|Silver Lake morning|
We spend a few days this week in LA, house sitting for friends who are vacationing. The relocation gets us away from the desert heat to the more temperate summer weather of the older but trendy neighborhoods near Hollywood. There had been talk of taking in some urban amenities, like a visit to LACMA for a leisurely look at what’s up there these days, or the Getty, where there’s a favorite Van Gogh of irises that just lights up a whole room.
But fatigue had the better of me. I hardly stepped outside the house to take a couple snapshots of it from the street. On Saturday, I was finally able to take a 45-minute walk over to Sunset and back with my wife and the dog. By mid-afternoon I was tired again and napped into the early evening.
One amenity we have enjoyed is the proximity of good food that you can have delivered to the door. Chinese one night and Italian on two others. (If you are ever in Silver Lake, I definitely recommend Tomato Pie on Hyperion for their New York-style pizza and ravioli.) For my wife, the chief cook, that alone has been worth the 2-hour drive into town.
|Desert weather we left behind|
Before that, though, I had some real input for reflection. In the waiting room, another patient introduced himself by saying that he has “beat cancer” three times and regaled me with stories of less than satisfactory care at the VA across town in Westwood. Most striking about him was the complete absence of his left arm, removed during one of those battles with cancer.
I so wanted to ask him how he adapted to the loss of it, but I got called in for my own appointment, and all he was able to tell me about was how it has affected his balance. A fair-skinned man, older than I, with full white beard and white hair, his pants held up by suspenders, he remains in my thoughts, and when I am tempted to fault my left arm for its clumsy unreliability, I won’t forget the dread he voiced over losing the use of his other arm, which would make him dependent on someone else, as he said, to “wipe his ass.”
|Bougainvillea on the roof|
And on the topic of confidence, my wife and I have begun noticing that I’m becoming increasingly dependent on her, in subtle ways not always easy to notice. As a person who has prized his independence, I take this as not a good sign. So I did two confidence builders this week: 1) getting a prescription refilled at a local pharmacy in LA when I found I'd miscounted one bottle of pills before leaving home, and 2) ordering food for delivery on the phone one night.
No biggies, but a step away from the brink. And I am struck by how easily I have allowed lassitude about taking care of simple matters like this to creep over me. I blame having to give up driving a car. I have not understood until now how much of that ability has given me a sense of who and what I am.
I doubt sometimes that this cancer journal is little more than self-indulgent hogging of the spotlight. And I understand at those moments why people diagnosed with a serious illness choose to quietly fade away. There’s a commendable modesty about not using it to grab for attention, manufacturing yet another ego trip the world can well do without.
I remain equally convinced that silence is no good either. Being aware as I wake each morning that I’ve been given yet another day—for some good reason—surely beyond the usual options of either play or work, I often find a reflection of me in the bathroom mirror with an expression that looks like a bemused shrug, and I’m thinking I should know the answer to this. But I don’t.