In the Midst of Having to Deal with All this Post-K Stuff …

Jan 29, 2008 by

Sometime today, I sent out a little “press release” about a photography exhibit opening this Friday. I sent this thing out to an email list I keep of people who have somehow (perhaps inadvertently) rubbed shoulders with me at some point in their lives. I send these things out on occasion whether these people want to hear from me or not. It’s no big deal.

I got this one response, though, that’s been sitting on my shoulder ever since I got it. My friend, Irene, wrote:

“I guess you haven’t had any trouble figuring out what to do since retirement!! I would love to come. I just had chemo again today, so I don’t know how I will be Friday. Please keep me posted, though. I only have one more chemo.”

The thing is, I know Irene is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. I’ve known since she found out about it. But I keep forgetting about it.

I keep forgetting about it because, well, because Irene let’s me forget about it.

I’ve known Irene for more than thirty years. She was a fixture at the agency I went to work for in my callow youth. She was a veteran, a pro. She was one of the people there who took me under their wings and taught me what was what, and who protected me from the kind of crap that could wear me down and turn me into one of those bureaucrats you’re used to running up against in the world of so-called “governmental service”. And I never became one of those.

Irene laughed all the time. She still does. Being Jewish, she always saw herself as the butt of God’s great cosmic practical joke. There was always a cartoon cloud hovering over her shimmery sun-blond hair. No matter. Her glasses had windshield wipers fastened atop their Groucho Marx nose and mustache.

I still lose control every time I remember the time she stood up at her desk in the middle of the common work area to announce, “Um, I think I have to get out of here. My water just broke.” There she stood in a puddle as our office manager rushed over, shouting, “Somebody get her out of here before we get a complaint.”

Her daughter was born later that afternoon. She was back in a few weeks.

I always expect her to be back in a few weeks even though she retired several years before I did, and I seldom see her face to face. In all that time, she’s insisted on keeping me in her life with an occasional email updating me on this or that custard pie being lobbed at her face.

She’ll be alright. She still has those glasses, and she still laughs all the time.

But sometimes … I don’t know … with all this crap we’re all dealing with every day … all the crime, the incompetence and criminality of our leadership [sic], the arrogance of power …

In the midst of all this Post-K crap, there’s my ‘Rene coping with plain old cancer.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to stop, sit down a minute, think about it all, and appreciate that Old Bastard’s punchline.

We’ll none of us manage to dodge that final pie in the face.


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