Monday, October 31, 2011

The Wound that Never Healed

Dear Beloved Sister,

You went too quickly and I'm thinking of you again in a state of sentimental nostalgia. I don't often do that; it is too painful. Yet, by some ironic mystery, the pain is delicious and I am, beyond reason, grateful for the pain. Your passing from this Earth broke my heart; a wound that has never healed. I can't deny that. That did not happen for all of the others I've loved who have passed beyond my sight. The wounds from their passing have healed. But, you? The thought of you makes my chin quiver, my eyes water and my nose run. I cannot control it. It is inevitable. Look at these three handkerchiefs that were dry only a few hours ago. They are already soaked.

So, what has me awake at 3 A.M. thinking of you? Not only as of this morning, but from yesterday afternoon, continuously? Is it this super-steroid drug I've begun taking? It's one of those high powered, mood and mental changing drugs, a physical changing drug that will make me into either a crow magnum man or a puffed up marshmallow; into yet another disguise that will forever hide what I used to look like. Is today's emotion of my own volition or brought on by this mind-bending drug? I don't know. I've experienced these emotions before in a state of need and without drug influence, but who knows what brings this one on?

I visited two old friends a few months ago and the first words they said to me was, "I'd recognize you anywhere." They lied! Because I look in the mirror and I don't see that young man I used to be. I see an old man, cheeks sagging, wrinkles fully developed, sad eyes and a long upper lip frown that seldom turns to a smile anymore. And when I do smile, I see long teeth and receding gums. Who have I become? Who are they seeing? And now another change is coming, only partly of my own making, or maybe wholly of my own making, and even they may not recognize me. That, too, is inevitable. And probably unimportant.

I love you. I haven't said that enough, especially when you were here to hear me say it. I swear I can still see you wherever I conjure you up. Is that really you? Or, is it a figment of my imagination, a vision that is not really there? But, you look so real, young and beautiful like my first memories of you. I remember the very first time I really noticed you, the day you melted my heart. Do you remember? It was a Saturday night when dad, as he usually did on Saturday nights, brought those hamburgers home from Whimpy's Cafe and we gathered around our kitchen table to eat them. My favorite style to this day. A hamburger with pickle, onion, ketchup, salt and pepper. Now days you may get tomato and lettuce and thousand island dressing, but it's not my favorite. Give me the good old Whimpy's hamburger.

But, on that night I sat at the table in a chair that you should have taken. And, I complained when dad asked me to move to let you sit there. "She's no different," I complained. "She can sit over there!" I believe you were holding Kim who was perhaps less than a year old. "Oh yeah?" dad asked. "Do you have these?" I was embarrassed as he pointed to your breasts. I hung my head, then looked up into your eyes. They twinkled and you smiled and my heart melted and I gave you my chair and stood beside you to eat my hamburger. "There is a chair there, David," dad said, but I didn't move, always stubborn. Then you whispered in my ear, "sit over there, Dave. I'm not far," and, satisfied, I sat "over there," beside Elvin as I recall. Elvin was a gruff man, a tough man, who squeezed my leg just behind my knee and laughed his peculiar, air-pushing laugh between his teeth. He squeezed a little to hard; meant to tickle but it hurt. It took a while for me to learn to love him too, but never as much as I loved you.

And, before I get too far, I feel I owe an apology to my other siblings, and I include your son and daughter in that group of siblings because they became my brother and sister even though by blood they are my nephew and niece, because you allowed my to live in your house when I had no place else to go. At least I felt that way. I owe them an apology. I loved you more. Oh, I love them and they too can break my heart, but not like you did when you left me. I can't deny that. Would you look at this? I've already soaked those handkerchiefs and I'm now using toilet paper. Will I ever be able to control my emotions when thinking of you? It's impossible! I'm an adult! An old man! What is it with this blubbering like a child? It's embarrassing. It happens too when they bring up your name in conversation. I cannot speak your name in the presence of others. It catches in my throat. Tears well up in my eyes. My chin quivers. I must get up and leave before I burst out crying like a child. I don't know if they notice.

You were my guiding star, my saint on Earth, my Angel, my wise councilor and adviser and my sometime scolder. I remember every word you spoke to me and every scene. How could I ever forget? Do you remember the last time you rebutted my complaint? You, dad and I were alone in your kitchen on the farm, and I complained, probably bitterly, that my Japanese wife had not accompanied our son to his first day of school. I had tears in my eyes. I expected your agreement and compassion, or at least what I thought to be those things. Instead, you ask a simple and softly spoken question: "What about you, Dave?" It stopped me cold in my tracks. It cut like a knife. I whimpered in response, "but, I'm always gone, at sea or on some Navy duty assignment." Your question changed my life, and likely my marriage. From that day onward, I reevaluated my own actions before I criticized my wife. I taught her how to drive, I sent her more money and I lived on a lot less, I tried to teach her not to trust American culture in regards to children as much as she trusted Japanese culture where children are a thousand times safer. She learned, she stayed home and raised our children while I cavorted around the world. She was unselfish while I was selfish. She stood by me in spite of myself. It didn't save that marriage, in the end, but I'm forever grateful you asked that question. I have a new wife now, and she too is a good woman. She too shows complete selflessness in regards to her children. I'll live with that. How fortunate I have been and am! What was that margin of random chance that might have caused me to be born to other parents, in another country, far less fortunate, and to never have known you? It would have been tragic, but I would have never known.

How do you come when I summon you? Where do you come from? Is it from some far region of the universe or heaven or whatever you call it where your curiosity has taken you? You needn't have come on my summons. I love you too much to limit your freedom in whatever state of being you are. What are you? I can clearly see you in that image of light above that tree, surrounded by a darker area. Are you real? I hear you say, "Yes." But, still... I'm unconvinced. Is that because I'm filled with human fallacies? You are strikingly young and beautiful, as you used to be. I'm glad that you're young. Is it true that we'll meet there where you're at? I hope so. If that's true, then I insist on meeting you first, before all others, even Him Himself. I want to give you an eternal hug and to hear what you've been doing. Tell me all, everything.

You're sorry? What did you do that you could possibly be sorry for? I can't think of a single thing. Oh, that. The request that you asked others to do after you left; to fill your place in my life. That was nothing. I knew that it couldn't be done, although they tried, I suppose, as best they could. It was a useless endeavor. They came across as presumptuous, arrogant Bible philosophers, pompously quoting from it rather than answering its questions. There are no answers in the Bible. Only questions. You taught me that long ago, but it has taken a lifetime for it to become abundantly clear and only then when I heard someone else say it out loud. The Bible is a search for Justice, and more importantly, a search for the God of final Justice. It is truth, yet not necessarily all Historical fact, however most like to claim it is. And then? A miraculous thing happened. Reading the Bible after that is like reading a whole different book. Because, you see? They never knew of those conversations, short and infrequent that they were, about spirituality and religion that you and I had. Beautiful conversations, deep and meaningful. They had no way to compete with those. Only your daughter has been able to compete, to a degree, with those. And the quest those conversations led me on was marvelous. You had your strong faith and I had my strong spirituality and it led me into as much as I could study of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Greek philosophy and mythology, and others, and finally back to Christ and his teachings. So, you see? Your request of them was needless. I came back to where you wanted me to be all along. But, I have a whole new, or at least different, perspective. A truer one I believe, but not yet finished I think. It appears to be a never ending quest that will only end when I die. What will I learn after that? Glorious things, I think, in the depths of my soul.

Before I wrap this up, I need to explain what this is all about. I'm going through another change. I'm premature in being so sentimental, I suspect, because nothing firm is yet determined. I have one, maybe two, masses, likely tumors, in the lower back portion of my brain, the Cerebellum I believe. That area that controls balance and equilibrium. I'm dizzy, but only slightly. I walk with a slight stagger, like I'm slightly drunk. I have a walking cane, now, to steady myself. I've lost weight, recently about eight pounds in only a few weeks, and it all came to a head last week. I woke up last Monday with a complete loss of appetite, and couldn't put a single thing in my mouth without gagging. I felt like I was getting seasick, the most debilitating sickness I've ever experienced. I also have two spots in my right lung, also likely tumors, but nobody is ready to call them that just yet. So, to decrease possible brain swelling, my doctor prescribed 4 milligram Dexamethasone 4 times daily. It's a super, hyper steroid; a drug that has wild side affects. And, he referred me to Radiology and Oncology, both of which will schedule the start of further study of these things soon. Nothing is firm. All is up in the air. But, I'm under no illusion that this isn't bad. I haven't lived a risk-free life. It's time to get my affairs in order. There is an expiration date, as smart asses like to say, but nevertheless true.

I may need your help again. Perhaps you can be my advocate in a sort of final decree, a decision by someone or something? I don't want to live listless in a bed someplace with strangers taking care of me, blinded by drugs, force-fed through a tube, unable to know my own name or my loved one's names, unable to read or think and someone changing my diapers. That is a waste. I want what I have left of this Earth to be left as much in tact as possible to those that I love and not to be wasted on me. Is it possible to know that instant before I become completely incapable of thought or decision? Plea my case for me, please, yet I hope it doesn't come too soon.

I'm looking forward to seeing you again, later, I hope, rather than sooner, but nevertheless with great anticipation.

Your devoted and loving brother,

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