Yesterday morning as we were driving to the park, I turned to Demetri and asked, “Do you think I have a brain tumor?” This is not such an unusual question coming from me. I am someone who is not allowed on WebMD without supervision. I cannot watch House without becoming thoroughly convinced that I have . . . whatever it is. Even if, for example, it is something that only occurs in men. Or can only be contracted if one had visited a small, foreign country in the winter of 1973. Only the disease part registers with me. It doesn’t matter that I have never been to the foreign country. Or that the outbreak occurred before I was born. I’ll start taking on the symptoms before the first commercial break. My throat will start to feel scratchy. I’ll begin to lose control of my extremities — I can’t wiggle my big toe. Ohmygod! I’ll swear that I have a rash spreading up my leg. I’ll make Demetri look at it. With a flashlight. And magnifying glass:
See? See how it’s all red?
Well, you’ve been scratching it.
No, I only scratched it after it was already red.
I’m sure it’s fine.
Fine? FINE? I’m probably dying.
You’re not dying.
(pause) You may not think so now but you are going to miss me when I’m gone.
I am a hypochondriac. So, while some people might be concerned if a loved one asked Do you think I have a brain tumor?, Demetri knows to forgo the concern and answer with reassuring, lighting-like speed, “No. No you do not have a brain tumor.” I often counter with, “But how do you know?” This always leads to a lengthy and fulfilling (for one of us) conversation about my ‘symptoms’. Yesterday I got to talk about how I can’t think of the name of some things — I can picture it and describe it but I can’t name it. Like the other day I was trying to say ‘sippy cup’ and all that would come out was You know, that thing the baby drinks from.
And my memory seems to be shot. I used to have a great memory, able to recall hundreds of annoying details about almost anything: How can you not remember what I wore on our first date? You had on khaki pants and that blue button down shirt and it was frayed on one cuff. You had on a brown belt and black shoes (who does that by the way?) and your shoes were the orthopedic kind that old people wear. But not anymore. Suddenly I can’t remember what was told to me 5 minutes ago let alone the conversation I’m in right now. I do a lot of nodding and umhmmmm-ing. I don’t know if says more about me or the people around me that no one has seemed to notice.
After I explained all my symptoms in detail, Demetri took one hand off the steering wheel and patted my knee, “Honey, that’s what happens when you get older. Your mind — it just goes.” I removed his hand from my knee and said, “You are ten years older than me. I am not old. I have a brain tumor. You, you are old.” I folded my arms across my chest and looked out my window. “You have no memory”, I continued. “You can’t remember anything. Like you probably come home at night, walk into the house and think, ‘Hey who’s that hot lady cooking dinner?”. Demetri snickered. “Welcome to my world.” He snickered again and added, “If I walked in and and someone was cooking dinner I’d know for sure I was in the wrong house.” This is actually a fair point. But instead of conceding I said, “I could be making 7 course meals every night and you wouldn’t remember.”
Demetri telling me I’m getting old may have made me the merest bit touchy. It definately looks true: hello gray hair (actually, I prefer the descriptor ‘silver’)! and, Hello wrinkles! But there’s more. I have Fibromyalgia. And lately, it is making me feel old.
I try and feel grateful for my body — it’s strong and young in many ways. My body has been good to me — it’s played in hundreds of soccer games, it’s run a half marathon, it’s hiked and swam and biked. It’s turned into the body of a mom — a body that sings and wipes and soothes and cleans and feeds and hugs and does a million other things for someone else. But often my body is tired. Sore. Bent and broken in ways that it shouldn’t be. I feel singed and brittle — afraid of blowing away. Afraid and angry.
I should not have to eat small bites of oatmeal in the morning because a regular size spoonful is too heavy. I should not have to listen to Zoey cry because I can’t pick her up. I should not have to take my dad to the grocery store so he can lift the items off the shelf for me — graham crackers, apple juice, marinara sauce. And in truth, I don’t have to do any of that very often. Mostly, I am lucky. I run. I throw Zoey up in the air. I lift a whole, ripe watermelon onto the picnic table. I have people who love me. People who do the motions of life for me when I can’t. People who forgive my anger and meanness — whether it’s directed toward them or toward myself. Mostly I am well. Very, very well. Except for the brain tumor.