Archive for the ‘health’ Category

June 20

The treatment has kicked in with a vengeance. I spent most of the last few days sicker than I can ever remember being. If this is how sick you get with a low dose, I’d hate to see how bad a heavy dose would be. The medication that was touted as taking care of this nausea doesn’t work for me. Despite the illness and exhaustion, I’ve kept on painting. Not for hours at a time like before, but for minutes, whatever I can manage. Charlie moved my easel so I can see it from bed. I study my painting for a while and then work for a few minutes. I’m so exhausted, I can’t see straight sometimes, literally. My vision blurs and I know I’ve pushed myself too far; it’s time for a nap. A little sleep and all is right again.

Allie came by, as is pretty much her usual now. I’d been thinking about Mom lately.

“Remember the day Mom died?” I asked her. “You ran off and no one noticed until dark.”

“Everyone was looking for me, but you’re the one who found me.

“Sitting by the gate to the schoolyard.”

“Do you know why I went there?” she asked.

“Not really.”

“I knew you’d find me and bring me home. I knew everything would be fine if we just walked home together. Mom would be in the kitchen again, fixing dinner. Nothing would have happened. You could fix anything.”

“But I couldn’t fix it.”

“I know but you brought me back,” Allie said.

“I wish I could have done more.”

“Without you, I wouldn’t be here now.”

“I’m glad you’re here,” I said, squeezing Allie’s hand.

“Me too.”

“Hey, meet me by the gate.”

Allie turned to look me in the eyes, like she was searching for a truth.

“Always,” she replied.

I’ll always be waiting by the gate. No matter what, we’ll always have each other.


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June 17

Tomorrow is the big day, first day of treatment. I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. I wanted to stay there, hiding, hoping tomorrow wouldn’t come. Then I realized this is my last day of freedom at least for a while. I don’t know how radiation and chemo will affect me. Most people have some form of illness with it. I heard of a few friends of friends who weren’t sick at all and even start feeling better. I’m hoping I’m for the later, but fear the former.

I thought I’d paint the day away. I had pictures taped to the wall of landscapes that looked like they’d come from a French fairy tale. The more I worked, adding more color, the darker the painting became. It began to look like a storm was waiting just on the horizon to take over my painting and my life.

I heard Livia’s voice calling to Logan, she had decided to show off her “grandson” to Louise today.

“It was not funny and your etiquette classes start next week,” Livia called after Logan.

She didn’t sound happy.

“Do you know what your son did?” she asked, pacing in front of my easel.

“No, but I’m sure it was an accident,” I tried soothing.

“Accident? Burping the National Anthem isn’t an accident,” she fumed.

It seems Louise asked him if he played an instrument and right there at the table in the middle of the club, he burped the National Anthem. I wish I could have seen their faces. I told Livia I’d have a talk with him.

But she insisted I didn’t.

She laughed, “He’s a pistol, that one.”

She even commented on my painting, saying, “You’re not half bad. Your paintings I mean, they’re actually quite good and I know art. I have been the chairman of the Arts Committee for more than eight years now.”

I heard Livia talking to Allie in the hall.

“She’s painting. She’s really very good. I should have realized. She has that artist personality. Doesn’t care about her appearance, a kind of obsessed with something else look.”

“I don’t feel like fighting,” I called out after Livia left, “So if you’re here for round two, forget it.”

“I’m not here to fight.”

Allie paused behind the easel.

“She’s right, you know. Did you ever think you were meant to be an artist?”

I lied when I said, “I haven’t thought about it in years.”

I had thought about it, not every day, but periodically I would wonder if I could have been an artist or if I could still be one. After a while of day dreaming, I’d put away the fantasy in regards for reality. Knowing that someday when the time was right, when I had less responsibilities and more time, I’d come back to it again.

“You quit because of me,” Allie replied.

“I quit because of circumstances. You weren’t even out of high school.”

“I made you quit. I practically insisted.”

So Allie felt guilty.

“It was my choice. I made a decision.”

“I couldn’t do anything without you. I should have gone to college alone. I didn’t need you. I’m sorry I took your dream from you,” Allie insisted.

“I didn’t quit because of you. I quit because of me. I was scared and you were an excuse. After Grandma died, I had no one to go back to. I was alone too.”

That was the truth. It wasn’t Bryan’s fault. It wasn’t Allie’s fault. It wasn’t my parents’ fault. Ultimately it was my decision and my fault. I had no one to blame. If it didn’t work out now, it was only my fault. I had taken responsibility for everyone else except myself. I had been avoiding myself out of fear. As long as I never tried, I’d still have the dream. If I failed, then I would have the truth, it was just a silly dream. I might as well be dreaming of winning the lottery. At least with the lottery I’d have a chance. Once I tried and failed, my dream of being an artist would be over.

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June 16

My mother use to take me to a gallery called Olla Podrida. Artists had studios there and the public could watch them working, sculptors carving or casting molds, painters layering paint on canvases, or potters throwing pots from raw clay. As a child, it seemed all types of artists were represented. It made my heart race to watch what I thought of as masters plying their trade. I think my Mom was happiest there among kindred spirits.

Olla Podrida was an old factory in the downtown area that had been renovated with old timbers salvaged from churches and government buildings being torn down in Mexico. The massive timbers supported the high ceilings in a lattice work of beams. I guess we weren’t the only ones tearing down the old to make way for the new. And as fate would have it, Olla Podrida was torn down several years ago to make way for a high rise office building.

Mom once had a painting hang in Olla Podrida. She dressed us all up to go see her painting there in the gallery in the building’s center. It was the only time she and Dad took us all to a gallery together. Afterwards, Dad took us to a Mexican restaurant to celebrate – chips, salsa and enchiladas. Mom was glowing. She had her day. A day she probably thought would never come.

I was more than a little surprised when a table made of thick planks with a finish as dark as espresso was delivered to my house. The note simply read – Made from beams salvaged from Olla Podrida. Bryan

Why was Bryan sending me anything let alone a table made from the old gallery’s timbers? The gallery that meant so much to me and Mom. The gallery that was so tied up with our childhood.

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June 15

When does it happen? When do you close the door you always knew you’d take? You lock it away, so firmly you won’t even allow yourself to remember it’s there. Afraid if you open it again, the memories will be so painful you won’t be able to stand it. So, you’d rather let the truth of who you are remain buried.

I opened the door today. I was back there again in that dark place, between death and nothing, surrounded by darkness. Only this time there wasn’t numbness and shock to carry me through. This time I was overwhelmed with the grief I hadn’t experienced after my parents and my grandmother died, when we were left alone in the world.


Charlie unpacked my easel and I began painting again. I was amazed at how quickly I fell into a pattern of painting and organizing, attempting to bring order to my life, now seemingly filled with uncertainty. My paintings weren’t exactly what I’d hoped for. I found myself drawn to blacks and grays with slashes of angry red. No matter how hard I try each painting echoed a mournful loneliness.

Perhaps I’ve waited too long. Perhaps this is something I can never complete. Perhaps my time has passed.

I was contemplating another painting of depression and anger when Allie came by.

“How are you feeling?” she asked, perhaps for the first time in her life.

“I’m feeling ok, more scared than anything else.”

Honestly, my symptoms had been few which was why’d I let it go for so long.

“Everything’s going to work out fine. I talked to Margo, she said Dr. Goldschmidt’s the best. He’ll handle it. It’s going to be fine.”

“Yea, I know,” I lied, not telling her about my fifty percent chance.

I didn’t want to say it out loud. I didn’t want to have to hear it again. I didn’t want to hear myself argue against my own survival.

“I’ve been thinking about what I’ve done with my life,” I continued.

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve been wondering what might have been, if I’d gone back to art school.”

“What might have been? Why do you care? You have a job your good at, a good kid, a good husband. All that adds up to a good life. You don’t need anything else,” Allie said.

I was amazed. She just didn’t get it. You could have a good life and still not be happy, not be doing what you loved. I’m not sure I could explain it to her.

“I need more, not more really different.”

“Different. What are you talking about?”

“I’ve decided to start painting again.”

“Painting? Why?” she asked.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”

“Since when? You gave that foolishness up years ago and rightfully so. Do you know how ridiculous this is?”

“It’s not ridiculous. I saw Bryan and I realized I might as well be spending my time doing what I love.”

“You saw Bryan? Why? After everything he did to us,” Allie asked.

“I wanted to give him a chance to apologize.”

“And did he? Was he sorry?”

“Not really.”

“He could care less then and he could care less now. Why would you listen to him?” she asked.

“He’s a sculptor.”

“He ruined our lives then and he’ll ruin your life now,” Allie shouted, grabbing her purse.

I wasn’t the only one angry with Bryan.

Was she right? Perhaps it was foolishness to hope that after all these years I could regain some childhood dream. But wasn’t it worth trying?

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June 14

Today I wanted answers. I wanted to know why Bryan left us all those years ago. He didn’t just leave us, why he left us with almost nothing. I was determined to have my answers. I’m just not sure I was ready for what I found.

Charlie gave me Bryan’s address. It turned out to be an old brick warehouse. It must have been built at least eighty years ago. I was surprised to find Bryan working in such a place.

When I opened the door, I stepped into another world. This old factory with ceilings that soared to the heavens and arched windows overlooking a courtyard had been transformed into a sculptor’s paradise. There were tools of all assortments, platforms of wood, ladders, and casts for poring molten metal.

A man with a torch wearing a welder’s mask was perched on the edge of a scaffold, encircling a bronze horse rearing on his hind legs. He moved deftly around the horse ten feet about the floor, flames leapt from his torch.

“Excuse me.”

I tried to attract the man’s attention.

“We don’t give tours,” he yelled, without even pausing.

“I don’t want a tour,” I yelled back.

“My work’s in galleries, if you’re interested there’s one on Cedar.”

“I’m not interested in your work. I’m looking for Bryan Burke.”

“Why?” he continued.

“Is he here?”

“No one sees Bryan unless they talk to me first.”

“I’m his sister.”

The man paused to lift his welders mask. I couldn’t see his face any better, covered in grime and sweat.

“Jo?” a voice from my childhood called.


“I’ll be right down,” he said, removing his ear plugs.

I noticed a sketch taped to the wall of a woman holding a baby in her arms. The same bronze woman I’d seen at the gallery. Bryan was Alexander? The sculptor whose work was so popular?

“What’re you doing here?” he asked, wiping his hands with a rag.

His hair was so thick with plaster; I couldn’t tell if it was still brown or gray. The fine dust had settled into the deep lines on his face. He looked hard and cold like one of his statues.

“I wanted to see you, see how you’re doing?”

Now that the moment had arrived, I didn’t know what to say. I knew I wanted answers, but hadn’t thought of how I’d get them.

“I’m fine,” he said, motioning to the workshop around him. “Living the dream.”

He was living the dream. He was living my dream.

“I’m glad you’re doing well,” I lied.

My brother was the artist. The artist I wanted to be, that I was meant to be.

“What about you? Still painting?”


How did this happen? Bryan was good, but I was more talented. I was the one with the scholarship.

“Any galleries?” he asked.

“No, just a hobby.”


He nodded as if he understood. But how could he? He was the famous artist. I was the one who got a job and took care of our younger sister. I was the one who sacrificed everything when he took what we had and left us alone.

“You’re a sculptor?”

“Yes,” he replied.

After we’d been so close as children, shared secrets, summer adventures, and bedrooms, I never thought there could be awkwardness between us. But there was. All that easy familiarity was gone. We stood staring at each other for a long while, not knowing what to say.

“Well, I’m going to get back to work. It was good seeing you again, Jo.”

He turned his back on me like he did all those years ago. I almost let him walk away again without knowing, but I just couldn’t.

“Why did you force us to sell Grandma’s house?”

“I didn’t force you to do anything,” he laughed. “I took what was mine.”

That’s how he looked at it, like we owed him.

“What was yours? You threw us out on the street and never looked back.”

“You were on full scholarship. You had a dorm room to go back to. Allie could have stayed with friends and then gone to college somewhere or got a job,” he said.

“I had to quit because of you.”

I was yelling for the first time in a long time. I was yelling and it felt good. I wanted to let him know what he’d done to us, to me. How unfair he’d been. How he had changed the entire course of my life. I should have been the one with the workshop and paintings in galleries, not him.

“I didn’t make you quit anything. You were an adult, an adult, Jo. An adult who was and is responsible for her actions,” he yelled back with a violent anger I’d never seen in him, but I was through backing down.

“I had no choice after you took everything we had.”

“You had a choice and you chose to quit and from the looks of it, you’re still choosing to quit.”

“You don’t know anything about me.”

“I know you wouldn’t be here if you had the guts to actually pursue your dream and use your talent.  Don’t come here blaming me. You’re a coward, too afraid to even try,” he said.

“I’m not a coward,” I screamed back.

He didn’t know what courage it took to walk away from everything, to accept total responsibility for a kid when you’re little more than a kid yourself.

He asked what I was expecting from him. I was expecting some kind of explanation that would make sense of everything that happened after Grandma died. I was expecting an apology to squelch the growing anger. I was expecting to find my brother, but left knowing he wasn’t there anymore. I wasn’t expecting to be left with nothing, a hole, doubts. But I couldn’t express all my feelings, so I just left.

Why did I quit school all those years ago? Why did I change my major to business? Was it because Allie really needed me or was I afraid that without anyone to fall back on I couldn’t make it? I knew the road would be hard, maybe too hard. Maybe I thought I didn’t have the talent everyone kept saying I had. I still have my doubts.

It didn’t matter anymore. I have a fifty percent chance that I won’t survive anyway. So what do I have to lose now? I want to be a painter. I’ve always wanted an impractical dream. Why not? Now was the time to forget practical and just live. How did I get so far from that kid who use to wait by the gate, dreaming of tomorrows?

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June 13

I pulled a box down from the top of my closet. I found my birth certificate, yellow with age, two little black foot prints. I found a copy of Logan’s birth certificate, social security card, my will and life insurance policies. All the important stuff, along with birthday cards, childhood drawings and macaroni art. Maybe I should think about keeping my legal papers separate from Logan’s art. After all the art was really important, irreplaceable. It should be in a fire proof box. I could always get copies of legal documents.

I noticed an old Christmas card in the pile, a cheery, red nosed Santa. As an adult I began to think Santa needed a little nip now and then to keep the stress under control. It was a card from Grandma to Bryan on his first Christmas. Mom must have kept it all those years.

I remember when we were kids, one Christmas Bryan and I tried to stay up all night to see Santa. We snuck out of bed and hid under the big, blue sofa. I fell asleep waiting. By the time I woke up, Santa had come and gone. I never knew if Bryan was able to stay awake. Did he discover the secret that night? I don’t know, I might never know. I’ve been thinking a lot about that little boy, the boy I grew up with.

Before Mom got sick, we were inseparable. We spent our days running through the fields together, playing hide and seek, and commanding the seas from our old tree fort. We built our secret fort from odds and ends of left over wood and castaways. One wall was composed almost entirely of old dresser parts.

It was Bryan who made me feel safe during thunderstorms. Was he the one who could make me feel save now? I want so desperately to feel save again.

I haven’t seen him since we sold Grandma’s house. I’d been told that dividing estates always causes some sort of rift, but I didn’t believe it. Grandma’s house hadn’t been worth much to anyone but us. It was built in the thirties, when city codes and inspections must have been lax. Her sewing room and another bathroom had been added in the forties. The whole addition sloped several feet. We were told the bathroom was just sort of hung off of the back, without any foundation. The whole thing seemed to be falling off.

I had wanted, not just wanted, needed to continue living there with Allie. She was still in high school and I was already working full time to support us, going to college at night.

Bryan wasn’t helping us. He started drinking when Mom became ill. By the time Dad died, he was on to stronger drugs. He disappeared after that. We didn’t see him again until Grandma died. He’d sobered up by then. He needed the money. I guess he saw Grandma’s house as his opportunity.

He forced us to sell, even threatened me with attorneys. After he collected his money I never saw him again. I hated him for a long time after that. How could he do that to me? I was only nineteen.

How could he betray us? How could he just not care? I had dreams. If he had stayed and helped out, I could have continued going to art school, become a painter. Who knows I might even have my work in galleries today. Instead I gave up my dreams to take care of Allie.

I wonder if he even knows what he did, what he cost me. Would he even care?

Charlie found his address for me. I’ve just been holding on to it. Perhaps now is the right time to get my answers.

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June 12

I was cleaning out another closet when I found boxes of old clothes, too small for me. I keep thinking I’ll get down to a six again. I haven’t been a six since the eighties, leg warmers and stirrup pants. It’s a shame I was thin when fashion was stupid. I donated them to charity; maybe someone will need a Halloween costume or some rags.

A dusty box on the top shelf had pictures from my childhood. There was Allie staring up at me with red pigtails and a front tooth missing; Bryan in a cowboy hat sitting on top of a pony; and the three of us on Christmas morning.

I flipped through pictures, instead of organizing. It was a good distraction and distractions are what I need most these days. I found a black and white of my father. He was best man at his friend, Chuck’s wedding. I think Chuck was at Dad’s funeral. There were too many strangers to remember.

I came across the only picture I had of Mom, an old picture from when she taught art at the local high school, blue background, white shirt, red hair flung back over her shoulders, and green eyes.

I remember how Dad was after Mom died, like a drowning man. I asked him if I could put a few pictures of her up in my room. He grabbed them from me, hanging onto her images like they were life preservers. I think he knew he was slipping away and was desperate to stay afloat. It was like he hoped her memory could pull him back to the surface. I watched him slipping further under, further away each day, unable to help him, unable to bring him back.

Dad died not long after Mom. He’d been sick, but I hadn’t realized how sick he really was. Perhaps if I had, I could have helped him somehow. One night he didn’t come home. I called Grandma the next morning.

They found him at the cemetery lying on Mom’s grave. He had pneumonia and he died a few days later. It was rumored that someone gave Mom a lethal dose of morphine. Even at the funeral, I heard people talking. It must have been Dad. He was the only one who took care of her. It must have been him. I always wondered if he died from a broken heart or guilt over what he’d done. As a kid, I was angry at him for taking Mom from us. As an adult, I realized it wasn’t as simple as it seemed. Dad would have done anything for her and maybe he did.

When they met, it was love at first sight. Dad seemed to have found what he was looking for when he met Mom. He quit college, gave up a full scholarship and never looked back. He took a job working for her father. Always a loyal employee and devoted husband, both of those seemed out of place these days, old fashioned.

These were the only pictures that had survived the many evictions and moves from when we were in college. I lost so much during those times.

It wasn’t hard to figure out my parents had to get married, if you counted the days between their wedding and my brother’s birth date. Mom had been on her way to New York to become a commercial artist when she was waylaid by my brother. Girls didn’t have babies out of wedlock like they do now. She dutifully married and settled down, having a couple more kids.

When I was a child, she took me to gallery openings and art exhibits. We went to Olla Podrida, her favorite gallery several times a year.

I asked her why her pictures weren’t in the galleries.

“That’s not what Mommies do,” she explained.

Even I knew her art was as good as any in those galleries. I heard other artists urging her to submit her work, but I knew something they didn’t, that’s not what Mommies do.

She never got rid of her easels, always kept painting. Painting pictures for no one. That would never be hung.  I could tell she wanted to do more than teach. She regretted having to throw away the life she wanted.

As a girl, I thought I wasn’t going to let that happen to me. My pictures would hang in galleries. No one was going to stop me. But then I did stop. I accepted the responsibilities life handed me. I couldn’t just abandon Allie. I wasn’t like Bryan.

I did what women of my generation are expected to do get a job to support themselves and their families. Don’t be dependent on anyone else, especially a man. Be responsible for yourself and your family, always doing your duty and ignoring yourself. Am I like my Mother? As much bound by my modern societies’ conventions as she was by hers? What would I have done if the rules hadn’t applied? It’s too late to even consider what if’s now. Nothing could come of that.

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June 11

The last person I was thinking about this morning was Charlie’s mother, Livia. To be honest, we barely knew each other. She was a mover and shaker in town, running much of the political scene both in the university and out. Her husband’s family had a long history at the university. They were founders, deans, and department heads. Her family was long time supporters of the university, the arts and the local political scene. Allie was more likely to run in her social circles than I was. Livia didn’t even know I existed before Charlie and I were engaged. I’d hardly seen her more than six times, including the wedding.

So I don’t think it’s terribly surprising that I told everyone I had cancer – Charlie, Allie, everyone at work, and all my friends, but I forgot to tell Charlie’s mother.

“How do I learn my daughter in law has cancer?” Livia asked, perched on the edge of the sofa, sipping tea.

I didn’t reply. I thought it was more of a rhetorical question. She would tell us anyway so there was no point in guessing.

“Louise from Ladies Guild, that’s how. Louise knew before I did. She insisted on taking over my chairmanship. So I’d have time to help my daughter-in-law.”

“We’re really sorry, Mother. We should have told you,” Charlie replied.

I think he was hoping for a quick exit but he should have known better.

“It wasn’t just any chairmanship. I was chairman of the Arts Committee. Do you know what it took me to get that position? Do you know how many women I’ve had to lie to, persuade and court? I practically had to wrestle it away from old Mrs. Gartner. Now it’s all gone. Louise has had her eyes on the Arts Committee for years. I’ll never get it back.”

I know I should have felt bad for not telling Livia myself, but the idea of being used to stage an uprising to overthrow Livia made me want to laugh. At least cancer could be used for something positive. It also made me certain in my decision to never join the Guild of Backstabbing Biddies, as Charlie called them.

“Livia, I’m sorry we didn’t tell you. I’m still in shock myself,” I said trying to sooth her ruffled feathers.

“What’s done is done,” she sighed. “I must turn my attention to you, of course.”

“We’re fine. Aren’t we Charlie?”

I gave him a swift elbow in the side, just in case there was any doubt.

“Nonsense, there must be something I can do. I’d loan you my housekeeper,” she sniffed, looking around. “But I depend on her too much. I’ll drive you. I’ll be your constant companion through all of this.”

I had just heard my worst nightmare, six weeks of constant and continuous Livia. I pinched Charlie so hard, he could hardly speak.

“Really, we’re fine Mother,” Charlie said, with tears in his eyes. “It means a lot to us that you would even offer, but I think Allie has already volunteered. We couldn’t tell her no now.”

“Yes, yes, of course not.”

Unfortunately for Logan, he picked the wrong time to come romping through the house with his football in arm, fresh from a game with his neighborhood friends.

“The boy, Logan, I’ll take the boy,” Livia said, triumphantly. “Logan dear, I’ll take you to your tennis and golf lessons.”

“I don’t take tennis or golf,” Logan innocently confessed.

Livia was floored. There for a moment, I thought she was speechless, unfortunately she recovered quickly.

“Then we’ll start. Business is won or lost on golf courses and tennis courts, my father use to say. Leave it to me, by summer’s end you’ll be a gentleman ready for society.”

And here I thought business was conducted in boardrooms and on the stock exchange.

It seemed to be settled to everyone satisfaction, though probably not Logan’s. Livia and Logan would spend the summer together, with luncheons at the club, tennis lessons, and golf lessons. I don’t think Logan really knows what he’s in for, but my boy’s tough. It will take more than Livia to turn him into a socialite fit for society.

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June 10

I wasn’t sure how long Margo could keep from telling Allie about my cancer. I wanted to be the one to tell her, but I didn’t want to tell her on the phone. I was starting treatment in a few days. I had to tell her today, no more excuses.

We met at a sushi restaurant near her house, of course. I’m not much of one for raw food. I even like my vegetables cooked until there aren’t any vitamins left. But today it didn’t matter. I picked over fried rice while Allie ate eel and squid wrapped in rice and seaweed paper. Eel and squid, really?

She was telling me about her latest coup at Ladies Guild. Almost every woman in town was involved in some way; I never had the desire to get involved in ladies politics.

“I’m chairing the fund raising committee,” Allie was saying. “I’ve wanted to do an auction for years now, but no one ever listens to me. We always do bake sales and the fall dance. I think we should forget about the little bake sales and hold a dinner and silent auction.”

Allie continued talking nonstop through lunch. I was trying to find the right time and way to tell her. But to be honest, it was easier to let her talk, putting off the inevitable as long as possible.

Finally, the bill was paid and we were gathering our things to leave. I couldn’t put it off any longer.

“I have cancer.”

Allie slumped back in her chair. Her face was motionless, frozen in confused, disbelief.

“You mean they think you have cancer. They don’t actually know yet.”

“I mean the biopsy came back positive. I have cancer.”

She looked at me the way she did the day Mom died. The way you looked at your big sister when she’s failed you, again.

“How long have you known?”

“About a week now.”

“You waited a week to tell me?”

“I couldn’t find the right time.”

“Well that’s just great Jo. I have commitments. I finally get a committee.”

“You’re worried about your committee? I have cancer and that’s what you’re worried about?”

But Allie was already dialing the phone.

“Hello, Louise Honey, bad news,” Allie mewled, “I’m not going to be able to chair the fund raising committee after all. I’m sure. I’m just not going to have the time. Jo has cancer. Yes I know. It was shocking to me too.”

I left Allie giving her big resignation speech.

I thought she’d fall apart, that I’d spend most of my time consoling her, taking care of her. Like I did after our parents died. Part of me wanted her to crumble, to be devastated. Wasn’t I worth a little devastation? I guess Margo was right. She wasn’t that little kid anymore. I’m just not sure I know who she is.

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June 3

I spent the day sorting through the kitchen. I packed up sets of dishes. It’s amazing how many sets you can accumulate over the years. Yellow flowers, solid pink, and a blue lattice pattern I never really liked anyway. I boxed up bowls, saucers and cups. A couple of teapots bought for a party that never happened, all found their way into the donation box.

Sushi plates? Do I really need sushi plates? They’ll go to charity. Someone will find a use for them.

I kept the important things. Grandma’s china from the 40’s, Mom’s stoneware from the 50’s, Charlie’s Grandmother’s fine china, and Portuguese crystal goblets with an intricate floral design. Allie brought them back for me when she was on vacation in Lisbon. She was always traveling to some place exotic and I was always saying maybe next year.

I kept the dishes Mom helped me pick out, a delicate pink floral collection of fine china. She took me to Europe when I was eleven, just the two of us. We brought those dishes back.

I was captivated by Venice. I was going to be a great artist. I was going to paint in a studio overlooking a canal with an orange cat sitting on the windowsill. I don’t know why the orange cat. Cats seemed to be everywhere in Venice and it sounded romantic and a little tortured. The great American artist painting alone with only her cat for company. Now I would add the occasional hunky Italian, but mostly just the cat. How silly childhood dreams are.

Mom and I brought this set of china back with us. I’ve never used them. They’re the “good” china. Why do we wait for the right occasion before we use the things that mean the most to us? Why do we keep those things packed away waiting for the right time? A time that may never come.

I thought I would have plenty of time. That I’d wait until after my son was grown or I retired to start living, but what if that time never comes? What if my right time has already passed? What would I do if I knew I only had a year or two left? I’d certainly use the good china. No one has ever used Mom’s good china. Those plates were made to be used. I think I’ll use them tonight.

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