Monday, January 31, 2011

Hit It and Quit Part 1

I am incensed. Incensed. Which is a very good thing as this is as much human feeling I’ve had in a week.

No, I did not have the divine gift (for that is what it should be) to experience life as a cat. That would have infinitely preferable. How such quiet little mammals can be so damned persuasive is a mystery to me. They give you these hurt expressions all the time, and we slavishly 1) cuddle them more. 2) feed them more, 3) pick up and put on lap, 4) talk to it in baby talk because baby talk appears to relax said cat, 5) give it a treat, 6) brush and comb cat with the luxurious coat, but it’s never enough even if you spend the entire day working on it, 7) put cat in your bed where it promptly deigns to give you a tiny corner without blankets while they manage to take up the rest of the whole damned thing.

But we love them.

But, no I haven’t been a cat this week. I think I’ve been a shadow of my former self. (I mean I’m already a shadow of my former self, but I’m wispy. Partially transparent? And I don’t mean that I’m compelled to show all. No, I mean transparent. I said to Chip last week, “I think I’m disappearing.” He didn’t much like this one bit.

I wanted to see no one. Ever. I didn’t want to do anything with my time. Ever. I certainly had no interesting the internet. Woohoo. I really failed to see the point of any of these things. And if I continued to fade away into the ether, who besides my immediate family would notice? Not for a long while. I’d be like one of those mummified corpses that are found time to time. (Either that, or a really stinking corpse, and one of the doormen would be forced to check out what was going on in 4R, because 5R was really getting annoyed at the putrid smell coming from somewhere below.)

I got an absolutely lovely letter from a literary agent who went to Paul D. Schreiber High School of the Port Washington Union Free School District. This dude was a literary agent as soon as he was able to talk and became a partner in his Dad’s business. He also happened to be a very good friend of Doug. It’s now a big muckety-muck agency, and he agreed to check out Since When. The dude read 200 pages. 200 pages! That’s unheard of. He said I was a wonderful writer, but in it’s current form, as this mega-family epic, he couldn’t sell it. (He must he been an awfully good friend of Doug's.) Of course he couldn’t! How I wish I could give him a big smooch for his candor.

People often forget that candor goes a long way in this world. What does Judge Judy say (what doesn’t she say, that Solomon of the airwaves?), “You don’t need a good memory if you tell the truth.” I think that’s brilliant. I had a boss who was pathologically unable to say the truth even when there was no damned good reason to lie. She get herself all tangled in it, and had Chip make “all better.” Chip is no sorcerer. When he wasn’t, he was left to eat the shit she left in her wake. There’s a lot Chip doesn’t miss about Grace & Rothschild. But we met some really incredible people there. Pathological lies and all, it was a magical place. No one I know has ever had an experience like we all had there. So I gave up a fat career by not leaving, but I couldn’t leave these great people for some high-paying job at any other agency. We were unique. And we’re all still friends. Creepy, yes?

But let’s get back to mummification and transparency. I wasn’t even depressed. (Well not in its usual manifestation.) I could finally accept that I loathed my days. I hated “exercising.” (I move my arm, that’s cardio.) I also had to walk the hallways until I gasp and cough, gasp and cough, (etc,) until I was able to breathe and do the whole fucking thing over again. (Mind you, I’m not doing this on my own. Chip walks besides me with the mega tanks of oxygen I need to attempt a “walk.” I guess, you guys, when the weather’s nice, strolling is out of the question. Sorry. But I can get wheeled about in my cute little wheelchair though I’m still tethered to mega oxygen tanks. I look simply adorable. (When I’m wearing my oxygen mask- in addition to the cannula in the nose- I swear I resemble- okay only slightly- Hannibal Lector when he’s wearing his muzzle.) I thlnk that’s a hoot. Though Hannibal Lector was never a look I was going for, when you got it, baby, flaunt it.

But let’s head on back where we started (this post does have a beginning if you’ve forgotten. (If you weren’t sick like me, you would have forgotten or recognized this beginning as anything other than a couple of sentences I’d soon forget having written.. I forget everything now. I make no judgements either way.)

I have never liked my next door neighbor. She is a nervouse chahlairya (per my mother from Leah in Florida). Her husband had terrible bowel issues and has had a colostomy bag several times in his relatively short life. (Too much information! Yeah, right.) The two of them are our age? Could it be? Sure can. Isn’t that just terrible? /but I’ve found, through his misery, he’s a very pleasant man and looked forward to bumping into me and chatting. This man is not a chatter. His wife, a Long Island pediatrician, is another story. They have two kids. The older one looks just like her mother and seems like a major pain in the ass. The younger looks just like Dad and appears to be rather normal and pleasant. The nanny (with her Island accent) often mutters under her breath about the older one. Never the younger.

Chip and I seem to schedule my hall walks (the big cardio of the day), when Mama is going in, out, to the compactor room and she does either of two things: when I’m in my full Hannibal Lector gear and Chip is carrying the heavy-duty oxygen tanks, she seems to think she’s cheering me on somehow by loudly exclaimed “Faster! Faster!” with a big smile on her face. Now in my day, I walked fast because I live in NYC and many of us do that here. She knows my diagnosis and the uselessness of my speeding up my already quick(ish) pace. Fuck, I’m not a cripple in the usual meaning of the word. My lack of lung function makes me a cripple and the fun mental issues that appear permanent (more on these in a later post- when I’m not too low to talk about them. Oy.)

“Faster! Faster!” Is distracting. It’s not cute. It’s not funny though she seems to think so as she shoots us a big grin when she opens her fucking mouth. But this is annoying. It does not make me incensed rude as it might be. (You realize that every single atom of my body has to focus on this walk or I won’t be able to complete it. Frankly, if that happened, I’m not sure how I’d finish. I suppose I could always crawl back in.)

No, my neighbor lady doesn’t like cats. She’s not allergic. I think she’s just one of those people who are weirded out by mammals living amongst them or anyone else. Chip wants to lock the cats up for my little walks. Yes, Conway would love to slip into anybody’s apartment. Cleo, not so much. But Conway is the large, fuzzy fourteen pound boy, As cats go, perhaps he’s imposing. Neither cats are at all mean, but if you stick a finger in Conway’s face, he looks at it as an invitation to bite it. How fun!

But I really like when the cats come into the hallway with us. This lady sees Conway, out of her mouth comes , “Cat! Cat!” She is farblonjid and must be attended to before the cripple walking the fucking hallway. Chip leaves me leaning against a wall while he digs Conway out of the compactor room. Poor lady. She could put away those smelling salts. She was saved from the big, nasty puddy cat. Thank the lord!

I was beyond livid. While walking, my back pain is dull and tolerable. (People are so resourceful. I guess we’re like the frog or lobster placed in warm water which slowly gets hotter and hotter. For awhile they adjust to the warmer water. Hey, gotta make the best of it, right? They try and keep swimming. Yeah, until they’re parboiled and ready to eat. Yum!).

Leaning on that wall made my back pain shoot up seventy-two notches. But was I relieved my neighbor was taken care of and saved from the evil feline. If we were both on the Titanic, I’d shove her ass off (even now I know I could take her) the lifeboat and squish Chip and the cats in. Maybe as she treads water seconds before freezing to death, I’ll call out to her showing my pearly whites, “Faster! Faster!”

When this was all over, I was batshit. Chip is afraid Conway will go off in an open elevator never to be seen again. He has a point. But what are the odds that’s going to happen? I don’t think they’re very high. Then again, neither were the odds of my getting ARDS?. At the very least, I want the damned cats to join me on my walks. Fuck you, lady.

Friday, January 21, 2011


I hardly remember the content of my last post. It was written so long ago. It’s slowly coming back to me. Oh yeah. Mom. Since When, regrets. If I’d gotten today’s post started yesterday, it was to begin: Damnit, damnit, damnit!

I should have stayed with my original plan. It’s certainly much more exciting than “ I hardly remember…” It gets my attention whatever value there is to that. Damn it!

As y’all might have imagined, this has been s tough week, and I see no signs of its “dreckitude” ending any time soon (Parentheses around dreckitude, It’s not mine though I think its divine and wish it were. It belongs to one of the newest judges on America’s Next Top Model- the only show watching these days. (Okay, Jon Stewart is usually quite good. As well as Sarah Silverman if you happen to be in a Sarah Silverman state of mind.)

I had a new line to scare the shit out of both Chip and therapist today (who won’t let it show that it does.. (No, I don’t keep the bad shit bottled up. --That’s worthy of a guffaw from every reader of my hellish existence -- No, I’m not kidding. That’s funny. In a dark, mordant sort of way. Who says I can’t laugh at myself?)

I said, “I think I’m losing myself.” Meaning that the person you know or have come to know is fading away, Soon I’ll be transparent until one day, I’ll wake up invisible and gone. Heavy, babelas, heavy. I have less purpose than I had before, and I didn’t have all that much to begin with. My sense of humor has gone out the window flitting away in the city winds to wind up in some gutter somewhere. Doesn’t everything seem to end up in a gutter? I never looked all that closely. Only on days when I had to puke outdoors. Find the gutter and avoid car doors. Words to live by. Could do worse.

So yeah, the Effexor is now back to what had been its effective level except, it wasn’t effective before (hence the heinous increase in dosage). What next for Franny’s depression?

Well, guess what boys and girls, reducing the Effexor didn’t bring me back to where I was. I now shake and am crawling out of my skin. The only thing that helps is doubling my Klonopin dose. Which I always thought of as a stop-gap measure before a “real’ solution is found. No Chip says. If this works, my double espressos of tranquilizers remain in my goody back of drugs.

The anxiety brings out the worst of tendency toward being a wee compulsive. Ha! Come on over, and you will see compulsiveness at its finest. I can’t put anything down. I told myself it will (whatever the fuck it is) be done today so it fucking better be. I knew I had a big problem when I started keeping poor Chip up until four a.m. when he has to get up like most human beings and work. Houston to Apollo Fran, I think we have a problem.

So, you don’t get any ideas, I don’t get pleasure from completing anything, There’s always something else on the docket that must get done this fucking minute because I’m already late and I still have to walk, exercise, read, use the nebulizer, organize my sixties r&b, and god knows what else. What’s this lolly-gagging I’m hearing about? Get moving bitch!

And I do. With terrible reluctance, I steel myself every morning to face another day. I do all my shit—again— and there’s no time to be a human being. But I keep forgetting what that’s like.

Hey, by the way, what’s a smile? (I shouldn’t have been such a hot shot and quit Brownies. At least at the end of the Brownie manual were instructions how to make “a great, big Brownie smile!

Saturday, January 15, 2011


It’s wonderful to be rid of the extra fifty percent boost of Effexor that my body “was unable to tolerate.” The latter is shorthand for constant shakes, crawling out of my skin, and magnified fear. No, I wasn’t able to “tolerate” that.

After the initial euphoria wore off as the dose was reduced back to where it did me some good, I’m still stuck with the problem that made my psychopharmacologist raise it to begin with. I’m sad again. No, sad is normal. Unpleasant, perhaps, but a normal human feeling. No, I’m talking about nagging depression. We’ve stabbed and shot at it with poison arrows (with all the psychotropics in my “If depressed, please open and follow directions” satchel) but the damned beast refuses to die.

Now what? Beats me.

I’ve recently switched bronchial dilators. New drugs that are delivered three times a day from a nebulizer. Bless my allergist. He guessed right. (“Guessed” because the diagnosis was done over the phone.) I was suffering coughing spasms. The new coughing “pearl” I’ve been taking seems to be working. Very few coughing jags. Cepacol seems to handle the rest.

Rachel, my sterling masseuse said I had the best massage yet meaning I opened completely allowing her to work. I’ve never done that before. Opened up like that. Like a cooked clam. Duh. Of course I feel like shit. What’s beneath all the layers she had to go through except pain, depression, and anger. I most definitely am keeping the duck and the uber-Scandinavian for Journey to the Center of the Earth: The Final Mission. I’ll be wanting company confronting those demons all by myself.

I had an idea as I lay on the table. Rachel: masseuse by day, Iron Hands by night. She’d make a great superhero. I need to find the right roles for Tamar, the best P.T. on the planet, and Laurie, the magnificent chiropractor. Rachel was completely down with it. I’ll tell Tamar tomorrow when I see her. It’s great to have characters while lacking any sort of storyline. Just like the grand old days of the Internet boom when venture capitalists threw money at anything with the name internet in its title workable business plan or no. I could certainly understand if someone found my writing tedious and Since When so bad that the agents have to stop giggling when they each send me a uniform, Thanks, but no thanks.” But no one can ever accuse me that my characters are filled with air and nothing more. Well sure, anyone could say this, but I’m completely confident they’re wrong. But I actually believe, especially with the guiding hand of Rich (who put me in his end-of-year letter! I’ve never made it to one before! Thank you! You are just plain remarkable, young man) it is pretty well written. So there.

But why the hell can’t anyone stop my nose from constantly running like a fucking faucet? I’m told allergy shots are too dangerous for one with such crapola lungs. Oh yeah, I can use Spireva with its clever “drying agent.” Perfect, no? Yes, if you prefer mucous the texture of glue and stuck to your throat and vocal chords and rib-breaking coughs (no kidding) to try and move it from where it has decided to rest in my innards like in a hammock, most likely. Who wouldn’t? (Will I ever see a hammock again? In life, photos, I’ve got.)

I recall a year or so ago complaining that I felt like shit all the time. And what I was told by those close to me, “Hey, you don’t know how you’ll feel in a year.” That was meant to give me hope. Because in a year, how could things not be better? I don’t have a degenerative disease, I exercise every day and am assuming no upper respiratory nonsense is percolating, why shouldn’t I feel a little better?

No, no sweethearts. This disease doesn’t work like that. I haven’t found any logic in it. Nor has anyone with a medical degree. Damn it all. I don’t feel worse than I did a year ago, but I feel no better. No one is telling me I’ll feel better anymore. No one is saying, “You never know how you might feel a year from now” to boost my spirits. God help us if it’s otherwise. But I have been asked to hold on, because a stem cell therapy is in the offing. (Have the researchers moved past small mammals yet?) I suppose I should be heartened that the stem cell community has graduated to mammals, period.

I’m still so damned exhausted that I can’t get up in the morning. The books I read are fat. (This Lindbergh bio I’m in the midst of is fascinating. I’m getting to the anti-Semitic part; I’m champing at the bit.) I have my doll to make. She’s a big job. I can’t just curl up with it and sew away happily with thread and a blanket stitch and ponder her dress where I’ll have to fucking sew the pretty details with yarn. (Yes, yarn again. At least this time I know what I’m in for.)

Why do I care? I care because it was a project meant for me and Mom to do together. I need to make the dolls in the kits she bought for the two of us 1972ish. To be honest, when I looked at the instructions all those years ago, I’m sure I blanched. That’s why the two kits have sat undisturbed in the same place for all these years. They made the move to Manhattan one box atop the other. I knew exactly where they lived. Still untouched but not given up for dead. She (my ‘Indian Princess”) must be made and made beautifully (if I have to stand on my head) along with her buddy “Katrina, the little Dutch girl.”

My mother is 87. She looks great. She’s healthy. I feel compelled to make those two dolls right now. This very moment. Five minutes ago. Their “births” are completely intertwined with Ma. Since When is really her story. Sure I tell the stories of her Hungarian aunts and uncles, but the backbone of the book is the story of my mother at age six-and-a half year wrested (it sure felt that way to her) from a life she loved, from, her magical (it was) home in rural Czechoslovakia to the Brooklyn of 1930. I found as I interviewed her for hours upon hours, I could finally admit to myself how very much alike we are. (You all know of a time in your collective lives when the last thing you wanted to do was to resemble a parent, any parent. True?) Hell, you all may have avoided this interviewing process I went through to get there, (which was loads of fun by the way). Now I’m more than okay with it. No. I love being a part of her.

I know Mom so desperately wants me to live. (And yes, she has said to me, “I wanted so much more for you.” Me too Ma.) She wants me more than alive. I know she sure has no intention of outliving me. For Mom, and for all mothers, I must keep on, because I can’t imagine anything worse than having your children predecease you . Mom. I will not do that to you but you realize, I can’t possibly imagine life without you.

(I’m not shortchanging Dads. The same goes for all of you.) My Dad died at age sixty in 1982. I never had the chance to scare the shit out of him as I scared Mom, Chip, and Doug-every day for eight-weeks plus that I was in danger of waking up dead.*) So I have to live. For Mom, for all of them. And my doll babies have to grow up now. From those intimidating patterns and folds of felt to cuddly, sweet smiling girls just like on the box. As a gift. To Mom. To me. To fill every promise I ever made to anyone and didn’t come through. (These little girls are carrying one heavy load.)

Oh, how much fun would we have had making those two together back in 1972!

Promise me something. Never put anything off what you want to do in life ever. All there is is now. And my regrets.

*I’ve always wanted to use “wake up dead.” I find that expression kicks ass. I can die happy. Or maybe ”happier.”

Monday, January 10, 2011

Like Hell You Can Sew With Yarn

I can’t do a backstitch with yarn! You try it. That’s one motherfucking achievement if you can swing that. I would even lie prostrate at your feet saying over and over and over again, “I am not worthy; I am not worthy’ By the way, did you know I’m not worthy?” Embroidery thread. Piece of cake. Regular thread, c’mon now. In my sleep I can make a backstitch.

As you can tell by the above, I find sewing soothing. I mentioned the two doll-making kits my mother bought for me in 1972. But she didn’t realize that these were not kits for the faint of heart. Am I actually saying that these kits have remained untouched for thirty-nine years? Can it be? That I left everything in each box untouched, and took them both pristine boxes with me when the Lipmans left the ‘burbs for good? I did. They were so sweet. Like that book I stole from my fifth or sixth grade classroom. Pioneer Germ Fighters because I knew, knew, that no one would love that book more than I.

As I mentioned before, I still have that book too even though I’ve rather outgrown it.

Last night, I saw my brother for the second time since becoming ill. Ah! I don’t remember when I’d seen him, but I did see him once post ARDS and asked him the $64,000 question, “Why didn’t you come?” He never came the whole time I was in the hospital. Chip, Mom, and Doug came every goddamned day. Perhaps Eric could have, if nothing else, provided solace to his brother. (As far as I know, there’s no bad blood between those two.) A reminder of the highlights of my hospital stay: eight weeks in a medically-induced coma on a vent plus another five weeks in the ICU. Looking like a camp victim at a staggering 85 pounds.

People who get such a severe case of ARDS and wind up with crazy-damaged lungs plus bronchiectasis. I love to say bronchiectasis. It just trips off the tongue like ”babbling brook.” (Bronchiectasis is the twisting of now-no-longer useful lung tubing; they’re twisted and hence, fucked up forever and always.) Basically, I have a mélange of tissue that in another form would be happy, healthy lungs. And the word bronchiectasis is pleasing to my ear, because when I hear it or say it, I have a vivid picture etched in my mind of the happy Sinclair Brontosaurus. Yeah, yeah, I know the fossilized beast had been named prior to Sinclair incorporating that cute, smiling Brontosaurus into its public imagery. Except know one knew about it. Not then. I would’ve kept it mum. An Apatosaurus just doesn’t fly. Then the crack Sinclair marketing team would have to fire their agency, and who the hell knows what they’d come up with. The Brontosaurus would kick any other Sinclair mascot’s ass. Like a Sinclair version of the Philly Phanatic. Show that and this is the best you’ll get: “We must have new boards by Friday of we’ll fire your ass.” Oops, that’s my other life talking. Madmen, Take 2.

FYI, no, even back in the day did most admen did not have booze in their offices. (Except, perhaps the big shots.) Anyone who needed to imbibe got drunk off his ass at lunch, and there was always the bar downstairs if you needed, “new surroundings to work on that tough pitch.” Two Gibsons, please.)

Some changes I’ve never understood. “Honey, let’s fill the tank at Esso.” Does honey really care to go to Exxon? For me, the name Exxon evokes the military-industrial complex Ike warned us about. Exxon frightens me. Esso was so tranquil, so soothing. Exxon wants to crack your head open with a hammer. But that’s just me.

Which brings me back to my brother. He is still my sweet, gentle brother on the outside. But after spending the past thirty plus years with his impossible, controlling harridan of a wife, he is filled with more rage than I can imagine. I’m sure as hell not going to go there. What’s the point? If he had made any move in that direction, I would have made him feel it was okay to speak freely. (For real. We were best friends growing up. We grokked each other like no one else did or could. He knows. He remembers though it was an awfully long time ago.) But he didn’t speak about what had become, no exaggeration, a family debacle.

He wanted to see me. He wanted to make sure I knew that he now understood what I’ve been living with and how horrible it must be. He didn’t get it for a long time. And he didn’t need any words to tell me this. I think he also threw in a pinch or two of contrition into our wordless conversation. That was nice. My brother hurts himself more than I ever could, and none us want him to hurt at all. That’s why it’s been so damned difficult watching him become more and more wretched and see that he actually believes he deserves the terrible life he’s made for himself. Now that was a choice he made. No one made it for him. I wasn’t the best-equipped person at promoting myself in those dreadful mid-eighties. I got knocked down. I made tons of mistakes. But I didn’t repeat most of them.

Dinner was more than pleasant. We ordered in a ton of Indian food. (Eric’s all-time favorite, and one of ours too.) When he kissed me good night he asked if that were okay. I nodded. “Of course, you silly brother!” (The latter was not spoken. It was a thought balloon.) My mother is so happy that Eric and I are no longer estranged. Eric, I think, is relieved that I didn’t have a cow at any time during the evening,

But after they left, I was still a ball of pent-up energy. What the fuck was I going to do with it? Remember I said it was not fucking possible to make a backstitch with yarn. Not for me. So I got the brilliant idea of taking regular thread. (In the exact same fire engine-red as the yarn, to neaten up the smile- mainly pulling the yarn stitches tighter with the thread in the back where no one will (thank god) ever see. I worked on that doll’s mouth (for that was what required the fucking backstitch.) One stupid “U,” concave up. I worked on it until it earned my satisfaction. That was at was 3:40 a.m. (Did I have energy to burn or what.)

I am in the middle of a bio of Lindbergh. Absolutely fascinating. Before that, David Remnick’s Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire. What a fantastic, yummy book! It’s a rare thing to savor something that good. The last book of the Edmund Morris’ Teddy Roosevelt trilogy is out! I can’t help it. I am such a non-fiction girl…(FYI, From now on, the Lindburgh bio or the Remnick are not ever to be used in the same sentence as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.)

I’m here writing this post tonight, because the Lindburgh baby was just kidnapped. I’m not strong enough to get through it tonight. It was time for a break, write a post, and sew the doll pieces together using a nice little blanket stitch. Sewn with thread.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

One Tough Cat

I’ve noticed that I have been living this conundrum for several years to one degree or another (Glass half full…Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.) While it gets rather lonely stuck up in my fourth floor “garret” producing zero works of art and occasionally getting one or two brilliant works read that were not or ever could be composed by me. Believe me, I realized I had what I thought was an “artistic temperment” (whatever that means) minus any talent of any kind whatsoever. I rationalized my fatal flaw by telling myself that the world needed people like me who can simply enjoy the work of others. So that’s what I do. I adore Maggot Brain, Thomas Hardy, and El Greco. The world needs people to do this or else the art might never be produced. QED: I’m a critical part of the creative process. You need an audience? Give me a holler.

I lock myself in my apartment looking more like a Morlock or some eyeless mole by the day. I have no problem looking like a Morlock. I could always relate better with the Morlocks anyway. Eloi were just particularly like the stereotypical stupid surfer-type dudes for whom I have little patience.

Doug found out a little more about our friend Chip. For the last year or so, he’d been closing himself up- withdrawing from life. He knew there was a terribly dangerous surgery ahead of him with a good chance of dying on the table. He withdrew. I not only understand it, I do it. I know it. I live it. My god, I wish I could have spoken to him, but he didn’t even tell his closest friends what was happening. Like with my darling Cliff, I understood the pain and fear he was living. We could cry to one another. If you haven’t been there, you can’t possibly know.

Goddamnit. Now I understand why my father chose to die rather than subject himself to the vicious chemotherapy that only had a slim chance of putting in remission. We kids saw what those drugs did to him. Within days, this robust, strong man was reduced to a skeleton with skin stretched over it. He didn’t look human anymore. But we kids, when his disease returned, were horrified that he would just let the leukemia run its course. And let himself die. We begged him to try to put the disease on hold one more time. Now he was a grown man, he could do what he felt right. He knew what he would face with that heinous chemotherapy. But my Dad, my incredible Dad couldn’t disappoint his kids. Not his kids. He went ahead with the chemo. And in days that followed, he entered into that shadow world somewhere between living and dying. Two weeks later he was dead. Oh Dad, I’m so sorry to we put you through that again. We couldn’t imagine ever losing you. We saw, but seeing isn’t understanding.

That’s while I’ll be damned if I put myself on the lung-transplant list. I know the hell of this drill, and it’s a drill I refuse to repeat. Sounds an awful lot like my thirteen weeks in the ICU. Thank you Dad. I’m just sorry he had to relive that hell-even for two weeks- for us.

I find that I cocoon myself. I so rarely see anyone. Sure, it takes lots of energy for me to have visitors. (Anyone who has come here to visit came, because I wanted that person to come. No one has imposed his or herself on me. Laura J., Joanie, Bob et al were here, because I wanted them to be. No feeling guilty, okay? You brightened my life. I’m strong enough to say no. And I’m strong enough to say yes, capeche?)

As I have said many times to my therapist/angel, that I can’t burden my friends with my Sisyphean boulder of crap. I say all the time that the only people (besides my mother, Doug, and Chip) I can unload on are the people whose time I pay for: my therapist/angel; Tamar, the best P.T. on the planet; Rachel, my terrific masseuse, and Laurie, my beloved chiropractor. That’s a damned fine group, but this shit cannot be laid on the general public.

Usually when we visit the ill, we wish them a speedy recovery and then talk about life as usual. For me, not only will there not be any recovery, there is not one in the offing. (But they’re doing an awful lot of stuff with mice.) And I reminded Chip that if there were some new experimental procedure, who knows? Perhaps, I’ll never get off the table like Chip Rabkin.

I am stopping right now the specious comparison that many have used, because no one knows what the hell to say to me. “Well, you can get hit by a bus tomorrow.”

Ugh, strangle me please.

Yeah. Sorry. (I really am.) This does not fly. It only upsets me. I hadn't figured out why or how until I started putting it to paper. But here it is: Saying so is dismissive of my illness and all I've been through these past four years. My fears (“Is today the day?”) and all the hell I continue to go through are being equated to being whacked to kingdom come by a bus.

Okay. I’ll buy it. But let's play it my way. You survive the bus accident, you are now limbless (or maybe, your limbs just no longer work), and your heart is fucked in such a way that it cannot be surgically corrected. Transplant? Maybe. As the boys from Pittsburgh said to me over and over and over again, “Please remember, you’re just exchanging one disease for another.” Welcome to my world.

Then maybe we can talk about being hit by a fucking bus. Why do you think Chip Rabkin began withdrawing from life? When you know what’s coming and there’s no chance for a do-over, it’s awfully difficult to embrace life. Life has become a dirty word. Your own personal dirty word. Why bother anymore?

Death by bus may provide you some comfort, but it sure makes me feel an awful lot worse. From my standpoint, that bus sounds pretty fucking good. (“Glass half full…) Boom, it’s done. No, sorry everybody. I live with my near death experience every fucking second of every fucking day. God bless that bus. May it only fly up to the fourth floor. (Please be careful not to hit Chip or the cats, okay?) I may look just fine, but I feel sick every single day. I hate gasping for air which I must do all the time. Gasping creates a panic response automatically. (Water boarding, anyone?) I really don’t like to panic. My throat always hurts. I live with a painful cough. Side effects galore from my high-tech medication. But one stinking respiratory infection, and it’s sayonara kids.

One of our cats developed a hideous cancer. One of those that once you see it, it’s too late for treatment. The damned thing became an enormous tumor on his jaw. He used to tap me on the arm for more pain killer. My poor sweet baby. What a wonderful boy Jazzy was! The vet told us we’d know when it’s time because cats turn inward as they get closer to the end. When I bring Jazzy back to the vet, he is stunned that this is the same cat he saw six weeks earlier. How could that cat still be alive? Because he sure shouldn’t be.

I started balling, “You said, when he’s ready, he’d turn inward. He hasn’t! He hasn’t at all! He still wants to live!” The vet took one more look at Jazzy and said it was time. When he brought Jazzy to the room where they first put him into a deep sleep before kicking you out when they give the Kevorkian injection, Jazzy just wandered around the room checking it out. Just like a cat. Not a dying cat.

The vet sends out condolence cards. This is the first one I’ve ever seen him personalize one. He wrote for Jazzy, “To one tough cat.”

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Final Mission

A week and a half ago, I was depressed yet again. (I’m such a dumbshit. If I used my light box regularly, I might actually know if it had any impact on how I’m feeling. I don’t, so I don’t. Foolish girl. Big news: a new plaint has tumbled from my lips: “I can’t bear it.”

Yes, on the face of it it’s yet another whimper (or yelp) that I can’t live any longer feeling like I do. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. (Spoken à la Yul Brynner.)

I’ve had the idea that I’m getting closer to the core of my own personal version of my Journey to the Center of the Earth. And you’re all invited, as I write (and rewrite) the sequel. (Like “penne alla vodka except it will be “journey à la Fran.” Huh?) If anyone prefers the penne, I can’t help you.

Actually, I can’t help you with either pasta or movie scripts. But if you feel the urge for movie sequels or at the very least, the idea of movie sequels, let’s play pretend. Because that is what I live for, you know. (It reminds me of strange bit on the Sarah Silverman Program. Sarah and another young women are supposed to taking out a “mentally-challenged person” out for fun and games. It seems a mistake has been made and the women argue back and forth: No, you’re the retard! No, you’re the retard! No you’re the retard!” And so on. It was very funny. Ah, guys, you embarrass me! But you already knew how insensitive and appallingly politically incorrect I can be, aw shucks. I’m beet red. No, you’re the retards!

All right there is nothing but strange on The Sarah Silverman Program.

Back to let’s play “pretend Franny’s life.” Okay not a pretend life, but a pretense of a life. We can play “script write and rewrite” if you want to try? Let’s do it! (No, I’m a retard!) First of all, get this straight, in my Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Final Mission, Gertrude the duck comes back. S’alright? Or I'm not playing.

Now that we have that out of the way, the big Icelandic he-man would be awfully nice to have around but sadly, I have to let him go. I’ve got Chip. And he beats the he-man Icelandic dude hands down.

About a week and a half ago, I blurted out a brand new message of pain and sheer nastiness. “I can’t bear it” What felt different about it is that I’ve been so incessantly down without many breaks. (Except when watching the HBO lead up shows for the Winter Classic. Those and The Winter Classic itself were my Calgon (Take Me Away!). I should live in Canada.) But the Winter Classic is history, and I’m not. I may be splitting hairs, but as I open up more and more during my weekly massage, the sadder and sadder and more frightened I become. I have been warned umpteen times to expect this. I must tell you, that doesn't provide a muon of backbone when the inevitable happens when even a muon is better than none.

From day, hmmm, let’s say fifty two, I’ve gotten weepy now and again for me. My poor dear Chip Rabkin drew real honest-to-god tears. But a tear (or maybe even two, could that be so hard, for crying out loud?)?) never for me. Never for drawing the short straw. I’ve kept my demon hidden away. I think, as Rachel, my lovely and talented massage therapist, peels me like an onion, I get closer to all of my crap I’ve held back for four years now.

Chip Rabkin. He was my guy. He was my partner in illness. We became sick together. His success was my success. Who have I been kidding besides myself? I’m walking a tightrope without a net. I can drop dead at a moment’s notice. Should I be shocked at this? No, I just can’t bear it.

P.S. Re: Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Final Mission. I think some of this is workable. Now how to get me down to Atlantis in a wheelchair with enough oxygen tanks will be a toughy. Hey, perhaps there’s room for the Icelandic he-man in this sequel. Gotta keep thinking. Thinking, thinking, thinking…