Thursday, June 13, 2013

A True Story

I have an absolutely abysmal sense of direction. Almost every workday morning, I try a mental exercise in hopes that I could one day improve this dysfunctional part of my brain. As the elevator in my office building makes its short climb up to the 16th floor, I try to figure out which way I should walk when the doors open. Years later, I still only get it right about half of the time. I know I shouldn’t be surprised by my failing score, especially considering that when I walk out of a store, public restroom, or restaurant, I often can’t figure out from which direction I came. So I just walk confidently one way or the other and I quickly figure out if a U-turn is necessary (more than half the time, it is).

Brian likes to say that my brain melts when it gets near the part of the south shore where Route 128, I-95, and I-93 all join together or overlap or something that’s really confusing. I admit, my mind does feel like it’s melting when I’m in this vicinity. Despite that I have driven on those roads for twenty five years, at least once every month, I merge onto the wrong highway before I realize that I’m headed in the wrong direction. My family gets a kick out of it, and I chuckle along with them. But I won’t lie—it drives me absolutely nuts that my brain just will not work right when it comes to direction. I get so mad that no matter how much I try, no matter how much I think about it or don’t think about it, no matter how much I listen when Brian or my Mom tries to explain it to me, when I’m stopped at a light trying to figure out which direction to go, my brain turns to a frustrated pile of mush.

*  *  *

Yesterday after my Herceptin infusion, I met with Dr. Fasciano. I had arrived at that appointment with something very specific to talk about with her—what she thought about me accepting an invitation to be a member of Dana-Farber’s Patient and Family Advisory Council. I had some concerns about whether I was mentally ready for a role on the council and I wanted to my therapy lady’s honest and educated opinion before I committed to something I couldn’t handle. 

I had absolutely no plans to talk about anything else in those valuable 50 minutes. But I should have remembered that plans have a very fluid meaning for most people visiting the Yawkey building.  

A short time into our conversation, I was staring out the window, trying to see through my tears. I was, once again, unsuccessfully trying to catch those tears before they fell and I was, once again, talking about the child or children that Brian and I will never have. 

Yesterday morning, I cried to Dr. Fasciano about how frustrated I was with this issue, despite that I had never before consciously realized my frustration. Sadness, yes. Anger, yes. But frustration? This was a new realization. I told Dr. Fasciano that I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere with this "grief"; that it still popped up when I least expected it to, and that it still hurt. A lot. I’m just so frustrated, I repeated to her. I think she got the point.

I anticipated what Dr. Fasciano was going to say. She had said it to me several times before. Grief is a process. You need to let yourself grieve this loss. Because it is a loss. I listened, from a distance. Every other time my therapy lady has said this, I’ve thought the very same thing—How do I grieve the loss of something that I never had? Despite that Dr. Fasciano told me that Brian and I had every right to feel this way, I still wondered if that was true. Part of me felt like I was doing something wrong for grieving a child that was never even conceived.

But as Dr. Fasciano talked, my mind drifted both into and away from what she was saying. It drifted to several random thoughts that somehow, despite their angles of terrible tragedy, brought me some odd and indescribable peace. I thought about how sometimes when I run, I run through the cemetery. I stop at Scott’s grave and at a nearby bench dedicated to a precious baby girl who lived a bold and beautiful life that lasted only about one day. I have written several unpublished pieces about my time in that cemetery, never having successfully figured out why I go there, or even more strangely, why I've found peace there.

As Dr. Fasciano continued on, a quote I had read in a recent A Word A Day, came to me again. All of the sudden, I felt an overwhelming sense of clarity.

Some stories are true that never happened.

Finally, I understood. My time in that cemetery wasn’t some strange secret I have been keeping. It was just my time to grieve. Because cancer took something from me and my family. And that baby was a true story. Even though he or she never happened.

* * *

On the way home from Dana-Farber yesterday, my Mom and I stopped to do a quick errand at a shopping mall. I had to use the restroom so I walked down one of those long and spooky mall hallways towards the ladies room. At the end of the hallway there was a sign lit up in one of those bright advertising frames. The sign said, "You are closer to saving a child than you think." I don't necessarily believe in signs, but this literally was a sign, so I think I will let myself believe in it...

1 comment:

  1. That quote is from the things they carried by Tim obrien. If you haven't read it you absolutely should - I think you'd really like it.

    Here is an excerpt from my favorite chapter: