Help From the Man on the Street: Part 7 in the Series "My Right Eye: A Blogger's Journey Through Cancer
Help From the Man on the Street
Dr. B was smiling when he entered my room. “How are you feeling today? I have wonderful news,” he said. “Both the tumor and the cyst were benign. ”
I smiled back at him, grateful—relieved—for this news but also for his kindness. “Thank you. Thank you so much.” And then I started to cry.
Dr. B patted me on the hand. “How is your pain? I heard you had a rough night.”
“I’m okay,” I said.
“We have to get you up on your feet today. You need to begin walking a bit each day so you don’t develop adhesions.” He completed his examination, patted me on the hand again, and went on about his rounds.
Later that morning, my mother came in. She smiled.
“Everybody’s asking about you. All of your friends have been calling. How are you?”
“I’m okay” seemed the easiest answer to give people for now. It required the least amount of effort. I had been thinking that I'd have to drop the classes I was taking at the community college. There were only two—economics and tennis for the PE requirement—but when you take night classes and miss even one session, you've dug yourself a huge hole. There was no way I'd be able to catch up.
My mother had something she wanted to say to me; I could tell that whatever it was she wanted to tell me was difficult for her. She was worrying, she said, about how she would ever be able to take care of me once the hospital discharged me.
“I don’t see how I can manage it,” she said. “You’re going to need someone with you, and I can’t take any more time off of work.”
She was a clerk-typist in the County Auditor’s office, helping title agents and attorneys process property transfers. She worked at a desk in a large office on the second floor of the new county administration building. My job at the court was in the same building, on the top floor. The pay was terrible, but at least we both had health insurance.
“Don’t worry about that now, Mom. I’ll still be here for a few days.”
“I was talking with V. She said she’d be happy for you to stay at their house. They have a nice, large bedroom with its own bathroom where you’ll be comfortable.”
V was my boyfriend’s mother. Apparently everything was already being arranged. I had met her just a few times; T and I had only been dating since February. She and her husband lived on the other side of town, in a spacious ranch house on a beautiful corner lot. We, on the other hand, lived in a small saltbox house on the south side of town—two small bedrooms and one closet-sized bathroom. “It will be so much nicer for you there,” my mother said.
I sighed. I didn’t want to think about any of this, but I was disappointed. I had just had major surgery. Something really awful had happened to me, and I wanted and needed my mother. I wanted her to rise to the occasion. I don't think I made this difficult situation any easier for her by letting my disappointment show. I feel awful about that now. It took several years and a good bit more maturity on my part to realize that she was right. Everything—taking care of me, seeing that I had nourishing meals three times a day, getting prescriptions filled and carting me to doctor’s appointments—would have been much too hard for her. She had struggled ever since my father died eight years earlier, in 1969. She didn’t drive, she worked every day, and she suffered terribly from anxiety attacks. As I look back now, I really don’t know how she was able to bear what had happened to me. At the time, I didn’t know she blamed herself. I would find that out later.
It would feel strange, I thought, staying with people I barely knew, even though T would be there with me after work and on weekends. He had just rented his own apartment in town.
“It’ll all work out,” I said. “Let’s not worry about this right now.”
And it did all work out. I recuperated at T’s parents’ home, and his mother could not have been more loving and caring. She should have been a nurse—in fact, that was a vocation she had always wanted, but her own mother thought it wasn’t “proper work,” and so she became a housewife instead. I will never, ever forget her tenderness to me those weeks after my surgery. She holds a special place in my heart, even if she is no longer my mother-in-law.
There was an important conversation I needed to have. I brought the subject up with T after I’d been at his mother’s for a couple of days. He sat down at the side of my bed in his parents’ guestroom.
“Look, I care about you a lot—you know that. But I need you to know that you don’t have to deal with this,” I said. “What happened to me doesn't have to change your life. You don’t have to stay with me.”
He smiled and took my hand.
“I’m not going anywhere.”
And he didn’t. Six weeks later, on the Fourth of July, he asked me to marry him. Our wedding was in November. One of the first things we did was register with Catholic Social Services in our county to begin the process of adopting a child. I’ll never forget our first meeting there. The director of the agency was Miss Geyroux.
“Here’s how you’ll remember my name, and how you pronounce it. Think of ‘man on the street.” The English word for a man is ‘guy’—and the French word for street is ‘rue.’ That’s how you say my name and how you’ll remember it. ‘Guy-rue.’”
Her mnemonic clearly worked. More than 30 years later, I still remember sitting across from her desk for this conversation.
T and I had to be married one full year before we could formally submit our application; we then had to wait several years more before we could be placed on the list. Once our name reached the top of the list, there would be more waiting until a child became available. Given our special circumstances, however, Miss Guy-rue waived the second requirement and said she'd add us to the list after we passed our first wedding anniversary. There was no need to wait to ensure we couldn't get pregnant. We couldn't. That door was closed forever.
But when God closes one door, He opens another. Throughout my entire life, this has been my experience. Even to this day.
To be continued …
The Midlife Second Wife