Thursday, August 9, 2012

Garbage Disposal

When I heard through the grapevine than my acquaintance, and son’s former 7th grade english teacher had breast cancer I felt disproportionately upset {redundant, I know, I’ve told this story}. I felt some inexplicable connection to this person I didn’t know well and I was utterly compelled to barge right into her life and be her friend and support her anyway I could, whether I was actually of any help, of course, could be debated. These things have no rhyme or reason and in this case I wound up with the better part of the deal because she’s been an amazing source of support for me as I now go through this appalling odyssey. Friends for life, I have no doubt.

Last week, my favorite of all household luxuries, the garbage disposal broke. Yes, I know they’re bad for the environment, I don’t care, I must have a garbage disposal, I could sooner live without a dishwasher, air conditioner, anything, so I called my plumber. He’s been my plumber for a decade {but how often do you see your plumber?} and a cantankerous old character, yes, anyone older than me gets called old, he’s not that old. Well, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. He’s a hunter and a fisherman and makes his own sausage, his own wine and it turns out, is a gourmet cook who likes to wear a chef's hat, who would have guessed?  A man’s man who doesn’t like small children, he’d “drown them all” if he had the chance and now I learn he was a nurse, a medic in Vietnam. I don’t think you could find two people more seemingly different than {blank} the plumber and I. I’ve always called him {insert real name here} the plumber, but I’m leaving his name out as I leave everyone’s name out, so I’m referring to him here as blank-the-plumber.  I have to admit, I’ve always had a soft spot for him and his cranky humor and we always joke around when he’s fixing my cranky old house pipes. And yeah, the guy who painted my house 10 years ago is now counted among my closest dearest friends. What can I say, I’m chatty and I think we outsider, self-employed folk are attracted to one another no matter how different we are.

The etiquette of cancer is tricky. I don’t like to shock people, but what do you say to someone you’re going to see who doesn’t know? When he called to say he was coming over to fix my disposal I blurted out -- don’t be shocked when you see me, I’ve been a little sick, I look a little different. He was confused so I said “o.k., I have cancer and I’m bald, but it’s fine, don’t worry about it, I just didn’t want you to be shocked when you saw me.”

Blank-the-plumber had the same response to me as I did to G's teacher, he was really, really affected. There is the deepest humanity and kindness where you least expect it. Blank is an oldest sibling with five younger sisters and he says now I’m sister #6. He called me the next day and said he talked to his wife about me and they’re all in, they really want to be there for me. Since then he’s dropped off vegetables from his garden twice and showed up yesterday with a shaved head. “when you grow hair, I’ll grow hair, it’s no big deal.” I’ve seen pictures of his cabin, his pets, his life and I can now tell you that Blank-the-plumber is my friend for life and I’m completely uplifted by the sweet amazing soul he covers up with all that faux crankiness.

The biggest of hearts lurk in the most unexpected places {as do the smallest}.

When something life changing like an illness or a loss hits your life, it’s guaranteed that your relationships will reorganize themselves, I’ve been there before and it’s not just me, anyone will tell you this who’s been there. The person you look to for support may be the first to flee, while your rock, your indispensible person might be who you least expected. I’ve been lucky this time around, I have gained so many amazing people and relationships on this trek. Encountered so much kindness and generosity, sincerity and strength. From the folks on my street I barely knew to the long ago friends who’ve popped up after 25 years. And next week, I’m having lunch with my plumber who is now my friend.

My only quandary is how to deal with the friends who’ve vanished. The folks I thought would be there and called once or twice early on and were gone, the “call me when you’re feeling better and we’ll have dinner.” Maybe I’ll never hear from them again which might be preferable. I don’t know how to answer, “how’s it going? what are you up to?” from someone who’s been incommunicado through all of this helter skelter madness, where would you begin? It’s not a matter of being mad, or holding grudges, that’s not me, it’s just really truly, where do you begin? I can’t imagine what I would say, how would I not feel alienated, estranged? I’m not the same person, you just can’t go through something this big and all encompassing and be the same person on the other end {of which there really isn’t one} and if someone hasn’t been vaguely tuned in to either real me or blog me, I just feel like they wouldn’t know me anymore. That’s why I’m so grateful to this blog and to everyone who reads it, skims it, stays tuned in even a little, because I will be able to see you a week or a year from now and not feel like an alien, not feel self-conscious, because you’ve stuck with me, you know where I’ve been and I am forever grateful to you for keeping me tethered.


  1. still hanging with you every post baby!

  2. crappy friend I am, but I haven't missed a single entry. Your number one blogTroll, I am.

  3. I try to be forgiving of the people who have vanished, and the people who still whisper "cancer".... but damn it's hard.
    I love your plumber.
    xo Bekah

  4. Love your plumber!!! and your post office friend!!

  5. uh-oh, scary... who is my post office friend?

  6. The black guy who you talked with about head shaving :)

  7. oh yeah, see how good my memory is?

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