Sunday, August 8, 2010

D Day Minus 181 (Sep 9, 2009): Keeping up with the Jonese (Part 6): Welcome to the Twilight Zone

“Bigger.” I said when you put the wimpy twelve ounce bottles of Diet Mountain Dew into the shopping cart. You dumped the biggest size you could find that was the next step down from the two liter bottles and asked with a smart a**ed smirk, “Big enough?” And stuffed it in the cart like a big exclamation point.

I ignored you. I was making a weighty decision: a whole-case or half-case of bottled watered. Half-case won because we had to carry it back to the room. While I wrestled with the water, you disappeared. I found you in the bakery by the individually sliced pies eyeing cherry, apple and pecan pie slices. I said, “Get what you like. You have a weigh-in tomorrow.“ The apple pie won and you placed it gently into the cart.

I leaned against the shopping cart, pushing it toward the front of the store, to the checkout stands. The florescent lights were really bright, which accentuated the dark circles under your eyes. I wondered if I had dark circle too, but was too tired to check or hide them with under-eye makeup anyway. Some lady with black wiry hair in scrubs, from one of the medical center meccas, walked passed us talking on her cell about picking up some baby formula. Some construction workers were laughing and being kind of loud when they walked in the store. A Rent-A-Cop at the front of the store watched them like they might be trouble. You pointed to self-checkout because it was open and handed me your Kroger card. And saved me a buck ninety nine off my Diet Mountain Dew.

We walked through the parking lot and talked about how the weather was almost the same as Northern Virginia this time of year— warm, humid, and muggy. We wondered if others had any idea what all this was really like until we realized we needed our room key to access the gate between the Kroger parking lot and the hotel parking lot. By the time I found my key, you already scanned it and stood there – holding the gate open for me.

We climbed a flight of stairs to our room. When we got to the landing outside our room you said, “I’m pretty sure this is the room Dad and I stayed in last February.” You surveyed the complex and cited all your memories of the room. “Yeah I remember climbing the stairs and the dumpster we passed. And this is where those two guys on treatment would talk across the courtyard. ” You said, pointing to the block of rooms across the courtyard.

“I remember it too. I stayed here with Dad while you were in the hospital.” I opened the door and dropped my bags on the counter and ran around the room just to make sure. I was doing my rendition of the Twilight Zone music do do do do pause do do do do pause as I checked the bathroom and the same spot was there. It was the same room, only it had two double beds instead of the king sized bed. I remember your back hurt so bad before, you slept in the big bed, and dad slept in the foldaway couch.

You laughed at my Twilight rendition. I reminded you about our New Year’s tradition, staying up all night alternating between watching the Twilight Zone marathon, noshing on the Costco spread with deli meats and cheese, and you, Dad, and Morgan playing all the new video games from Christmas.

You abandoned me to go talk mushy to Katie on the balcony. I didn’t really care. I needed to check my email and unwind myself. As soon as I logged onto MSN Messenger, a chat from Aunt Janiene popped up. It wasn’t too bad this time. I only had to answer her questions twice. You were still outside all lovey dovey with Katie, when I took a bath and got ready for bed.

When I got out of the bathroom, I jumped because you scared the crap out of me. I didn’t know you came back into the room. You sat there on the bed like you had the right to -- just laughing, laughing, laughing!  It wasn’t funny, I could of had a heart attack or stroke.

“Are we getting up at 5:00?” You asked trying to change the tone, mostly for my benefit. You were getting ready to set the alarm on your phone. I mentally calculated the time we needed to take the Hotel Shuttle to MD Anderson (so we didn’t have to pay all that money for parking), what I was wearing, what I had already packed up in my spare zebra shopping bag, the fact we weren’t eating breakfast because you had a fasting blood draw at 7:30, and how long it usually took you to get ready.

“6:00.” Should be good. I gave you a don’t mess with me look, but was only teasing.

“5:30.” You said, but I knew you were setting it your clock for 6:00. We started this routine last April when we in Houston. I’d give you a time and then you'd come up with another time just to mess with me. All because I took the schedule so seriously. For some reason you thought it was funny. It was—most of the time.

“So we’re getting up at 6:00.” I said, completing the routine. And you nodded and left to get ready for bed.

I stuffed the earbuds from my iPod and listened to the rest of The Reader. When you finally turned off the lights, I listened to my Healing Meditation by Kelly Howell, to restore my inner balance. I was at the part where I was walking through a healing field of flowers and unleashing all my healing powers on my millions of millions of cells. And I let out a loud gasp for air, that actually scared myself. My spit went down the wrong pipe and I couldn’t breathe.

“Are you okay?” You asked, jockeying the blankets, deciding whether I was really dying.

“Just choking on my spit again.” I said. “I didn’t mean to wake you up.”

“You do it all the time and I think you’re going to die on me.” You said, super annoyed. “Mom, you’ve got to stop doing that!” You laid back down and punched the pillow back into submission. And the Twilight Zone music faded off in the background of my mind.

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