I found myself bumping into a slew of significant anniversaries lately. Both my parents had late November birthdays, and one or the other always seemed to coincide with Thanksgiving. My dad would have been 92 last week, and my mom would have turned 86. My younger sister, were she alive, would have celebrated her 50th birthday just a few weeks earlier. Her birth (or, rather, the news of it) is one of the earliest memories I have, and is the one that I’m sure is mine alone, and not the product of someone’s retelling. What I remember most about her arrival, before I got to go to the hospital and see her on that happy morning in 1963, was that my news was an excellent bit of fodder for Show and Tell.
It was hard to live where I live and not be aware of this anniversary, in November.
My little sister came into this world just a few weeks before JFK’s departure, providing a little bundle of joy, at our house anyway, to offset the gaping hole in the national psyche. I’ll always remember that fateful day, with its unfathomable news from Dallas, as the first time I ever saw a grown-ups, teachers, in tears. I also remember the TV at our house being on for that whole odd week, while no one in my house seeming to notice that there was a five-year-old watching intently, checking for Caroline and John-John sightings. The past month’s 50th anniversary media obsession brought those recollections to the fore, along with everything else that coincides with Thanksgiving in my memory bank.
The color of everything seemed to wash away in the past few weeks.
Add to my memories the fact that it’s dark in November. Way too dark, way too soon, if you ask me. Dark and dreary, and tending to colorlessness in the landscape, natural and otherwise. We had a dark and gloomy week leading up to Thanksgiving, and have had a slew of cold, wet, gray days since. Those blue sky days of August seemed like a fiction I’d invented.
Thanksgiving itself was a colorful affair at our house.
So yes, November has always been an emotional minefield for me, but this year most intently. Because on top of everything else, it was twelve months ago when I went in for that annual mammogram, and fielded the follow-up phone call the next day, and all that came after that.
You, my dear readers, all know where this journey has taken me. I’ve faced that diagnosis and come out the other side, treatment in the rear view mirror, hair growing back nicely, thank you. All’s well that feels like it’s already ended well.
But unless you’ve been in my house and checked the calendar on the back of the kitchen door, you probably had no way of knowing that I’ve been anticipating this very day. I’ve had a circle around Wednesday December 4th, for months. Today is the date when my annual mammogram has been looming as first check point that might tell me if I had anything to be worried about, going forward. And as such, it’s made me a little nutty, thinking that I might need to be worried.
Here’s the view from my dentist’s office. Last November my downward spiral on the health front began, it seemed, when I broke a crown. That unfortunate event led to three fairly unpleasant dental visits. Fast forward to this past week, when I cracked a tooth and found myself back in my dentist’s chair, begging for more Novocain. It didn’t seem like a good omen.
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I hope I’ve made clear to you all that, in my mind, this thing got whipped ages ago. My ace team and I beat the crap out of my little lap dog of malignant lumps, long before winter had turned to summer. I mean, seriously, what sort of rogue tumor cells could possibly make any headway against the barrage of heavy artillery treatments that my body has been subjected to this past year? How could anything even vaguely resembling a cancer cell do anything but play taps and retreat, its tail between its legs, after what I’d been through? My encounter with the pink peril had the shit kicked out of it, of that I was quite sure. There would be nothing of note to report from whatever the films showed today.
And yet…is there anything that makes a person feel more vulnerable than sitting in a waiting area, in a hospital johnny, pretending to read back issues of People and Bon Apetit while waiting for a doctor to provide an All Clear signal? Something about the shiver that comes with exposed skin in unlikely places is just plain…unsettling.
I needn’t have worried. I left with an even better bit of paper than that certificate of completion from back in June. I left with the correct box checked: the one that says Normal. Nothing to worry about.
Normal. What a lovely word.
And yeah, I got my cinematic moment. I emerged from my mammogram appointment to find bluer sky than I’d seen in over a week. I headed for my cathedral, my reservoir walk, where I passed Mr. 9/11 twice, and huzzah! I was blessed with two entirely pleasant encounters. Okay, I think someone’s read him the riot act about not berating fellow walkers with his causes du jour, but who cares? Today I almost could have stopped and listened, if he’d been inclined to make a report to me on the state of the world. Hell, even the trade that has swiped Jacoby Ellsbury, he of my beloved World Champion Red Sox, off to the Bronx to play for the detested Yankees–not even that bit of news daunted me today. I’m good to go. Which is a huge relief, even when my brain was telling me there was nothing to worry about.