Monday, October 23, 2006

A New Phase

I finally managed to get my system to settle down enough that I was able to fall asleep for a while. Luckily, the blasted shingles and the pain from them, woke me up just before midnight so I could take another pain pill prior to my deadline. Nothing at all by mouth after midnight!

And, while I am waiting for a bit now for that pill to kick into gear, relax me enough (hopefully) to get maybe another three hours of sleep in before I have to get up and ready to leave, I figured why not write a bit more.

Why not indeed?

This day will make a marked change in my life. Depending on the results of the needle biopsy the surgeon will do just prior to the actual surgery, I will be returning home with a new addition to my body. A stoma.

What's a stoma? Well, it's an opening into the body. And, in my case, it will be for either an ileostomy or a colostomy. Either way, this will be a method for my waste products of my body to exit into a lovely little bag. And, that will be a big change for me from calling myself the "Avon Lady" to the "Bag Lady!" I hope the fact I am poking humor at this - or trying to do that - doesn't offend anyone. In many respects, I probably shouldn't be making fun of the situation as it is serious, that part is true enough. But, it is my nature to try to pull ANY situation apart and poke fun at it as much as I possibly can and for me, it is what has pulled me through on many occasions that were far, far from funny.

There's more to the stoma, bag, type of ostomy I will be having but I'm not going to dwell on those aspects simply because they are part of the unknown right now. So, until I get home from the hospital - most likely they tell me either Thursday or Friday is when I will be discharged - I'll leave that part of the unknown aspect of things alone.

I'm going to go off on a slightly different plane here tonight too though and talk about some other things, very important things in my book, but things that often we don't discuss near enough.


Let me tell you, my readers, about one relationship I've had for over sixty years now and it's still alive, functions just fine and dandy and is one that is very important to me. It's a friendship I have had over all my cognizant life with a lady who lives three doors down the street from me. Kate!

Kate and I grew up together. Her family home was two doors from mine; her siblings were as close to me in many ways as one could possibly be but yet, not related to each other. Her parents were much like surrogate parents to me as well. I joke at times about the relationship I have with Kate and with her oldest sister, Shirley, in that Kate is my oldest friend, in the sense that we have always been very, very close friends but her sister Shirley, is really my "Oldest" friend but that is because Shirley is eight years Kate's and my senior. Hope you are following my convoluted logic on that one.

Kate and I traveled many roads together to get to this point in time. Through twelve years of grade school and high school, we were always together. In high school, we took a slightly different path here and there as she took the higher level classes - physics, trigonometry - whereas I steered totally clear of those puppies. Oh, and she also took Algebra 2, another class I avoided like the plague too. However, that move came back many years later to haunt me when I decided to go to college at the grand old age of 46, and learned I was unable to be accepted as a degree seeking candidate at Penn State - after having completed my freshman year there - because I was lacking a "Carnegie credit." I had no idea in the world what the Hell a Carnegie credit was but found out - it was a high school course one had to have to be able to request entry as a degree seeking student. Well, I already knew how many math classes I was going to have to complete to fulfill the University's "Gen Ed" requirements and knew full well too that there was no way I could take those math classes until I took two non-credit but three credit classes to compensate for my math incompetency! I just didn't know I had to take those classes within the University's time span. A side note here is that I took those courses - hated every bloody minute of them too - did well enough to get a C in them and I was happy! To fulfill the University's gen ed requirements, I took two classes in Statistics - again, two classes I hated with a passion but somehow managed to survive them each with, again a C grade! 'Nuff said about my math problems! What the hell I needed them for is beyond me as I have never used one iota of information from them, but that's all a part of life isn't it? And, I'm digressing right now too, so back on track.

Kate, you see, went to Nurse's training immediately after graduation and became a registered nurse. She also married three months after graduation from Nurse's training and her first child was born a month to the day prior to the arrival of my first child.

At that time, Kate was still living here - in Pennsylvania, in the village where we grew up no less and she and Jim, her husband, had also bought a house - the one where they have lived for about forty years or so now - three doors down and across the street from my family homestead.

I, on the other hand, was living in a suburb of Washington, D.C. in Maryland, working in D.C. and was also not married when I had my first child.

Kate's daughter's name is Karen - the name she had decided upon when we were kids and big fans of the Mickey Mouse Club - and my daughter's name is Carlyn but her nickname is Carrie. I decided on that name while in the hospital because I wanted a name in which I could honor two members of my family tree who had died six weeks before my daughter was born. Those people were my Mom's oldest brother and a sister of my Grandmother who I had always been quite close too. My uncle's name was Bertrum Carl; my Great-aunt's name had been Caroline so I decided to use the Carl of my Uncle's middle name and improvise a bit with the spelling of my Aunt's name - instead of Caroline, making it Carolyn - put the "lyn" with the "Carl" and presto magic, she was named (in my mind) for both of them. That way, I could easily make the nickname "Carrie" which is what everyone always called that Great Aunt anyway.

When my Carrie was five years old, I finally got married and that same summer, my husband (ex, now) and I moved from D.C./MD back to Pennsylvania and to this area of the state. And within two years, we built a home next door to my family homestead and once again, Kate and I were neighbors, as well as friends. And what's more, our daughters grew up then together the same as Kate and I had done. And, Kate's parents became surrogate grandparents to all three of my children, just as they had been to me for so many years.

It's been a good relationship we have shared over these many - sixty plus - years. We've endured a lot of hurts over those years for sure and because we had each other to lean on, I think it has made us both able to cope with many very painful events.

Back in 1976, a month to the day before my youngest child was born, there was a terrible event in Kate's life, which also affected not just me, but many, many folks in this community. Her brother, who was three years our junior, shot himself.

It was something so out of character for her brother to do this - no one, not a soul who knew him, had ever thought he would, much less could, do something this horrific.

I remember exactly where I was when I learned about this and my reaction was that I almost passed out. I came home, saw that my Mom was still up and came in to talk to her about this. Actually, I had to tell her what had happened just a couple hours earlier in the evening and she, like me, was totally dumbfounded and we were both grief-stricken too. My Mom always had a special spot in her heart for Bobby as she, being a registered nurse, had been with his mother when he was born on Christmas Eve in 1947 and had also taken care of Bobby and his mother during the first few days of his life as well.

The next morning, Mom and I walked over together to Bob and Kate's parents' home to hold each other, to talk, to try to be supportive, and yes, to sob together too over the loss. Kate's dad, especially, who was always a very jovial man, was as one could expect, extremely distraught by this event as was her mother, of course. It was indeed a surreal time, very much one of disbelief. Little did I know that it would come back to haunt me when in March of 1982, my cousin David, would take his own life too. And, what was really eerie about my cousin's suicide was that every time I saw him at family gatherings he would always ask me again and again if anyone knew why Bob had chosen that route. And the answer from me was always the same too - no one had a clue then, nor 30 years later, is there anyone who has any idea why he felt this was the only way he could proceed. It is indeed hard to concieve that either of these young men -both who were married, both who were devoted to their wives, both who were also very active in their church and especially with the youth groups there too - could do this. The biggest difference between Bob and David was that Dave and his wife had three little girls, whereas Bob and his wife were childless. And, as I learned after Dave's death, we - our family - was able to figure out what was the driving force that made Dave make this drastic move -he was an alcoholic.

Moving on, down the road, Kate was there for me when my Mom died and in turn, when she lost her parents years later, I was there for her at that time too. My children also were there when Kate's parents passed as they had over the years always referred to Kate's parents as "Little Grandma" and "Little Grandpa" - the names Kate's daughter had given to her maternal grandparents. To this day, when my kids and I mention Kate's parents, it is still by those nicknames.

Kate and I are, in many respects, as different as day and night. Kate is very quiet, serious in nature, whereas I tend to be boisterous, outgoing - ok, loud! Kate is meticulous about virtually everything she does and I am a total slob. Kate is very active in our church, particularly in the women's group there and me - well, I am not what would be considered by many to be a good church member. My attendance tends to be somewhat sporadic and as to the women's group, I've never joined it.

Part of the reasons behind the differences in us, with respect to church, attendance, the women's group, stems from the fact that for many years after my divorce, my work schedule was such that attending services was often problematic and getting involved in the side group was totally impossible with my work schedules.

Kate and I, when we were adolescents and teens, both got involved in the local 4-H club and both served as officers in the group, both attended several conferences at Penn State University too while in our teens. Our club group always focused on either cooking or sewing for our projects and to this day, Kate still has a particular recipe for Creamy oven potatoes that we got from the cooking part of our membership.

Kate is also a talented crafter - especially with embroidery and counted cross stitch - as is her older sister, Shirley. I like regular embroidery but am not an expert with it and have too many issues with my vision to do very well with the counted cross stitch stuff. No matter how many times Kate and her sister Shirley tell me it is really easy, really fun to do too, I just can't manage to do that stuff well enough to make it a worthwhile project.

My son, who is quite a mimic, does imitations of Kate as well as of her husband, Jim, too. His main thing he picked up about Kate is her frequent response to many things is to put her hand to her chin and simply say "Oh, my!" Doesn't sound like any big deal there now does it but Clate - my son - can take most any little event and turn it into a bit of comedy routine with Kate and her "Oh, My!"

Over the years, in school, Kate and I were pretty much neck and neck till we entered high school and I decided there was more to life than studying all the time. The end result there was Kate graduated as our class president and also, class valedictorian. My Mom never really forgave me for my laxity about my classes and studying as she always felt I could have been an honor student too had I just applied myself a bit. Maybe so, but that just wasn't my way and that probably was not a good way to take either when I look back on those years.

About the only things in life I came out ahead on with Kate would be that I made it to the Spelling Bee tryouts here in 6th grade and again in 8th grade - no big deal there though since I got beaten out at the initial levels both times and also, in 5th or 6th grade - don't remember which year there - the teacher had a contest to see which student could read the most books during our school year and I won that, hands down.

Every summer, from about 3rd or 4th grade on, Kate and I were regular patrons of the county bookmobile. We would be the first in line to enter the truck containing the treasure trove of books and would come home usually with 5 or 6 books each week to read during that time until the bookmobile came back to town. One book, in particular, we discovered back when we were probably 9 or 10 years old and that book, we both read over and over every single summer until we graduated from high school. I don't recall the author's name but the title of the book was "Jonica's Island" and it was our all-time favorite reading piece, year after year.

What does all this have to do with other things going on in my life right now?

Well, it all came back to me tonight when Kate called me for a little chat - something we rarely do - just because she wanted to tell me, in her own way, that yes, after all these years, our friendship is still intact, strong as ever, and that she holds me in her thoughts and prayers as I travel down this next part of the road ahead.

And, how nice it is to know that there is still a friend after six decades who takes a few minutes of time to call and tell you that.

That's not really a new phase in my life - as my title here might imply - but it is a way of telling me as I enter what is going to be a new phase for me, the old aspects are still here, strong and coming through for me, loud and clear.

See you this weekend, Kate! And thanks, much love and peace to you for having stayed the course with me over all this time.

Really, you are the best friend a person could possibly hope for.


Barb said...

What a glowing tribute to Kate, and friendship in general. It comes at a time when I've had my best childhood friend on my mind a lot. We lost touch with each other about 25 years ago.

Good luck again with the surgery.

Paige said...

I do hope for the best. You will do fine I'm sure. Prayers going up for you. Peace