The funky house sits on a corner up in Palo Alto, where, back in November one day I walked around taking photos of interest. Their free spirited sign makes me think of the Nicky Holland song "Box of Rain." So many houses in Palo Alto look quite "moneyed," but every so often I see one that seems to have eccentricity and uniqueness to it, sometimes happily wondering if it could be a "hippy house." This house pictured is such a house.
Saturday was the first day of changing my schedule around, resting all day and then going to a women's only AA meeting in the evening. It is a meeting quite a way from where I live, about 25 minutes on the freeway. Yet it is a meeting I am very familiar with, having regularly attended for several years, from about 2002 to 2006.
My former "sponsor" in recovery attends the night time women's meeting on Saturday nights. And she now has cancer. Lung cancer, even though she has not smoked for over 20 years. She is one of the people drawing me back to the women's meeting. I want to see her, especially if her time here might be limited.
I used to wish that I didn't have this thing I do, which is, when someone I know gets cancer, I want to run away. To run away to protect myself from any feeling of loss if they don't make it.
So far I have not yet run away. Not from my late younger brother, of course. He was the light of my life and best friend. One would think that a sibling would not back away from another sibling who is very sick, but one of my other brothers did keep his distance from my dying younger brother while it was going on. Ironically, the brother who did the backing away, is the one who later died young in 2000 at the age of only 42.
Wilma had been the first and kindest customer I had when I began cleaning houses in 1985. I worked for her and her husband for several years until they both retired from their jobs. She practically gave me a car, a 1968 Ford Galaxy that had sat outside of their house that I asked about. She gave me the car and had me pay $10.00 a week for a while, then she kindly said before I got to having paid $200.00, "I think you have paid long enough." She gave me pumpkin soup. She had a large, giant teddy bear in one of her bedrooms that I would hold and hug in between cleaning tasks, when I was going through incest therapy.
Wilma, when I first was introduced to her and was doing a walk through of of her house, she happily said, "and here is the pantry, if you ever get hungry, help yourself!"
I hadn't worked for Wilma for several years when her husband called me up and asked me to come back and clean for them again. Wilma had gotten liver cancer and was sick. I thought "Don't make me watch while she dies." I went anyway. I cleaned around her as she lay in bed sleeping with her little turban on, which she wore because of her hair falling out. I couldn't abandon. I didn't run away from it. And yes, it was sad when Wilma died after a few months.
I didn't back away from Judy either. A coworker I had at my entry level job back in 1995 who got ovarian cancer. Of the 6 people in our Accounting department, Judy was the kindest to me. I didn't get to know her for very long as she was diagnosed with the cancer in January of 1996 and by August of that year, she died. I wrote her a heartfelt card that her twin sister later told me meant so much to Judy, that the sister would keep reading my card to her when Judy no longer had the strength to read it herself. I still have the plant, still alive and ever growing, that Judy gave me before she went down to Southern California to be with her twin in her last days.
There was Jean, another very kind woman who worked in the company where I currently work, only she was laid off in 2001. I had many intimate chats with her over the two years she was with the company. When she got laid off I "lifted" her home phone number off of one of the checks she sent in for her Cobra payment. She welcomed my calls. She was so very giving all the way to the point that she took my calls while she was bedridden with the colon and stomach cancer she had gotten. She didn't tell me her cancer had come back, she didn't want anyone to know. She didn't let me know. She had survived several different cancers, 4 times. The 5th time she got it, she didn't fight it. For whatever reason, she didn't want or have a funeral.
When I was at an AA meeting one September day in 2004, a woman I was close to at the time announced at the meeting that Ray had just been diagnosed with brain cancer. She announced that a group was going to get together and take a meeting to him at the Kaiser hospital. Sitting next to her as she made the announcement I thought "I am not touching this with a ten foot pole. I am not getting close to this and watching another person die."
I got close. I was in the group that took the meeting to Ray in the hospital. Quite a few people said they would go with us but when it came to it, only 3 of us went through with it. There were more of us when Ray was released from the hospital, and we started a meeting every Saturday night in the living room of his mobile home. I was there almost every Saturday night.
I got close. And I was sad when the brain cancer got Ray and he left us.
My former sponsor, when I saw her last week for the first time since she got the cancer, she told me "I went through one round of chemotherapy but I am going to use alternative treatments from now on." To which I tried to have an upbeat veneer but my heart sank a little. I tried to keep a hopeful face on for her but am still wondering how an alternative treatment is going to work with lung cancer.
She has now fulfilled her dream of living in the mountains. The universe provided her an affordable place, with her limited income, to live in Redwood Estates, here in the Los Gatos-Santa Cruz mountains.
If it ever comes to holding her hand, if she doesn't make it, in that affordable place in the mountains, I will.
I will get close again.
I don't mind.