Yesterday was a painful one, the first time my depression really inserted itself into this whole cancer situation. I had a restless, sleepless night and after fitfully dozing just before dawn, I woke up in a panic. I felt as if I were in my grave. The stale air conditioned air seemed to suffocate me. Panicked, I begged Mrs P to open the windows. I wanted to hear the birds and smell the earth outside. I wanted to see the sun coming in through the curtains as they billowed, filling the room with the late spring air. I wanted to hear the kids on the way to the bus and the grownups driving off to work. I wanted to be sure I was still alive. She did as I asked, then covered my eyes with a cool cloth and lay beside me till I slept.
Mental illness has been my companion for a long time - maybe all my life. Deep depressions can fall on me without warning. Something in my brain is on a hair trigger, and I never know what it takes to pull it. I have been surprised that the devil has left me alone for so long. It seems like cancer and depression should go hand in hand. Both lead to a longing for any relief, even death. Mercifully, my shadowy friend did not stay long. I don't really have the strength for long visits from anyone these days.
Tonight, I'm listening to the gentle song of the evening birds, so much less busy than their morning cousins. They seem to whistle to themselves as they are tiding up for the night. There is a big storm system to the south, heading for the eastern mountains. No flood warnings in our part of the Bluegrass, only the faint smell of earth and the promise of a cooling weather front bearing rain.
I'm sure it is a cliche to say that the proximity of death heightens one's senses. I do seem to smell more deeply. I hear individual voices among the birds and bugs and critters in my neighborhood. Today, as she changed the dressing on my PEG tube, I gazed at Mrs P, this woman I have loved for almost a quarter of a century. My god, but she is beautiful. In her eyes I saw the compassion and expertise she has developed after years of looking after animals and the people who love them. As she carefully cleaned me and placed the fresh bandage in the morning light, I watched the years melt from her face. The hair was dark again, the skin pale and clear, the lines of worry and laughter and tears faded away and she was the young girl whose devilish smile broke my heart within minutes of meeting her. I never had a chance.
When she had finished, she turned and looked at my moist eyes. She smiled and kissed me. Her face returned to its familiar shape and color. She was not the girl I married, but the woman I have come to love with all my heart. Her hair is not what it once was, but her eyes - Oh those beautiful brown eyes...
Hey where did we go,
Days when the rains came
Down in the hollow,
Playin' a new game,
Laughing and a running hey, hey
Skipping and a jumping
In the misty morning fog with
Our hearts a thumpin' and you
My brown eyed girl,
You my brown eyed girl.
Some things, not even death can change.
If you need me, look in the green grass, behind the stadium...
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