Don't Believe the Truth

Hey ya'll, long time, no see! It's nice to be back after some time off. Since that last post, life has been...interesting. For the past six weeks or so, I've felt as good as I have since this whole thing began. Obviously, things are different- I have medicine to take, a chemo appointment every couple of weeks, and I get tired from time to time. I've somehow arrived at a point, however, where life's other issues are a bigger deal for me than the tumor. Just a couple of months ago, the tumor and my mortality were such big issues that every other problem in life was a laughable, trivial detail. Of late, cancer and death aren't the only things on my mind.

I’m in a weird place. In many ways, life was easier when we thought the end was imminent. I was mentally prepared for what was to come and felt comfortable with it all. Now that we seem to have gained some time, I’ve slipped back into a “normal” mindset. I feel so good in fact, that life's petty little things are setting me off again. (I swear I must be wearing a sign that reads “Please freakin’ argue with me”) I was above it all for a while, I let all of the trivial B.S. slide- I'm back in the trenches now though. This is good and bad. At some point in the future- this year, next year, five years from now, I’m going to have to go through that preparation process again. It was easy enough the first time, hopefully the second time ‘round will be as well. In the mean time, I’m going to try to stop sweating the small stuff.

On another note, I try not to brag, and I am surely tempting fate and running the risk of jinxing myself, but I feel compelled to point out that I’m owning chemo. My first treatment was fifty-five (55) weeks ago, and over the course of the year the doctors have pumped me full of nasty business: gemcitabine, cisplatin, leucovorin, fluorouracil, and irinotecan that I can remember off the top of my head. I’ve also taken on a week of radiation, and the start of an immunotherapy drug trial. I’ve made my way through all of that like a champ- didn’t lose any hair that wasn’t leaving anyway, conquered the nausea, fought through the fatigue, and for the most part have not let it affect the way I want to live life. No point here, just a bit of hubris and braggadocio on a Monday morning whilst in the chair for another dose. Enough of that though, on to another story…

55 weeks and counting...
Eleven years ago to the month, Spring of 2005, D and I had been married for a couple of years and were living in our little bungalow in North Chattanooga. She was eight months pregnant with our first child, and was on maternity leave. I was working for my mentor, friend, and foil Stroud Watson at the Design Studio. The Studio was collectively taking a deep breath after having just finished two massive efforts: I had just put the wraps on the Downtown Plan, and our role in the 21st Century Waterfront project had just ended. In local politics, Ron Littlefield had just survived a run-off election with my mentor and friend Ann Coulter and was starting his controversial spell as mayor of our fair city. It should not have come as a shock that the day after he was elected, he made good on his campaign rhetoric and canned Stroud. When Stroud got the sack, I resigned. On my way out the door of the DRC, I pulled a McArthur and vowed that I shall return. (Well, maybe it wasn't that dramatic, but I was enough of an acolyte of Stroud and fanboy of the Studio that I took it hard, and committed myself to working toward bringing the Studio back to prominence in whatever way I could.)

I was a thirty-two year old man married to a woman who was thirty-two weeks pregnant- resigning should have been a tough decision, but wasn’t. Quitting my job at the expense of 33% of the family income at a time when our expenses were about to skyrocket wasn't very wise from a financial standpoint. The decision was easy, however, as it was simply the right thing to do. As a matter of principle I could not go back to work for those folks. Additionally, without Stroud’s leadership and with a clear indication that downtown was not going to be a City priority, the work itself didn’t seem very appealing. On top of all of that, I’m a sucker for dramatic, potentially self-destructive, grandstanding, principle-grounded gestures. (I wonder if I’ll ever get another shot at one of those.)

As April turned to May, I got to be by D’s side every minute of every hour of every day of the last month of her pregnancy. We painted rooms, I built a crib, we ate sweet and salty food, and we picked out hip clothes and mod accessories for our little guy. We didn’t have a care in the world (save for the persistent and terrifying question of whether or not we were capable of raising a new human being). Those were some of the happiest days of my life.

One Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks before our due date, D (understandably) needed some space, so I went off to meet some friends for a cigar and a drink at Big River. I returned home in the early evening, kissed her goodnight and hit the sack. In middle of the night I woke to find D sitting up, wide awake and in a bit of a panic: “My water broke!” Whoa, go time! I grabbed the pre-packed overnight bag, ushered her to the car, and hauled ass to Women’s East. Bloc Party's Banquet provided the soundtrack for our cross-city, midnight flight.

On that day in late May I welcomed my firstborn into the world. D labored twenty hours or so before we had to go the caesarean route. I was in the delivery room for the duration, and cried for most of it.  Our little guy was long and skinny like his dad, and a stunning beauty like his mom. He was (and is) nothing short of perfect.

When things died down the next day, I went to the liquor store and picked up a bottle of Dom and a nice port. The plan was/is to cellar them and give them to him as a gift on a special date in the future. I’m not quite sure when that will be: When he turns twenty-one? When he gets engaged? When he gets married? I don’t really know, but I suspect those bottles will take on an added significance now. I hope they bring him a fraction of happiness that he brought us on that day, and every day since.

In many ways, that marked the beginning of me. I can’t conceive of myself outside of my identity as father. What I am is due to him and his brother- that's a story for another time.

My self-image is also largely tied to my professional passions, and this period also marks a beginning of that part of me- that's a story to be continued next week...

What a coincidence that my favorite band, Oasis (and leader Noel Gallagher), released Don't Believe the Truth, on the day my first son was born. These are a couple of my favorite songs off that one: Turn Up the Sun, The Meaning of Soul, Eyeball Tickler, and the one that reminds me the most of that special time with my little guy is Let There Be Love:

Come on baby blue
Shake up your tired eyes
The world is waiting for you
May all your dreaming fill the empty sky

But if it makes you happy
Keep on clapping
Just remember I'll be by your side
And if you don't let go, it's gonna pass you by

1 comment:

  1. Sweetest memories...forever in my thoughts. So proud to be a part of "the beginning of you."