Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Warm Wisconsin welcome, bad behavior on tennis court, & another tooth bites the dust

With new friend Mary Robinson at Wisconsin Welcome sign
I Went to Wisconsin without my laptop and neglected the blog. I did a little writing on the rehabbed iPad (I had dropped it almost as soon as I got it) and I'm sure it's not complicated but I have a leap to make before I can write a blog post.

The MacBook Air is my version of the old-fashioned well-sharpened pencil on a favorite pad, I guess.

Actually I went to Chicago, then on to Wisconsin. It was with my boyfriend. Just trying that on for size. I don't know what to say. He's not a boy.  Boyfriend and girlfriend kinda work, but not totally at a certain age.

In previous blog posts I wrote that "a friend" drove me to Dana-Farber. It's time to be a little more specific while at the same time not revealing too much.

I went to meet his sisters and extended family. So that was a big step. There are sensitive issues.

My "friend" and I have discussed the awkwardness of finding the right name for the significant other, or as my mother used to say, gentleman caller.

Not a partner: too much like you're dancing or in a business arrangement. Although I hear that a lot of people are using it. Not a companion, which sounds more like an aide. Or beau? I used beau for a while but then some people got annoyed and said to please use his name.

I like meeting people and finding out about them (occupational necessities), so I was only a little nervous about the trip. He said, "Just be yourself."

They were so friendly and welcoming, and interesting, that I was immediately relaxed and did just that.

I think it went well, but there were a few moments when I wondered what they thought. For example, we were in the middle of lunch at his sister-in-law's when my fingers decided to do back bends and cramp. Trying probably unsuccessfully to be subtle, I pulled at my thumb to try to straighten it out. His niece asked if I was OK. At the moment I wasn't, because when this happens it hurts a lot.

It isn't just my thumbs. My other fingers can bend backwards also. I couldn't do this if I tried, but when it happens they get a mind of their own. One doctor said this is related to my graft vs. host disease of the skin, though I've heard that it happens to other people who didn't get a stem cell transplant.

 I know that the limited range in my wrists, which is a problem in yoga, comes from the GVHD. (Sorry former and current news peeps, this is an oft-used acronym. The whole terms is a mouthful.)

My beau's sister-in-law said it could be low salt, and she gave me some Gatorade. It worked. I was so happy that I flapped my freed-up fingers around. She kindly gave me a bottle to take with me in case it happened again.

I seemed to have a connecting point with many of his relatives. For example, I talked to one about our shared chemotherapy after effect, neuropathy in our feet. For people who don't have it, it's hard to understand how your feet can be simultaneously numb and painful. I wrote about it in this article about the pain of having and treating neuropathy. 

After a night in Chicago, we drove some four hours to Stevens Point, Wisconsin, my friend's hometown. (How about special friend? Nah.) We had two lovely runs in Iverson Park, along a trail padded by pine needles and leaves.

We also went to Waupaca and Appleton. It was a packed itinerary. I got an actual state map and enjoyed trying to find my bearings...and attempting to fold it back the proper way.

On the drive back, we stopped at a tourist attraction, the Mars Cheese Castle. At first, when Mary mentioned it, I thought for a moment that it was actually made out of cheese! It isn't made of cheese, but there is a lot of it.

I didn't get any cheese because I'm toying with the no sugar, no dairy, diet. I got some pushback on it. It seems like there should be a way to make some changes but adhere to moderation, not total elimination of certain foods. In any case I didn't get very far without eating ice cream.

 It was my birthday on Friday, and while writing the beginning part of the blog, I was eating a large piece of my birthday carrot cake. It's hard to refrain from cake on your birthday. It's carrot cake so it must have something good for you in it. Those little frosted carrots on the top, per chance?

The day before, I had my 13th tooth pulled. As directed by the dental surgeon, I took two Ativan (two milligrams total). I really wanted coffee afterwards. My chauffeur obliged. He was a good sport. I don't remember doing this, but I believed him when he said I was falling all over the place.

I vaguely remember going into the Odyssey Bookshop and picking out three books for him to buy me. (Educated, Less, and the first Louise Penny book, recommended by his sisters and echoed by friends.)

Unhappy camper
The next day I said we could return one because it seemed like a lot. He said it's only three books. Did I say he's a mensch? Also, my dog has a crush on him.

There is a string hanging down from the stitch in my gum where the tooth used to be. It is hard to avoid playing with it with my tongue. It hurts on and off, more so at night. The oxycodone makes me have hallucinatory dreams, but it works the best.  I need to repeat this or else people will think I'm a drug addict: My doctors don't want me to take much Tylenol because it is bad for the liver, in which I have some graft vs. host disease. Advil and the others are not good either, for a variety of reasons.

On my birthday we went to George's smaller (than Wednesday) clinic at the Holyoke Canoe Club. It was a fun time, as usual.

But sadly, in other ways, the stars do not seem to be aligned over my happy place, specifically in our normally relaxed, low-key, Saturday and Tuesday group.

My other groups are set up so that we plan ahead to have an even number. In this group, whoever shows up, plays, so you might have one player at a time rotating in for the server.

It's not my first choice because you don't play a full set. But I realized that the socializing and coffee-drinking while waiting your turn is part of the fun.

If there are more than two people sitting, however, I get antsy. So I either leave or on occasion have asked someone to hit with me on another court. This still leaves one extra person so that anyone who wants to rest, gets a chance to do it.

Last week when a third extra person arrived, I asked another of the "sitters" if he wanted to go on another court to hit. It would still leave one to rotate in.  Believe me, I know what it's like to be tired, so I have compassion.

A player, "E," bellowed, "YOU SIT! We need to rest!"

Excuse me? I wondered, would he direct a guy this way? I think not. Was he being a bully? I believe he was. After I had my turn serving, I packed up to leave. With tears in my eyes. Nobody likes being yelled at. But in addition, for me, an element PTSD comes into play.

I went home to walk the dog. Who does not bark at me.

Saturday was even worse. I went to tennis despite having a bad night's sleep and being a little "off" because of the pain and the remnants of the night's drugs. When I got there, it looked like three would be sitting, but then another player arrived. So we had eight, two women and two men. I was excited. Good for real doubles.

We had some good rallies but they beat us, 6-1. It seemed like it would be obvious to switch partners. They were a stronger team, let's face it. I was off a beat, and so was my partner. I suggested switching, but my partner wanted a rematch. Actually, he INSISTED.

It started out OK, 1 to 1. Then this happened. A ball came right to my partner, just a little bit higher than his head. He ducked. Our coach, George, would say that a good player is always ready to back a partner up. But I guess I'm not that good. I said, "Oh, C, tell me if you want me to get it and I'll go for it."

I didn't think much of it because partners say things like this to each other all the time. And I didn't say it in an angry way, because who am I to get angry with a partner?

The next game when I was serving, a ball rolled half way into the court, near where he was standing at the service line. Etiquette, or just plain being reasonable, calls for the partner who is not serving to pick up the ball. He looked back at me and said, "You get it."

Normally talkative, he didn't say one word after that.

We lost the second set 6-1.

When we were sweeping the clay, he picked up the brush and lowered his head. He would not look up. I grabbed the line sweeper and walked alongside him. "What's the matter?" I asked. He wouldn't answer. I repeated the question. He glared at me.

"I hate you," he said.

"You're just as bad as R," he said, referring to a player who he thinks takes it too seriously. (First I put the whole name in and then took it out.)

"I don't criticize you when you make a mistake. Don't you tell me what to do," he said.

I was stunned.

I followed along for a while and said I was sorry, I wasn't criticizing.

He walked off the court to where George and a group of other players were sitting.

I went over to the other player cleaning their side of the court.

I asked if she heard what was going on and if she saw what had happened during the game. She said she saw him go silent after the point that I referenced.

She suggested that to clear the air, I should just repeat that I was sorry.

So I did it.

"C," I said, "I'm sorry."

He looked up at me with (sorry about the cliche) daggers in his eyes.

"Don't talk to me," he said.


How rude, how ungracious, how juvenile!

This person by the way has been a big supporter through the cancer stuff, and, I thought, a real friend.

You could psychoanalyze...maybe he was mad that the other guy was playing better, maybe he had a fight with his wife, maybe he got out on the wrong side of the bed....

But again, I ask, would he talk this way to a guy?

I can't imagine he would.

Meanwhile, I saw I had a missed call from Katie.

I walked over to the river and sat on a chair. And started crying so much that she probably thought something terrible had happened.

I said I wished I was tougher and had said, "Don't talk to me like that."

I was also crying because I was tired, because it had just been my birthday and my parents weren't there, because I thought of all the parties at Atlantic Beach, and because the sweet photo that my sister posted of the two of us and our mother and Sam in front of 77 Coronado Street made the memory so vivid, and because I lost another tooth and the absence of the tooth generated a dull ache as though the tooth were still there, and because I will need another bridge costing thousands of dollars, and because I thought I knew someone and it turned out he was just another bully on the playground.

Afterwards, my reaction made me think of that horrible presidential debate in which Hillary Clinton turned and smiled when Donald Trump was coming menacingly close to her, after which she wrote in her book that she wished she had said, "Back up you creep."

Clinton wrote, “Maybe I have over-learned the lesson of staying calm, biting my tongue, digging my fingernails into a clenched fist."

The author of an article in Quartz wrote, "The passage is a clear appeal to the women who supported her. And Clinton’s reaction is relatable to anyone who has been harassed or intimidated—even if it wasn’t live in front of the entire country—and didn’t immediately react.

Then again, that's how many of us were brought up, and there is something to be said in favor of staying calm.

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