Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rip It Off

I am a believer in the rip that motherfucker off method of band aid removal.

Pardon me, ladies, if the language offends. But really, what does your thought bubble say when you rip off a band aid (or get waxed)?

The slow, mincing removal annoys the living hell out of me. It doesn’t hurt less; it just extends the goddamn hurt.

Rip it off.

Just. Rip. It. Off.

Deal with the sudden searing realization that, say, when you put the band aid on, you accidentally stuck a corner of the adhesive on the actual wound and now that you’ve ripped it off, you’ve ripped off a piece of the wound and your flesh feels like it’s on goddamn fire, with every hair removed creating an additional prickling little burning song to go with the bright spark of angry pain.

Even so.

Just rip the damn thing off.

If you haven’t guessed, waiting for something unpleasant makes me crazy.

I suppose I could posit that you can tell a lot about a person by how they remove a band aid, but I think that’s bullshit.

Life regularly puts one in a position where proverbially ripping it off is not an option. And what are you going to find out then? Maybe a lot. Maybe not. The only guarantee in such circumstances is it won’t be much fun to find out.

My sister’s husband died in mid-June.

He had a life-threatening stroke just before Easter. Horrible scraps of information slowly dripped out over the next week or two after the stroke, finally leading to the diagnosis that he had advanced metastatic skin cancer and was riddled with tumors. His stroke was caused by brain tumors. After the stroke, cancer unwound the machinery of his body unwound very, very slowly – in part because he’d been in terrific shape and was fairly young – until he died.

There was no rip it off option. There was just grinding, crushing misery for my sister and her kids, and for her husband a sharp, gnawing horrible pain that he couldn’t communicate, because his stroke robbed him of speech.

I am so glad that my sister and her children have so many people who love them, even as I wish none of this had happened.

My parents were in Chicago within 48 hours of the stroke, stayed until after the funeral and have been in and out since the funeral. My other sister spent weeks in Chicago, helping out. My brother swung through to lend a hand. The kids and I spent most of June there.

Neighbors and friends came by with food, or to do yard work, to lend a hand, to just keep company at their house and to visit at the hospital. And visiting at the hospital was hard. Really hard. Family took shifts so that there was someone there, keeping an eye on him, so we all saw quite a bit. Visiting someone who can no longer speak and is visibly in terrible pain is a difficult thing to do. But many people came, their discomfort and unhappiness naked on their faces. But they spoke kindly, and tried, gently, so gently, to ease the burden of grief.

That’s why I’ve been so quiet this summer.

But because it was so immeasurably worse for so many people, it feels self-indulgent to talk about how awful it was.

Who am I to speak about an ordeal or a tough summer? I didn’t lose my father suddenly at 17. I didn’t lose my son, my husband, my brother.

And for us, the whole summer hasn’t been horrible – we’ve been able to go camping with the kids, to take time to enjoy the summer and one another. I drove home from Chicago with the kids at a leisurely pace, through the Badlands and Yellowstone.

Even so, each time I sit down to type, I find myself a low on follow-through with frivolity or analysis or travel chit-chat. I can’t sustain patter.

So mostly, I’ve been wallowing in quiet, deep enjoyment of the kids, and Stumpy, and family. They’re worth appreciating. Recent events have reminded me of how fortunate, how glad, I am to be a part of their lives.

And, I cannot believe I am about to say this, but I’ve also really been enjoying my goofball goats.

Eventually, I’ll get back to wanting to talk about my frivolous wanderings, my fondness for ridiculous shoes and the goats who’d like to snack on them, and the absurdity of, say, the way in which Seattle district administration goes about staffing schools.

But not just yet.

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