Today, my grandmother would have turned 98. In twelve days, my dad will turn 78. Four days ago, I turned 38.
Today, I went to my kidney specialist.
I’m thinking that having a chronic illness that people can’t visually see the damage being done by it, and more so by the treatment, is mentally taxing. Finding myself trying to act normal because that’s what everyone expects, since I don’t look differently on the outside other than flushed, chipmunk cheeks and a raccoon eye mask. Considering the short list of side effects I’m feeling–extreme fatigue from the relentless insomnia, physical weakness from the muscle waste, and near constant, unfocused anxiety–all caused by the steroid treatment. Having to do the entire six-month regime, regardless of the quickness to remission, steroids building in my system along with the rage. Raging at having to continue with these devil meds knowing my body is already working right again.
Today, I’m exhausted on all the levels.
I’m recalling last weekend’s birthday celebrations in my mind. Reliving the moments with two of my best friends and my doggie daughter. Road tripping with Ruby Joon doing her dog thing sniffing all the sniffs out the back window, ears flapping, the playlist blasting, and the sun shining in on us. Highway 27 blanketed in patchwork quilts of pink, white, yellow, purple, and red wildflowers. Quietly rolling and winding through agricultural lands spotted with grandfather oaks, pine forests, cow pastures, and small towns that sported more confederate flags and crosses than common sense. Seeing a billboard saying, “She’s your daughter, not your date” gives a…perspective of sorts. Turning off the highway and stopping for lunch at the place with the best New York-style pizza outside of New York. So good. So, so good. Heading south over the Sunshine Skyway, dough and cheese-filled bellies, salt air inflated lungs, riding the waves of the suspension bridge like that dragon-themed kiddie roller coaster at the county fair, knowing I was almost home. Our theme song had become Road to Nowhere along the way, but I knew exactly where we were headed.
Home. “I live in Tallahassee, but my home is Sarasota” has always been my response to people when I’m asked where I’m from. I guess even though I’ve now spent more of my years in Tallahassee, the only way that statement will change is if I ever stop waiting to leave. One reason Sarasota will always be home in my head and my heart is the person I was going to see at the end of that drive–my longest time friend, who happened to be home from London. On my birthday weekend. Yes, sometimes the universe really pulls through when you need. Sometimes.
Today, I was told I will have to wait for the med I need.
I’m seeing the blues of the jays and reds of the cardinals, hearing the bizarre squawks of the black grackles jumping from the dew-soaked grass to the limbs of the Jacaranda. Cattails waving from the creek’s edge and I am tasting the bitter coffee and fried eggs of those mornings. There was no feeling of waiting in those days. Each moment held its own importance and melded into the next like a watercolor painting itself.
Ruby Joon racing, hips and tail tucked, throwing herself down wiggling to scratch her back in the lawn, legs flailing. Smiling. Laughing. Laughter when she tongue-kissed Becca on the revamped double decker coffee bus downtown. Laughter when we were making a pie, balancing and piling more and more apples into the crust as Mikey manned the music and drew us–drew me to look like an old man, while they looked like cartoon supermodels. Laughter with hard root beers in the pool. Laughter with Bloody Marys by the pool. There’s no feeling of waiting for anything at all when hearing the laughter of two people that are at the core of making you who you are. Who you were. Who you will always be.
Today, doc said that this next step will only be for one year. Not for always. Whew.
Our feet are back in the white powder sand. We’re all agreeing that this sunset won’t be as pretty because there are no clouds in the sky. Pictures at the tidal inlet. Pictures at the water-lapped edge. Pictures of the awkwardness of the couple near us with the lady that might or might not be topless. More laughter. Pictures of the sun sliding down the horizon, melting into the dark chop, a boat crossing its path, lone chair in the sand, sinking. It’s all sinking. Take another picture to keep it. Hold it right here. Take this last selfie with the fading light of the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen behind us. It’s 8:08 p.m. on May 8th and I’ve finished my 38th rotation around that sunken sun.
Today, I want to hold it all still. Just for one more perfect moment.
The highway was lined with yellows
–goldenrod, helianthus, lupine–
like someone took time to highlight
the key parts to memorize. Remember
cotton fields flush with puffy fluffs
as if marshmallows grew on stems
not factories. And don’t forget
the pecan groves with lush canopies
and polished grounds, those debonair
debutantes of all seasons, branches
heavy with fruits for holiday pies.
But the fallow fields are etched
in my mind–the soil dingy and stale,
left to lie empty, convalescing acre
after acre fringed with those vivid
yellows against grey skies. Memorize
learn by rote, recollect, recall–
recovery comes after harvesting
before recovery after reaping.
Indents halve my fingernail beds
a quarter inch up. Three months, ten
days, however many hours and minutes
times thirteen midnight charlie horses,
times fifty 3 a.m. granola feedings,
times brushfuls of torn hair clumps,
times two of remission. I’m reminded
with nail beds like fallow fields
where keratin canyons highlighted
when my body’s fertile framework
was trampled by armadillos of apathy
and only the soil was left–
dark and dog-tired.
*I’ve been trying to write two different posts recently. One was going to be about my road trip to North Carolina and the other was about the relapse of my syndrome. I couldn’t get either one to where I wanted and then realized tonight that a lot of the language I was using in both was poetic in nature–so why not go at them from a poetic standpoint? Considering road trips are my time to work through what’s going on in my life, it made sense to me to combine the ideas. This is the unedited result.