Friendship, John & Laureen

I was coming out of anesthesia following a colon cancer operation, my family gathered around. A sister leaned in to inform me that “her dog had had what I had, and they had to put her to sleep. Without missing a beat, I looked up at my sister and replied, “Don’t ask why you don’t have my power of attorney.”

I’ve told that story for two decades, now, and love re-telling it, first, because it’s a funny story, and second, because re-telling it, here, makes it a little easier to segue into an elephant in the room kind of topic.

Friends have recently revealed that there has been a serious resurgence of cancer in the body of one of the partners. It is devastating news to receive at any time, but maybe a little more so during the Christmas- New Year holiday season. While not impossible, the probability of a happy ending is less than one would hope. They are facing the great specter of mortality. They know it and I know it, also.

Now comes the awkward part of the discussion. People don’t like facing mortality. We have a defensive habit of shying away from our friends when they are forced to to deal with the question because it reminds us of our own. We offer our immediate expressions of comfort and then want to disappear into the wallpaper. We say we don’t know what to say, we say we fear reminding those facing the problem in the here and now, that they are facing the problem (as if they could forget). In my own particular case, I recently found myself not sending an article I would have otherwise sent because I thought it would be too specific to their situation and I didn’t want them to think I was adding to their pain by referencing something adjacent to their difficulties.

There is, too, the sense of helplessness that is engendered, within us, when faced with others’ needs. We think, sub-consciously, I believe, that it is a fault within us that we can’t do more than just feel sorry, that we can’t heal their pain. All this, provides us with a rationale to back away, to be involved less and less with them as they travel their road, when they need us the most.

Nothing of this has to do with them; it’s all about our own fears and selfishness. We don’t want to deal; we don’t want to be reminded of our own vulnerabilities. I’ve seen this again and again during those terrifying days, in the gay community, when Aids threatened so many of our generation. We were there for the party, but disappeared (except for our Lesbian friends) when there was debris, after. If we didn’t see the debris, the pain, the confusion, the danger didn’t exist.

I am not going to let this happen in my friendship with John and Laureen. I am going to risk saying and doing stupid things, trusting in their understanding of my love for them. I am going to face my own fears and vulnerability through them as I try to be with them as they face theirs. This is what friends do. I will continue to try to be me with them and allow them to be themselves with me. I encourage their other friends to try this, as well. Who knows what miracle a unity of love will allow.

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About elrondsilvermaul

I never know what to say about myself. I let what I write try to speak as to who I am. I can only add, here, that I am 72, live in a nursing home, am twenty years a cancer survivor, and identify as a gay male. I intend to use this blog as storage for poems? written over the long years (and still being written). This does not preclude other uses.
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7 Responses to Friendship, John & Laureen

  1. Nancy C says:

    I love you, Raymond. I lovelovelove you!! This is so very well said!!

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  2. John says:

    You are absolutely right, Ray. Even I am not sure what to say to Laureen, or I feel that my efforts are inadequate despite her urgent pleas to the contrary. The plain truth is there isn’t much anyone can “do”. It’s going to be what it’s going to be. Both L and I are completely aware of the probabilities here and we are being very open with each other about everything, even as we struggle to find some place of balance with all of this. Thank you for your love and friendship. It means the world to both of us!

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  3. delaneykai says:

    Beautifully said, Raymond, I believe that those of us that can/and choose to stay and be supportive will stay…..I think my volunteer work has helped me as I have met so many persons that have come face to face with their mortality and for the most part of very accepting and are in good spirits….not all but a lot of them….I am not surprised you remained witty coming out of surgery!!!

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  4. patchesmany says:

    just the other day, I read a very interesting article about food and it’s relation to cancer. I nearly didn’t share the article out of thought of John reading it. Then I decided to risk posting it, not because I thought the article was the answer but because I found it interesting and thought maybe they would as well. It’s very easy to back away when others are facing mortality, and surely it must make those closer to the mortality feel more alone than they do already.

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  5. You have a unique perspective and a very powerful spirit. I have no doubt that your support will mean the world to your friends.

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  6. PennyD says:

    Hearing about Laureen and John makes me want to say, “Well that just sucks the big one. Damn, double damn, etc.”

    And you are right, Ray, as usual, we humans never want to face head on others calamities of life. I try to without sounding the usual ‘blah-blah’ and I have to say it is hard. Having faced financial rot recently I am glad I have friends who don’t hide their faces and accept that I can’t keep up with them money-wise and haven’t run off and hidden.

    The need to stand up and say to someone, “okay, I hear you, I understand, let me do this, talk to me, I will listen, I’m here,” in a our busy daily lives is not easy. Maybe we need to do it more. Their problem could be ours.

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    • John says:

      You are exactly right, Penny. What we are going through could happen to any of us, at any time. Laureen and I have repeatedly said, in our disbelief, that this is something that happens to “someone else”, not to us. But, it is happening to us and now we have to face it and deal with it as best we can.

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