Pink Thursday

valentine 2

You know the honeymoon’s over when you and your new spouse are watching the weather forecast on television, scratching your heads over a small animated cherub floating above Thursday on the five-day forecast.

“What the hell is that little fairy thing?” Amadeus asked.

“Beats the hell outta me,” I replied, squinting at the screen. During the repeat broadcast, I saw it again, and then it hit me.

“Ooooh….” I said. “I think it’s Cupid. That must be Valentine’s Day.”

Later, Amadeus asked, “Now, what day is Valentine’s Day?” Again, we’d forgotten all about it.

We’re a little discombobulated these days. Amadeus’ back is still messed up, my hormones are swirling and draining away like bath bubbles, and for the past ten days, things around here have been about as romantic as a rerun of “Lost in Space.” It’s just temporary, but it feels weird right now, because we’re normally so happy and huggy, sweet and affectionate. It’s hard to be physical with a man in a back brace, because said man is miserable and his misery is compounded by squishing. I’m a squisher.

We’re also sort of opposed to what we think of as Pink Thursday, a retailer’s holiday if ever there was one. We just believe that every day is an opportunity to show each other our love, demonstrated in gestures of varying sizes and expenditures, depending on our moods, our finances and the situation. I told you about the surprise redecorating project that caused Amadeus’ back outage. If that’s not romance, I don’t know what is.

While writing this, I looked up the history of the holiday, and now I’m feeling a bit moreClint Eastwood Marriage Ceremony Valentine friendly. It was originally intended as a day to honor a badass saint named Valentinus, who was imprisoned for performing secret, forbidden weddings– sort of a Clint Eastwood of marriage officiants, and that’s just cool. Later, during the Middle Ages, the poet Geoffrey Chaucer and his pals took hold of the day and made it into a celebration of love. It’s Geoff we need to thank for the romance of Valentine’s Day–for transforming it from a religious commemoration to a joyous occasion of poetry, flowers and ten-pound boxes of Whitman’s Samplers.

Of course, not everyone was a Chaucer. The average Joe was fairly illiterate, and unable to express love via the written word. In the late 1700’s, companies began printing sentiments on lacy, beribboned heart-shaped cards for men to present to their lady loves. It was sort of a merciful thing, because most of those guys were still probably coming down from Super Bowl Sunday, sluggish from Budweiser and pretzels. 

It wasn’t until the 19th century that Valentine greetings were mass-produced, and the late 20th century before gift-giving became involved, which resulted in the production of some very unfortunate boxer shorts. At some point, it was decided that children be involved, and once a year, students around the globe exchange horrible puns in class (puns which would earn them an “F” if they’d penned them themselves).  Now, every year, on or around February 14th, about a billion pieces of heart-shaped cardboard are purchased. And according to Wikipedia, about 100,000 pounds of Sweethearts, those little pastel conversation confections are made each day for about 50 weeks of the year, and they sell out in six weeks. By my math-impaired calculations, that’s about 5 million pounds of candy hearts per year. They used to bear cute, sassy sayings like, “Cool Cat” and “True Love.” The Necco Company updates them with the times though, and now you’ll find Sweethearts that read, “Sext me,” and “Be my biotch.” 

****

SweetheartsThere’s one Valentine’s Day that I’ll never forget. I was in my early thirties, newly divorced, with two small children to raise. I was burning the candle at both ends, working 50 hours a week managing an optical shop in a Costco-like environment. I had no time for dating, and the loves of my life were both under the age of six.

My birthday had blown by without my mentioning it to anyone. Christmas was a day to get through. Like many single moms, my holidays were focused on the kids–the challenge lay in figuring out financially creative ways to make it a special day for them. There was a lot of vicarious joy in watching their eyes light up when I pulled things off successfully, when I somehow managed to kung-fu my way through the crowds to make sure there was a Cabbage Patch Doll under the tree, or a Nintendo under the TV. On Valentine’s Day, I bought them little boxes of chocolates and small stuffed animals and zipped by my Mom’s place to brighten her day as well. My inbox was usually empty, but I was too busy to care.

That February 14th, I was running my department, pretending that it was any other day, Corny pun Valentines are a grade school tradition.when a HUGE bouquet of flowers arrived at my counter. I can still picture those blooms in my mind–dahlias and roses, Shasta daisies and peonies and sprays of baby’s breath. The card simply said, “Happy Valentine’s Day.” I was trying to imagine who’d sent them, who could have possibly thought of me, when I looked across the aisle and saw the manager of the pizza department grinning at me. I mimed the question, “From you?” He nodded.

“No woman should be without flowers on Valentine’s Day,” he said when I leaped over to hug him.

There was nothing romantic in his gesture–in fact, he was engaged to The Girl of His Dreams at the time, and we’d had many conversations about his plans for their future. He was just a genuinely nice, caring guy. The flowers made me feel so exquisitely a part of the day–a recipient of beauty and kindness during a time when life seemed harsh and I felt about as desirable as steel wool.

I never forgot it. In fact, I’d even told the story to Amadeus somewhere along the way. It was an act of thoughtfulness that meant so much, one of those little moments that to me, make the world so sweet. People who do things like that generally have no idea of the impact of their actions. People like me never forget.

Amadeus and I were at a baseball game a couple of summers ago, when I looked down from our row in the bleachers and saw someone I recognized. “Remember that guy I told you about?” I asked my sweetie. “The pizza guy who sent me the flowers on Valentine’s Day twenty years ago? He’s here.”

Amadeus knows me well. He knew I’d never pay attention to another moment of the game until I’d gone to talk to the guy. I ambled my way down.  His hair was thinner and he now wore glasses. He looked sadder than those retail days; he could have just been tired, or it could have been the natural course that some lives take, the course where youthful optimism is replaced by harsher realities. He sat with another guy, and I wondered if he’d ended up happily ever after with the girl he’d been so infatuated with when we worked under the same roof.

He remembered me pretty quickly. I didn’t want to interrupt his enjoyment of the game, so I kept our reunion short. Through the roar of the crowd he’d told me that he’d gone on to become some sort of financial whiz. There was no mention of a wife or a family, and I didn’t ask. I told him, “It’s just so rare that we have opportunities to let someone know how much their kindness means to us. I’ve never forgotten what you did, and I wanted to thank you again.” He seemed semi-embarrassed, but he was grinning.

I went back to my seat, back to my Happily Ever After Man. Our team won, and sitting up there in the stands with Amadeus was sweeter than those flowers I’d gotten two decades earlier.

The other night, after we’d puzzled over that little wing-flapping Cupid on the weatherman’s diagram, we laughed our heads off. “Oh, how quickly the romance dies,” I said. But we’ve never celebrated Valentine’s Day and I’ve always been perfectly okay with it. Amadeus told me when we met that he wasn’t a fan of the holiday, and his boycott has never bothered me a bit. One of the things I love about being married to a curmudgeon is that his romantic gestures are spontaneous. I’d rather have a new rug on a random Monday than a box  of chocolates bought out of a sense of obligation.

Amadeus said out of the blue last night, “I’m going to tell the guys in the band that we need to cancel practice on Thursday.” Then he said, “I want to take you to Rudy’s for dinner on Valentine’s Day. “ I was floored, but I just said, “That would be really nice.” And it will be.

People who do things like this generally have no idea of the impact of their actions. People like me never forget. I’m in love with Amadeus, back brace and all.

****

Uh ohI’m in so much trouble. My adorable, sweet daughter (the Airman) stopped by last night and brought me a Valentine’s gift, a 225-pound box of Russell Stover candy in a shiny, heart-shaped box.  She had to push it in on a dolly. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but it’s a big-ass box. I threw my arms around her and thanked her, but quite frankly, I’m sitting here across from it right now, and I’m terrified. There are 44 43 42 pieces of chocolate under that lid, and 3080 calories. The accompanying diagram is lying on the table, and I’ve been poring over it, studying it the way an honor student studies for finals. But this is one test I’m going to fail. 44 43 42 41 pieces of chocolate have been whispering to me all morning, and I imagine they’ll continue doing so until they’re gone. Shut up, Butter Cream.

****

I wish you all the happiest Valentine’s Day, and I wish I could share my candy with you. Whether you’re with someone else or on your own, I hope your world is filled with happiness and love. But really, I hope all your days are this way, not just Pink Thursday.

All Through the Summer and Into the Fall

We had a great summer, Amadeus and me. We traveled, we camped, we fished; we had sexy time in an orange tent under the starry sky and shared a cabin in the woods.  We took zillions of photos (maybe a zillion point five) of waterfalls, butterflies, rivers and a whole lot of bikers.  We visited friends and family and shared my motorcycle magazine adventures. Amadeus played music in clubs with his band and at home we made crazy music in the living room.

At the end of August, a little gloom trickled in. Amadeus had to go back to his teaching job. A few days into the school year, his brother died (thankfully, we got to visit him a month-and-a-half before he left the planet). The magazine folded and I lost the most fantastic job I’ve ever had.  A couple of weeks later, I was in the ER with a terrible ache in my gut and a fever. Amadeus read to me from The New Yorker while we waited for test results. The MRI showed a tangerine-sized cyst on one of my ovaries. My tumor markers were elevated. I was sent to a gynecologist, then a gynecological oncologist.

Throughout the summer and into the fall, something began to happen to Amadeus and me. I can’t name it, I can only say that at some point it dawned on each of us that, no matter what we were experiencing—positive, negative or neutral, we just flowed with each other, tuned in at some mighty powerful frequency. We had each other’s back no matter what, and gradually, we became trusting and sure of the other’s place in our hearts.  It all felt (and still feels) as big as the sky and as deep as the Earth and as strong as a hurricane—not a poofy little hurricane either, I’m talking Katrina here.

I couldn’t write about it until now because I wasn’t very familiar with this language—the language of love through action, the language of deep respect and reciprocal caring and admiration. The past didn’t matter—that was just the mode of transportation that got us to where we were now standing. And where we were standing was with each other. I began to realize the depth of my love for him, and how subtly and gently he makes me feel worthy of his. It all hit me like a freight train, but a freight train that ran over me slowly, making sure I really understood what was happening. He is dearer to me than I can express.  Also, when I watch him play upright bass, I want to jump all over him like a kangaroo on a tourist. It’s an aphrodisiac, that instrument.

~~~

The oncologist, before even examining me, said that he recommended a complete hysterectomy.  I tried to bargain for body parts (“Can’t you just take one ovary?”), but he wouldn’t budge. “You’re at the median age for menopause, you aren’t having more children– you don’t need any of it,” he said. I secretly wondered how he’d feel if a doctor told him, “Listen buddy—you’re at the median age for impotency—let’s just cut those balls off. You’re not using ‘em anyway.”

I left feeling terrified. He’d talked about chemo and radiation, and he wanted to do the surgery immediately.  No bikini cut, either—he wants to slice me, belly button to vageena. I pulled into the parking lot of Big Lots and sat there in my car, crying and shaking for a while. Who do you call when you have no idea what you’re calling about? Do you say, “Hi, it’s me. Just wanted to let you know that I could be dying, but it might just be a little lump?” I didn’t want to scare anyone. Finally, I phoned my friend Shanti, and she told me to come right over. She made me lunch and made me laugh, and pointed out that this was probably not as grim as it seemed. I went home feeling much stronger, though the neurotic part of my brain was figuring out which of my kids would get my bicycle and which would get my car.

Holy crispies, it’s been hard to find humor in these events. I feel like a contestant on “Survivor: Loser Island.” I miss the photo sessions and the fascinating biker folk I used to interview.  I can’t yet find a giggle in words like “cyst” and “chemo.”  I’m sure there’s humor somewhere in all of this, but I’m in a comic holding pattern until I get this medical stuff resolved.

Being a confirmed nerd and a research fanatic, after the oncologist visit I went home and pulled out my trusty laptop. I read obsessively about hysterectomies—the pros, the cons, the ins and outs. I took solace in the words of women who reported that having their reproductive organs harvested was the best thing that ever happened to them. I fretted over the stories of women who said it ruined their lives.

I love my ovaries. I adore my uterus. I believe that they’re somehow connected to the same circuit board as my brain. I’m girly and emotional. My hormones help fuel my creativity and my passion for life. That’s part of my belief system anyway.  I know that my body’s in the process of slowing the flow of estrogen, but I want it to ebb away gradually and gracefully. I don’t want some plumber coming in and removing all my pipes, just because I’m clogged.

Some of you reading this have probably had hysterectomies.  Please know that I’m not dissing the procedure. It’s saved many lives, and eased a lot of pain. I’ve talked to many women about all of this and realize that it can be a very positive experience.  But here’s the thing: I’m finally at a point where I love my life. I’m happy with who I am, I love the interactions I have with others, I adore the man I live with and the beautiful nature of our relationship. It’s been a hard fought battle, getting to this place, and (pardon my Swahili) I just don’t want anything to fuck it up. While some women happily go on with their lives, post-hysterectomy, others have had devastating results.  So I’m scared.

I went back to Dr. Oncology, asked more questions, expressed my concerns. We talked, but I never got the feeling that he could hear me. I’m not going to go into the boring details, but what I was aiming for was a kind of partnership, where my doctor would consider my thinking and treat me conservatively. I came away convinced that, no matter what he found, this guy was going to take all my toys.  He went from “cyst” to counseling me on radiation and chemo, and he didn’t even know what was going on inside my belly yet.

One of the difficulties of all of this was being uninsured. It paints you into a corner, limits your options. I was in this hospital’s system, the train was rolling, I was seeing the only gynecological oncologist in the area. And he wasn’t listening.

Poor Amadeus. God, I love him. He’s listened to all of my fears (for weeks) and he understands exactly where I ‘m coming from. He’s worried as hell, but even when I’m at my most distraught, he stays strong and calm, like Gandhi in Levi’s, only taller and with more hair.

“Some women end up incontinent. Will you still love me if I pee my pants?”

“A lot of women gain weight after hysterectomies. Will you still love me if I’m fat?”

“Will you still love me when I’m insane?” I should have said “insaner,” but he knew what I meant.

“You know, this could kill our sex life, or at least change it dramatically.”

This one’s a huge worry. From what I’ve read, if your sex life is a 1 or 2 before surgery, it could actually improve. If your sex life is a 10, the quality might decrease. Not to over share, but we’re solidly in column “B”, and I don’t want to rock that lovely little boat.

He just doesn’t give a shit. He loves me. It kills me how willing he is to stand by me, even though I’m  terrified that I’ll come out of surgery all butch and surly, yearning to drive an all-terrain vehicle and needing a shave.

“Somehow, I just think that you’ll be able to manage this,” he said. “I know you.” If I could sprinkle little sparkly pink hearts around this part of the story, I would.

~~~

I’ve cried a lot lately, mostly out of frustration.  While I know this doctor is probably a helluva surgeon, I just hate his overzealousness. I’ll bet he has a trophy room somewhere in his house, with hundreds of healthy stuffed uteri mounted on the walls.

So I’m back to square one. I can feel this “thing” inside of me, and I don’t know if it’s growing or shrinking or eating my liver. I sweat, I swell, I feel like hell. But the story gets better- I swear it. I’ll tell you about it soon.

~~~

Soon.

Romanticalness. Passionality. Squooziness. This is the language of love, and though I just made those words up, I know you understand their meanings.

And so it was that my beloved Amadeus presented me with a bouquet of lush flowers in a candlelit French restaurant, got down and one knee, and said, “Moonbeam, my darling, will you make me the happiest man on earth, and do me the honour of becoming my wife?”  I put that letter “u” into the word “honor” because it makes it more frenchy and romantical.

Okay- it didn’t happen that way at all. Amadeus is romantic, in a practical sort of way. He’s also been burned to a crisp when it comes to love, which, between you and me, can make a man as wussy as a scrawny kid on a school playground. He’d brought up marriage a few times, then he’d drop the subject. Eventually I said, “Look—things are great as they are. I love us. Let’s just don’t discuss marriage anymore, m’kay?”

We were both skittish, superstitious about making any moves that would change our lovely situation. This thing we had was so special, such a gift, that in a sense marriage seemed appealing– a way to differentiate it from past relationships, to step it up and finally say, “Wow—so you’re the one.” But realistically, we both knew from past experience that marriage can kill a relationship faster than D-Con kills fire ants. It didn’t matter if we tied the knot or not, we were bonded, and it was almost impossible to imagine a future without the other in it. We have an incredible amount of passionality.

So, here’s how it really happened: I was sitting at home with my swelly belly, when I received a text message from my sweetie. And it was then that he wrote eight of the most beautiful  words in the English language: “I think u should b on my insurance.”

And that’s how he proposed. Seriously, isn’t that full of romanticalness? Isn’t it squoozy?

I texted back: “So, you think we should jump the broom?” After all, I’m a romantic too. I think I even added one of those smiley faces.

We talked about it when Amadeus got home from work. Adding me to his health insurance would almost quintuple his premiums, leaving us temporarily impoverished. That mortified us, but the prospect of a second ovarian opinion pleased us.  Surgery without bankruptcy thrilled us. And the idea of marriage made us giddy. We gidded a lot.

 I was in a daze. It’s been twenty years since the demise of my first marriage; there’s been a lot of heartbreak in the interim. My relationship pattern was to fall in love, often with a fellow of dubious intent whose guts my children hated, and when things started going south, I’d run like hell, across state lines if necessary. This time around, the fellow is wonderful. Thick, thin, uterusless or not, he loves me. This time, I want to stay put. It still blows my mind.

 So, a couple of weeks ago, we jumped the broom.  Beforehand, in a top secret pre-wedding ceremony, we sacredly pinky swore that the foundation of our relationship will never change—we’ll still have adventures, we’ll remain best friends, we’ll never take this “thing” we have for granted.  Insecure woman that I am, I wanted reassurance that this had more to do with love than it did with co-pays. Amadeus wrapped his arms around me and said, “Everything we’ve done was leading to marriage anyway.  We’re just speeding up the process.”

It was the quickest quickie wedding in the world. We held our secret for several days beforehand, leaking our plans to just a few close friends and family members. On the way to the ceremony, Amadeus realized that he’d never formally asked for my hand. In the car, all decked out in our wedding finery, headed toward our huge, life-changing event, he asked, “Moonbeam, will you marry me?” It sounded so beautiful that I made him ask me a second time, then accepted his proposal.

My children were there, and so was my granddaughter. Amadeus’ grouchy dad (whom I adore) arrived with his wife, and a few close friends were in attendance. Everyone was beaming, everyone was joyous. Shanti performed the ceremony, which was infused with beauty and meaning, and which I’ll never be able to remember because I was love drunk. We exchanged vows and cheap rings (Amadeus’ actually spins), shared a kiss and it was done. And it’s just beginning.

It still doesn’t seem real. We’ll be talking, and I’ll look over at him and think, “Wow– that’s my husband.” I look at the ring on my finger, and think, “Wow– I’m his wife.”  I imagine the future and try to wrap my mind around the gorgeous fact that I will have the pleasure of his company for what I hope will be at least forty-two years.

Wow– we’re married. 

Last night, around midnight, we kissed and celebrated the fact that I’m now officially insured. Tomorrow, I have an appointment with a new doctor. I’ll keep you posted.

Our wedding was a small, informal affair, attended by only a few close friends and family members.

The Rain! The Ring! The Romance!

davidniblack.comThe wedding was wonderful. It was small and informal, and my friends are so happy and in love. It makes me all lumpy-throated to think about.

Before the ceremony, I spoke to the bride and groom. Apparently, I was much more nervous than they were. “Well, it’s not exactly the first time we’ve done this,” said the groom, referring to their previous, erroneous marriages.

“Yes, but it’s your last,” I said, and he agreed.

This morning, I woke up and said a prayer to Whomever It Is That I Pray To (aka God, aka the Receiver of My Gratitude, aka the Big Kahuna), and asked for things to go well, and for my friends to have a happy life together. There was a torrential rainstorm today, and as we drove to the bride and groom’s house, I asked for God to please stop the downpour long enough to get from the car to the house, and the Lord obliged, which made my hair happy. I am so thankful to  have this clergy certificate. It really seems to be working.

I’d researched vows and decided to adapt (also known as “stealing”) the ones that Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward used. It seemed like good luck, since Mr. and Mrs. Newman were together for over half a century (and made some damn fine movies and delicious salad dressings to boot).  Of course, I sprinkled in some of my own words, but seeing as I’ve only had one, fairly awful marriage, I left the sermonizing to the experts.  I did add this bit of wisdom that I’d found: “Marriage is not only a commitment between lovers; it is also an agreement between two friends.”  To me, that’s what it’s all about. I love the thought of it.

Performing the ceremony was a joy. Imagine sprinkling words of love around friends, and helping to kick-start their new, legal lives together. It made my heart feel fizzy, and it was wonderful to be in a room full of so much happiness.  Seeing their faces, and how in love they are, was magic. And I got to be there– not just as a witness, but as a bona fide knot tie-er.

Afterward, Amadeus and my son played music- heavenly, harmonious jazz standards. It was a day of many firsts– their first time playing together, my first time officiating a wedding, our friends’ first day as husband and wife. Champagne and conversation flowed. I took photos and filled out the marriage certificate and ate a lot of cocktail shrimp, and it all went without a hitch.  Well, except for the whole getting hitched part, in which hitches are probably important.

What a beautiful day.