say. And it's true. On this past Christmas Eve, my liquor store clerk was murdered ninety-minutes after I bought a bottle of wine from him. Yes, death is part of life, but every moment is, too.

  2. Thank you, Fred- I think families like ours have been given a unique gift- we know. We know before we're old(er) and have already spent decades pushing to "get ahead".
    We know that getting ahead doesn't matter. Where we are and who we're with is everything.