Friday, July 22, 2011

Cancer man: Long run 1

Rebecca was downright cheerful; a little chatty (nerves), but cheerful on her first day of radiation therapy.

From the start, she apologized for needing help.

"I've got a car, but it's not reliable. It don't start sometimes and it quits." She sighed heavily. "I don't got no gas to get there anyway."

I liked her right off. She seemed honest and unpretentious.

Into her early 60s, Rebecca looked a few years younger than she was. How that would be possible is anybody's guess. Her life, like some of the others, was an how much battery a soul can take and still retain some degree of hope.

She talked a lot about her kids, her grand-kids.

"I raised them like my own," she said. "Their mother gave them to me when they were little and when she came back nine or ten years later, they didn't want to go."

Both kids were now in their late teens. The eldest, Rebecca's granddaughter, had just got her first job. Rebecca's grandson had another year to go before graduation. Both, she said, were looking toward the future. The girl was looking for an apartment of her own and was engaged to a man who'd been Rebecca's nurse during her surgeries months ago.

Her daughter came around to see them and to see her. There was love, but also a terrible burden.

"She's an exotic dancer," Rebecca told me, stressing the word 'exotic.' She said, "I know what that means. I'm not stupid."

The daughter is 37, has 26 tattoos (many of them the gift of an ex-husband who was a tattoo artist) and Rebecca says she's addicted to heroin.

"She shoots herself in her tattoos," Rebecca explained. "It makes it harder for people to see the marks."

Her daughter also had a drinking problem and a history of run-ins with the police.

"She drives a real nice car," Rebecca told me. "But she's got one of them breath-things. She has to blow into a tube to get the car to start."

The device is supposed to prevent repeat offenders from drinking and driving. Rebecca said her daughter has had four D.U.I.s.

It's a cool car, she said, a fine, luxury vehicle with custom paint and custom interior.

"I can't drive it," Rebecca added. "After I had my heart attack, I lost all my wind. I took it out once, got it to start at the house, but then couldn't do anything with it when I was at Walmart."

Her breath wouldn't register and the machine set off an alarm, summoning the police.

Rebecca doesn't drink, doesn't do drugs and hasn't smoked or had more than a cup of coffee in five or six years. She gave them all to Jesus and Jesus took them.

It's hard to say what she got in return.

On the way back, as we drove up a narrow road to her house, she told me, "I miss weed. I was always a pothead. If they ever made that legal, I'd get a joint the size of cigar and smoke that, but a sin is a sin."

I thought about arguing just a little about the laws of men and the laws of God, but it turned out I didn't really care one way or the other.

I told her I didn't smoke dope and didn't really drink much.

"There ain't enough time, is there?"

No, there isn't.

No comments: