Sunday, 4 February 2018

The Cancer Diaries: Soul Survivor





We held a memorial for Jennette yesterday, and by all accounts, it was a complete success.
Well, not quite.
Scott was in charge of the music, and he couldn't get it going. His tech skills appear to be rusty now that he's a retired CBC cameraman. Leonard Cohen was with us, sitting on the iPad, but the voices of his lovely singers couldn't seem to reach the speaker my husband held in his hand.
Like the good emcee I was, I tapped danced for a few minutes.
"Well, I guess we know why the CBC is in trouble," I quipped, giving my husband the stinkeye.
Fortunately, we didn't have to endure a Don Mclean nightmare, another day the music died.
Scott finally got it going, and we were saved.

Today, I'm suffering from a funeral hangover. The feeling is familiar.
I remember it from the myriad funerals I attended as a child who was blessed with lots of genetically compromised elderly relations whose arteries were altered by booze and cigarettes.
The Bloody Day After.
It's the day I sit around in the middle of a living room filled with over-sized flower arrangements in vases I will never use because no one could possibly afford to buy that amount of flowers.
Not even Oprah!


The fridge is full of too many pickles and day old sandwiches, bland cupcakes, and unrecognizable pieces of cheese. Wilted grapes. In a disturbing version of art imitating life, the colour is draining from the cantaloupe pieces that no one ever eats.
Beside the over-the-top flower arrangement sits what Scott refers to as the death case, that expensive looking funeral binder you get after you've spent half a year's salary on launching the dead one on her final journey. It's full of forms, and booklets, and advice for the newly bereaved about the technicalities of death.
It is true what they say.
The only two things a person can count on are death and taxes.
In addition to being Jennette's death assistant, I am also lucky enough to be her Executrix, which means I will be spending the next few months closing out her bank accounts, credit cards, tax account, etc., etc. Being the little overachiever I am, I have already done most of it. For the last three weeks, I've been schlepping J around in my backpack, which is full of death certificates, hers and Rogers, as well as form letters for all the thieves who come calling, literally on death's door.
She didn't have much, and the stuff she did have has already been dispersed to various friends in thanks for their efforts at keeping up her spirits whilst the cancer ripped through her throat.
I have what's left of her life now, in my office and living room. There are lots of pictures of people I don't know, and a box of receipts I will now comb through to see if I can get her an income tax refund for all the money she paid out over the last few months. Dying, I have learned, is a pretty expensive endeavour.


What's left of her estate comes to me as I am her sole survivor. I am somewhat elated to know that I will see little cheques come in, every now and again, for the rest of the year. I will give thanks for everyone of them.
I'm not rich and I haven't been able to work much over these last few months, so selling off Jennette's shit has become a necessity. Today, I scored a hundred bucks for her phone. The other day, another good friend took one of her tables. That paid for groceries.
Scott got the biggest gift, J's Chevy Cruze, which we traded in with our old car for a late model Subaru. He's over the moon, of course, because he used to sell Foresters and now he can finally afford one. The thing has Eyesight, apparently. And good snow tires, and a sunroof which he assures me offers UV protection. In my own defence, as a former sun worshipper and skin cancer-survivor, I will now wear a hat in the car. And there's a dog cage in the car to keep Finnigan from eating the seats and Sophie from soiling the off-white upholstery, so that's something, I guess.
I hope we get good use out of the dog barrier. But I'm wary, I think getting a dog barrier might be a bad idea, like all those times I got new business cards, only to discover I'd been sacked a few days later by one soulless boss or another.
We took Finnigan to the vet on Friday because he's started having seizures. We were told that he can no longer be around the grandkids because of his condition, which sometimes leaves him snarling in pools of foam. So Finnie will be in the basement everyday when Squishy comes to call. Otherwise, he'll be accompanying Jennette over the Rainbow Bridge.
He doesn't know the difference. He just wakes up from his trance and licks my hand.
As for me, I will be sleeping with my tennis racquet.

I'm feeling numb, to tell you the truth.
I feel like the last person left on a desert island who doesn't win a million dollars, but instead will eventually be eaten by pygmies.
Given my current state of pudginess, the whole tribe will be able to eat for a week.
I looked at some photos taken by a friend and realized that for every pound J lost, I gained two.
As I write this, there is a brand new rowing machine in the basement waiting for my lard ass to get aboard. Yet here I sit, spreading cheek all over the now incredibly uncomfortable faux letter chair.
I'll get to it, I will.
But for now, I'm content to play video games and drink weird concoctions from David's Teas. Sometimes, the tea is so bad I think it might come from funeral home leavings.

If I'm to be perfectly honest, I still feel Jennette with me. She's over there in the liquor cabinet, there, in that vodka bottle which literally has her name on it. It came home from the hospice undrunk along with the ones she kept hidden in her closet. I take a sip once in a while, but even then, that bottle will probably be with me til the summer.
I still have her mom's extensive collection of costume jewelry. I wore some yesterday. So did Marissa. And I gave the earrings I wore to Gessie. Eventually, most of it will be given away by me to deserving people. The rest, Squishy can wear during her dressup time.

The good news is that the rituals of death are finally coming to an end.
Yesterday, I proudly wrestled some money out of her brother's pocket to pay her final expenses.
On Thursday, we will be tossing her lovely humming bird urn in beside Roger, where they can once again solve the problems of the world late into the night.
Except without the smokes, or the cocktails.
Question: Are there cocktails in heaven?
I hope so.
Otherwise, when I die I'll be forced to become a Republican.

After the internment, I'm going to the doctor to get my blood pressure issues resolved. Then, I hope fall into my first good night's sleep in months and months.
Realistically, that is never going to happen.
Not now that I've got Cujo sleeping beside me.

And I continue to be haunted by that backpack.
It sits here, getting ready to grow teeth, like a Chucky doll waiting to eat me up and spit me out.
Maybe if I mutter some sort of mantra three times, the bloody thing will disappear.
CRA, CRA, CRA!




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