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Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Love Letter

My Darling Clint,

I’m home.  After all that time thinking I would be too sad to come back to The Island without you, I returned and it is right.  I know you are smiling.

You would be happy to be here this Labor Day weekend.  Kristy is asleep on the other side of the bed and the big boys are on the white sofas and Abby is in the bed with Marnie.  Drew is in the room with Shannon and Joey and I am the only one awake in the whole house except Honey, who is giving me the I-need-to-go-outside look that she has perfected.  I will be right back.

I’m awake because I woke last night with back spasms and had to go to Urgent Care this morning and get a Dose Pack.  I’m riding high on the ‘roids.  The pain in my back is gone and my sore and swollen left knee feels better.  

Okay.  I know what you are thinking, so I’ll just say it for you.  I’m not as physically strong and powerful as I once was.  This move has cut me down a notch or two.  It’s not a bad thing.  I’m old enough now to slow down when my body starts snarking at me with pinches and aches and sharp pains.  In some ways I have grown up.

I have a purple streak in my hair and I love it.  You probably wouldn’t love it but you probably wouldn’t hate it either.  It is who I am right and it might be who I am for a long time.  It’s my badge of courage and strength and freedom.  You would love it after you got over the shock.

Cuz has cancer.  There.  I said it.  He has lung cancer that has  metastasized to his brain and forearm.  He will follow you before I do, but in so many ways, like John, he is planning to die living instead of dying.  We have been exchanging emails about all this shit, and I want to put his last one in this letter.  You will be proud, so here it is:

This cancer may kill me, but it is NOT going to consume the rest of my life. It will be a fact in my life, but it will not BE my life.  I refuse to give it that power over me and I am not praying to be cured, but rather to have the strength to live my life with dignity and grace. I can't stand to be around complainers and I refuse to be one.

I met my radiology oncologist (radio doc, I call him) this morning and was impressed with his manner. I like him already; he comes highly recommended by my doctor friends and actually had bought one of my prints at a charity auction a couple of years ago. He had his nurses check out my web site so that they would know something about me when I met them.. I thought that was a very nice gesture on his part.

My nuking will start next week and run for 10 sessions over two weeks, starting with the brain and arm tumors being treated simultaneously. Doc said he expected me to look a whole lot worse than I do based on my reports. Hey, I really feel fine except for the arm. Blessed again.”

Isn't he something?

I don’t have to tell you that I have lost just about every important man in my life, and I am not looking forward to losing Cuz, but the fact is that I will probably outlive him just like I outlived Daddy and Harry and John and you.  I am sick to fucking death of men dying on me.  

I’m handling this just like I handled the others.  I am believing Cuz will live until someone proves otherwise.  It’s the only way I know to operate.  

Last Sunday, I got a speeding ticket when Sophie and I were returning to Macon for her to reclaim her life and for me to close on the Canyon Road house.  Yes, she came down with me on moving day and stayed and helped me get unpacked and she made my bed the way she does.  I don’t know how I will do without her making my bed.  She doesn’t know how she will do without making my bed.  She does it just right and wants all the sheets and pillowcases to match or at least coordinate.  But you know all that.  And she makes it so tight she would shame a soldier in boot camp.

Back to the speeding ticket.  I was driving at 90 miles per hour on I-16.  It was my fault.  For a while we cruised with a pack of cars going about 85, but I decided to pull ahead because my car really likes to go 90.  I set the cruise control.  Wrong.  Stupid.  I even told Sophie I hadn’t had a speeding ticket in years.  Wrong and stupid.  My car has a thing called collision protection, and when the cruise control is not on, if I lift my foot from the accelerator, it pulls back.  I had engaged the cruise control, and when I rounded a curve, the Treutlan County Sheriff’s Deputy who was waiting in his big old sheriff’s truck had me dead to rights.  I slowed down a little but made him earn his pay.

When the Deputy finally pulled me over, Sophie just sat there and acted like I got stopped for going 90 miles an hour every day.  She's that way, calm in a crisis.

“Ma’am, is there some good reason you were driving 89 miles be hour in a 70 miles per hour zone?”

He was young and very tall and about 50 pounds overweight but he had honest eyes, fair eyes with a glint in them that endeared me to him.  I could have lied like a rug and gotten away with it.  I could have said you were still dying or something or Shannon was having another set of twins or that Sophie had appendicitis and I was trying to get her to the hospital.  

“No, Officer,” I said.  “I like to drive fast and there was no one out here on the road with me and I set my cruise to 90 so I wouldn’t go any faster.”

He smiled.

I said I just told Sophie it had been years since I got a speeding ticket and he smiled some more.

“Well, Mrs Schlottman, you are about to get another one.  I clocked you at 89 and I can’t let you get away with driving that fast.”

His tone was folksy and I knew he was just doing his job so I didn’t get mad.  He was the kind of kid it is hard to get mad at anyway.  Hell, I was the one breaking the law and I thought I might as well take my medicine.

I don’t know what it will cost me, but I know I won’t be that stupid again.  I don’t intend to stop driving fast.  I just don’t intend to get caught.   No more cruise control at 90.  That was really stupid.

You can tell I have my groove back, can’t you?  I thought I lost it forever, that it was cremated with you, but I was wrong.  You were right all along when you said I was strong and would be okay.  

Tomorrow morning we are all going to The Sandcastle for breakfast and I will miss you more than ever for a while.  Then I will be infused with all the innocent energy that is Abby and Drew and all the craziness and fun of Shannon and Joey and Noah and Jacob and Marnie and Kristy and me.  I will be content with what I have since I can’t have you.  I will love like I have not been able to love since you died.  I will make you proud and I will love myself enough to make me proud. 

I will never stop loving you.  Even if the right man comes along and I fall in love at first sight again, (and what are the chances of that)? you will live in my very core until I breathe my last breath.  If some fool comes along and falls in love with me he better be in love with you too.

I will be Your Fat Girl forever.

PS - Last week I finally emptied the pockets of the last pair of trousers you wore.  I found your pocketknife and I’m saving it for Drew.  I also found four neatly folded one dollar bills in your money clip, and I am saving them for Jacob.

© 2013 cjschlottman


Teresa Highsmith said...

what a great letter.I love the way you write like you are talking.

Linda @ A La Carte said...

I am so glad for these steps you have taken in your life and the healing I finally see. I feel more Peace from you!

Jenny Bonds said...

Dear Claudia,
You are brave and strong, and I support you in doing what is right for you! I look forward to seeing the purple streak (maybe a selfie in an email?).
Please know my prayers are with you on this journey...you probably heard me tell more than one patient and their family "everyone's journey is different, never compare yourself to others, we ate all unique with different paths to trod!"
Looks like yours is finally on a good path, a better path, though Macon is less one wonderful nurse and friend.
Love you

Sue said...

Reading this makes me happy, even though it contains sad news along with the good.

Thinking of you healing brings such a smile to my face. And so does the purple streak.