Saturday, August 21, 2010

Day Minus 180 (September 10, 2009): Oz (Part 5): Oz Didn’t Give Nothin to the Tin Man

“No buffet at the Rotary House. It’d be a waste. And it’d just go through me.” You said, eyes right, confirming there were no signs of life at the Waterfall Café.  Not even someone cleaning up the tables.

“Will you be okay with Café Anderson again?”  You asked, as we started the quarter mile trek on the Sky Bridge back to the Main Building.  You nudged me to the left side. So the golf carts, shuttling people between destinations, didn't run me over.  

“That’s fine. I’ll get another vegetable platter like I had for lunch. You know how I eat the same thing over and over again.” I said.    

“I know.  You find one thing and eat it until we’re all sick of watching you eat it.”  You said with a lot of sarcasm, the funny kind, not the mean kind.  You closed the half-empty bag of Chex Mix.  The one I'd forced on you a few minutes ago after you finally finished your Brain MRI. And stuffed it back in the zebra shopping bag slung over my shoulder.   

I was relieved, we weren’t going to the buffet.  Then I wouldn’t feel guilty about not getting the lemon cake after paying twenty four bucks a pop.  I’d been stressing off and on all day about getting fat since we couldn’t walk five miles on the Sky Bridge. I know it wasn’t your fault.  Stupid tests and cancer got in the way. I couldn’t leave the waiting room.  I didn’t want you to be alone.  Ever!  
You’d think after so many years, I wouldn’t hear the voices teasing me about being fat.  But I did! I really wasn’t that fat, but when you’re a kid, you’ll believe anything. And names like Fat Freckle stick like super glue. The more I tried not to think about Fat Freckle, the more Fat Freckle things happened.  Jeez!  Have you noticed, the more you try not to think about things like that, the more you do?  Did it happen to you when you thought about cancer and being healed?  Is that why it came back? Wait, I don't really want to know, so pretend I never brought it up. 

Back to happy thoughts.

I liked that you and Morgan believed in magic, not Fat Freckle. Remember, the Secret Admirer, you and Morgan had on Valentine’s Day. Each year, you’d get unexpected surprises left on the front door.  Both of you thought there really was some special magic in the world.  And I let you believe it. In fact, you believed in the Secret Admirer for a long, long time, until you saw empty boxes in the trash can in the garage.  Then you got wise.  At least you didn't blab to Morgan as soon as you found out.  Oh and by the way, I count as a Secret Admirer and I did make magic.  You believed -- for a while. 

Back to my fat fear, before I went off on that last tangent.  I promise.  I really was trying to get a handle on my workouts.  Sometimes working out was the only thing I could control.  Sort of like you and your ‘no food’ policy in the ‘milk truck.’   Yesterday, I did slow and heavy high intensity weight lifting before you and Dad got home so we could go to BWI.  I rushed home from work and did it like it was some secret. It was my second “experiment” with high intensity workouts (ala Nautilus and Mike Mentzer). The workouts were short and could be done once or twice a week with supposedly good return on investment.  I worked out so hard, I thought my benign positional vertigo (BPV) was back.   

Remember when BPV hit me the first time? I was doing donkey kicks during my workout du jour in the basement.  It was during a big snow storm.  You were in middle school playing video games upstairs, happy to miss school.  Dad made me bran muffins for breakfast so the kitchen smelled like bran and applesauce, which was actually a good thing.  Morgan was still in bed sleeping. Dad was shoveling snow, while I worked out.  Come to think about it, his workout was probably harder and maybe I should have helped.  Hindsight is always 20/20, don’t you think?  

When BPV hit, I was so dizzy and nauseous, I couldn’t walk. Instead, I crept up the basement stairs, belly to the ground, like an army infantryman.   Do you remember me sprawled out on the kitchen floor, puking my guts out? I really thought I was going to die. You asked, “What did I do?” like I asked for it because I worked out too hard.  You ran outside and got Dad and made sure I was in good hands.  To make a short story long, my workout yesterday was like that.  Almost, but not quite.  Well, maybe for ten minutes.  But it made me relive BPV, puking, and the snow.  

I didn’t tell you about the BPV feeling because you’d tease me and tell me I was ‘fine’ whatever that meant. Or that I needed to take better care of myself.  I didn't want you to worry about my demons along with me. So throughout, our stay in Oz today, I popped two or three sticks of Dentyne every time I thought that I couldn’t work out.  I had a tic. I know.  I know.  I had a problem! The wad, clenched between my teeth, put me at the two and half ‘plenty-pack’ mark.  I know that’s a lot of Dentyne – each pack had eighteen sticks. 

We walked the Sky Bridge, which was pretty sparse, since it was getting late.  And I yammered about the stupid vegetable platter.  I didn't mention anything about skipping the corn muffin with jalapenos because I didn't want to get fat.  You tugged at the zebra shopping bag, pretending to drink water.  That was your signal that you wanted a bottle of water. I pulled out the second to last bottle of water as we passed the sign with directions to the Rotary House.

A golf cart carrying some fat guy from the administrative office almost ran me over.  I must have crossed the invisible line between pedestrian and shuttle cart.  You pulled me back, but didn’t say anything.  Probably because you were distracted by the ringing of your cell.  It was Katie. She was annoyed you didn’t call all afternoon.  But I knew.  And you knew. You couldn’t. Your cell was in lockdown in the patient lockers because you were waiting for your MRI.  Which was nearly an eternity. Just ask me.  I'll tell you again and again and again.

I dropped back and you walked ahead.  Both of us, creating a semi-private cone of silence—for Katie’s sake and your sake.  You talked until we walked passed the aquarium in the Main Building.  The colors in the corridor and the fish aquarium weren’t so vivid at 6:30 at night.  Nearly twelve hours earlier, I was in awe of the all the blues, oranges, and yellows.  Oz was fading. Or maybe it was just me.   

You got a hamburger at the grill.  I just got the vegetable platter from the Home Cooking line.  Even though I really did want the corn muffin with jalapenos, too. We were able to sit at one of our usual spots, the one in the back corner.  Which really wasn't that hard, because there weren't many people there.  

"Katie doesn't think I care as much as before." You said. "I care more than ever.  Last time I was trying to please her and was not really sure of myself.  This time, I know who I am. And what I want." You put down your hamburger and sighed.  "I know what is important and what matters."  You didn't say because of the cancer.  You didn't have to.

"You really are not the same person as before. None of us are.  We all are constantly changing at different speeds. But you've had to learn a lot and try to keep up more than anyone else I know. And you know, and I know, that you have to love yourself first.  And be a little selfish.  You can't expect someone else to do it. Katie just hasn't had to expand as fast as you.  You didn't have much of a choice."  I said, sort of wishing I got something else to eat.  The potatoes were luke-warm and soggy. So was the cabbage. But the plate was only about 350 calories. 

"You've got to find a way to stop beating that drum." I added. 

"Is your food okay?" You asked because I hadn't eating much off my plate.  "Do you want me to get you one of the corn muffins with the jalapenos?" 

That is when I realized, we were really learning from each other. I didn't have all the answers.  Neither did you.  But, I kept beating the drum of being fat and not good enough and not loving myself enough -- even though I thought I hid it. We were all beating some variation of the drum: Katie, Morgan, Dad, and me.  None of us really took what we preached to heart.  We had the luxury of not having cancer. You were the only who got it.  That you need to love yourself first. Then you could love others unconditionally. Not with perfection. I knew that because we both talked endlessly the past summer about never getting it right, because it never gets done.  And that it is perfectly fine. But like we always said, words don't teach, experience does.  And this was teaching me.

"Get me two." I said, pulling a fiver out of my wallet. "I won't get fat. And I deserve it. It's been a long day." You smiled and trotted off to get me muffins. 

You never knew the lesson of love, corn muffins, Oz, and the Tin Man that just smacked me up side the head. Or maybe you did.  Believe in Zebras. Believe in Yourself. Believe in Love. And Believe in Miracles.  My Tin Man had a heart and the only thing for sure is, Oz didn't give nothing to the Tin Man. That he didn't already have.  

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