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´╗┐Title: Through these Eyes - The courageous struggle to find meaning in a life stressed with cancer
Author: Isaacson, Lauren Ann
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Through these Eyes - The courageous struggle to find meaning in a life stressed with cancer" ***

  Last Revised   August 5, 2011

  Through These Eyes

  The courageous struggle to find meaning
  in a life stressed with cancer

  An Autobiography
  by Lauren Ann Isaacson

  Original Hardcover Book: Copyright 1990
  Released into public domain: 2006
  Library of Congress Catalog Card #90 93276
  ISBN 0-9628196-0-3

  This publication is made freely available
  to all on the internet, and on any storage
  of your choice.  You may copy it as often
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  to whomever you wish.

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Chapter 1         Early Years                  1
Chapter 2         My Brothers                 11
Chapter 3         Todd's Illness              16
Chapter 4         Fifth Grade                 19
Chapter 5         Norm / Marriage             24
Chapter 6         Norm / Reflections          28
Chapter 7         Todd / Reflections          31
Chapter 8         Sixth Grade                 33
Chapter 9         Discovery of Tumor          38
Chapter 10        Preparation and Surgery     49
Chapter 11        Diagnosis and Recovery      53
Chapter 12        Chemotherapy                70
Chapter 13        Year at Home and Diary      87
Chapter 14        Summer 1976                111
Chapter 15        Return to School           114
Chapter 16        Divorce                    119
Chapter 17        Ninth Grade                127
Chapter 18        Summer 1977                133
Chapter 19        Tenth Grade                137
Chapter 20        Eleventh Grade             140
Chapter 21        Twelfth Grade              160
Chapter 22        Summer 1980                167

Chapter 23        Black Hawk College         175
   Essays:        Views on Choice            181
                  Views on Awareness         183

Chapter 24        Interlude                  187

Chapter 25        Return of Cancer           195
   Essays:        Suffering                  212
                  Quality in Life            213
                  Bargaining and Prayer      214

Chapter 26        Categories of Acceptance   216
Chapter 27        Frustrations               225
Chapter 28        Christmas 1981             230
Chapter 29        Self Imposed Barriers      232
Chapter 30        Autumn at Augustana        236
Chapter 31        Depression                 243
Chapter 32        Basic Day                  246
Chapter 33        Treatment / Hoax           251
Chapter 34        Journey to Greece          254
Chapter 35        In Limbo                   263
Chapter 36        Reflections                267
Chapter 37        Zenith of Grief            276
Chapter 38        Personal Belief            284
Chapter 39        Reminiscence               286
Chapter 40        God, My View               288
Chapter 41        Continuum                  291

THROUGH THESE EYES, written by Lauren A. Isaacson (10 Dec 1961 -
16 Jul 1986), is rare in several respects.  At the age of twelve,
she was diagnosed as having cancer of the stomach; leiomyosarcoma is
a cancer prevalent in older women.  She was accepted at the Mayo Clinic
for research, and after a five year period was given a clean bill of
health.  During her sixth year following chemotherapy, she was
diagnosed as suffering from the same cancer; it had invaded the liver.

Lauren decided to write her life story.  Her treatment of elementary
school days, junior high, her year of chemo and her home tutor, her
return to ninth grade wearing her wig, the first day she went without
that wig, high school experiences, her modeling contract, the way she
coped with her impending death, the continuing of her college education
until she could no longer physically endure, the trauma of seeing her
32 year old brother die; all relate an aura, a searching for quality
in each given day.

Her thoughts on acceptance, awareness, anger, guilt, her views of an
omnipotent being, God; her ability to write poetry as she viewed and
photographed life around her; the maturity and depth of her writings
bring with them humor as well as pathos.  She was concerned about those
who loved her and those who medically assisted her.  It was her hope
to help others facing adversity, or who have loved ones suffering
the direct trauma.  Her journal was her companion as she coped with life.
It brought her peace and acceptance; she would hope it could
do the same for others.

Much of her manuscript is complete; it was necessary for her to outline
journal entries she wished copied.  I, her mother, have completed those
listings and have related her final two and one half days at Hospice.

Journal entry June 29, 1986...The night is loud with thunder; the
deep, sharp rumbling that shakes the house as if to remind the world
that it is alive.  It is not subtle, but in its brazen clap, I can find
reason to rejoice; I live in the shadows of a wondrous and beautiful
world, yet thunder is one element of nature from which I have not been
excluded, for it penetrates walls.

Lauren's exclusion began after Christmas, 1985.  She was confined to
her hide-a-way in the upstairs of her home until Hospice on 14 of July,
and died 16 July, 1986.

Respectfully submitted,

Muriel K. Isaacson (Mother)

  Dedicated to...

  those who came with culinary delights
  who shared of their time making crafts and visiting
  who brought lovely plants, curios and books
  who shared roses from their garden
  who, through Laurie's five year illness,
  remembered her often with cards
  and gifts of money
  and especially those who lifted her name
  and her family in supportive love
  and prayer.

Journal  Quotes

"Carrying a secret would have been like transporting
a dandelion seed head on a windy day."

"Cancer.  One word, and yet it made such a difference;
it was almost mathematical; just as surely as positive
and negative numbers, multiplied, equaled a negative
response, certainty coupled with uncertainty yielded

"Cancer knew no barrier and bore no prejudice; cancer
took the weak, the strong, the indifferent, the proud,
the cheerful, the embittered; it took all, greedily in
an unquenchable hunger."

"Only acceptance can wash away the flames born of despair."

"The more the mind grows the more humble its 'master'
becomes, for he realizes that knowledge is infinity
and infinity cannot be encapsulated in the human brain."

Excerpt from Diary
June 22, 1984

...In a relationship, truth can often times hurt.  So, I am faced with
the problem of whether to tell the truth or speak nothing.  I would
never choose to jeopardize a relationship, yet if that relationship is
full of deception, or other undesirable attributes, and undiscerned by
the other, is it noble to hold one's peace?  For to bespeak truths
could lead to ruinous separation...yet, a one-sided relationship is of
no account.

If I could but harness the energy begotten of my anger towards
self-obsessive persons, I could heat the house for a month.  Perhaps,
with time, I shall be able to transfer that energy toward the thinking
of constructive thoughts.  Anger cannot be felt without sustaining
internal damage; a raging emotional fire surely must char the mind.



Man's basic instinct is to survive, and despite all the civilizing
and technological factors of the present, that basic instinct has
remained.  Though the improvements rendered on society through
modernization has allowed each individual to live at a more
leisurely pace, those same devices, conveniences and services
have also separated each life from the healing qualities inherent
in a life lived close to nature.

So often I have heard the remark, "Nature is cruel," yet I cannot
regard that statement to be wholly true; nature should not be given
a character which is labeled, at various intervals in time, as
"good" or "bad"; it merely functions to the mutual interactions
of all life.  For life to continue, there must also be death.
Nature is the intricate mechanism behind all living and dying things;
it is reality in its most elemental sense.  Unfortunately, it is
the one reality which modern society has attempted to purge from
all minds, and replace with a perverted idea of life; since it is
nearly impossible for a man to live naturally, society has also
obliterated the idea that one can die naturally, and quietly.

Even though one is facing death, it is yet difficult to relinquish
that instinct, as well as the instinct to escape pain.  One will do
everything in his power to escape a sniper's gun, just as he would
remove his hand from the hot kettle or jump at the prick of a
needle.  It is natural to protect ourselves.  While sightless and
immobile elderly may "want to die," they would never take their life.

In the case of disease and debilitation, a line must be drawn.
When no treatment is available, one must say "enough" and try
to find peace.  Perhaps mercy will one day be a part of medicine.

Death should not be shielded from the young, and borne solely
by the old; when death is faced, one can better learn to live.

Overcoming Disability and Death
The True Hero

Some may argue that the only true heroes confronting a terminal
and/or disabling disease are those who have overpowered that disease.
May I respectfully disagree?

Lauren fought valiantly to retain a best level of health and ability,
in spite of day after day, night after night, of chronic nausea,
sweating, and fatigue.  To give courage to anyone facing chronic
disease, she fought to continue writing, even when physically
and mentally exhausted.  She continued to write, even up to her
very last days of life.  She was, and is, the true hero.

If you have faith in a higher power than either yourself or humanity
in general; and if you have overpowered your disease or disability
by faith, you are to be highly commended.  If, by the grace of that
same power, you have given your best effort, and your disease
or disability either totally destroys your capacity, or demands
your life; you are also deserving of honor.

Even those who found healing through faith in a higher power
eventually met their earthly death; most likely by some disease
that they could not, in spite of their faith, overcome.  And death
is a blessing, a relief from earthly suffering, not a horrid finality.

Faith in a higher power can afford courage in death,
and timeless eternity in love.

Lauren's brother,
Todd Isaacson

Monday,     April  3, 2006
Revised  November 29, 2006

Spanish Letter (from a pen-pal from New Zealand)


Me llamo Dean
Soy de Nueva Zelanda
Tengo 29 anos

Hay cuatro en mi familia, Mis padres, mi hermana y yo.  Mis padres
viven en Auckland, Nueva Zelanda.  Mientras mi hermana vive
en Wigan, Inglaterra con Su familia.

Mi padre Uama Merv. Fune cincuerta y cuatro anos.  Frabaja en La
policia.  Habla Maori y Jngles.  Juega rugby y tenis.  Foca La
guitarra.  Es muy simpatico, generoso, introvetido, sincero y
sentimental.  No es cruel, terrible y impulsivo.  Se gusta viajar con
mi madre.

Mi madre Uana Jan Fiene cincuerta anos.  Habla Jngles, no habla Maori.
No trabaja tambier.  Se gusta nadar y beber.  Es muy simpatico,
generosa, servical, impulsivo y guapa.  No es cruel, introvertido y

Mi hermana Uama Tracy.  Tiene Viente y seis anos.  Tiene un esposo y
dos ninos.  La nina el mayor que la nino.  Habla Italiano y ingles.  No
habla Maori.  Es guapa, simpatica, maravellosa, Trabajadora y
divertida.  No es optimista, terrible, cruel, y aburrida.

Letter as corrected, with gratitude
to Esther Erbele, Waterloo, Iowa,
April 19, 2006.

Please note: Since the English alphabet lacks certain features
commonly used in Spanish, the following words are given below,
with explanation:

llamo - pronounced YAH-mo.

anos - requires a wavy line (tilde) over the n,
     pronounced AHN-yos.

nina - requires a wavy line (tilde) over the second n,
     pronounced NEEN-yah.

nino - requires a wavy line (tilde) over the second n,
     pronounced NEEN-yo.

ninos - requires a wavy line (tilde) over the second n,
     pronounced NEEN-yos.

Ingles - requires an accent mark over the es,
     pronounced een-GLES.

simpatica - requires an accent mark over the at,
     pronounced seem-PAT-ee-kah.

simpatico - requires an accent mark over the at,
     pronounced seem-PAT-ee-ko.

Punctuation: In Spanish, the exclamation point (and the question mark)
appear at the end of the sentence, and "upside down" at the beginning
of the same sentence.


Me llamo Dean
Soy de Nueva Zelanda
Tengo 29 anos

Hay cuatro en mi familia, Mis padres, mi hermana y yo.  Mis padres
viven en Auckland, Nueva Zelanda.  Mientras que mi hermana
vive en Wigan, Inglaterra, con su familia.

Mi padre se llama Merv, tiene cincuenta y cuatro (54) anos.
Trabaja en la policia.  Habla Maori e Ingles.  Juega rugby y tenis.
Toca la guitarra.  Es muy simpatico, generoso, ocupado, sincero
y sentimental. No es cruel, terrible o impulsivo.
Le gusta viajar con mi madre.

Mi madre se llama Jan, tiene cincuenta (50) anos.  Habla Ingles,
no habla Maori.  No trabaja tambien.  Le gusta nadar y beber.
Es muy simpatica, generosa, servicial, impulsivo y guapa.
No es cruel, introvertido o rebelde.

Mi hermana se llama Tracy, tiene viente y seis (26) anos.  Tiene un
esposo y dos ninos.  La nina es mayor, que el nino.  Habla Italiano
e Ingles.  No habla Maori.  Es guapa, simpatica, maravillosa,
trabajadora y divertida.  No es oportunista, terrible, cruel,
o aburrida.

Letter translated by Esther Erbele,
Waterloo, Iowa,  April 19, 2006.


My name is Dean
I'm from New Zealand
I'm 29 years old

There are four (4) in my family, my parents, my sister, and I.
My parents live in Aukland, New Zealand.  Meanwhile, my sister
lives in Wigan (Manchester), England, with her family.

My father named Merv is fifty-four (54) years old.  He works
in the police department.  He speaks Maori and English.
He plays rugby and tennis.  He plays the guitar.  He is agreeable
generous, involved, sincere, and sentimental.  He is not cruel,
terrible, or impulsive.  He likes to travel with my mother.

My mother named Jan is fifty (50) years old.  She speaks English,
does not speak Maori.  She does not work also.  (She is not employed
outside the home.)  She likes to swim and drink (refreshments).
She is agreeable, generous, a helper, impulsive, and good looking.
She is not cruel, introverted, or rebellious.

My sister named Tracy is twenty-six (26) years old.  She has
a husband and two (2) children.  The girl is older than the boy.
(Tracy) speaks Italian and English.  She doesn't speak Maori.
She is good looking, agreeable, marvelous, a good worker,
and enjoys herself.  She is not opportunistic, terrible, cruel,
or boring.

     (Lauren's trip to Mexico is presented on PAGE 160
             Chapter 21   -   Twelfth Grade.)


Chapter 1

Early Years

"Having no definite values, one is nothing, insubstantial
and devoid of character."


Early Years

Long before I entered the world, my family indulged in activities which
germinated lasting memories in their minds, and though I do not
personally recall such events, their existence often touched my life in
some way.  Had my ancestors lived differently over the course of time,
the most insignificant alteration could have impeded my very life.
Such is the delicate thread from which humanity is suspended and on
which we depend to obtain, and retain life.

The two individuals to whom I am inextricably bound, are, of course, my
parents.  Through their childhood reflections, I have been able to meld
history into my being, for their past is part of me.

I always loved older people, especially those who had not allowed
themselves to become embittered by time and the changes it renders upon
all living and inanimate things.  Too often, old age is maligned, as if
it is a communicable disease that, avoided or ignored, will never touch
more than that which it has already claimed.  Reacting thus, an
individual gains nothing and loses the joy begotten of the remembrances
related through wrinkled smiles and twinkling eyes.  Older people have
much to give; love, which like a fine wine, matures and is sweeter with
age; reflections of the past that, unheard, will be buried and
appreciated by no one; and the wisdom and tranquillity of character
that comes with the acceptance of death and the ability to live.

Many times I hear the complaint that an older person is "set in his
ways" and will yield to no fresh mode of thought.  To me, this
indicates that the older individual has an established ethical and
moral code which evolved through a life-long struggle for inner peace.
Predictability, under these conditions, is earned; each of life's
problematic questions had been meticulously solved, carving daily the
beliefs which became the man.  Having no definitive values, one is
nothing, insubstantial and devoid of character.

I cherish my father's childhood memories, and always listen with
fascination when he tells and retells past events.  Through his speech,
I am able to grasp the bygone years and color the family portrait of
which I was never an active part.

My father's father died before I was born and his mother shortly
thereafter.  John Emil and Hilda Isaacson; ancient names, they seemed
to me, yet Dad's memory brought life to their photographs and instilled
in me a wish that I could have known them as had my father.  John Emil
was a character; and insatiable tease who provoked the more serious
Hilda:  he made dandelion wine and tested it so frequently that it was
entirely consumed before attaining an alcohol consistency.
He ice-sailed on the Mississippi, showing little concern for the dangers
of air holes and thin ice while traveling at a high rate of speed.
He had learned to swim by being pushed off a river barge.

Dad never learned to swim, perhaps because he was never given as good
an opportunity as his father.  This served as no impediment to fun,
however.  He was always busy; if he did not have toys, he made them,
setting to work with a natural expertise for the mechanical realm.
From the Buddy L and other junk yards and garbage heaps, he and his
brother salvaged rejected parts and recycled them into usable toys.  He
fashioned bicycles in the same manner; later, parts were gathered....a
scrapped frame, a model T motor from a neighbor, a coupe body from
another area....Bravo!...the finished product...a car!  When the gas
in the tank was low, it was necessary to go backwards up the hill,
allowing gas to flow into the carburetor.

Dad told of dares waged between himself and a neighbor boy wherein each
boy jumped from one large tree to the branches of another tree; he
laughed about the crabapples which he blew sky-high using firecrackers
and a metal pipe.  He recalled holidays, from the Christmas when his
father told the children, "There will be no toys this year because
you'll have a new baby brother," and his accompanying joylessness
toward that news.  Joy returned, however, when he received a wind-up
train and the accompanying round track.  He reminisced about the Easter
egg hunts where the hoard was heaped upon the table, and, under four
watchful sets of eyes, divided by size and color until the remaining
odd number of eggs were given to his mother.  I heard of the one
valentine which he received in second grade that had been used and
reused countless times.  I learned, also, of the severe case of
diphtheria, which at six, nearly claimed his life.  He related actually
seeing fiery flames leaping from his bed sheets while struggling to
overcome his high fever.

About the time that my father had reached ten years of age, my mother
was born in Elgin, Illinois.  I was privileged to interact with my
mother's parents whose heritage was somewhat different from that of my
father.  My grandfather, Leslie Howard Anderson, was a descendant of
Mary Chilton, who crossed the ocean on the Mayflower with her parents
James and Susanna.  She became the wife of John Winslow whose family
came from Dartwich, England.  There follows such historical places as
Plymouth and Bridgewater, Massachusetts; the era of the steamboats and
Mary Chilton's name gracing one of the boats; the name "Howard" down
through the lineage to my uncle, Leslie Howard Anderson, Jr.; the
descendants move from Bridgewater to Detroit, Michigan and on to Dixon,
Illinois; the trek from Illinois in a covered wagon to lay claim to a
quarter of a section in Ole Brul County in South Dakota, and the
stories of homesteading in the little sod house whose walls were
papered with newspaper...all fascinating!

My Grandmother Anna's parents came from Germany to America before they
were ten years of age.  In the 1800's the Kaiser was mobilizing his
forces.  Immigration was popular during this period.  Grandma tells of
fighting with her sister over who was to control (by hand) the dasher
for the wooden washing machine; of hitting a fellow schoolmate over the
head with her lunch pail because of his incessant teasing, of the
shoulder that was a little lower than the other, and how her brothers
would sit in church and keep moving their shoulders up and down to
remind her to hold that shoulder "up" while she led the group in
"Opening Exercises."  Church school was an important part of her life
and she served as a Sunday School teacher well into her 70's.

It would be nothing short of a lie to say that I actually remember my
first years of life, having, as it was, little to do with life's crises
except assuring myself of thoughtless comfort.  I indulged in the selfish
desires that typify the usual child, gleefully absorbed in play until
I discovered that I had soiled my diapers or was shot with a pang
of hunger.

Perhaps it would be accurate to say that my earliest memories were not
truly remembrances at all, but rather, images that were repeatedly
described to me until I finally adopted them for my own.

My earliest actual memories evolve around the age of four years.  By
that time, I was capable of performing many duties for myself, and my
vocabulary was developing rapidly.  I had the ability to form
conceptions of others, and thus relationships began to materialize.
I could now be considered an active family member, for I was no longer
solely dependent upon my parents, or my siblings, to be the mechanism
behind my existence.

I suppose that one might say I was spoiled to the extent that good
loving can spoil a child, although each member of my family agrees that
I was not spoiled in the obnoxious sense of the word.  I was never a
nuisance, either to other children or to adults.  I promptly did what
I was instructed to do; so obedient was I, in fact, that a strong word
or tone of voice had the ability to bring tears to my eyes.  I caused
no trouble, nor did I want any trouble.

I recall an encounter with Great Uncle Gust in which I was bidden to
sit on his lap.  Upon close observation, however, I was appalled to
discover that the elderly gentleman had only four fingers on one of his
large hands.  I shied away from him.  This was a rather traumatic sight
to deal with at that age, for I had only been exposed to the facets of
life which would be classified as "normal."

Despite my timidity toward sharp words and unusual events, I cannot say
this trait carried over into the physical world of scrapes and bruises.
I rarely cried for bodily injury, electing on most occasions to laugh
and exclaim about the stupidity of my lack of coordination.  A case in
point, falling off of Mary's bicycle into her father's bed of roses.
I was willing to testify that rose bushes have plenty of thorns; however,
I felt no use for tears.

A very early and, at the time, quite unpleasant instance would have
to include an ill-fated picnic at a local park.  After having eaten my
fill of grilled pork chops and corn on the cob, I gingerly led the way
down a well-worn trail.  As I descended, I gradually gained momentum,
eventually finding myself duly out of control of my legs.
Consequently, I hurdled over a projecting tree root and landed in a
ditch of broken beer bottles.  I rose in terror, admonishing a true
battle scar on my right hand.

Once at the hospital, a doctor was doing his best to aid my injury.
I considered myself to be in terrific pain, and when he began attempting
to clamp my wound, I felt that he was doing me no service.  Outraged,
I bit the doctor squarely on the arm.  Apparently he didn't relish my
lack of enthusiasm and quickly bit me back.  I was a trifle shocked;
however, I accepted the unspoken truce with no further outbursts.

I was also given to occasional inexplicable fears, such as a fleeting
intolerance for what I considered "fast and dangerous vehicles,"
including sled rides and motoring about in our home-made go-cart,
dubbed "the chug."  My mom would soon tire of my ridiculous reactions
to those things most children would consider fun, and override my
stubborn insecurity by making me ride.  The other kids were right.
It was fun!

More than anything else, I liked to be at home.  I loved to romp
through the woods or busy myself indoors.  Aside from my neighborhood
friends, I seldom sought interaction with others of my age; spending
much of my time with adults or alone.  I was content with my crafts,
swing-set and the like.  This attribute may account, to a degree, for
my shyness and lack of enthusiasm for group activities.  On the whole,
I found it very difficult to speak at gatherings unless a question was
deliberately pointed in my direction.

As do most children, I enjoyed Kindergarten, although I did not mingle
with others during free-time.  I found the various activities to be
interesting and to my liking.  I loved the many art projects, except
those in which we were forced to use messy paste pots.  I detested
sticky fingers, and was shocked to discover that some children liked
paste to such a degree that they would eat it.  I recall stringing
beads to create necklaces through the duration of many play-times;
the teacher would sometimes suggest that I play with the other children,
but that idea I strongly opposed.  I would, on occasion, join the group
at her bidding, but shortly I would excuse myself to once again make
necklaces.  I simply did not relish pandemonium.

Grade school proved to be neither a happy nor unhappy affair.
I considered it an integral part of growing up through which every child
must pass.  I made acquaintances, for I could not truly label these
individuals as friends, so cruel and insensitive they often showed
themselves to be.  Many would mock less fortunate children, reasoning
that their standing amongst their peers would undoubtedly be raised for
their unjust behavior.  Only once did I resort to such base
inclinations for the supposed purpose of gaining popularity, and once
was enough for me.  Coupled with the fact that I was nearly "caught" by
the subject of my ridicule, I despised myself for behaving in such
a lowly manner.  From that day to the present I have kept my comments
hidden, or if I do speak aloud, I am prepared to stand behind my
statements.  I speak only of my distaste for actions which I personally
regard as wrong or spurred through a lack of control; any further
comments are of no consequence unless the subject is able to change
those things about which he is being ridiculed.

Although I excelled academically in school, I was always content when
the time would come to be dismissed.  I liked school only in the sense
that I enjoyed the result of successfully completing my assignments.
I felt a certain compulsion to produce perfection:  I believed that if
I was to engage in an activity at all, I should do my best, or my time
thus engaged would be without worth.

This desire for perfection had a price, however, because certain
activities conflicted with my personality.  Although physical education
was my ultimate terror, the only subject with which I grappled
considerably was mathematics.  After the most elementary techniques of
addition, multiplication, and their counterparts were mastered, I found
myself to be floundering in a sea of the seemingly "unknowable."  I had
extreme difficulty accepting the various theorems and equations without
asking the method behind their stated form.  I was alarmed to deal with
absolutes, finding it hard to believe that any subject was so
unyielding and allowed no room for error, however slight.

In my inability to accept the laws of mathematics "wholesale," I soon
discovered that there were those teachers who disliked students who
failed to grasp their subject matter.  Perhaps they felt that one who
did not understand was undoubtedly inattentive in class and was
therefore undeserving of any further assistance outside of class,
especially when the extra time was the teacher's own.  In many
instances, I would seek the mathematically inclined intelligence of my
cousin, Gary, or attempt to work out my disaster through additional
reading and calculation, rather than face the malignant stare
of an insensitive instructor.

My other enemy throughout school was, as mentioned, physical education.
Although I was not uncoordinated, I was unfamiliar with many of the
sports, and my lack of social aggressiveness affected my performance in
a way which could only be described as unfavorable.  I felt the class
to be senselessly competitive; so concerned were my schoolmates with
winning that to say we were involved in a "game" was totally
incomprehensible.  Except for running, and a somewhat comical aptitude
for standing on my head, I dreaded the activities, and detested any
sport which dealt with balls.  The teachers augmented a student's frail
self-image by allowing individuals to choose their own teams,
resulting, of course, in the less able participants being chosen last.
Once the game began, I felt besieged by paranoia; my blunders were met
by icy glances of derision, despite my desperate attempts to perform in
an admirable fashion.  I soon learned that sports were not games, but
battles in which winning meant everything.  Under such conditions,
I had absolutely no hope or desire to fight.

I have always found it quite interesting that children will attack one
another about many short-comings, but will say nothing of certain other
equally embarrassing occurrences.  My observations include those bodily
accidents which could be avoided, such as dirtying one's pants or
vomiting in the classroom.  One is always amply warned, but sheer
embarrassment often will not allow the child to mention his predicament
before the entire class is visually aware of it.

I once vomited in second grade, too afraid to raise my hand to ask
permission of the substitute teacher to be excused.  I was always wary
of substitutes, and perhaps I also thought that my nausea would
eventually subside if I remained very still.  It did not, and I spewed
gastric liquid all over my book and desk.  I was allowed to go home,
pacified only by the fact that my "boyfriend" happened to be absent
that day.  On my return to school I found that my anxiety was needless,
for no one mentioned my catastrophe of several days earlier.  No one
ever ridiculed another person for those types of accidents.  Perhaps
there exists an unspoken truce amongst children to avoid such
harassment because each child knows that it could have happened to him.

I fostered a slight fear toward substitute teachers throughout grade
school.  They often tended to be rather insecure, a trait which I felt
they were justified in having.  Substitute teachers paralleled chaos;
either the class would be utterly uncontrollable and would be allowed
to do as it pleased or the teacher would be unreasonably strict and
foreboding.  More than the substitutes, I hated when the regular
teacher would return.  Inevitably, he or she would verbally lash the
class, leaving my spirit crushed, albeit the fact that I deserved no
such punishment.  Those who do not need chastisement, and for whom it
was not intended, are always the ones who take it to heart.

Throughout my earlier years, my main playmate was Mary, a girl who
lived several houses up the avenue.  That her age bested mine by four
years did not seem to restrict our friendship in the least; I had a
habit of better enjoying the company of those older than myself,
and obviously this was no exception.

Much of our play involved the riding of our tricycles, which placed us
under the fire of the neighborhood boys, who were sporting bicycles at
considerably younger ages.  We would ride our trikes despite the
ridicule, however, as they afforded a modest degree of mobility and
could also be manipulated to serve as reasonable scooters if one so

One of the boys whose tongue was particularly keen happened to acquire
a bicycle after a mere six years of life.  He would fly past us,
wearing a smile of overt superiority, as we tramped our much slower
vehicles up the avenue.  We bore his stately self-assurance as if it
were an inherent factor of childhood which would one day be
relinquished for a more affable character, as eventually, it was.

We looked on as he joyously raced through the neighborhood amid a cloud
of arrogance; he circled, and returned, then lifted the front wheel off
the pavement a trifle too far, causing an irreversible conjunction with
the unyielding cement.  His back found the street as his bike crashed
to its side nearby.  I believe the entire neighborhood must have heard
his pride dissipating into the humid summer breeze; after that
decidedly rough lesson, he no longer jeered at our mode of

Mary and I rarely played with dolls, although we were both fortunate to
have them.  Playing with dolls, for us, consisted more of dressing our
"Barbies" in their various costumes, and perhaps, dreaming that we
would one day appear as shapely and attractive as they, rather than
actually involving ourselves with dialogue.

We would often gather together an assorted array of trinkets and
gumball machine prizes for the purpose of trading those we no longer
treasured.  Although I admired the appearance of certain "stars," my
devotion was more pretense than real:  I could not love an individual
simply through reading a handful of trivia gathered by prying, assuming
publications.  The inclusion of an idol in one's imaginings could
result in nothing short of disappointment, and is therefore a cruel
waste of time.  Thankfully, I was free of any form of infatuation for
those in the midst of stardom by the time I reached junior high school.

Mary and I shared many entertaining hours, but the most memorable
occasions were those of our overnight slumber parties.  I loved going
to her house, as her parents maintained a different store of food than
did my own.  We would often eat "Wonder Bread" spread with butter,
accompanied quite nicely, we thought, with a bottle of Pepsi. (My mom
always bought the kind of bread that would not stick to the roof of
one's mouth, but, as she put it, "would stick to your ribs!"  Health
bread was not my idea of a good snack.)  As we munched on our favored
snack, our mothers would wince, believing that our combination was food
fit for convicts.  We were undauntedly convinced to think otherwise.
Occasionally, we tossed a frozen pizza into the oven to complete our
late night feast.

During these affairs we would occupy our time in idle conversation,
watch television, or involve ourselves in a singular form of diversion,
paging through the telephone books in search of the city's strangest

When the party was held at my house, the usual schedule was not
complete without my father grabbing our legs and dragging us from the
couch and across the carpet.  Rarely could we walk our arms fast enough
to avoid a slight case of "rug burn."

Instead of bread and pizza we had popcorn and homemade cookies.  As my
mother was never an advocate of carbonated beverages, soda pop was
seldom seen in our refrigerator.  (To this day, she will bristle at the
mention of "cola.")  If we did have pop, it was the less-revered Lady
Lee or Jewel brand.

Mary and I got along quite well, as neither of us possessed any fiery
attributes.  We were both mild mannered and soft-spoken; to my great
relief, she shared my lack of enthusiasm for sports.

I was always amazed at her capacity for food; she ate heartily, yet
remained a mere wisp of a shadow.  Another of her characteristics which
I deemed truly awesome was her ability to sleep undisturbed while her
mother vacuumed around her bed.

It is difficult to venture those attributes which Mary may have
associated with the essence of my character; maybe it was my joke,
instead of tears, after an injury, or the humor which would evoke her
smile and easy laughter.  At any rate, I could have had no finer friend
throughout the initial stages of my life, and although we now are far
apart, and living in our separate worlds, those memories of our
companionship shall persist for all time.

Steve, my other neighborhood buddy, lived next door.  We were much
closer in age than Mary and I, with our birthdays being only six months
apart.  I spent quite a bit of time with him, though more so during the
summer months; we were in separate grades in school and that seemed to
make a slight difference in our friends.  In grade school, more than
any other higher school of education one is more aware of age, somehow
relating that directly to one's social status; in effect, a person of
a higher grade should not be caught dead conversing with his younger
neighborhood friends, at least not at school.

Once apart from our peers, we were the greatest of friends.  We often
sought out windfalls in the woods, which made terrific "camps," or
simply hiked along the creek bed.  Names were bestowed upon various
landmarks according to their appearance; one drop-off was christened
"dead man's bluff" while a small grove of wild chives was called "the
onion field."  There was a seemingly endless amount of diversion in the
woods and we used it to our best advantage.

It was Steve I chose to accompany me on family excursions to parks and
wildlife refuges; he was more game to tromp through the woods than were
many of my companions.

One of the attributes which gave Steve rare character was his flawless
honesty with respect to one's appearance or annoying habits.  He would
as quickly inform a person of a rip in his garment as he would another
who was oblivious of the mucous running from his nose.  If there was
something amiss that by most standards should be set aright, he would
see that it was done.  Through Steve's keen insight and equally sharp
ability to verbalize these faults, I was made aware of the fact that I
walked "pigeon-toed" and soon corrected the matter through close
observation.  Personally, I feel grateful to Steve.  There is no crime
in voicing that which, with time or practice, can be overcome.

Some people who are quick to express the faults of others also lack
all tact and sensitivity.  This was not so with Steve.  In his
perceptiveness, he unquestionably found room for a great amount of
personal concern and interest.  Perhaps the most touching instance in
which I witnessed this demonstration of care was when I was yet quite
young.  We were playing outside on the Tarzan swing in my backyard,
when, without warning, a loud clap of thunder issued forth from the
gray sky.  So completely taken by surprise was I that I began to cry.
It would have been so easy for him to mock my fright, but instead he
jumped up and headed for his house, yelling, "Wait here!"  Several
minutes passed before he returned carrying a banana.  He presented it
to me, saying, "This will cheer you up!"  He was not aware that I truly
disliked bananas, but I was so touched by his show of affection that I
humbly ate the fruit and thanked him for his kindness.  That little
episode of human kindness shall forever remain dear to me.  It also
altered somewhat my view of bananas.

Summer vacation brought almost unbelievable happiness, a magnetic
appeal akin to freedom, for I was generally allowed to spend time as I
wished.  I seldom encountered schoolmates, and if there was a
rendezvous, it was never brought about by my doing.  It was far more
convenient to call upon my two neighborhood friends, or to simply amuse

Summer was not complete bliss, however, for yearly it brought a dreaded
horror to life...camp!  My first encounter following Kindergarten...Day
Camp.  I was terrified upon discovering that I was to exist amid a mob
of virtual barbarians for the better part of each weekday.  This lasted
for but two weeks, yet it seemed an eternity.  Each morning I boarded a
school bus brimming with children to then endure a jostling, thirty
minute ride to the location of the camp itself.  Once there, we were to
join our assigned group and the daily activities would commence.  There
were art projects, games, competition, hikes and swimming lessons.
Many activities would have been quite pleasing had I been in the
company of friends.  However, shyness had no place at camp, and I felt
constantly ill at ease.

An additional undesirable factor possessed the name "Betsy."  In
effect, Betsy was the group bully, resembling, ironically, the
"Peanuts" character "Lucy" in both form and personality.  On one of her
particularly shining moments, she told me and another equally shy girl
that she would make us sleep overnight in the boys' tent on the last
night.  Needless to say, we were scared silly although the threat could
never have materialized.

Another camp, owned and operated by the Girl Scouts, was also a source
of much summertime duress, although I recall very little about this
camp other than the fact that the homeward-bound bus was a welcome

The final camp to which I was sent for a week's time during two
consecutive summers, was a King's Daughters Camp.  I never relished the
idea of rooming with people I did not know, yet here I was obliged to
do so.  Again, the camp was regimented into various activity schedules
to which each camper was to adhere.

I was friendly, but not outgoing and confident, and as time crept by at
a snail's pace, I became more and more hounded by loneliness.  I wrote
my family many postcards lamenting my undesirable situation, but time
thus spent only seemed to make the problem worse.


Chapter 2

My Brothers


My Brothers

My brothers were both considered "good Kids" by societal standards,
being law-abiding, and generally speaking, parent-abiding as well.
However, blood relationships do not guarantee a likeness of character
or form, and so it was with Norm and Todd.  They looked nothing alike,
facially or otherwise.  Norm was muscular, with unstoppable health,
while Todd was taller, thin, and prone to allergies.  Apart from such
obvious dissimilarities their personalities and interests also differed
greatly.  Such differences rarely evoked conflict, though, because they
were on wholly separate planes.  Norm and Todd were not incompatible in
an obnoxious sense; they merely followed their own dreams.  A
coincidence of their respected circles of interest occurred mainly
through their great love--and respect--for nature; thanks to Dad.  They
also shared a consuming interest in the chug and maintenance of the
woodland trails and bridges on which they would ride.  Basically,
though, Norm and Todd were as different as apples and oranges.  My
memories of and love for each of my brothers varied greatly from the
other, and changed with the passage of time, for I, as well as they,
underwent transitional phases.  Thus, as characters were modified and
outlooks were altered, relationships, also, transformed through the

My fondest memories of Todd, who bested Norm by roughly three years,
were those of our early interactions.  Todd had a wonderful ability to
entertain children.  He seemed to sense the exact type of gesture and
manner of conversation which enthralled a young audience, and as a
result, was rarely able to rest once a child noticed this value.  He
possessed an unbelievable attention span and tolerance for a child's
endless and often irrational demands.

I found Todd to be an inexhaustible source of amusement, as he was
quite adept at conjuring up names and personalities for my motley array
of stuffed animals.  He would then provide an endless flow of
nonsensical banter for the animal of my choosing, which delighted and
held captive my attention for countless hours on end.

I had two favorites, the first of which was an alligator; Todd would
shake the green amphibious creature, emit a gravel-throated roar, and
proceed to chase me about the house until I could no longer escape and
irreversibly served as the alligator's dinner.

The second was a beloved bear whose eyes were so asymmetrically adhered
to its face that it appeared to be immersed in a drunken stupor.  Todd
christened the bear "Coors Bear" in reference to the beer of the same
name, and projected its character as that of a bum in desperate need of
another drink.  He would make the bear twitch and shake with obvious
delirium moaning simultaneously, "Whe'm I?....Whe'm I?"  This would
continue unless the bear was administered an ample swig of Coors beer
from a small bottle; the bear was then content to laze back into a
dream-like sleep.

Both of my brothers teased me.  It was the inevitable result of being
the youngest member of the family and, of course, the least educated
and self-sufficient of the entire group.  They were not ruthless in
their teasing; they never insulted my intelligence, only my ignorance,
which was not as serious since ignorance could be reversed in due time.
I felt transparent; they seemed to know what would bother me, from my
petty insecurities to faulty rationalization.

I well remember the family excursions, in which I generally sat in the
back seat between Norm and Todd.  Like clock work, they would serenade
to me in unison, "Souvenir, bathroom, bottle-of-pop" while we drove
past the flat and blistering hot corn fields toward our destination,
claiming that these were my three favorite aspects of the summer
vacation; I would seethe and boil, but could do nothing, as I fully
realized that they were probably right.

They would also grab Coors Bear, and, holding him at an arm's length
out of the window while traveling 70 miles per hour, threaten to throw
him into the fields.  I panicked at the possibility, my eyes fixed on
the battered bear as the wind fiercely buffeted its floppy arms and
legs.  The bear was always hoisted back into the car after an ample
display of hostility from me and never suffered the cruel injustice.
(Coors bear was eventually disposed of in the garbage can, a more
humiliating, but less violent, retirement.)

Norm especially loved to tease and mock my childish idiosyncrasies; he
derived immense satisfaction from quizzing me, and because he used
words which were far beyond my capacity to understand, smiled
uncontrollably at my frustration.  He always called me "illiterate,"
and while I had no conception of the word's meaning, I knew it was
something which I did not want to have as a permanent attribute.

Norm also enjoyed pelting me with the arsenal of pillows which the
basement couch housed.  As he fired away, making direct hits with each
pillow I would gather the pillows and try, in vain, to throw one in his
general vicinity.  I rarely made contact with his body, let alone his
head, as I hurled pillow after pillow at my assailant, only to be
blasted again in rapid succession after he picked up my futile
scattering of pillows from the floor and behind the couch.  Finally, I
would intentionally spill all of the pillows on the floor in front of
me in overt exasperation and yell "The end!"  I wanted no further
conflict.  After several such instances, he decided to mock my ultimate
reaction to bombardments and he himself threw all of the pillows on the
floor with an accompanying, "The end!"  He then looked at me with one
raised eyebrow until he received his reward; a screech of anger.

Other conflicts which evolved in the basement's TV room concerned
the programs themselves.  At 3:30 "Lassie" and "Star Trek" were aired,
creating a daily duel between Norm and me.  Mom settled the argument,
declaring that every other day we would be able to see our preferred
show.  The system worked well, except for the fact that, on the days in
which "Lassie" appeared, Norm would raise his hand in Lassie's dog-like
gesture and emit a mewing howl similar to the one which characterized
the dog.  Liking the show, but rather embarrassed by that fact due
to the show's incredibly rosy view of life, the mimicry bothered me.
Luckily my taste changed and I soon truly preferred "Star Trek" because
of it's science fiction appeal, and thereby eliminated one tender spot
through a transformation on my behalf.

Through my early years of life, my memories of Norm surrounded not so
much the things we did together, but the way in which I saw his
character.  Norm seldom actually played with me; that was more Todd's
arena.  Except when he teased me, I was not conscious of being a child
in Norm's company.  I felt on equal terms with him more than I did with
many other people who constantly maintained a distinction between my
age and their own if only through a somewhat laughable change of pitch
in their voice or a determinedly more animated style of speaking.

I always had a great love for Norm.  He was easy-going and unobtrusive,
and his presence was never unwelcome.  He avoided unpleasant situations
whenever possible and lacked aggression in areas where, for the
generally accepted definition of success, that sometimes obnoxious
trait was necessary.  He rarely sought attention and money was
of little consequence.

Norm valued simplicity and serenity; high-scale achievement was not
among his priorities.  He saw that "success" was a race which never
ended, for another conquerable realm always presented itself.  The race
was everywhere; whether it was the attainment of placing oneself on the
honor roll in school, or gaining promotions at work, or prestige and
popularity in social circles.  People allowed headaches to germinate in
their minds simply because the thought of tasting success dominated
their values.  Why was "good" never "good enough?"

Norm was a virtual dynamo with regard to accomplishing a task.  It had
to go fast or Norm's patience would dissipate into the air.  Whether it
was a chore around the house or a dose of homework, he persevered until
his work was finished and then retired to the front steps to sit.
A job's completion did not always signify a flawless result, however.
For instance, compared to Todd's smooth, taut version, Norm's bed was a
haven for lumps, with the pillow stashed hurriedly beneath the twisted
and rumpled spread.  In school, Norm was a solid B student.  He did not
strive for his grades because perfection, to him, held no rewards.
Norm did his work rapidly and fostered no hideous nightmares about
tests.  A slightly above average mark did not obliterate his happiness.

When under the employ of a firm, Norm was trustworthy and
conscientious.  Whether delivering newspapers or landscaping a yard,
he made certain that the job was done well, from his punctual arrival
through the day's end.  Doing an honest day's work was less complicated
than expending energy to connive a way out of it;  he knew that he
earned his pay and never had to look over his shoulder in apprehension
when the boss strode by.

Norm did not worry about being good enough.  He was confident and proud
of who he was and what he wanted in life.  Average grades or average
jobs did not signify average intelligence and he felt no need
to apologize for his position in terms of societal importance.
It was a refreshing outlook which suited him perfectly.

Norm was very athletic; one could tell by the way he walked.  Sports
were a source of entertainment, and he succeeded in almost everything
he tried.  Only two aspects of his personality stood in the way of his
being selected as "team material" for many sports.  First, he felt that
a game was a game; although he did his best, he could not take a game
as seriously as did many of the others who became enraged by losing.
He wanted it to be fun, and competition was fun only as long as the
game remained free of hostilities.  Secondly, he disliked sports
demanding body contact; he was conscious of his own space and avoided
being touched.  Norm despised wrestling, but since it was required in
physical education, he handled his distaste by promptly pinning his
partner and thereby ending the match.  Taking notice of his ability,
the teacher eagerly teamed him up with the heaviest, sweatiest guys
in the class.  Sickened by their stench and glassy-eyed fervor, Norm
determined to purposely shorten the match; he allowed himself
to be pinned.

The sport which fit Norm's ideal was baseball and he served as pitcher
for various teams.  I recall hazy images of his ball games, especially
those during which Mom and I crouched on the bleachers beneath
a newspaper to ward off the rain, while she proudly feasted her eyes on
the pitcher's mound with an inaudible, "that's MY boy" inscribed on her
face.  Dad's employment kept him from attending some of the games,
but Mom always went, a fan until Norm lost his attraction for the game.
Mom savors the memory of Norm being chosen to pitch yearly
for the All-Star games.

Todd never went to Norm's games.  He didn't have much interest in
sports.  It's difficult to know whether or not being good at something
makes you like it.  I happen to know that liking something does not
make you good at it, for I love to bowl, but once bowled a
16--amazing by anyone's standards.  (I was in high school at the
time.)  At any rate, Todd preferred to forego physical activity
of the competitive nature, electing instead to pursue his penchant
for gadgetry, electronics and in general, anything that would spin
or balance.  When drying the dishes he was not content to simply lay
a lid on the table; he first had to give it a hearty whirl on its rim,
whereupon the kitchen would ring with a wavering "wong, wong, wong"
until the swiftly fluttering lid collapsed onto the table with a final,
resolute, "wop."  Mom forbid such treatment of glassware and china, of
course, or undoubtedly many items would have sustained irreversible

In effect, Todd was the mad scientist of the family, having to take
mechanical objects apart to view and study their internal workings,
and obtaining chemicals for his experiments which ate holes through his
bedspread.  He had infinite patience and stuck to an idea until it
worked, even if it took all night.  Todd was a licensed ham radio
operator and collected all the necessary equipment to seek and find
countless stations as well as other operators.  Much of his spare time
was spent behind the "rig," although he found equal enjoyment in
playing with or annoying the huge spiders in our garage.  It was Todd
who tried to power his bicycle with an electric motor, and gathered
scum and algae from the ponds to gaze upon through his microscope.
He was also the only person in the family who could start a particularly
cantankerous lawn mower.

Todd loved the extraordinary and took time to notice the small things.
One night, he took a walk down in the woods and found some fungi which
glowed in a luminous shade of green.  He returned to the house to
report the strange phenomenon and together we threaded our way back
down the dark trail to the uncanny sight.  Sure enough, delicate points
of light embellished the damp, rotting logs on the woodland floor,
transforming decay into a hauntingly magical scene.

With all of his patience in creative and mechanical fields of interest,
one might have thought Todd was unruffled and carefree.  Despite his
slow and deliberate reasoning, however, his demeanor could rapidly
transform into reckless belligerence if tormented.  While Norm hurried
through his homework to pursue more pleasing objectives, Todd sat
behind his books in angry defiance, as if the homework which he
declared "unreasonable busy work" would somehow shrink before his
abomination.  As the night peeled away, he wasted in vengeance hours
which might have been spent behind his radio.  Though he was an
achiever, he wanted to go about it in his own way.

Graduating from high school in the 60's greatly affected Todd's outlook
and he adopted the prevalent anti-establishmentarianism attitudes with
intense vigor.  He also embraced the ecology movement as a worthy cause
and between the two modes of thought, plus the fact that he had
attained the classic age of rebellion, nurtured a rigid hatred of cars
which, eventually, blossomed into anything but a delicate flower.
Fuming internally about the inherent necessity for cars, despite their
polluting effects on our society, Todd would actually vent his disgust
upon the automobiles themselves (which produced simultaneous
protectiveness and anger from Dad, who was uncertain of the safety of
his car in Todd's hands).  Ironically Norm bought a car which Todd
sometimes used that was incredibly pollutive, yet Todd would angrily
flop into the car and rumble out of the driveway, its muffler belching
a toxic cloud of gray carbon into the air that followed him
up the street as he drove to his ecology meetings.

Sometimes I felt as if Todd was like a spring aching to be sprung.
In driving, it was obvious that Todd released frustrations behind
the wheel.  This trait, however, was not directly related to his
anti-establishment/pro-ecology stance; other pressures, whether
conscious or unconscious, were to blame for that.  Moreover, Mom
recalls that as a youngster Todd would ride his tricycle precariously
down the hill behind our house, balancing on two wheels and cackling
with enjoyment throughout the wild trip.  Despite his history, one
generally persisted to assume that Norm, sports-oriented and having
little patience for the fine-honed arts, would have been the terror in
the driver's seat.  The fact was, however, that Todd was the reckless
one, using cars in a hard, decisive way which demanded their utmost
performance.  I might add that his safety depended on such performance,
for if brakes failed, or mechanical workings malfunctioned, results
could have been disastrous.  The rampaging tornado, however, was never
involved in "the big crash" and continues to parallel park vehicles
with one, exacting maneuver (a feat which, in my eyes, demonstrates
brilliant skill).  Perhaps I worried too much.  Perhaps I still do.


Chapter 3

Todd's Illness

"Pain or no pain, I did not wish to go through life with my eyes closed
to hardship, for only pure ignorance was bliss."


Todd's Illness

An individual often lives many years before his memories include any
aspects of life other than those which have directly affected his own.
My awareness of others improved remarkably in grade school, although it
had not reached an acceptable level.  I remembered the hurts and
injustices of those around me, yet the memories of my pain still
over-shadowed and dominated those which I viewed in other lives.

Within the home, I knew very little of the harshness of life.  No
serious injury had befallen me either physically or emotionally and I
had every reason to be happy.  It seemed that a protective shell
surrounded my world, through which no discontentment could pierce.

I missed Todd when he left home to attend the university; phone calls
bridged the miles to a certain extent, but within these I sensed a
melancholic note which bespoke loneliness and homesickness and
involuntary tears would cascade down my cheeks as I hung up the phone.
Letters, however, had a way of concealing emotion better than
conversation, and the proclamation "I'm fine" was easier to believe in
the written form.  It was obvious to me that Todd's cheerful remarks
were sometimes the work of mechanical, socially expected responses, but
I had no idea that they had eventually grown into outright lies with
regard to his health.

A visit to the university clinic provided sufficient evidence to
support the fact that Todd was a very ill student and he was told to
return home for more adequate testing in a hospital situation.  Relying
on valium to ease and relax his malfunctioning system, he took a bus
from the university, insisting to Mom and Dad that he would be all
right.  During the several hours which spanned his two bus connections,
he stretched out in a vacant lot to rest, as the terminal itself
frowned on "loiterers" and therefore had no benches of adequate
proportions for Todd's needs.  When Mom was told the above incident,
she immediately envisioned tall grass, dandelion heads and broken
whiskey bottles, which might not have been far from the mark, and
exclaimed "But you could've been arrested...or...mugged!"  Todd,
indeed, had true grit.

After approximately three weeks in the hospital, Todd's health
returned.  A hypothesis was drawn in which nephritis, a kidney ailment,
and rheumatic fever were determined as the culprits behind his problem,
and drugs were administered which appeared to relieve his symptoms.
During this time, Mom was taking final exams and Norm was graduating
from high school, which altogether spelled chaos for the family.  At
eight, however, I did not gather the magnitude of worry which encircled
Todd since I was rather unexposed to his sickness.  I was too young to
visit him at the hospital and life, for me, went on fairly well.

That winter the doctor decided to take Todd off the steroid.  If his
kidney could function normally, it would be better to avoid extensive
use of the drug.  Once he returned to school, it soon became evident
that his health, again, was on the decline.  My parents picked him up
at the university, and he came home so weak that he rested on the main
floor instead of in his usual upstairs room.  The doctor was alerted
concerning his condition, but a decision was made for Todd to remain at
home through the weekend.  However, Todd's state grew increasingly
worse, and the doctor was phoned in desperation whereupon he
immediately made plans for Todd to journey to the Mayo Clinic in
Minnesota.  The drive lasted an exhausting eight hours, but it saved
Todd's life.

In a matter of several hours, the test results had been analyzed and a
name was given to Todd's symptoms which could widen the most apathetic
eyes:  Wegener's Granulomatosis.  Simply stated, Todd's disease was one
in which his own immune system radically over-reacted and actually
became allergic to, and would have killed, himself.  Due to acute
kidney failure, his body had neared its saturation point regarding its
tolerance of impurities, beyond which no endurance could have impeded
death.  If not for prednisone and Imuran his survival would have been

As near as he came to death, I remembered nothing of his stay at the
public hospital or the weekend during which his life slowly dwindled
before our eyes.  Perhaps it was a lack of awareness on my part
combined with a degree of exclusion, due to my young age, from the
facts and seriousness of the affair that I suffered from such a dearth
of recollection; at any rate, my consciousness was jarred into reality
only after Todd had reached Mayo Clinic and a noon-hour phone call from
Dad to my mom caused me to comprehend the grave plight in which my
brother was stranded.  As Mom hung up the phone, I gasped, "Todd's not
going to die, is he?"  This, finally, was reality; among the dish of
peaches, carton of milk and loaf of bread that decorated the kitchen
table, it stuck in my throat like peanut butter.

I never forgot that lunch, nor the ignorant bliss which departed when
reality caught up with me.  A selfish person suffers insignificant
wounds, for his shallow love is generated only toward himself; however,
when one is able to extend his love and concern beyond himself, the
pain is much deeper.  I learned that the world did not revolve around
me; I controlled nothing.  Just as I had been virtually oblivious to my
brother's failing health, so was the world oblivious to me.  Life
became larger than it had been as my eyes gradually opened, widening
the scope through which I gained my image of existence.  Pain or no
pain, I did not wish to go through life with my eyes closed to
hardship, for only pure ignorance was bliss.  It seemed that change was
the only certainty in life.  If I could instill that thought in my
mind, growing up would prove to be less of a battle.

Todd recovered slowly and after regaining his strength returned to the
university at the beginning of the next semester.  Complications caused
by ill health no longer wreaked havoc upon his plans, and under the
protective wing of medication he successfully completed his education
without further set-backs.

The following summer, Todd traveled to Mayo Clinic once again for
restorative surgery on his nose.  His illness caused the cartilage
to dissolve completely, making a noticeable recess.  The surgery
was the last of the weightier consequences of Todd's disease though,
it too, possessed few endearing qualities.

Todd would never be free of the drugs, for they alone allowed him
to survive.  It did not appear that my brother's life would ever again
be "normal," but that, I later found, depended on one's definition
of the word.


Chapter 4

Fifth Grade

"To maintain a friendship, one must have unrelenting endurance, yet
should never need the companionship of another so desperately as to
justify the acceptance of a flagrantly inconsistent personality."


Fifth Grade

During the latter half of fifth grade, I decided to keep a diary.
Entries were, at best, sparse and infrequent throughout the school
year.  Upon the arrival of summer, they subsided altogether.  While the
entries persisted, however, the content consisted merely of the days
events, amassed in broken sentences and one word implications.  I also
made certain that major events did not pass without notice.

Jan. 19, 1973... Gerbil's tail fell off today.  He was going out on the
carpet and so I grabbed onto his tail.  Guess what?  This much (one
inch) of his tail fell off.  It's in a bag.

Yes, I even saved the tail.

Jan. 20, 1973... Made a bet with Dad about snow.  Church, Rainy, wet
day outside.  Popcorn at night.  2 bottles of pop.  Got the hiccups.
Played with gerbil.

I was painfully concise.

Mar. 13, 1973... I stayed home and am sick.  I barfed in the sink and
then watched T.V.

My diary also reminded me of the double standard that exists between
parents and their children.  Many battles ensue due to the fact that
parents can do that which a child is not permitted to do; initially,
this would include such privileges as touching objects in stores and
staying up after 10:00 p.m.  Arguments increase as the child seeks
maturity.  My exposure to the double standard involved not so much the
things I could not do, but rather, the things which Mom had never done,
yet forced me to do.  Admittedly, I would never have ventured from the
house had it not been for Mom's insistent prodding, for I liked it
there.  Through her dictation, I attended swimming lessons, piano
lessons, and Girl Scouts.  By this age, I liked swimming a great deal,
and it was no longer a source of resentment.  Piano lessons required
that I practice a half-hour each day; after walking stiff-legged to the
piano and playing several notes, I relaxed my limbs and, on good days,
tried to conceal my musical enjoyment from Mom.  Girl Scouts, however,
was a continual menace.  Through my affiliation with the organization,
I had to wear an ill-fitting green dress to school on the day of the
meeting.  Each year I bore the humiliation of refusal which came with
selling Girl Scout cookies.  On one of our field trips to a local
beauty school, I was placed under the hair drier (which was on "high")
and promptly forgotten.

It was no surprise, then, that when the Girl Scouts offered roller
skating lessons, Mom applauded the idea.  I cringed, knowing that a
protest would have been futile despite her history of roller-rink
nervousness.  (Her arms hurt from thrashing.)  At any rate, the lessons
began and I learned that I was not meant to travel on wheels.  It was
completely different from ice skating.  Being confined to the rink
created the probability of multiple pile-ups.  Already feeling
hopelessly out of control, I was horrified at the thought of turning by
lifting one skate over the other; skating was hard enough with both
skates planted on the floor.  Stopping consisted of rolling around in
circles until I lost momentum, or slammed into a wall.  Performing
figure eights and skating backward were feats which bordered suicidal

After the lessons ceased, I was quite relieved and, for the most part,
as much an amateur at roller skating as I had been at the beginning.
However, I had relinquished the wall for the rubber "brakes" and no
longer became traumatized when the announcement to "change directions"
resounded through the skating rink.  I had not failed utterly and

Popularity is, indeed, a curiosity.  I noted that the means toward
popularity changed in various age groups and social situations.  For
instance, during the initial years of grade school, one could attain a
certain degree of popularity through excelling academically.  Since I
was naturally an achiever, I received a fair amount of friendly
attention through these years.  With my fellow achievers I competed for
the high score which would bring exaltation and admiration from one's
peers and teachers, and had little difficulty holding my position as
undefinably determined by the class.

As years passed, the more outgoing personalities reached the pillar of
esteem and without trauma, I settled back into a station more agreeable
with my character.  If I was not asked to a party or special event, I
felt undeniably relieved; I then would not be obliged to listen to the
inevitable cutting gossip which always seemed to accompany closed
parties and the like.  In a sense, I could have been described as
"everybody's friend and mediator," as I never chose to involve myself
on any particular side of a dispute, especially when the two sides
seemed equally at fault.  When two friends were not on speaking terms
they would both speak to me; I took care to avoid asserting my views,
electing instead to mechanically nod my head in silence.

Aside from Mary and a handful of others, I believe that I enjoyed the
company of boys over girls, possibly because their personality was more
consistent.  In most cases, a friend on Monday would still be a friend
on Tuesday.  Moreover, boys liked tromping through the woods and were
usually not squeamish; I had little tolerance for those who panicked at
the sight of an insect.  (I feared only spiders, for they had a nasty
habit of biting me at night while sleeping.)  I enjoyed their coarser
sense of humor (after all, gas is funny)!  I also had a high regard for
bravery in the face of bodily injury; chronic whiners and screamers won
no points with me.

Although the rowdiness of certain boys initially caused a degree of
alarm, I was soon able to relax and enjoy the companionship afforded
by their more self-assured personalities.  The boys which I encountered
seemed more eager to accept people, whereas girls were prone toward
competition with their own sex and, consequently, more apt to foster
petty jealousies and complaints.  Moreover, because of their inability
to inflict any serious injury other than the emotional type, many girls
gained mastery over painfully judgmental tongues and appeared to relish
the mental pandemonium to which one was subjected upon the most trivial

To maintain a friendship, one must have unrelenting endurance, yet
should never need the companionship of another so desperately as to
justify the acceptance of a flagrantly inconsistent personality.  If
one is unwilling to firmly entrench his feelings toward another, the
resulting friendship is grossly mismatched.

I quickly grew weary of "friends" who would, for no better reason than
the excitement begotten of such behavior, decide to ostracize one
member of the "group" for an undetermined length of time, during which
the hapless individual would endure a prickly barrier of silence,
piqued by icy stares and inaudible gossip.  Some of the victims would
beg or cry to be forgiven for the guiltless crime that evoked the
group's sudden disfavor.  Generally, I was completely baffled and
rather amused when the disfavor fell upon me, and, knowing that nothing
would hasten my reacceptance into the group, would calmly go about my
business until they decided that I once again merited good treatment.

One of the most revolting instances that I remember pertaining to the
above dissertation was eating at a "friend's" house for lunch.  Because
my mom was working, she thought it would be more to my liking if I
would spend lunch hour at the house of a friend or neighbor.  A fee was
established for this service, yet I was rallied around the area,
eventually finding myself at the house of a schoolmate.  She usually
was one of my school chums, so I rather looked forward to our sharing
this additional time together; how wrong my assumptions proved to be!

Soon after I began eating lunch at her house, she somehow decided to
hold me in ill regard.  She refused to speak to me at the table, and
gained the further assistance of her older brother to make my stay
twice as uncomfortable.  The only conversation I was able to gather was
that of her amiable mother, and I was only too glad to know that she
understood the hatefulness of my situation.  Although I ignored their
stupidity as best I could, lunch was not a thing which I looked forward
to under those conditions and I once again changed my noontime regimen
so as to facilitate a better appetite.  No longer having to share her
mother on a daily basis, she soon restored her "friendship."

If one can ignore such treatment, the wrath is more rapidly abandoned.
Affairs such as these reflect badly on their initiators; it is sad that
pointless wars must be waged to win friendship, but perhaps these are
an intrinsic facet of early relationships for certain individuals.
Personally, if I have to alienate a friend to insure that he would be
loyal to me, I would rather bury my head in the sand.

Grade school was the place wherein I experienced my first taste of
romance.  My initial spark was in second grade; although the boy and I
were so shy that we were not on speaking terms, the flame kindled for
many months, during which time we would smile at each other sheepishly
and flush with embarrassment when, in gym class, we were square dance
partners and momentarily held hands.  Our romance was sporadic through
the years, but its peak was reached in fifth grade.  By that time, we
actually conversed and spent time in each other's company, which
greatly aided our relationship.  Soon it became apparent to both of us
that our interest had progressed beyond the platonic level.

Jan. 10, 1973... Went to school.  Made lunch for myself.  Went skating
with B.  Had a lot of fun skating.  Played "go fetch" with ice.

Feb. 15, 1973... After Valentine's Day...B. gave me a really funny
valentine (A drawing of a heart).

Mar. 14, 1973... B. brought me a 5-pack (of) bubble gum from T.D. who
is leaving school and going to Tenn.  I'm still sick.

Mar. 30, 1973... After supper I went outside and played a kick-ball game
with S. and B.  B gave me a real pretty rock (quartz).  Then B. and I
played a game and we talked a little until 7:30.  (I like B.)

April 10, 1973... School...I had practice for the style show.  B. came
and watched me!

The climax of our romantic fling was during a field trip to the local
arsenal.  Our class boarded a school bus, and side by side, B. and I rode
to the site of the old artilleries, very much aware of the other and
bashfully enamored.  We were also somewhat nervous for it had been
rumored that B. was going to give me a ring.

Upon our arrival at the Arsenal, we all piled out onto the neatly
clipped government lawns and prepared for our tour.  The afternoon
progressed rapidly, and B. and I were continually surrounded by a mass
of fellow classmates throughout our surveyance of guns, cannons, and
assorted weapons.  I saw no ring, and felt somewhat relieved, being a
private person who disliked drawing attention to myself, especially
when that attention included my boyfriend.

As the tour drew to a close, we were shown the final points of
interest.  One was a large tank which each student either climbed upon
or gawked at disinterestedly, as per his or her general emotion toward
army equipment.  I remained on the ground, gazing at the tank as B.
scrambled to the top with some other children.  suddenly, B. drew THE
RING out of a pocket, and, not knowing how to present it, threw it to
me from his battle station.  I caught the ring and flushed with
embarrassment.  The rest of the day became a blur.  B. also seemed
uncertain of the next course of action.  I do not even know whether I
rode next to my boyfriend on the return trip.

To be truthful, the rest of the school year was another blur following
THE RING, and although we liked each other, we seldom spoke at school
any more.  Sheer embarrassment, I fear, finally killed our romance;
happily we remained friends, however, and never entertained bitterness
toward each other.  Ours had been an innocent, uncomplicated
infatuation, evolving in part from a mutually compatible sense of humor
which caused our eyes to glisten.  We never kissed, and only held hands
during school functions in which it was necessary.  Neither of us
possessed lofty expectations for the other to fulfill, and therefore
enjoyed each other's company when we shared activities together.

From this early point in life, I saw that friendships were more stable
than romantic inclinations, and therefore worth much more.  To this
day, when B. and I meet, we still share a glimmer and a smile.


Chapter 5

Norm / Marriage

."..religion amplified the significance of marriage, entrenching the
ceremony itself into the hearts and minds of society..."



As the years aged to decades, college became the educational
replacement for high school.  My dad attended, and graduated from high
school in an era when, in some areas, relatively few accomplished that
feat, and fewer still furthered their academic standing by enrolling in
a college.  Mom, born ten years later, was able to earn a teaching
certificate after two years of college.  By the time my parents married
and raised their children, college had evolved into a common
aspiration, and both Sharon and Todd took full advantage of their
educational opportunities, each earning their Bachelor Degree and
excelling in their respective fields of study.

College had almost become a given, especially with the advent of the
less expensive community colleges which boasted low tuition and the
option to eat and sleep at home.  Unless one obtained a good job,
college seemed to be the national answer for the unmarried and
unemployed, as well as the aspiring professionals.  It was just the
thing to do, and, in certain cases, this was unfortunate; in
commonality, education lost its honor and significance.

The adverse affect which seemed to encroach upon some college
graduates, who, feeling educated and superior, were still unable to
"adequately employ" their mighty selves (and later collapsed into a
pool of confusion) did not touch Norm.  Well tuned to his inner needs,
he excused himself from the collegiate race hours short of attaining a
two year degree.  Mom was discouraged, of course, but Norm stood fast
to his decision, since graduation required that he take speech.  He was
phobic in group situations despite his outer appearance of self-assured
collectiveness, and he, with reason, feared that in such a class he
would meet his demise.  Moreover, he had no intention of acquiring a
"career"; he wanted to find employment with relatively little tension
after which he could return home and, suffering no mental fatigue or
emotional anguish, settle into an easy chair and persue a philosophy
book or take a carefree evening ride on his motorcycle.

Since Norm had funded his entire college education, no obligation had
been left unfulfilled and he was free to seek his dreams.  I knew he
didn't care about owning a fabulous car; he had too much fun with the
various junkers that he managed to fish out of the used car lots.  I
will never forget the time that he and several other guys rocked the
Rambler until it stood on its side; impervious to further damage than
that which its previous owners had provoked, the car was finally
righted, seeming no worse for the affair.

Other than finding a job, I was not certain of the type of ambitions
that Norm possessed.  He had always been rather quiet, given to
infrequent bursts of conversation between lapses of brooding silence,
but now, his silence sometimes masked turbid emotions.  Whereas Todd
had openly rebelled and demonstrated his conflicting views with society
and the reigning generation of "elders," Norm fumed within, concealing
gaps of understanding and petty annoyances with a disconcerting
unwillingness to speak.  He spent more and more time alone, and if his
space was disturbed, he often quit the room for other surroundings.
This latter incident was most notable upon the arrival of one of our
parents; I, as well as they, sensed his intolerance for their presence,
and although it was unpleasant for everyone, such injury seemed to
coexist with the search for freedom and independence in youth.
Personally, I could do nothing but cringe, for even within such silent
battles, emotional bruises were in great supply.

Because of their changes toward self-sufficiency, young adults become
progressively more difficult for their parents.  I say this because it
is at this time in a young person's life that he tests and selects
those morals by which he shall live, choosing, bending or sometimes
brutalizing the ideals which his parents had feverishly sought to
instill into, and hopefully command his life.  It is extremely
difficult for parents who witness a seeming metamorphosis in the child
they helped to create; astonishingly radical modes of thought practiced
by their "child" can be a devastating blow.  While certain
"demonstrations of individuality" will subside with age, it is
important that parents not blame themselves for faults within their
children.  A good, solid foundation is all that parents are expected to
give to their off-spring; beyond the foundation, growth must be left to
the child, for although he may have been erected to maturity under the
utmost guidance and love, the child remains an individual, a human with
a unique mind.

When Norm began dating a woman who worked at the shop, it evoked a
natural aura of curiosity.  He had never before dated, and we at home
were surprised and pleased that he had taken interest in someone;
indeed, such was his interest that he soon was absent from the house on
a daily basis.  Mom made several invitations to Norm for the purpose of
meeting his girl, but none were accepted, so the suggestions fell to a
minimum and subsided altogether.  It was never Mom's habit to pry,
thinking that such behavior would only serve as a constraining

Moreover, Norm was legally an adult and had a right to his privacy.
Months elapsed yet we were not introduced to the mysterious girl who
had stolen Norm's penchant for solitude.  "Maybe Norm's
embarrassed...or embarrassed of her," I deducted.  I began to wonder if
she was fat, envisioning a rotund but jovial cherry who worked
diligently on a drill press, her body a package of perpetual motion
when she laughed or descended a flight of stairs.  "That's unfair," I
thought to myself, chastising both my ignorance and presuppositions.

The family's internal relations sank lower, although no outright war
existed.  Norm continued to see his girl, now referred to as "Tracy,"
while Mom and Dad continued to wonder and worry as each date seemed to
end at a later hour.  I merely continued to go to school and do my
chores on Saturday.  As I dusted Norm's room, I noticed greeting cards
which he had received from Tracy, the softly romantic kind that I
dreamed over at the drug store.  Love, Tracy...her signature was a
hurried scrawl, the letters a combination of vertical lines and rigid
points.  I picked up each card and dusted the dresser, carefully
replacing them in their orderly march across the old piece of
furniture.  A spare pair of Norm's glasses rested on the vanity.  I
took off my glasses and placed his on my face.  Pulling aside the
curtain, I gazed at the woods below, blinking to counteract the
strength of his glasses, I could see like an eagle!  Norm's eyes were
still worse than mine, but mine were going fast.  With each child,
eyesight grew progressively poorer in our family.  I knew I was doomed.
Distraught, I took off the glasses and moved to the other side of the
vanity.  A furry ball wearing a horned helmet and brandishing a wooden
club met my eyes, and I picked up the Nordic figure with a smile.  I
figured that it was a gift from Tracy but I asked Norm anyway.
"Yeh...," he admitted with a grin.  "She likes to think of me as a

Upon the celebration of Norm's birthday he received a beautifully
tailored shirt from Tracy.  She was a gifted seamstress, fitting shirts
to Norm's muscular frame in a way that could not be equalled.  Such
specialization and effort made me certain that she wanted to snare Norm.

Aside from occasional, subtle teasing, I did not burden Norm with a
parcel of inquiries.  If the relationship was as "serious" (or,
"sincere," a word which I prefer) as it seemed, Tracy would soon have
to make an appearance.  So it was that one evening, when Mom happened
to be gone, Norm brought Tracy to meet us.  She was thin,
well-proportioned and attractive, and quite unlike my mental
meanderings.  Her personality was pleasantly outgoing, yet not
overbearing.  I liked her immediately; she made a good "first

Mom finally met Tracy during a family rendezvous at my sister's home.
We no longer had to subsist upon fragments of unsubstantial
suppositions; Tracy was a person, not a figment of one's imagination.
The introduction helped to mask the tensions within our home, yet
something remained amiss which corroded the trust between my parents
and Norm.  He battled for freedom; as is often the case, however, the
conflicts were internal, waged between who he was and who he wanted to
be in an uncertain world.

After months of unanswered questions, Mom went upstairs with some of
Norm's clean clothes and, pulling open a drawer, found it entirely
stripped of its former contents.  She pulled open another...and
another...they, too, were empty.  Mom now faced an even greater
question.  Norm had moved out with no warning while the three of us
were absent from the house.  He was gone.  But where? And why?

That evening, Norm came back to the house to reveal his intentions, and
to give Mom and Dad a formal explanation regarding his sudden move.
His appearance alone served to quickly escalate the conversation toward
a destination which was beyond my realm of involvement, so I turned to
one of the far corners of the kitchen where my gerbil cage was situated
and stared unseeingly at my pet while listening intently to the
scenario unfolding behind me.

Norm stated that he had moved in with Tracy.  "You kids got married
then!"  Mom exclaimed, moving closer as if to embrace her son.  A
quiet, no frills wedding would have been characteristic of Norm.
"No...," he replied.  A silence followed his statement, as if each
person was attempting to understand the conversation which was
unfolding and see beyond the misconceptions that had obscured the truth.

"You mean you're just going to live with each other?"  Mom asked.
"Didn't our marriage and family mean anything to you?"  She was aghast,
tearful, frustrated.

Norm appeared awestruck by the magnanimous fervor he had evoked.  He
had not thought that marriage could have meant so much to my parents.
"You have made a beautiful home!" Norm exclaimed, "But it just can't be
for me."

Questions flurried about the room like a mid-summer blizzard; upset
parents, I learned, excelled in the art of interrogation.  Mom's voice
had transformed into a slightly nasal, high-pitched whine which
characterized both disapproval and sickness of heart, while Dad's
speech quickened into abrupt, angry darts which leapt through the air
and stung their recipient.  To each question, Norm bowed his head a bit
lower.  "If she loves you, she'd marry you."

"It just can't be for me."  It was all he could say.  He loved Tracy,
and wanted to spend his life with her; love of the heart should require
no legal document to assure its sincerity.  He could not understand the
importance of marriage.

Norm's was an idealistic view of human love.  Society, however, having
judged man's ineptitude in the areas of honesty and integrity, found
that unceremonious love was not, generally speaking, taken as seriously
as love proclaimed before an audience in the form of predetermined
vows.  In certain circles, religion amplified the significance of
marriage, entrenching the ceremony itself into the hearts and minds of
society...and to my parents; moreover, it was tradition.  To them, love
alone was not enough to justify a man and a woman living together as
one unit; Norm's proposition was a revolt against their values.

An ultimatum surfaced after all of the questions had spilled from my
parent's minds:  Norm would no longer be welcome in the home unless he
married.  Tears welled up in Norm's eyes  and he began to sob; Mom and
Norm held each other in a long, emotional embrace.  So much depended on
the future; a hug was all that they had.  Until then, I had been eyeing
the gerbil cage feverishly as the discussion raged behind me.  Norm had
under-estimated mom and dad and their inflexible scale of values, but
even I could not swallow such a voluminous consequence of
co-habitation.  How could marriage be so important that one would no
longer consider his son a person because he desired to live unwed with
his beloved?  Did not love matter more than all else?

Apparently it did not.  I could listen to no more if I had to assume
that I was going to lose my brother.  I choked upon a mountainous wave
of hysteria, and with tears blinding my vision, went wailing out of the
kitchen into the sheltering darkness of my own room.  I felt like a
fool, flying from the argument in such an undignified manner.  "Now
look what you've done," said Dad, seeing my agitated state of mind.  It
was not Norm's fault, however; I knew, and Norm knew; my distress was
related only to the thought of losing Norm forever; it was like a
planned death.  I could not handle such a loss.

"I'll drive you to Tracy's apartment...you can get your things and come
back here," Dad offered.  It was a final plea, an attempt to make
amends before the damage was done.

Norm shook his head.  "I'm sorry...I can't."  Not after all that had
been said.  He was trembling; like an injured animal, he wanted only to
run and hide from further hurt.  Mom knew he couldn't return that
night, but as the door closed and her son disappeared into the dark
abyss, she prayed that he would change his mind.


Chapter 6

Norm / Reflections


."..I had been transported across 2000 miles...Memories and heartaches,
however, came along for the ride."



It seemed impossible to think that I may never see Norm again.  I
thought about the kite that we bought at a grocery store and flew in
the spring gusts until it was a mere speck in the blue sky.  I
remembered our discussion about the importance of seat belts, after
which a love-smitten, one-armed Don Juan nearly forced us off the road.
I thought about the many times he pitched to me, saying, "Keep your
eye on the ball!," and how we rumbled up the street to K Mart on
low-budget shopping sprees.  I did not have Tracy's address, so letters
would be a pointless effort.  My mind began to create images,
concocting chance encounters and elaborate dialogues.  I pictured his
tall form striding from a store into the sun-bathed parking lot; I
would run to him despite the protests of my parents.  The image would
dissolve and another would take its place.  This time, I saw him while
I was alone;  I was able to obtain his phone number and address, and
planned to keep in touch.  Again the fantasy would fade.  I wondered
fearfully whether the years would so change his facial appearance that
I would fail to recognize him.  Nothing and no one in life was immune
to change; features, health, relationships...everything could bloom or
wither in an instant.

Many thoughts flooded my mind during the next week.  I considered my
parents and their steadfast values, and understood their torment.
Their son was about to embark on a lifestyle which they viewed as
morally wrong.  After 20 years of guidance, Norm's action was
translated as an injustice done to them.  Often I heard my dad describe
an incident, remarking, "If the kid really loved his parents, he
wouldn't have done (it) out of respect for them."

I had been raised under the same school of thought, and, until my views
had been tested, my stance on various issues usually echoed those of my
parents.  Following the incident with my brother, however, I could no
longer believe that cohabitation without marriage was so wrong that the
act should tempt a parent to disown his son, especially if the two
cohabitants loved each other.  Had Norm been a promiscuous lout who
flitted from one woman to the next merely for the purpose of filling
his primal needs, I would have agreed that his irresponsibility
demanded punitive action.

As I reflected over my silent disagreements, I wondered why Norm and
Tracy couldn't get married.  If their life was to be shared, why didn't
they just marry to please society?  Sure, the legality may only have
been a grand joke to Tracy, but if it saved certain relationships, was
it not worth the trouble?  Moreover, Norm had always avoided involving
himself in a scene which would direct undue attention.  I found the
current circumstances rather odd and out of character, for "shacking
up" was a relatively new phenomenon to strike the midwest.  I had no
answers, and my questions had no ear to rest upon.  It was best not to
dwell on that which I could not hope to change.

After a week of emotional survival, I boarded a jet bound for
California.  With all my expenses paid, I was to spend several weeks at
the Santa Monica home of my aunt and uncle.  Never having flown, I was
excited when the journey commenced and the jet tore a path into the
hazy summer sky.  I found flying to be a delightful affair, especially
during the circulation of complimentary pop and peanuts.  Silvery
mounds of cloud formations glistened against the sun's blinding light.
Across the blanket of white, another jet raced toward a secret
destination.  Corn and wheat fields made a quilted pattern of the
landscape.  Rectangular fields slowly gave in to circular ones as the
jet scorched westward; irrigation.  The Rocky Mountains pierced a
jagged line through low-flying clouds that skirted each side of the
airliner, and the fertile land disappeared where the soaring mountains
grew from the earth.  The jet flew past that which nature took
centuries to create as if it was insignificant and worth little more
than a fleeting glimpse.  The mountains were now behind us.  As I
peered out of the tiny window, the land became increasingly arid and
fewer roads disrupted the sea of creeping grass and sage brush.

As we began our descent, I felt my ears clog in rebellion to the slight
change in air pressure.  Swallowing and trying to induce yawns, I
cleared my ears continuously until the jet was hanging lazily above
city streets and buildings.  Not until the aircraft touched down on the
runway was I aware of the speed at which the jet was moving; the grass
was at first a green blur against outstretched silver wings, and we
rushed on as if powered by an unstoppable force.  Then I perceived that
the forward thrust was steadily reined until the huge jet slowly
strolled along the landing strip and taxied toward the Los Angeles
terminal.  Within the passage of hours I had been transported across
2000 miles; it certainly did not take a long time to leave a place.
Memories and heartaches, however, came along for the ride.

This was my vacation, and I tried to avoid thinking about that which
had transpired the week earlier.  While my aunt and uncle showed me the
sights in their part of California, my parents decided to take a
vacation of their own.  They, too learned that miles did not alleviate
worry.  Worry cannot be left at home.  It is weightless baggage that
one is obliged to carry.

After several days of eventful tours, relaxing on my aunt's patio
swing, and tempting their aged and extremely bored cat into playing
with a ball of yarn, I received a phone call from my mom.  They had
returned from their small trip and found a note from Norm saying that
he and Tracy were married.  I was ecstatic.  My fears had never

I hung up the phone, feeling that I had been revitalized by a flood of
happiness.  It now was possible to truly enjoy the remainder of my stay
in California.  I determined that I would attempt to find gifts to give
Norm and Tracy for the purpose of demonstrating my affection; and a
"wedding gift" seemed rather inappropriate under the circumstances.
After a joyous day in Disneyland, where I rode countless rides and was
seemingly transported into a magical world, I finally purchased two
items, a hand-carved wooden box for Tracy and a back-scratcher for my
brother.  My treasures were placed in a sack and I clung to them
excitedly.  No longer helpless and unable to express my love, I felt
like a child who had just recovered a favorite belonging from the "lost
and found."  Disneyland shined that night, and the parade of lights
glistened on Main Street with a star-like fire.  No fantasy could
compare with a dream that came true.

The summer had ended well.  I reveled in the hours spent with Norm and
his wife; it was easy to be with them, for their life appeared low-key
and free of pretense.  As we discovered many common interests, Tracy
became the sister that Sharon was unable to be, living 80 miles
distant.  Toward Norm also, I developed a greater understanding, and a
deep, yet unspoken bond formed between us; we discovered that we were
quite alike, thinking in the same manner and sharing the same type of


Chapter 7

Todd / Reflections



Todd resided in Chicago after graduating from college, and my parents
and I occasionally drove up to visit him.  He always planned a gala
affair, often treating us to a splendid play among an array of other
suggestions.  Upon our arrival, hugs and kisses were widely
distributed; I would run to Todd, whereupon he would grasp me under the
armpits and lift me sky-high, wailing in his "Aunt Minerva" voice,
"It's been so LONG since I've SEEN you!"  This traditional welcome
became increasingly difficult to manage as I grew in stature and, of
course, gained the accompanying weight, and was thus allowed to die a
dignified death.

When we were not touring the city's delights, I entertained myself by
arranging Todd's personal effects.  The apartment which I most clearly
recall boasted a crude built-in bookcase.  I loved to flit back and
forth between the many compartments and lend a sense of order and style
to the pandemonious wall.  There were always a few things of which I
had no idea concerning their use; these were generally odds and ends,
factory rejects, a handful of D cell batteries, and, I must not forget
several large and curious aluminum containers.  I would neatly line up
the small items on the shelves and place the nameless metal containers
on the floor in a line.  The latter objects were for experiments.
Having completed my task, I would stare silently at the line of silver
pots, shrug my shoulders and turn my attentions elsewhere.

The sleeping arrangement was simple.  Age and respect dictated that my
parents sleep on the beds.  Since I was a guest, Todd determined that I
should sleep on the couch.  My brother was left with the remaining
alternative, which was an inflatable air mattress and a sleeping bag.

The nights brought out humor which came from bizarre circumstances.
Several hours after lying down, Todd's air mattress had deflated to the
point of nonexistence and, bone meeting floor, he had no choice but to
inflate the mattress once again.  Slow expirations, sounding akin to a
distant steam engine, would resound into the night.  Mom, understanding
what had happened, listened to the steady, "Puff...puff...puff..." and
would have laughed had it not been for the fact that she pitied Todd
and did not wish to waken my dad or myself.

At exactly 4:00 a.m., the church, standing directly beside Todd's
apartment building, would begin a horrid serenade in chimes.
Approximately every other note was sour, yet the noise continued until
the tune was completed.  Todd explained that the person who set the
clock mistook the four o'clock a.m. setting for the afternoon
setting...hence the "ungodly" serenade.

A final recollection regarding the overnight occurrences in Todd's
apartment is, admittedly, rather hazy.  Having a preoccupation with the
shelves by day, it was no shock to find myself sleep walking to them in
the middle of the night, searching for my pillow.  My walk might not
have been discovered by Todd or remembered by me had it not been for
the row of metal canisters which flanked the base of the shelves, for
in my futile search (my pillow had never strayed from the couch), I
bumped my foot into one of the pots, which gonged loudly against a
second and third to create a symphony of echoes.  Flustered by the rude
interruption, I nearly woke, and can recall my brother's sleepy, "Is
there something wrong?" to which I mumbled an explanation of my hunt.

The next morning I looked suspiciously at the shelves and was haunted
by a memory for which I could not account and therefore inquired of the
night's events, asking if I had walked in my sleep.  "Oh, yeh..., I
couldn't figure out what you were doing!"  Todd said.

I reflected over my strange habit and wondered whether I had walked
elsewhere on different occasions, and because I encountered no one, did
not remember or was not informed.  It was slightly disconcerting yet
immensely humorous; I only hoped that I would never take a walk which
lead me out of a building, because I remembered the tale of a young man
who, while sleeping, took out the garbage cans and then completed his
slumber on the grass beside the curb.  It was a humbling thought, for
although a sleeping individual cannot be responsible for what he says
or does, one's lack of consciousness will not guard the individual from
accompanying embarrassment.

Certain aspects of my brother's personality had changed, while others
had remained original and quite intact.  When the time had come for us
to leave Chicago, Todd's apartment was cleaner and his billfold was
decidedly thinner.  Although Todd no longer cared about the neatness of
his living quarters, which plainly stated that his orderliness at home
was merely a function performed to placate Mom's desires, he maintained
his suicidal generosity with horrifying steadfastness.  My brother had
also changed from his too-trusting self to a more realistic and
perhaps, cynical person.  Losing a coat and bicycle at the university,
followed by distributor caps and gasoline in Chicago, had a way of
opening ... or, at least, readjusting ... one's vision of the world.
It was not an ideal place, and idealistic views were hastily smashed to
oblivion.  I saw, too, that he possessed a definite need to exist on
his own; more than a door to freedom.  Todd's separation from family
seemed to be a requirement for personal satisfaction and future
happiness.  He had to affirm himself by living alone, and having no one
near to depend upon through the rough spots.

Despite Todd's need to acquire self-sufficiency, homesickness was
difficult to avoid, and his eyes mirrored pure emotion as we drove
away.  The image of home was, at once, pleasant and unkind, for
although memories could quiet the noise of the city, their unattainable
substance created a barrier between the present and his need to build
happiness from aspects thereof.  Sometimes it was easier to bury the
past and all which related to it.  Todd seldom came home any more.


Chapter 8

Sixth Grade

"Friendships are realistic interactions of individuals rather than acts
performed to satisfy the specific requirements of a group."


Sixth Grade

Upon reaching sixth grade, I did not feel that I had risen to the
infamous "big cheese" status that I had supposedly earned for
successfully passing through the curriculum and harassment of the older
kids, nor did I foster any ill regard for those who were younger than
myself.  I was essentially the person who I had always been, with the
exception that I was a year older and somewhat wiser through my
experiences and observations.

Although I had become slightly more confident, I knew that it did not
pay to feel superior, for someone always had the immense enjoyment of
smashing the misinformed individual down to size.  Whereas superiority
was a false assumption, confidence developed upon a somewhat humble
realization of one's mastery over life's trials.

Rarely were there situations for which kindness was unfit.  It was not
my nature nor my ambition to be mean to people who were younger or less
fortunate than I; moreover, I remembered the instances wherein I had
been subjected to cruelty simply because I was too small to fight back.
Never would I forget the nasty sixth grader whose ultimate pleasure
came by way of bullying younger students; having a keen sense of
hearing and disliking noise of any kind, my entire composure was
shattered when he blasted in my ears at the top of his lungs.
Completely unnerved, I can recall cupping my hands around my red knit
hat and running toward home as the cold wind nipped and stung my
tear-filled eyes.  Such alarming treatment filled me with terror; I was
worried that my fear alone would tempt the bully to commit further
torment.  The instance also made me despise the boy; his unfair
treatment did not serve to heighten his image in my eyes.  Abuse did
not merit respect; however, it swept the disillusionment from my mind
regarding the idolization of an individual for his age or his
popularity, for too often an individual was placed on a pedestal, only
to evoke disappointment.  Smiles and genuine kindness won infinitely
more respect.

Few grade school students possessed the maturity to develop and
maintain a true friendship.  Many were too concerned about pleasing the
popular crowd to reserve definite bonds for another individual,
because, if the popular crowd was mad at someone, most of the others
desired the same opportunity.

I learned about the existence of false friends, individuals who
virtually ignored the less popular students until three days prior to a
test.  This type of person would then take pains to be sweet and gush
with special affections, adding to his repertoire a request for one's
notes or the answers to certain homework assignments.  Disliking a
farce, I always refused, whereupon I would be incinerated, reduced to
ashes by the fire in the individuals eyes.  The flame-thrower did not
burn me, however; as he'd never liked me anyway, I suffered no loss.

I discovered, also, the distastefulness of playing the "second fiddle."
Having my pride, I did not accept after-thought invitations unless I
felt that my time would be enjoyably spent.  One girl who was
particularly noted for her "use" of others would often call as a last
resort; a mannerless individual, she made the mistake of rambling off
the names of her refusals when asking another person to accompany her
on an outing.  A classic phone call ran as follows:  "Laurie?  This is
L.  I was wondering if you could go to the fireworks tonight...I
already called D, J, L., etc., but none of them could go...aw, come
on!..."  Sometimes it was fun to say "no."  Moreover, I had better
things to do.

When not haunted by the need to achieve popularity among peers, many
problems disappear or simply fail to exist.  Friendships are realistic
interactions of individuals rather than acts performed to satisfy the
specific requirements of a group.  Because it was more important to be
myself and follow my own beliefs, "peer pressure" had no affect on me.
If I was to be ostracized for refusing to go along with another's idea,
no friendship existed and I could easily walk away.  Aloneness, for me,
was no problem; compromising my standards, however, was a problem.

Generally, I never experienced pressure from a group or an individual
to do something about which I had already expressed a negative opinion.
Perhaps the knowledge that further prompting would have no effect on
my stance impeded harassment of any kind.  I was free, imprisoned by no
ideas but my own; I bothered no one, and received the same respectful

I recall a day in which three classmates and I were shopping at a drug
store when one suddenly decided to buy a pack of cigarettes, giving the
cashier an assuring, "They are for my Dad,"  in response to the
skeptical appraisal of my friend's age.  Wordlessly, the woman accepted
the money and bagged the cigarettes.  My friend smiled heroically as
the four of us ushered from the store.  After obtaining a book of
matches, we strode down to the woods behind my house and followed the
trails until we were deeply beneath the cover of the leaves and beyond
all source of detection.  The pack was opened with the gleeful
anticipation which only came with the breaking of a rule.  Two girls
eagerly lit up and puffed smoke into the clear air.  The pack was
presented to me.  "No thanks," I shook my head.  I had no desire to
start a habit which not only was a risky endeavor in terms of
maintaining health, but also reeked in an offensive manner.  "Besides,"
I thought, "it doesn't even look cool."  I envisioned a woman with a
white stick drooping out of the corner of her mouth and an old man
sucking pathetically on the smoking stub of his cigarette.  "You sure?"
someone asked, offering the pack again.  "No thanks," I replied and
started walking toward home.  One of the girls joined me, and, as if we
had been unexplainably spooked, ran back through the woods to my yard.
Out of breath, but glad to be rid of the odor of the cigarettes, we
stood silently below the house and waited for the other girls.  Upon
reaching the top of the hill, the two asked why we ran.  Bending the
truth, my friend said, "We thought we heard someone yelling for us..."
Personally, I don't know why I ran.  My refusal and dismissal of the
scene had been sufficient, for I had felt no antagonism from my
companions; yet, beneath the canopy of leaves, I felt trapped and
scrutinized by unseen eyes.  Flight seemed to be the natural course of
action.  If my tactics failed and I was repeatedly urged to do
something that I had no intention of doing, I too, would use "Mom" as
the rejoiner to a simple "no."  Mom never worried about having a "mean
old lady" reputation among her children's friends, especially if it
saved them from performing undesirable actions.  Packing an excuse like
"Mom" was ammunition so powerful that I never felt alone when faced
with a difficult situation; if I could not handle it, "we" could!

By sixth grade I had accepted the fact that, as one of the tallest
students, I would always be seated at the back of the class and stand
at the end of the gym line.  Each year, I remember wishing that the
lines and rows would, for once, be arranged alphabetically, allowing me
a change of scenery from the backs of people's heads.  I never had the
chance.  The policy remained the same and the students grew in
height...but so did I.

My last year of grade school was also a year through which I spent
pleasant noon hours, lunching at the home of a lady whose family
attended our church.  I shared lunch with Vera's youngest son, Todd,
and two other boys whose names no longer exist in my memory.  Vera was
great.  She rarely smiled, yet she had a terrific sense of humor which
fell somewhere between "dry" and "sarcastic."  Her laughter was a
reward in itself, for it was easy and genuine.  Within her sober face
was more humor than most people could fathom because she had the
ability to see humor in life.

Sixth grade left in me a good impression of my early school years...I
remembered the good and the bad, for the two elements were inseparable.
I thought of the holidays, from Halloween's dress-up parade followed
by a night of trick-or-treating, to Valentine's Day parties, and
Yuletide paper chains.  I reflected upon the fall carnivals and ice
cream socials, the frantic chaos of recess and the joy of art projects.
I smiled at the science jingle which, through the attacks of several
boys and myself, suffered a comical change of wording to "The sun is a
mass of undigested GAS, a gigantic nuclear TOILET..."  and perhaps as a
sort of revenge for so dissecting the lyrics of the educational song, I
encountered my first migraine headache in science class, during the
middle of a test.

I thought of the teachers, and the quiet spoken janitor, Mr. Ed, who
faithfully polished the halls to a sheen and silently cleaned the floor
after someone threw up.

I considered the principal who was feared, yet respected, for his
ability to control the school in an orderly fashion.  He had the type
of stern glance which turned one's lunch into a mass of lead; a rumor
that he possessed a spanking machine in his office persisted in my mind
until the second grade.  I never sought to disturb him; thus, when I
was instructed to report to his office, my throat became the victim of
muscular strangulation.  Once stationed before his desk, the principal
reprimanded me concerning a book which had disappeared from my desk.
The librarian said it was still missing; if it was not returned I would
be obliged to pay for it.

I could barely speak.  I had borrowed the book from the library, yet
someone else had stolen it from my desk; it was not at home, nor was it
in any other desk.  In vain, I questioned the boy who sat at my desk
throughout English class, a renowned trouble-maker, who admitted that
he had, without permission, opened my desk and "looked at the book."
This was of no consequence to the principal, however, and since it was
never recovered, he made me pay the entire cost of the book.  I had
suffered an injustice, blamed and punished for that which I had not
done.  I reflected grievously over the situation, and remembered the
only time in my life that I had contemplated stealing.  I was in an old
drug store, gazing at the jewelry spread upon the counter top and
spilling from bins of miscellaneous content, when I spotted a tiny
cross which had fallen from it's chain.  It belonged to nothing, and
would one day be discarded among an array of damaged goods.  No price
tag fluttered on the tiny shape; and it was the only one of its kind.
I picked it up and placed it in the palm of my hand; the small cross
would not be missed.  I stared long and hard at the bright gold
trinket, feeling as if I was in a vacuum.  I heard  nothing but the
chaotic ramblings within my mind, the rationalizing manipulation versus
the over-powering guilt which lashed viciously at my temptation to
steal.  I felt suddenly as if my thoughts were naked and replaced the
cross in the bin of jewelry.  As I walked from the store, I saw the
irony in my stormy, inner confrontation; I was going to steal a cross,
the sign of goodness, purity, and love.  My internal suffering was
terrific, although I resisted the compulsion; the thought would never
be purged from my memory, for with it, I learned a great lesson.

I slipped back to reality.  Great lessons did not shield an individual
from shouldering blame that belonged to someone else.  Goodness was not
always rewarded in life, for despite a personal history of moral
decisions and ethical choices, an individual must exist among people
who, through their hurtful life styles, obliterate the rights of
everyone they touch.

I paid for the book, having nothing to show for my expenditure but a
hoard of futile self-pity and the knowledge that I was innocent of any
wrong-doing.  School came to a close as the summer ripened into its
classic heat at noonday.  Desks were emptied and scrubbed.  Homework
ceased.  Anticipation flooded the classrooms.  The students bid their
teachers good-bye, vowing to visit in the future.

Some returned, but I never did.  The present traversed the old
hallways, while the past would never live again except within my mind.
I had no place there among the youthful faces and shrill voices; the
building belonged to the present...it belonged to them.

The Mountains

When I dream I think of them,
Majestic peak and Aspen hem;

And in climbing them,
The flowing slopes,

It brings to me
A world filled with hopes.

The rain and thunderheads up there,
With lightning they come, fast as a mare.

I love to watch all the life that they keep,
The wolf, the fox, the hawk, and wild sheep.

Filling it's crannies, streams can be found,
In their tossing and turning, they're thrown to the ground.

So please, oh, please, come and see
This mountain paradise along with me.

Lauren Isaacson - 7th Grade - 1975


Chapter 9

Discovery of Tumor

"There is always too much time before an unpleasant event; too much,
yet not near enough."


Discovery of Tumor

By the end of seventh grade, Jr. High no longer seemed an immense
edifice, and my confidence, as well as my acquaintances, grew.  Each
day, before or after lunch, depending on one's lunch schedule, we would
assemble in our respective "homerooms"; here we could talk among
ourselves if we did not become noisome or in any way obnoxious.  I made
two acquaintances in the room, and between the three of us, idle
chatter abounded.  One day I remember above all others.  I was involved
in conversation with the two girls when I looked down at my stomach and
noticed that it was definitely lop-sided in appearance.  I called their
attention to it so that they also could share in the humor of my
distortion.  We all laughed in simultaneous bursts of wonder at the
spectacle, then moved on casually to other things.  I figured that my
stomach was bloated from gas.  "No big deal."  However, for the next
several weeks, I maintained a vigil on my stomach, and to my
perplexity, the odd "lop-sidedness" persisted.  Eventually I decided
that I should divulge the discovery to my parents.

It was summer vacation, and school would be in the past for three
beautiful months.  The annual family trip was only weeks away, and I
could barely wait.  When Mom said that I would have to go to the
doctor, I felt an eerie certainty that something was drastically amiss,
and therefore requested that we first go on our trip to Colorado; I
knew that if my sensation was correct, I would never be able to see the
mountains...at least not that year.  The trip, I felt, could not be

A brief time later, I found myself in Colorado.  The unchanged beauty
was without flaw, yet to my dismay, I was unable to fully enjoy it.
Even small trails, which I had previously made with ease, I could not
manage without an overwhelming urge to vomit.  The thought of food was
not at all welcome nor appealing, and my energy waned; I felt as if I
had another mild case of stomach flu.  My sister who, along with her
family, had accompanied us on the trip, confided to Mom, "Laurie looks
so fragile..."  My weight loss was more apparent to her since she saw
me on fewer occasions.  My appetite had slowly declined, and I had
complained of stomach discomfort, prompting me to squeeze a pillow
through the night.  Occasional bouts of stomach flu would evoke such
violent stabs of wrenching pain that I could only stand with my stomach
tucked in, my back bent at a 45 degree angle to my legs.  We never
suspected that anything was wrong until I discovered the unusual
appearance of my stomach.  Even those with keen eyesight can be blind
when gazing into a mirror, especially when the changes seen therein
have occurred gradually, over a period of time.  Moreover, I was always
a rather finicky eater and found mealtime to be one of those obligatory
necessities of survival.  I was also quite prone toward nervousness,
which wreaked havoc on my stomach as well; certainly my pangs were not
abnormal, as I'd experienced them as long as I could recall, and they
inevitably would render me without an appetite.  A lack of interest
with regard to food on my part was nothing new; for years Mom urged me
to finish my food or eat my vegetables, coupled with a lesson on
nutrition or a threat that would not allow me to partake in later
treats, such as cookies or ice cream.  Feeling that I was healthy
enough, I cared little about "sound nutrition" and "balanced diet" yet
Mom's "cookie clout" sometimes carried a fair impact, (depending on the
vegetables I was to choke down, as well as the type of dessert which
taunted my eyes and tongue).  No threat however magnificent was
sufficient for me to make beets or spinach disappear; that was asking
too much, and I gladly relinquished my treat.  My appetite posed little
cause for worry and, as before, the symptoms of stomach flu soon were
but a memory.  The lump remained, however, glaring suspiciously from
beneath knit shirts; the appointment with the doctor could no longer be

It was a sunny day when we pulled into the doctors parking lot, and I
was in good spirits despite the natural qualms one encounters upon
venturing into the typically noiseless waiting room.  I was
characteristically happy, and although I knew not what news my physical
exam would unveil, I felt no need to punish the doctor for doing his
job; he deserved a smile too.

Dr. Murrell was a man of few words, who wielded an aristocractic air
with the unimposing quality of a true gentleman.  He appeared to own a
sense of inate calm which allowed him to divulge even the worst
verdicts with unruffled dignity and composure; he transmitted ease to
the waiting patients and relatives as if through a sort of osmosis and,
I'm sure, avoided many hysterical outbursts as a result.

As he methodically inspected my stomach region I found it extremely
difficult to refrain from laughter.  Ticklish and quite unused to being
touched, his various pokes evoked embarrassing jolts of muscle spasms
as I tried, without success, to squelch my chuckles.  When he had
finished, he announced that he wished the opinion of his associate
doctor and departed for several minutes.  Arriving once again with Dr.
Errico, who then took a turn applying pressure to various points on my
sensitive stomach region, they asked whether any specific areas brought
about pain when touched.  I replied that I had experienced none, and
they nodded in silence.

As the two doctors prepared to leave the room to privately confer the
meaning of my symptoms, Dr. Errico extended his arm to place a fatherly
pat on my shoulder.  As he did so, I felt my spine turn to ice in an
unexplainable sensation of pure dread; it was as if his gesture
foretold doom and I recalled the persisting thought which had echoed in
my mind since the moment I discovered the lump.  The news was not going
to be good; I knew it now.

Dr. Murrell returned to the room alone, seated himself before the desk,
then turned to face us.  He was unable, as yet, to draw any
conclusions, but desired me to check into the hospital for tests as
soon as possible, and the preparations were made.  I can no longer
remember how I felt when I departed that day from the office drear to
the bright flood of sunlight; I cried no tear, and spoke no words of
resentment or anger, for those I would have recalled.  I knew only that
I had to discover the truth about that mystery which lurked behind a
mask of skin.

The hospital, I found, was no place to be unless one was horribly ill.
I was not quite certain of my status in that regard, but knew
immediately that my health declined the instant in which I donned the
hospital gown.  It was depressing; I blended so well with the room that
I thought I would disappear in the ethereal whiteness.  To my later
dismay, however, I was easily distinguished and forced to submit to
various manifestations of barbarism; never having stayed in a hospital,
I had no idea of the rigorous torture treatments which were actually
only routine and lawful tests.  I write the above with an air of
sarcastic jest, for obviously not all of the tests  incurred techniques
of bludgeoning, prodding, or other undue discomforts for the patient;
an X-ray, for example, has never once evoked the slightest twinge of
pain.  There are tests however, which disrupt one's level of comfort
substantially, and unfortunately, those which can prove fatal.  For my
part these latter tests always spurred the reflective statement, "There
must be a better way!" coupled with the hope that one day there would
be a technological breakthrough in the field of medicine, wherein one
merely stepped into a box and, after manipulating several buttons, he
could step out again and the doctor would know immediately whether
anything was wrong with his patient.  (My mind later devised a second
box into which one would step, and after several minutes, step out
completely cured of all the ailments discovered by Box #1.  This
transformation occurred without pain, of course.  Although I could
endure pain, usually without protest, I was always eager to avoid it
whenever possible.)  To my knowledge, no such boxes have ever been
invented; but it would be a grand idea...or maybe only a wistful

Of the tests taken while in Moline, the stomach X-ray utilizing barium
was my worst.  Although the "chalk milkshake" was a displeasing effect
on the taste buds of even the most starved individual (for one
undergoing the X-ray must have an empty stomach), the degree to which I
abhorred it was augmented by the fact that my stomach had been quite
prone toward nauseousness of late.  When I was told to sit in a nearby
waiting room until I drank the last of the abominable shake I came
fearfully close to vomiting; I hung my head and began to cry, knowing
that if I did drink the liquid it would be spewed onto the floor and I
would have to go through the entire process again.  At the sight of my
tears, a nurse quickly ran in search of my mom (who was left in an
altogether different part of the hospital) and returned with her,
sporting the hope that a mother could persuade more of the chalky fluid
down her daughter's throat.  The nurse's hope was in vain, however, so
the staff quickly ushered me into the X-ray room again to complete what
work they had begun.  First standing against the platform, the X-rays
commenced; soon I found that the platform was actually a movable
examination table, to which I was securely strapped, and it began to
recline toward a prone position.  To my surprise, it did not stop when
it leveled, but crept backward until I felt I was dangling from the
ceiling and the entire world was reversed.  I gawked at my hapless
predicament, throughly amazed.  Had my stomach been more cordial, I
might have enjoyed myself.  It was not unlike taking a carnival ride
after consuming a greasy hotdog and an ample dose of cotton candy.

I was joyous upon returning to my room, even though the moment I
arrived another nurse popped in, bearing a fluid which its creators had
tried desperately to make resemble prune juice; yet prune juice this
definitely was not, for no juice could taste so horrid.   Despite
threats that I must drink the laxative solution or the barium would
transform into cement while yet in my intestines, I refused to drink
the awful liquid.  It was utterly repulsive to my stomach, and again I
knew what the future would have in store if I forced it down.

With all the tests behind us, I could now relax throughout the rest of
my stay at the hospital.  The part I most enjoyed was filling out my
daily menu cards, which arrived with each preceding meal; while
munching on my morning toast, I could choose the items I preferred at
lunch.  It was enormously entertaining, and sparked my day with

As usual, Mom strolled into my room and watched while I explored the
contents on my breakfast tray; her appearance punctuated the beginning
of another hospital day, and she made certain that I consumed a
nourishing breakfast; without prompting I had done so, for I was
delighted with the realization that I could have an egg and Rice
Krispies and toast merely by so indicating that desire on the menu
card.  The array of choices seemed endless, no preference was greeted
with questioning eyes or poorly concealed mirth as often can be the
case in a restaurant.

Some time after the breakfast tray had been whisked away, Dr. M.
entered, saying that the test results had been analyzed and therefore
wished to speak with Mom candidly about the indications which they had
revealed.  They departed, accompanied by a nurse, and entered a room
which Mom later described as being very long and narrow, containing
only a table of similar description, and covered completely with an
ample thickness of cushion.  The doctor and nurse placed themselves on
the opposite side of the table from Mom, and he began to relate the
fact that the barium X-ray showed a sizable mass in the stomach region,
and though he could not be certain, it held the possibility of being
cancerous.  It was a hideous impact for my unsuspecting mother, and she
felt that her body had been engulfed in a searing, internal fire; she
placed her arms on the cushioned table before her and bent her head as
one reacting to a heavy burden that must be endured and said, "Life can
be so long."

Dr. Murrell who knew quite well our family history and its motley
assortment of dread diseases and dysfunctions, could empathize with my
mom's sole comment of numb disappointment; the nurse, however, scanned
Mom's face after each successive statement made by the doctor.  Mom
felt scrutinized under her persistent gaze, and it was now obvious that
the cushions covering the room were so adhered for those who, after
receiving bad news, literally bounced off the walls for a time until
their energetic madness diminished to a state of mild panic.

Feeling that my health problem was one which had risen beyond the
hospital's capacity to manage properly, Dr. Murrell thought that it
would behoove us to travel to one of the larger clinics in the region;
without a moment of indecision Mom expressed her preference for Mayo
Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and the doctor gladly hastened from the
room relieved by the knowledge that his subsequent phone call would at
least be progress of a positive nature.

As Mom gradually regained strength, the nurse continued to remind her
that it was too soon to tell whether the growth was cancerous, yet
soothing words could not dispel the lecherous threat and uncertainty
which she carried with her.  In a further attempt to comfort, the nurse
suggested that Mom first settle the hospital account at the billing
office to assure that her composure was intact, and then return to my
room.  Mom took the nurse's advice, feeling relieved that she could
delay our reunion through a valid excuse; yet as she rose and walked
toward her destination, she felt as if she was under the unsteady
control of a novice puppeteer who guided mockingly and without
precision until she was seated once again.

By the time Mom returned to my room, my lunch tray was already poised
in front of me on the portable night stand.  She had somehow managed to
persuade her face to don a cheerful countenance as she entered and
remarked, "You can go home now."  An elated smile spread across my face
upon hearing those precious words, and my interest waned toward the
contents of the lunch tray.  I knew that I hadn't heard the entire
story, however, because Mom had been absent so long; if nothing was
wrong, the doctor would not have wished to discuss my health in
private.  Suddenly I became annoyed; I wanted to know the facts.  The
few facts were that I would have to go to Mayo Clinic for further tests
because of an abdominal mass; though Mom said nothing about cancer,
that possibility was not yet a fact, and she hadn't actually lied by
withholding any related remarks.  Her answers satisfied my curiosity,
yet simultaneously fueled the fire of dread in my mind which had begun
as a mere spark several weeks before.  It seemed that my earlier fears
were justified as time progressed.

With quiet resolution, I knew within myself that I must face whatever
adversity would befall me head-on; I could not march backward into the
darkness.  Once home, my Mom led me into the living room where we
seated ourselves side by side on the couch.  I looked at her face,
steeped with anxiety for me, yet trying desperately to feign a degree
of happiness for my benefit.  It was evident that she knew more details
surrounding the situation than she cared to confess.  "You can cry if
you want to...it's all right to cry," she said.  "I can't," I replied.
"I've nothing yet to cry for!"  She hugged me and we sat in brooding
silence.  Since my health was a mystery, I felt no urge to cry; and, I
thought, if I knew, what difference would tears make?  The problem
would still exist.  Tears, I felt, demanded a tangible impetus to be
worth their salt; like pain or horrendous fear.  As yet, I felt
neither; but perhaps I would experience both soon enough.

I knew the trip to Rochester would be no pleasure excursion, but I
maintained high spirits despite the purpose behind the journey.  It was
a beautiful drive, and I dearly loved to travel; besides, what better
reason could one have for dining in restaurants?

Because of our late evening arrival into the city and the fact that my
appointments were scheduled for the latter portion of the week, nearly
all of the motels posted "no vacancy" signs, and we found ourselves
humbly situated in one of the older, run-down hotels in which the
bathroom was located "down the hall."  I was not overjoyed at the
prospect of week-ending in the hotel, but I had little choice in the
matter.  The depressing mood of the place was over-shadowed in part,
however, by the many attractions of the surrounding area; we learned of
parks, shopping malls, movie houses, etc. from the local residents, and
planned to do as much as I wished after and between my various tests.

Rochester was a quiet city; it was geared for the convenience of its
many guests, of which the majority were patients or the family members
of the former.  There was an entire network of underground corridors
which connected several primary clinical buildings, hotels, hospitals
and various businesses.  With cleanliness an obvious objective, the
maintenance crews made perpetual rounds through the marble columns and
artistically tiled floors.  Excepting few, the employees and staff were
friendly and approachable; even the doctors radiated character rather
than the cold indifference sometimes prevalent in large or impersonal

My first appointments were to report to "desk C," which was located
underground.  The entire lobby was decorated with colorful seats and
healthy plants, as well as people whose faces revealed moods of many
different hues.  At varying intervals, a nurse would step in front of a
brightly painted door, grasp a microphone and bid those persons whose
names she announced to come to the "blue section" or the "red" or
"orange," as the color near which she stood indicated.  When my name
was called I heaved a nervous sigh, walked to the appropriate door, and
was dispatched to a smaller waiting room in which those already seated
appeared glum and apprehensive.  The place reeked of alcohol.  Again I
waited until my name was called, watching as each "victim" reappeared
from behind the curtain which housed the inevitable needles and
syringes, sporting a bandage in the crick of his arm.

"Lauren Isaacson."...I swallowed hard and stood up.  "Oh...I was
expecting a boy."  I smiled as pleasantly as I was able, and reminded
myself that this was the person who would extract my blood, the needle
wielder.  "Most people just call me 'Laurie'," I replied.  I was seated
and told to make a fist as the nurse applied a tourniquet above my
elbow.  She prattled on, simultaneously producing a needle attached to
the largest vial I had ever seen; it must have been five inches long
and the diameter of a 25 cent piece.  "Where are you from,
Lauren?...You'll feel a stick..."  "Moline, Illinois," eyeing the vial
as it plunged into my vein.  "Have you had your blood drawn before?"
"Yeh...a few days ago..."  The vial filled and an assistant handed her
another of the same size.  "Uh...how much are you gonna take, anyway?"
I asked, feeling strangely self-protective...  "Just a little
more...you have many tests scheduled..."  She popped out the second
vial and handed it to her assistant, replacing it with yet another,
though shorter and about the diameter of a dime.  It filled more
slowly, almost unwillingly, perhaps.  Eventually the nurse decided that
she had drawn enough and whisked the needle from my vein, binding my
arm securely with the gauze.  "You can go to the green door now,
Lauren."  I smiled and departed, happy that I had one test behind me.

The green door housed another form of blood test in which one "merely"
had his finger pricked.  I said "merely" because, in my opinion, the
prick hurt much more than did the former blood test, because one's
finger tips contain so many sensitive nerve endings.  After having my
finger stabbed, its bright red blood squeezed onto multiple slides and
in miniscule vials, I was free to take my leave.  As I returned to my
parents in the lobby, I found the nearest trash receptacle and disposed
of my reeking, alcohol-doused bandages; I disliked the odor for its
strangely lingering overtones.  It was amazing to me that the nurses
could draw blood hour after hour; I would detest such a job; yet it was
comforting that there were those who could aid humanity in such ways.
Walking to my next appointment, I wondered casually whether they ever
felt like mosquitoes!

Holding the various appointment cards I noted that, of the remaining
tests, all were X-rays except a suspicious card which read "Bone
Marrow."  Marrow, I knew was located inside the bone, and dreadful
thoughts danced nervously about my brain.  When we finally reached the
desk behind which lurked the mysterious and disconcerting test, we
found ourselves amid stately decor, closely resembling the impeccably
correct taste of an Old English library.  Hues of rich burgundies and
browns, accented by marble floors and columns, marched down shadowed,
slightly ominous hallways and beneath closed hardwood doors.  It seemed
appropriate to whisper, as even footsteps echoed through the corridors.

I was very ill at ease.  My name was called and I hesitantly strode
forward, accompanied by my mother, who was actually beckoned to follow.

"The doctor's real good-looking," the nurse said confidentially.  I
didn't really care; I was far too nervous to be impressed, for I knew
the test would be painful if they wanted my mom to come; generally
speaking, parents took up too much space if they became shadows.
Moreover, parents can actually impede the efforts of the doctors and
nurses through outright intervention, or, due to their presence,
transform even an adolescent back into a child.

The nurse was correct in her analysis of the doctor's appearance.  He
was a young man of Irish descent who spoke with a delightful brogue.  I
was cordially greeted and then instructed to lay on my stomach; the
section from which he would extract the marrow and a small sampling of
the bone was located somewhere on my back, to one side and slightly
above the buttocks.  I disliked the process before it commenced since I
was unable to see what the doctor was going to do; it helped if I was
aware of an imminent jab, rather than being taken by surprise.  In this
I had no choice, however, and the process began.

Mom stationed herself near my head, over which she gazed as the doctor
applied a local anesthetic to deaden the area.  "You must stay very
still," someone said, as the pain crept from a mild ache to a splitting
level.  Gritting my teeth, silent tears welled up in my eyes and fell;
with muscles taut and rigid I clenched the upholstered table with a
vise-like force until I was told that the brutal pain would come to an

The test was over.  Relieved, I slid myself off the examination table
to pull on and zip my pants; the wound throbbed at varying intervals
above a constant, underlying ache.

"You're a very brave patient," the nurse said.  I smiled knowing that I
was too cowardly to undergo that type of hell again, for it was no
longer a mystery what the words "Bone Marrow" on an appointment card

Before exiting I asked the doctor if I had healthy bones.  "Yuv' gut
fine bunes, Laaren," he replied, giving me an excellent, unforgettable
sample of Irish-flavored English.  He seemed to be a very amiable man,
and, now that I was turning to leave, I was better able to appreciate
his undeniably good looks.  For my part, I was sorry that he was not an
X-ray technician.

Whether walking or sitting, I experienced twinges of pain, a constant
reminder of my last test of the day; but that did not hinder my
fascination for gift shops, and I eagerly plunged out of the confines
of the clinic walls to the beautiful July morning.  We were famished,
as none of us had eaten due to the fact that I was instructed to have
an empty stomach for many of my tests.  Since the next few hours
belonged exclusively to us, we decided to eat and then mill about the
stores until it was time for my mid-afternoon consultation with the
doctor in charge of my case.

When our afternoon of leisure had come to a close, we made our way to
the Mayo building and took the elevator to the designated floor.  By
now we were quite used to waiting, and after registering my name at the
front desk, seated ourselves in the expansive lobby.

The test results would have been scrutinized and second opinions heard.
We now awaited the doctor, and, in certain respects, the future; each
of us sat in silence, nurturing one's own worries, until my name was
announced.  The three of us rose in haphazard unison, glad to have a
reason for shifting our position, and were guided down a hallway to a
private room.  Again we awaited the doctors arrival, yet felt more
inclined to engage in conversation now that we were removed from the
stifling quiet of the lobby.

Finally I heard footsteps outside the door.  The feet paused, while a
faintly audible rustling of papers issued beneath the closed door.
Silence again.  Then suddenly, as if uncertainty had been washed away,
the door knob turned and a doctor burst into the room, extending his
hand to my father and offering a friendly "hello!" to us.  We all
stood; I smiled.  I had no fear of doctors; the fear stemmed from that
which they knew, and I the patient, as yet, did not.

We seated ourselves once again, and the doctor began questioning me
about the way in which I felt, physically.  To nearly all of the
disconcerting questions, I replied in a positive fashion, which to my
parents was a "good sign" and indicated that my health problem
"couldn't be that serious if everything seemed so promising."  Then the
doctor asked the color of my bowel movements.  I started to laugh.
"Brown."  "But what color brown?" he persisted.  I laughed some more;
turning my face to the floor, I noticed that the tiles ranged in color
from yellow to the deepest brown, and wondered if the staff had
requested that particular tile for the express purpose of color
clarification.  I smiled, and selected a nice, warm brown.  "That looks
about right."  Then he inquired whether my stools had ever been black.

My eyes flew open.  "BLACK?!!"  I lost control...to me this was a
horrendous joke.  He had his answer, and quickly scribbled "no" on his
note paper.

I was having a grand time, under the circumstances.  After the question
and answer session ceased, I was instructed to lay on the table; he
wished to take a look at my stomach region.  Applying pressure to
various areas, and gently tapping others, he asked if I felt any pain.
I did not, so he invited other doctors into the room, creating a troupe
of seven in all, who took turns prodding my stomach, and in my opinion,
tickling me to death.   I flinched as each new hand poked my bare
flesh, and embarrassed, tried desperately to control my convulsive
muscles and fits of laughter.

When they had seen, or in my case, felt enough, the doctors filed out
of the room to "gossip" about me beyond earshot.  Eventually the first
doctor reappeared and began to divulge the conclusions rendered through
the tests and consultation.  It was clear that I had a large abdominal
mass in the vicinity of my stomach, yet its composition was uncertain,
and he would therefore offer no statement either way as to it being
cancerous or benign.  The bone marrow was unaffected and healthy, my
blood count was good, and the chest X-ray showed no signs of
abnormalcy.  Aside from the mass, I had every reason to believe in my
health as a matter of fact.

The mass would have to be removed; that, also, was a matter of fact.
An operation was inevitable.  Since it was the beginning of the
weekend, however, I would not be admitted into the hospital until
Sunday evening.  Monday morning I would undergo an arteriogram to chart
my veins in preparation for surgery, and the following day I would find
myself in the operating room.  Relieved that I had two days of freedom
before having to exist in the confines of a hospital, I found the
arrangement as agreeable as the situation allowed, and my parents and I
determined to make the most of it!

The only hindrance I was obliged to endure was the weekend urine
sample, which stated that the bounty of each trip to the bathroom had
to be collected, rather than flushed away.  I was given a large plastic
canister, a small cup and a handy-dandy green tote bag in which to stow
the former for reasons of discretion.

I was embarrassed at the prospect of hauling the green tote everywhere
throughout the weekend, but my dear mom volunteered without a single
flicker of disgust, and shouldered the responsibility just as easily as
she would have taken the smallest piece of cake or the burnt piece of
toast.  I really need not have worried, however, for I was not alone in
my strange occupation.  Dotted here and there, as we traveled about the
parks and shopping malls, were similar green tote bags borne by smug
faced patients, or conversely, those who would recognize the kinship
and smile knowingly.  I soon discovered that, actually, I might have
carried the tote myself, for everyone who was familiar with its purpose
seemed to know that it truly belonged to me; teenage self-consciousness
is alien to no one, and remembered by all.

The weekend was memorable.  I tried to take in the landscape as I
walked freely under the mid-summer sky.  The Canadian geese were
numerous on the shores of a small lake, and had grown haughty from
delicacies thrown to them by passers-by; they pecked with idle
disinterest at the corn we placed on the ground for their inspection.
They had developed a taste for the refined; mere corn would no longer
suffice.  Though the geese were considered tame by most standards, they
yet held a firm bond to the wild which no human bribery could erase.  I
was drawn to this quality, for in their willowy black necks I saw the
northern wilderness and inevitable flight; they were not prisoners of
the city, but came and later departed through a will of their own.
Unlike the lazy human who clings fiercely to a generous hand, the geese
were drawn in, but then drifted away to distant shores where life was
hard, yet sweeter still than risking to the malicious child a twisted
neck for scraps of bread.  It had been said that nature is cruel; no, I
thought, only people are cruel, for they alone can pervert that which
by nature's intent was beneficial in moderation.  Food, pleasure,
death...man could leave nothing alone.  I turned away from the geese,
which were milling about and shifting their weight, first balancing on
one leg, then the other, vigilant yet restful.  I carried the tranquil
image with me, and return to it still.  Eyes focused through the glass
of the car window, I stirred as Dad turned the key of the ignition and
the car moved slowly forward.  It was evening and the lake began to
fade into an obscure haze; the hum of the engine gently brought my mind
to the present and the distractions thereof.  The darkness gradually
melted away beneath the city lights, and I awoke to the startling
realization that I was hungry.  Under the glaring neon lights, one
cannot long remain apart from the harshness of the city; neon lights
invade one's senses and disrupt one's dreams.

Saturday morning, after breakfast, we decided to find our way to a
small town nearby that was holding a summer festival; once there we saw
booths and tables housing various crafts or topics of interest, as well
as food and drink.  Weaving our way through the smiling, jovial faces,
time slipped casually by.  Mom purchased a rooster made entirely of
dried seeds, while I inspected the tables of antiques.  Nothing sparked
my interest enough to pry into my wallet, so I quietly moved on.

We decided to await the afternoon parade, in which Dr. B. of
yesterday's consultation said he would appear, playing an instrument in
the band.  It was he who had informed us of the small town festival,
and we could not help but wonder if we would recognize him in a red
jacket and cap.  The band members were seated in trucks; blowing
earnestly into their instruments, the musicians eyes sparkled behind
puffed up cheeks.  It was no use; they all looked like perfect images
of each other.

Still quite early in the afternoon, we concluded that it would be nice
to find a park which was in the area, and had no difficulty in its
pursuit, for the road signs were plentiful and doubtlessly placed out
of respect for the patient-tourist.  It was a gorgeous day.  The leaves
were emerald green and at their foremost beauty; strong and pliant from
spring's ample rain, and not yet touched by the autumnal sun...the
drying kiln, the blistering gaze which ages all.

The leaves swayed in the wind, playing with the rays of sunlight which
danced in countless patterns on the ground.  Despite the beauty
surrounding our every step, none of us could forget the reason we came
to the park; we came, of course, to forget.  The business of
forgetting, however, meets with few actual successes; the more one
attempts to forget, the less likely he is to accomplish his goal; but
in trying the object of one's trial forever torments the mind.  It is
better to let the job of "forgetting" take care of itself.

That evening, following our meal, we decided a movie would create an
exciting climax to the day, especially since our hotel room boasted no
TV.  The movie-house featured "Jaws" and I eagerly bounced down the
aisle and selected a seat fairly close to the screen.  My parents found
two more agreeable seats toward the rear.

As the theater began to fill, I glanced about nervously, hoping wildly
that no one with a spherical or bee-hive-shaped hair style would seat
themselves directly before me.  With good fortune on my side, I
breathed a sigh of relief as the lights were dimmed and the curtain
slid aside.

I had landed an excellent seat; the story drew me in, as my senses were
unimpaired, and I slowly left Rochester, and hospitals behind to
immerse myself in the image captured through my eyes.  The movie was
horrifying; the people in the audience screamed and jumped in unison.
As the actors pursued the vicious shark, and more unsuspecting
individuals fell prey to the maniacal monster, one began to feel
helplessly self-protective, as if caught unaware, one might be torn
limb from limb.  Then, in a brutally raging climax, the shark was
overthrown, and a tumultuous sigh escaped from the lips of on-lookers;
everyone was safe at last.

When I rose from my seat to file out of the building, reality slapped
my face.  I was not in Moline, I was in Rochester.  Tomorrow night I
would admit myself into the hospital, and Monday would be inescapable;
by Tuesday I would sleep beneath the surgeon's blade and awake to the
answers of unfulfilled questions.  Yet I was pleased that, for two long
hours, I had, without prompting, laid my worries aside; forgetting was
a business best left unto itself.

Sunday was spent musing through shops in the local mall.  I delighted
upon finding several pairs of pants and two knit shirts; it was a chore
to fit clothes, since I was tall and, admittedly, too thin.  So happy
with the new purchases was I that I asked the clerk to remove the tags
on two articles and reappeared from the dressing room feeling very much
in style.

In another store I spied a purse that looked nice, but cost fairly
little.  I looked down disgustingly at the worn bag which dangled
lifelessly at my hip, and felt the purse would be a worthwhile
expenditure.  Digging into the old one for my money, I finally
extracted a disintegrating leather wallet; it's appearance so shocked
my mom that she immediately offered to buy me another.

Generously outfitted, I dismissed the mall with my parents for the more
pleasant atmosphere of the city park.  The afternoon was disappearing
rapidly, and we no longer tried to rid our minds of distressing
thoughts, for they were altogether too prevalent to wish away.
Strolling through the grass, we did not often speak; we merely waited
for evening to descend.  There is always too much time before an
unpleasant event; too much, yet not near enough.  The afternoon
stalled...it seemed never to end...and our conscious minds sustained
heavy blows.

We walked near the lake, where geese stood craning their necks and
bickering among themselves.  I looked away; the sight offered little
solace to my restless mind.  I longed, almost, to fling myself upon the
hospital steps if I could but in that way escape the awful

Dad glanced at his watch; five o'clock, suppertime.  Eating; it was
something to do, so we welcomed the thought wholeheartedly.  Our
therapy consisted of such occupations; as long as one remained busy,
the job itself mattered little.  Thus, the main objective of the hour
encircled the procuring of sustenance.

I knew that the meal that evening would be the last I would share with
my parents for several days, yet I no longer remember what I ordered or
if I ate well.  I recall only that I had been told to finish eating
before a certain hour, so that the following morning the test could
begin early; under the strict instructions, I lamented that I would not
be able to partake of the customary late-night snack.

We did not linger over our dinner plates.  The tension had become too
great; I wanted the hospital to be our next destination.  I carried my
few belongings for I needed no suitcase; my underwear I stuffed in my


Chapter 10
Preparation and Surgery

"If only one did not have to think during the long periods of
uncertainty and ignorance, and could somehow benumb the senses until
the hours of darkness had passed!"


Preparation and Surgery

At the admissions office, forms were completed; it was much more
complicated than registering for a motel room.  I sat nearby, watching
the wearisome process.

There were no rooms in the pediatrics ward.  I was led to a room which
was quite old and depressing, and found to my disgust that my roommate
smoked.  "I hope this doesn't bother you," she said motioning to the
hand that held her cigarette.  What did it matter, I thought; she would
continue smoking regardless of the way I felt about it.  From
experience I had learned that, although many people who fostered bad
habits did not want to be overly offensive, most never possessed enough
genuine concern for another individual to refrain from their habit.  I
waved off her question, and hoped for adequate ventilation.  Is this
the bittersweet price for societal living?

My few belongings were stowed in a closet, then I went back to my bed
and sat on the edge of it, uncertain of what I was supposed to do;
during these periods of anticipation, had I been a smoker, I might have
lit up.  I did not wish to spend the night there; anxiety clawed at the
walls of my stomach.

Through the window across the room, city lights twinkled like hundreds
of stars which had been hurled to the earth, spreading toward the
horizon in a grid-work of interesting lines.  Soon my parents would
return to their hotel; I almost wished that they would leave, so I
could adjust to my new surroundings, for I would face tomorrow's test,
and the following operation; I had to find comfort within myself.

Mom and Dad kissed me goodnight, amid their internal struggle toward
leaving their little girl in the hands of strangers.  Once they had
gone, my nervousness began to subside; anxiety breeds anxiety, and
lacking two generators, I now bore only my own.

Seeing that I was quite alone, a nurse entered the room bearing the
essentials of hospital life, issuing to me a gown, and placing kleenex
tissues and a thermometer and styrofoam water pitcher on my nightstand.
She routinely popped the thermometer into my mouth and took my blood
pressure and pulse rate; removing the thermometer from my mouth, she
glanced at the reading and made notations for her file.  Before bidding
me goodnight, the nurse reminded me that I should eat nothing, nor
should I drink water after 6 a.m. the next morning; I nodded in
comprehensive agreement, and climbed beneath the sheets to stare at the

At first it was difficult to dispel my restless thoughts, and I fought
to find a comfortable position amongst the stiff sheets and unfamiliar
pillow.  Yet at some unknown point in time, disquietude was overruled
by fatigue, and I was claimed by the obscure world where conscious and
unconscious thought are united as one.  I drifted into a pleasant,
untormented sleep.

In the morning, quite soon after I had been awakened a nurse
administered a relaxant which quickly chased away negative emotions
that would have otherwise clogged my mind.  I felt blissfully content
and agreeable as my senses numbed and were encircled by an unearthly
calm.  I smiled dreamily as my parents descended upon my heavenly state
of awareness, speaking and receiving words which sounded distant and
muted, as those heard by one while swimming underwater, or standing
behind a heavy door.

Two interns arrived, wheeling a cart intended for my transport to
places unknown.  They skillfully guided it past my parents with minimal
conversation, and easily hoisted me from the bed onto the
unquestionably hard surface.  I waved goodby to Mom and Dad, who stood
dubiously watching as the men wordlessly rolled the stretcher down the
hall, and finally, after a fair amount of travel, found myself in an
expansive room, surrounded by gauges and meters by which a staff of
doctors and nurses stood awaiting my arrival.

The room itself was rather dark, which blended fittingly with my
semi-consciousness.  While the staff worked about me, I remained awake
although my body was as limp and motionless as one in a coma.  The
doctor injected a liquid dye into my vein, watching a monitor as it
slowly spread from the point of entry at the union of my leg and trunk,
and I began to feel weaker still.  With markers, the doctor charted a
map on my stomach under the beam of a spotlight; I looked on
maintaining awareness through a power that no longer seemed to be my
own.  It was crazy that people concerned themselves about death; I felt
more than half-way there; whether I drifted closer to life or to death
made no difference to me, then, for in all things existed only
tranquility...and that blissful unearthly calm.

Gravity tied me to the bed, and I laid like a dead thing, bound by an
invisible, unyielding weight.  All afternoon I slept, and into the
deepest night; morning came, Tuesday morning, but I knew it not.
Though numbered words to my parents I spoke, I can recall nothing.  In
my mind's hoard of memories, that morning never dawned before these

For my parents, Monday, the day of the arteriogram, was spent primarily
in my room.  They did little but watch in silence as I slept, breathing
quietly as dream after dream filtered through my subconscious mind.

Aside from mealtimes and occasional strolls to exercise their legs, my
parents remained near my bed until the ripe hours of the evening.  Near
8 p.m. Mom was paged on the hospital intercom.  Receiving the phone at
the Nurses Station, she found herself conversing with Dr. T., the
surgeon who would lead a team scheduled for my case the following day.
The operation would be of great consequence, and he wished Mom to fully
acknowledge that fact before it commenced; to all operations, a risk
was involved, and regarding the seriousness of the situation was of
utmost importance.  Since the mass had so thoroughly encroached upon
the stomach, they would have to remove most of the stomach itself,
thereby reducing its overall size considerably; though the stomach
would stretch with time, it would never return to its original size.
The conversation came to a close.  It seemed awful that a young girl,
Mom's little girl, should have to endure so much, so massive an
operation.  She returned to the hospital room where I still breathed
steadily in a tranquil repose; while Dad received the portents of the
previous conversation, I was adrift on a sea bereft of anxiety or pain,
and ignorant of their anticipation, I did not stir when they stood to
return to their hotel.

The day of the operation had dawned amid countless hours of waiting,
yet the waiting for my parents had not ended; the minutes would drag
while I laid beyond their sight, and a doctor kindly advised that they
leave the building, for the operation would most surely prove quite
lengthy, and the hospital atmosphere had less to offer than did the
beauty of the nearby sanctuary on the hospital grounds.  They
nodded, numbly deciding to try his remedy for over-wrought parents.

Mom and Dad found their way to the garden, their legs propelling leaden
bodies through some distant, unknown source of power.  Ambling through
the sunlit passages like automatons, their eyes would focus, yet they
did not see.  Finally disposing of the useless suggestion, they checked
their course and wheeled around to return to the hospital once more.

They felt compelled to be nearby, even though there was nothing with
which to occupy their senses; the operation so filled the capacity of
their thoughts that no other form of diversion was required.

I was in surgery for six hours.  My parents were anxious, at times
pacing the hallways, and then sitting once again; despite the
voluminous weight which seemed to claim their energy and tax their very
soul, they were always watchful, ready to receive any news of the
progress from the operating room.  Staring dismally at the various
activities that were going on about them, Mom suddenly noticed two
nurses wheeling a cart past the lounge where my parents were seated.
"Those are Laurie's things!"  she exclaimed; suddenly overwhelmed by
the thought that I had died, and they were removing my personal effects
from the room.  On rubber-like legs, she raced down the hall, adrenalin
giving her energy which seconds ago she had not possessed.  Rushing up
to the nurses, she again cried out,  "Those are Laurie's things!"
displaying fully the horror of her panic-stricken assumptions.
"Oh. . ." they replied "we're so sorry!  We never would have moved her
things without telling you first if we knew you were sitting there.
You see, a room is vacant in the pediatrics ward, and we're taking her
things down there."  The explanation heralded unspeakable relief,
and Mom returned to her seat, an older but less fearful woman.

Resuming their stationary poses, my parents waited, each fostering
thoughts of dread and flickers of hope.  If only one did not have to
think during the long periods of uncertainty and ignorance, and could
somehow benumb the senses until the hours of darkness had passed!  The
truth can burn the heart like a smouldering ember touched lightly to
the flesh, but waiting. . .waiting is the relentless torture of unseen
phantoms, made more hideous through one's blindness as the seconds
slink by, without an end.

A door opened, and Dr. T. strode toward my parents, who immediately
rose, brimming with questions.  The doctor ushered them into a
conference room, and closed the door behind him.  Already present were
Dr. M. and W. who had assisted him with the operation.  The doctors
said that I was in the Intensive Care Unit, and would remain there for
several days until my condition had stabilized and I had regained some
strength.  It had been a long and grueling operation; Dr. T. confessed
that when he first looked at the incredible mass in my stomach, he did
not believe that they would be able to remove it.  The growth was
cancerous and severely advanced; having one baseball sized tumor and
several smaller ones in the stomach, it had begun fingering into the
pancreas as well.  Nevertheless, they decided to work, the minutes
fading into hours, until their degree of progress flooded them with
hope.  By the time they finished the operation the doctors felt quite
confident that they had removed the growth entirely.

Understandably pleased with their efforts and apparent success, the
doctors continued to further explain the cancer which had invaded my
stomach.  The type that I had developed was called a "leiomyosarcoma,"
which was considered a low-grade cancer and one quite slow to spread.
Ninety-eight percent of those having that type of cancer were cured
simply through an operation alone.  A factor which mystified them about
my case was that most leiomyosarcomas occurred in older women; why a
young girl of 13 would produce such a cancer seemed baffling.

Visitation time in the ICU was strictly monitored, and limited to
several minutes out of each hour.  My parents were anxious to see me,
however, even if they could not long remain at my side.  After the
conference had ended, they were guided into the dimly lit room which I
shared with others demanding close attention.  Their eyes were greeted
by an alien spectacle, quite changed from their little girl who tromped
through the woods and gleefully rode her bicycle.  A tube exiting my
nose was attached to a machine which suctioned out the contents
(acids, fluids, etc.) of my stomach while it healed.  An intravenous
bottle dripped some unknown fluid through a long tube which trailed
down several feet and then disappeared under an ample wrapping of
cloth.  The incision itself was hidden beneath my hospital gown, a full
six inches in length.  Also concealed beneath my gown was a tube
connected to a small bag taped to my skin in which the seepage near the
wound would accumulate; called a "drain."  It operated through gravity


Chapter 11
Diagnosis and Recovery

"It was a word which bit the tongue like the crab for which it was
named.  Cancer.  It was not a word which rolled off the tongue, and
once in the air it remained there. . .cancer maimed. . .cancer killed."

"I had far too much confidence and hope to fly to the arms of despair,
for in despair, one finds no warmth or comfort."


Diagnosis and Recovery

I opened my eyes to a throbbing pain, and saw that my parents were
standing nearby.  Blinking at them idly, my mom inched closer and ask,
"Honey, do you know us?"

Suddenly I felt as if I was an actress in some ridiculous soap opera;
the elements were all there, from the tragic figure of the patient to
the damp-eyed parents.  Do I know them, I thought.  "Of course I know
you!"  I spat the words at them in obvious rage.  They smiled at my
fighting spirit; it was a good sign.  Had I been too weak, I would
have been incapable of such an emotional outburst.  I suffered no
delirium, only intense pain.  I despised pain, but more than that, I
was infuriated by phrases which at the time seemed to be idiotic
cliches when words do not easily yield to the tongue.  Not impeding my
rapidly surfacing thoughts, another jolt of pain opened my mind.  "I
wish I was dead!"  My ill-chosen words were daggers to my parents,
whose faces were wrinkled with pains of their own.  "Don't say that,
honey," responded Mom, hurt by my instantaneous verbal combustion.
Speech is something which, once flung into the air, cannot be repealed;
language is a component of memories, at times forgotten, but more often
returning to the mind.  So it was that the life of my last phrase
during the visit has not yet reached its end, and lives still in our
recollections, a youthful tongue which dared to speak of death, indeed,
to welcome it, was that which emblazoned the imprint with such

I was tired, and after gratefully receiving medication to ease the
pain, sank my head into the pillow.  Mom and Dad had taken their leave;
there was not a great desire for small talk, even if they could have
produced it.

The following day found me in a much more civilized mood.  All
post-operative grogginess had long since disappeared; my exhaustion
resulted only from my body's mad attempt to heal its scars.  I was
constantly under observation, and soon adjusted to the frequency of the
temperature, pulse and blood pressure readings; those simple matters
were not disruptions at all.

In the morning I was introduced to the bedpan, and although my ego did
not merit any cruel blow, I found myself further humbled.  With a
deplorable lack of skill, I managed to dampen myself and the bed
considerably; I was miserable.  Fortunately, in that respect, it was
time to be weighed, and the nurses lifted me onto a table-like scale; I
remained there until my bed had been prepared anew, then was happily
replaced despite the agonizing trip to and from the bed.

Any extensive movement seemed to evoke pain, and I readily understood
the reason for my discomfort when I was bathed.  In addition to the
regular routine, the nurse also changed my bandages.  Seeing the
incision for the first time, I gawked in amazement, thoroughly
repulsed.  The seams of the long gash rose above the surrounding skin,
and with the multitude of black stitches, resembled a rail-road track.
It seemed to me that it would leave a scar of monstrous proportions
looking, at the time, so hopelessly grotesque.  Then I noticed the
drain located to the side of the incision, and was shocked to discover
that the soft rubber tube extended to my interior regions through an
open slash in my side.  I'd not have thought it possible that one
could entertain such an opening without risking complete loss of one's
blood.  I was learning new biological facts with each passing hour.

My parents visited each hour, sometimes speaking with the family
members of other "unfortunates" when I was not awake.  It is in the
confines of a hospital that one learns he is not alone in his pain.
The boy who laid in the bed next to my own would literally "poop
himself out" during a bowel movement, losing his insides as well as the
excrement, while a child across the room had a valve on his head which
he could push when water accumulated, thereby releasing the pressure
and accompanying pain.  I wondered how those children could ever lead
normal lives with their present  situation appearing so dismal.
Although I existed in the present, I lived for the future and my return
home; accepting each moment, I fostered no suspicions that I would die,
having tumors removed; I knew nothing, as yet, of my tumors being
cancerous, for the grave seriousness of the operation I  gathered
slowly, as I gained physical strength, since spirit I never lacked.
The business of getting better was simply a matter of time; "whether or
not" I would improve did not enter my mind.  Feeling sick, followed by
recuperation and health were as inseparably linked as popcorn and salt.
I always "got better."

Later that evening, I announced that I had to use the bathroom.  After
two subsequent failures earlier in the day, I rejected the bedpan with
obstinance; the contraption was immodest and impossible to operate
without the patient feeling horribly unclean.  Moreover, I preferred a
dry bed to a wet one, and having twice illustrated my inadequacy for
the nurses, who then had the extra chore of changing my bed, I found
them more than agreeable toward the idea of escorting me to the

As I was helped to a sitting position, my mom looked on in unconcealed
surprise, thinking that I would certainly cry out in pain.  With an
inquiring glance at one of the doctors, who happened to be making his
rounds, he smiled proudly and explained that, although it was more
difficult, they had worked around the stomach muscles during the
surgery, rather than severing them.  Thus I was spared the excruciating
pain which further cutting would have wrought.

The adventure across the room was a success, and from that triumphant
hour, I no longer necessitated a bed pan; I had secured a far better
means of relief.

Although most of my hours spent in ICU consisted solely of rest, there
were those aspects of each day which I learned to abhor.  The most
objectionable was the routine of pounding my back, enacted by one of
the hospital staff, to insure that I would not accumulate fluid in my
lungs.  It was an obligatory function, I realized, yet it hurt
dreadfully.  As I was instructed to lay on my side, the ruthless
process would begin, thereby releasing my protests as well.  I remember
that I would beg them to stop; angry that I had to endure such hostile
treatment; I feared that the incision would burst open midway through
the ordeal, spilling my organs onto the bed sheets; that frightful
thought never materialized.

After a week of this stomach-wrenching routine, I was given a
contraption which was composed of two bottles, connected by four
plastic tubes, two of which were mouthpieces.  One bottle contained a
blue solution, while the other was completely empty.  This, I was told,
would be a substitute for the back-pounding if I would promise to use
it often throughout the day.  The object of the device was to blow
through one mouthpiece with sufficient pressure as to transfer the
contents of the full bottle into the empty one.  Then, once completed,
one would take up the alternate mouthpiece and repeat the process to
return the fluid to its original canister.  Even though this procedure
was rather slow from the outset, I welcomed it if it would spare my
incision the pain which resulted from the blows to my back.

Among my other daily routines were shots, administered twice to my
thigh, and the blood profile, in which blood was drawn in the morning.
Those who drew blood were quite practiced in that area and rarely
created any unpleasant moments; when the veins in my arms became
uncooperative through constant use, their faces did not waver in
protest at the thought of probing my feet or ankles, which were in
better condition and actually quite accessible.

On Friday, the IV which had been in position since Tuesday began to
infiltrate, wherein the IV solution no longer ran only into the vein,
but into the surrounding tissue as well.  My hand started to puff,
swelling into a spectacle which was twice the size of my other; with
all of the misdirected solution seeping into the tissues, I also began
to feel an annoying tightness which pained me when touched.  I hoped
that something would be done to alleviate my discomfort, without the
expense of additional anguish, for at times, a remedy invited
unforeseen unpleasantries greater than the one with which a patient was
currently battling.

Dr. W. was called in the room to start a new IV in my other hand.  I
hoped it would not be an ordeal, and remained silent as the probing
began.  Aiming for a vein, the doctor edged the needle through my skin
and missing his target, attempted to strike it again and again by
manipulating the direction of the needle.  I looked on, wincing, trying
desperately not to think at all.  His method was not succeeding, and
he withdrew the needle to make ready to try another vein.  Shifting his
position, he pierced through the flesh, striving for another site.  The
vein rolled about, eluding the valid efforts of the doctor, and once
again, he pulled the point from my hand to ready himself for his third
attempt.  I was holding my breath, uncertain how long I could withstand
the slow, methodical jabbing.  The needle was again thrust beneath my
flesh, poking back and forth as each try was foiled; in exasperation,
Dr. W. pulled the needle from my hand, stating resolutely,  "I'm not
going to hurt you again!" and fled the ward in search of another doctor
to fill his duty.

Several minutes passed, and then a bearded doctor strode toward my bed,
introducing himself as Dr. A.  I greeted him politely, though quite
wary, now, at the prospect of having to possibly relive the previous
experience.  My fears were groundless, however, for he quickly guided
the needle into a vein and wrapped my hand to secure its position. I
thanked him gratefully, branding his face and name into my memory.  The
following day I was transferred to the pediatrics ward, no longer
requiring constant observation.  It was a pleasing change; the rooms
were light and cheerful in comparison to the ICU, and the hallways were
brightly painted, having here and there, small lounges for the benefit
of both the young patients and their families.  The room boasted a TV,
which, after four days of silence, was welcome entertainment.  As an
added bonus, I was now able to receive mail, as well as several lovely
flower arrangements, which had not been allowed in the unit, and as a
result, spent their first days at the nurse's station.  The flowers and
plants brought life and color to the room's overall whiteness, and
reminded me of the genuine concern which, initially, I had been too
alienated by pain to realize.  The most important part of my day was
the mail delivery; the majority of my cards and letters came from
members of the church and my family.  The church response was utterly
amazing, and my days would have proven quite dreary had it not been for
their continuous demonstration of awareness regarding my condition.

I learned the full story behind my operation after my transferral to
pediatrics.  "A base-ball sized tumor. . . ," I marveled. "Did they
keep it?"  Mine was a question spurred by outright surprise and wonder.
I had no real desire to see the ugly mass.  I remembered how the
various organs looked floating in a pool of formaldehyde on the shelves
of the biology room, and shuddered, not caring to see something which
was, most likely, far more grotesque to the eye.  "It was a low-grade
form of cancer," Mom continued, "but they feel quite sure they got it
all . . ."

"Quite sure. . ."  my mind echoed.  Somehow that did not seem proof
enough.  Cancer.  I had heard of it before, everyone had.  It was a
word which bit the tongue like the crab for which it was named.
Cancer.  It was not a word which rolled off the tongue, and once in the
air, it remained there, like the seeds of a ghastly plague which was
feared with revulsion.  Cancer maimed.  Cancer killed.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, I drank in the magnitude of my
hospitalization and the many implications of having reared such a
growth in my stomach.  Although my progress appeared good and the
doctors believed in their operative finesse with pride and confidence,
I could not embrace the idea of my health as a steadfast quality; I
possessed an elusive disquietude in the recesses of my mind which would
sound an alarm and shield my heart from the brutal disappointment of
having placed my dreams in an unattainable void.  My voiceless
apprehension would create no problem, housed as it was, in the back of
my mind; remaining mute, except unto myself, it would hinder no one's
happiness should the doctor's certainty and everyone's hopes
materialize, least of all my own.  A positive result contrary to one's
innermost beliefs is a most precious one, indeed.

The days passed within the exacting boundaries of the hospital routine.
Each morning I was weighed, given a shot in the thigh, and then held a
thermometer firmly between my lips while the nurse took my pulse and
blood pressure readings.  The drain was checked and sometimes emptied,
as was the canister into which my stomach contents were suctioned.
Several hours later my parents would arrive after eating their
breakfast.  We talked a little, and then Dad would stroll casually out
of the room while Mom helped me to bathe.  One of the doctors made a
morning visit between 8:00 and 10:00; usually Dr. W. or M. were
assigned to the daily rounds, although Dr. T. did occasionally stop to
examine the scar and inquire about my general health.  It mattered
little who stopped in; I liked them all for their various qualities.

Dr. T. was strong, yet compassionate; he understood and empathized with
the concerned patients and family members, utilizing tact and
well-chosen words throughout all conversation.  He made the patient
feel comfortable, in good hands; if he did not feel for his patients,
he made a fine performance.

Dr. M. reminded me of one of my cousins, with dark hair and kind, dark
eyes which were a compliment to his character.  Younger than Dr. T. ,
he was efficient but gentle in his work, and had an easy personality
which won my trust and admiration.

Dr. W. had a character quite separate from the other two, which
demanded time to appreciate.  W. possessed an incredible air of
confidence almost akin to haughtiness, which made any failure a black
eye.  There was an inexplicable humor to his manner, however, which
redeemed brusque behavior, for he was not too proud to, in some way,
admit defeat.

A few days after my transferral to the semi-private room, I decided
that it was time to remedy my poor vision and insert my contact lenses.
An occasional lens wearer himself, Dr. W. proclaimed that I would
never be able to wear them for the entire day after not having inserted
them for over a week's time.  I shrugged, saying that I was still going
to try, as W. dismissed himself from the room.  With an IV in one hand,
and my other free, I manipulated the bottles of solution and the
contacts until I succeeded in their insertion.  Pleased that I had
accomplished the feat, one-handed, for all practical purposes, I sat
back in my bed and delighted in my ability to "see" once again.  The
nurses' faces were recognizable at a distance, the TV shows gained the
added impact of facial expressions and the flower arrangements stood
against the wall with a new clarity.  I could even peer from my window
and watch the pedestrians milling about in front of the hospital steps
and the fluid movement of the traffic through the streets.

At night, Dr. W. stopped again. "I'm wearing my contacts,"  I told him
with a smile.  "You wore them all day?." he asked, rather awestruck.
"Yeh, I did!"  He was speechless, shaking his head in disbelief as he
walked out of the door.  When I was alone I marveled at the beauty of
the city lights, which had only yesterday seemed a hazy melding of
fluorescent tubing, stretching toward an unknown obscurity; the lights
became sharp points of white before my eyes, mingled now and again with
the red flash of a car's tail lights or the green glow of a traffic
signal.  I stared out the window, picturing the night in my mind,
wishing I was bound northward in one of the streaming points of light.
As the traffic raced by, lost, finally in the darkness, I wondered if
they knew how lucky they were, OUT THERE; I really wondered if they
knew. . .

With my stomach on a slow route to recovery, I had not eaten for many
days, nor would I hope to eat for many more.  The pancreas needed to
heal as well, and the doctors would not allow food to pass through my
lips until it had shown signs of improvement.  I did not have a
breakfast tray to look forward to each morning, so after one of the
doctors stopped by, I would roll off the bed, and, escorted by my
parents, walk down the halls, leaning slightly from the tightness of
the incision and grasping the pole on which my IV hung suspended, still
dripping a tasteless breakfast into my vein.  During these strolls, my
"nose hose" was detached from the suction mechanism and clipped to my
gown like a hideous corsage.  At first I was embarrassed by the
decidedly gruesome appearance of the hose, filled as it was, with
mucous and blood, but eventually I grew accustomed to the people on the
floor and discovered, also, that others wore my unusual apparatus as
well.  Perhaps misery does not love company as much as it loves
compassion and understanding.  Thus I would skirt the corridors in both
directions, heading "right" toward the craft room, or "left" which lead
to the canteens.  Usually taking a left turn out of my room, I would
amble down the hall to contemplate the  vast selection of cold
sandwiches, snacks and candy which could be had simply through feeding
one's pocket change into the coin slots.  I stood wistfully before the
machines, pointing out to my parents what I would choose when I could
eat food again.

Although the stomach suction prevented me from feeling hunger pangs, it
was the taste of food that I so horribly missed.  Moreover, mealtime
broke the monotony of a bland routine; it was something pleasant to do,
exercising the mouth.  It disturbed me to see someone jawing his food
disinterestedly or poking at a meal which, in his opinion, lacked
aesthetic appeal.  Meal trays would often be returned sporting a
delectable piece of dessert or fruit; I would peer at the specimens,
sighing that I could not save the morsel from the trash heap.

Food became my favorite mind-game as my stomach gradually healed.  We
pursued the canteen route quite frequently throughout the day, and each
time I would gaze at the treats, yearning for a taste of something. . .
anything. . .besides the mint of my toothpaste.

I was not allowed to swallow food or liquid of any kind; even water was
forbidden.  My throat became dry, despite its occasional rinsing, and
the tube which ran from my nose to my stomach only hindered the
situation.  I decided to test my luck  and ask for ice, reasoning that
the excessive coldness might aid my throat to a degree, even though I
could not actually swallow any of it.  Since my saliva would become
frigid through the presence of the ice, perhaps the throat would
benefit from the slight trickling of cold moisture.  To my amazement,
they agreed to give me a glass of ice chips at various intervals
through the day providing I would only chew the ice, and then spit it
into a metal bowl for that specific purpose; I shook my head "yes" in
vigorous excitement at the proposal.  In time, I was even allowed to
swallow one or two teaspoonsful of ice each time.  It was a small, but
significant favor, for which I was exceedingly grateful.

As I improved, I sought other forms of entertainment aside from
watching television, which included the use of my hands.  In my
opinion, the hospital craft room was an ingenious installment.  I had
always loved art, and in that room, one could purchase various kits
which were self-contained, having all the necessary tools and
materials, for a minimal price.  It took no time at all before I had
selected two kits, and dispatched myself to my room to begin the
projects.  I also enjoyed drawing, and having remembered my sketch book
from home, I made several drawings from the items in my room and the
objects I saw in magazines.  When I was not involved with drawing,
however, I lusted at the food photographs and greedily read each
mouth-watering recipe.  It must have seemed a curious endeavor, for my
parents would watch me in good-natured humor as I sat enthralled, a
mere twig propped between numerous pillows, lingering over pictures as
if I was haunted by food's memory.

Mom and Dad would eat lunch outside of the hospital, and often walked
about afterward to exercise their stiff limbs.  Neither of them were
idle folk, and the long, exhaustive hours spent with me were difficult
for that reason, as well as many, more obvious ones.  It was fortunate
that I happened to be hospitalized during August, for the weather was
fine and conducive to jaunts through a park  or the city streets.  A
shopping mall was located in the area, and they would often stop there
to buy a small gift, which they would present to me upon their return.
As the weeks progressed I had collected a menagerie of small clay
animals which I displayed on a nearby nightstand; it was affection made
visible.  When my parents were gone, the treasures were a reminder of
their love throughout the night; staring vacantly out the window, I
knew that despite the impersonal glare of the city lights below, two of
the people out there cared for me.

Mail delivery was an exalted highlight of the day, arriving sometime
after the lunch hour.  I had always loved mail, yet this lavish
assortment of cards and letters was a recipe for happiness, and helped
to alleviate the disappointment of not having received a lunch tray.
The opening of mail was a tremendous pastime, bringing rhyme and
laughter to the afternoon.  After reading the cards, I would reread
them, picturing the individual or family who took the time to send the
cards.  The familiar names written at the bottom of a card or note
conjured images of home... and of friends, which instilled my parent's
day with warmth, even as it had enlightened my own.

Two weeks had passed since Dr. A. had started my IV in the ICU when it
began to infiltrate.  Hating to remove it, the nurses would fiddle with
the needle's position, pushing or pulling, and try to ignore the fact
that it, like all good things, must come to an end.  I tried to bear
up to its failure, but also hoped wildly that the IV would function for
one. . .more. . .day.  The trials I had endured before Dr. A.'s success
were still fresh in my memory.

Despite repeated attempts to save my two week old ally, its rapid
failure demanded attention as my hand swelled like a balloon and the
vein in which the needle resided stung intensely; it could no longer
remain unnoticed in my distorted hand.  The needle was pulled, and the
nurses went in search of a willing person to "install" another.

As a replacement for my duo-purpose IV, which dripped nourishment as
well as an anti-infection drug into my system, I somehow found myself
with an IV in both arms, one for each purpose, leaving my hands
virtually immobile and completely useless for any sort of craft that I
might have desired to undertake.  This certainly was a lousy state of
affairs, I thought, contemplating the television rather sullenly amid
my twisted array of tubes.  Dr. W. entered the room holding his
clipboard and beheld the new entanglement which extended into both
arms.  "Well, looks like you won't be putting in your contacts
tomorrow."  I thought I detected a note of triumphant glee in his
voice.  "I don't know. . ." I answered, my voice trailing off into
nothingness; the new day would reveal what I could and could not do.

With the dawn I found that many things were considerably more difficult
to accomplish.  After bathing, with Mom's assistance, I succeeded in
the insertion of my contacts, however, even though the process required
more time and effort than it had previously.  Shortly thereafter Dr. W.
pranced into the room.  "Hi!"  I said cheerfully, eyeing him with
obvious mirth and unaccountably good spirits.  He looked at  me from
behind his clipboard.  "I put 'em in!"  He gazed at me with dumbfounded
astonishment and self-consciously adjusted his glasses. "I didn't think
you could possibly do it with IV's in both arms. . ." he said, his voice
shedding its tone of superiority and knowledge.
I grinned at him widely from my bed.

The following day, Dr. W. wore his contacts.

After Dr. W. had departed, blinking with stolid determination due to
his brave and noble undertaking, Dr. T. paid me a visit.  Asking about
my condition, I could not refrain from lamenting my lack of mobility;
I no longer was able to draw or take up a craft, among other
difficulties.  He easily perceived my frustration and proclaimed,
"Well then, this won't do!" and made plans for an alternate solution;
I beamed with joy to think that I would be able to resume my former

That afternoon, I was greeted by Dr. M. who had received instructions
to replace one of my IV's to a vein located slightly below my neck,
which would be a more permanent, as well as a more comfortable
position.  He asked my parents to leave the room; I began to panic!  If
the insertion of the IV was going to create a lot of pain, I wanted no
part of it.  I was suddenly stricken with fear, as if all of the events
of the past weeks were thrust upon me at once.  I could bear no more,
and tears welled up in my eyes in apprehension for the relatively
simple procedure; I had already withstood much worse, yet my emotional
limit had been reached.

I sat, set-eyed, while Dr. M. set to work.  Trying to anticipate a stab
of pain, I watched him nervously as the minutes sailed by.  "There," he
said, leaning away from me.  "You're not done, are you?" I asked, quite
certain that the worst was yet to come, for I had felt no urge
whatsoever to flinch or grit my teeth; I had felt no sensation at all.
"I'm all finished," he said with a smile.  "But it didn't hurt at all!"
I said incredulously, nearly wanting to hug him. "Like," I said,
"sometimes people feel pain, and other times they don't."  I looked at
him in admiration.

After the episode with the IV, Dr. M. won my undiluted and devoted
trust; he was the doctor who actually performed the bulk of the work
load in my case, and as the weeks passed, I knew it was he who I would
miss, more than anyone, when I had shed my hospital gown for street
attire.  Whereas Dr. T. seemed rather like a paternal figure, and Dr.
W. a sibling rival, I came to look upon Dr. M. as a friend.  It was a
shame, I thought, that some patients never regard their doctor as a
human being, seeing only the suit or white jacket and ignoring the
features beyond.

As the days wore on, feeling myself to have become a permanent fixture,
I developed a friendly relationship with one of my numerous roommates.
She was slightly older than myself, fifteen perhaps, and had come to
the clinic from a southern state.  As we rattled on, I found myself
unintentionally mimicking her accent, as I often would do when engaged
in conversation with one boasting a heavy accent.  I always tried to
control my propensity, and succeeded when speaking to someone else, yet
to her I would inevitably twang the words off my tongue with a hint of
a southern drawl; she did not appear to notice, however, and I am sure
that if she had she would not have been insulted.

Julie resided across the room for more days than anyone else, for her
condition quite perplexed the physicians.  She, as well as her entire
family, suffered from acute fatigue; throughout the better portion of
the day she felt sleepy, and could nap at any time the order was given.
Eventually they released her from the hospital's care, unable to
pinpoint the problem after countless tests, both mental and physical.

Julie accompanied me on my trips through the halls, and grew accustomed
to standing beside me as I stared dreamily at the canteens.  Her
companionship helped to stave off monotony as the month of August
limped along.  Even after she was dismissed, Julie still came to visit,
as she was staying in the city while tests on other family members were

Perhaps there were those who were lonely in the hospital, yet I seldom
felt so myself.  Having my parents throughout the majority of the day,
augmented by patients that one would inevitably begin to recognize and
the friendly staff of doctors and nurses, I lacked no conversation.
The hospital was quite populous.  At night though, when the bustle of
the day had diminished and the corridors fell silent except for the
rumbling of an occasional cart, and the muffled steps of the nurses
performing their nightly rituals or answering a patient's light, I
would often lay awake and think of my home far away or watch the people
hurrying along the sidewalk below my window, disappearing into a car or
stepping from beneath a street lamp into a pool of darkness.  How I
longed to be out there. . . to feel the breeze, cool on my face, and
hear the faint scraping of my footsteps resounding on the cement
sidewalk. . .  All other desires were overshadowed by the wish to be
free, to live as one was intended to live, unhampered by tubes and
needles; once I was released I wanted never to return.  Evening was
often characterized by a slight melancholy, a stab of homesickness,
perhaps; yet I knew that mourning for that which one does not have was
a pointless, self-destructive endeavor, and I would focus my eyes on
the present, resolutely determined to face each challenge as
courageously as I possibly could.

I welcomed each new dawn, thinking it to be the start of one less day
in the hospital.  I was used to the routine now, every aspect a natural
part of this temporary form of reality.  One day, for amusement, I
decided to count the pinprick holes on my thigh, which attested to
their receiving a ritualistic shot both morning and night; I came up
with a total of 32 in one leg alone, equalling 16 days.  It was no
great wonder that my muscles were rather stiff and inflexible for this
was quite separate from acupuncture, especially on the few occasions
when the needle was a trifle dull.

Every day one of the doctors would call on me, asking how I felt.
"Fine" was always my automatic response; but for the tube in my nose
and no breakfast tray to look forward to, I had no complaints.  My
incision was healing quite well, and with the new IV, I was relatively
capable of anything, within reason, of course.  I was becoming
stronger, and oddly enough, gaining weight.  This latter fact seemed to
please the doctors and they would smile, saying my IV solution was like
eating a steak dinner each evening.  "No offense" . . . I said,
"but I'd rather enjoy the traditional kind!"

All of a sudden, amid their daily pre-rehearsed set of questions, I was
asked whether I experienced any gas.  "A little," I said amusedly.
"What about a bowel movement?"  Somewhat aghast I looked at them and
replied that I had not; "Why?"  I asked, quite perplexed. "Well, you
see, we don't want to start feeding you until we know the system is
functioning properly."  I raised my eyebrows and wondered where in the
world they thought a bowel movement would come from; admittedly, I
devoured the thought of food daily, but that would produce nothing of
interest to them.  "How am I supposed to go if you don't feed me
first?"  I asked. "Other people move regularly who are on IV's," they
said.  I knew I had a problem on my hands.  If other people generally
"went" it meant that I probably would not; in a world of rules, I was
often the exception.  There was no rhyme or reason to my physiology.
What was "was" . . . for example, I always sneezed in threes.  It was a
simple fact.  "I have to go before I get to eat... oh great!" . . .
I may never eat again, I thought dejectedly.

For the next few days the doctors would ask if I'd had a bowel
movement.  "Nope."  "Any gas?"  "A little."  I tried to surmise how
long this would have to continue, and began to use the little
persuasive ability which I possessed.  "How about feeding me
something... you'll get what you're after!"  Well, they didn't know.
As the days progressed, fruitless in respect to their tall order, they
began to soften.  "Any B M yet?"  "Nope!"  "Gas?"  "A little. . .
how about some food?"  "Well, everything seems to be healing well . . .
we'll see. . ."  I sat back in bed, thinking that maybe I would eat
again after all.

With the new school year close at hand, Mom began to think about her
kindergarten: her room at school was disheveled and barren; still
wearing its stark summer time guise.  She would have to restore order
to the chaotic array of boxes and create an atmosphere of warmth and
welcome for the children who would soon fill the room with energetic
enthusiasm; Mom needed to return to Moline.  A plane reservation was
booked, and Dad drove her to the airport with the understanding that
she would fly back to Rochester on the coming weekend.  It was
different with Mom gone, more quiet, understandably, yet the difference
extended beyond all those of the physical nature.  Perhaps there is an
instinctual essence within us, as humans, which desire maternal
companionship in times of emotional turbulence or physical weakness.
It is unfair to fathers who love, and are loved deeply in return, but
the mother, the protectress and shrine of life, shall always be the
sustaining end of the cord which had bound her child to existence.

Dad, also, experienced a void in his day with Mom at home.  Mom seemed
to have a calming effect upon him, and coupled with her innate
optimism, her presence buffered his reactive temperament.  I worried
about Dad; Mom seemed always to have something to divert her attention,
he had only the daily newspaper, occasional stints in front of the
television, and his frequent strolls through the hospital corridors.
Apart from the routine of his job, and the countless repairs of a home
and car, and now stripped of his wife and companion as well, I could
easily understand his restlessness.

With the noon hour, Dad would take his leave of me, and lunch in a
nearby cafe.  He soon found a favorite restaurant, which served freshly
baked pies daily; this treat was better eaten at noon, for
procrastination resulted in thorough disappointment. . . often all the
pie would be gone by the time the thought of supper struck a pleasing
note in one's stomach.

When he had finished lunch, his next priority was a walk, which grew
quite lengthy on certain days; this was an indulgence which I never
thought to impede or discourage, for he needed a reprieve from anxiety
much more than I.  It was always a great exasperation to me when I
would see a patient, whether he was a child or an adult, deny his
family members of their need for space and a sense of normalcy.  Simply
because a patient feels caged by his hospitalization is no reason to
expect a constant bedside companion, thereby imprisoning his loved one
with a greater sentence than that on which he himself felt imposed; the
patient is better able to withstand the hours of boredom, for he is
ill, but the relative, having his usual amount of energy cannot bear
the strain of worry coupled with a patient's demand for vigilance.
Occasional loneliness is far easier to overcome than emotional fatigue.

I entertained myself when Dad was on his walk; it was easy to do.
Often I daydreamed in the midst of a television program, or stared at
the pages of a magazine, never having read them at all.  I rarely read
magazines, although I enjoyed them heartily; most of their appeal
derived from the photos, imprinting them in my mind and drawing hours
of fantasy from the images alone.

After the passage of two hours or more, Dad would return, faithfully
maintaining his daily surprise.  The gift would be placed among my
other treasures to be enjoyed and to become part of the memory which
was already forming in my brain.  The mail had arrived, and he would
look through the cards, reading slowly the message or poem, then
flipping to the front of the card once again.  "That's nice,"  he
would say, and pick up another to read.  Dear 'ol Dad, I loved him so.
I wondered why it seemed more difficult to let him know; I had no need
to fear him, his brusque overtones were not always the fruit of anger
as much as despair.  I knew that when I hugged him, his heart nearly
burst, his was no cold, indifferent demeanor. . . Dad's heart possessed
the hardness of an eggshell.

The remainder of the day would pass according to routine.  We took
walks through the halls, longer now that I was gaining endurance, and
began to trod on unfamiliar ground, past dimly illuminated passages and
ancient, rather ominous corridors which had never worn a bright splash
of paint.  It was depressing and almost scary in these foreboding
extremities of the hospital, and I was glad for Dad's company.  On one
particularly memorable excursion we had reached the end of the lengthy,
darkened corridor and stumbled upon a window, situated next to the
elevator, which faced the pediatrics ward from whence we had come.  As
we were surveying the scene, the elevator door opened, and a woman
appeared, clad in a hospital gown, whose visage shocked my young eyes;
her eyes bore the sign of a failing anatomy, jaundiced to such a degree
that they seemed to have the uncanny glow of a neon sign.  She carried
on her face an indisposition to speak; I turned away, but not with
obvious haste, trying to feign a degree of casual preoccupation toward
the window as she moved into the hallway.  The whites of her eyes,
yellow as buttercups, were entrenched into my memory, haunting me
after she disappeared around the corner.  Such sights were not alien to
the hospital or clinic buildings yet they could not pass one's notice
without delivering a jolt of awareness, of pity for the individual
whose grasp on mortality was waning beneath humanity's unsettled gaze.

Somewhat disturbed after encountering the unusual pair of eyes, I was
content to return to the comparative gaiety of the children's ward.
Giving up the desolate sea of green wherefrom we had emerged, we were
received by a conglomeration of lights which imparted to us an aura of
welcome and flooded the ward with a sense of security.

Dad remained with me until his supper hour, at which time he would
again be transported into the functioning world, where normalcy, rather
than malaise, reigned complete.  Following supper, he again returned to
the hospital; our evening was generally spent in front of the
television, taking in what entertainment it had to offer, and then
between the hours of 8:00 and 9:00 o'clock he kissed me good-night, and
walked to his motel, located in the immediate proximity of the hospital.

On the eve of Labor Day weekend, Mom flew back to Rochester, and Dad
left for the airport soon after eating his last meal of the day.  He
was always punctual, preferring to wait several hours at his
destination rather than lounge about at the home base until the last
minute lest one of a hundred mishaps occurred.  Such was the scenario
depicting that evening, and I felt I could look forward to a night
bordering on the exact characteristics of the one before, distinguished
only by the fact that my father was absent.

I had observed a fair amount of television when the nurse entered to
read my vital statistics and administer the nightly shot to my thigh.
Feeling also that I needed to utilize the facilities, she escorted me
to the door of the bathroom, pushing the IV pole beside me.  Suddenly
the IV tube swung out before me, dangling crazily like a wind-blown
vine; it had become detached from the "socket" which protruded from my
skin.  I saw no cause for alarm, yet the nurse wheeled and darted up
the hall, leaving the muffled remnants of an explanatory reason for her
flight, to the effect, "I'm going for a syringe. . ."  I hadn't seen
the tube touch the floor, although contamination was the cause of the
nurse's anxiety; I decided to stand at the bathroom door and await her

No sooner had a minute passed when my body took on a strange weakness.
My head felt heavy and my eyes were oddly rebelling toward my desire to
focus clearly; I knew if I did not sit down, I would fall presently, so
I leaned against the wall and slid slowly to the floor.  I had gained a
sitting position, yet, that too, was being drawn from my capabilities;
a determined force beckoned me toward the floor and I sunk resignedly
down, unafraid and rather indifferent, as a ship, torn and buffeted,
would relinquish herself to the fathoms of a gaping sea.  As my body
was ushered to the tile, I glanced helplessly out into the hallway and
caught the eye of a doctor, unknown to me, who was walking briskly past
through the untouched silence of the ward.  He stopped abruptly, eyeing
me with marked curiosity and asked  "Do you need some help?"  "Uh, yeh"
I said, thinking I could, indeed, use some assistance.  It struck
me as incredibly humorous, even though I was not fully able to exercise
or convey the entirety of my comic faculty at the time.  He asked what
had happened and why the nurse had left me; I told him, for my
mentality, though buffered, was intact. He wanted to know if the IV had
touched the ground.  As I did not believe that it had, he gave it a
swift, cursory inspection and plugged it back into the socket.  By then
the nurse had returned and was instructed to round up several others;
they had to carry me back to bed, as my legs were rubberized and
altogether useless.  I felt as if I had entertained a drunken stupor
within the passage of minutes, and without having passed a glass to my

The episode must have resulted from the rapid denial of the solution to
my system; since the IV dripped steadily into my veins, my body reacted
to the change as it would any shock.  Moreover, the fact that the IV
was so near to my heart, and the realization that I was standing when
the incident occurred, both render the semi-faint more understandable.
At any rate, the doctor and several nurses flitted about me until they
felt quite satisfied that the better part of my siege had ended; I
immediately reflected how fortunate it was that the stated occurrence
happened during the absence of my father.  "Well," I thought lazily,
"miracles do happen; or, at least, my luck isn't all bad!"  Dad, I
knew, would not have reacted with the lack of agitation that I had
portrayed toward my rendezvous with the hospital floor, and I was
extremely grateful that he did not have to witness the affair.  While I
was musing upon the above thoughts, the telephone's harsh ring clamored
to be received.  I laid in bed, still awash in a sea of partial
coherence, allowing the nurse to answer the call.  It was my oldest
brother, Todd; somewhat dazed, I grasped the phone and attempted to
carry on an intelligent conversation, explaining that which had
transpired directly preceding his call.  Once I replaced the receiver,
I collapsed again into the bed's rigidity, perceiving that my former
energy, absorbed into another sphere of existence, had not been
repleted.  My strength was of no consequence however; it had grown
late, the plane's arrival was delayed, and nothing was required of me
except to wait for the appearance of my parents; waiting was something
to which I was now accustomed.

It was good to see Mom again; Dad drove her to the hospital albeit the
fact that visiting hours had long since elapsed; in the pediatrics
ward, such rules were often relaxed or ignored for the benefit of the
family, and it was not an uncommon sight to observe a parent slumped in
a corner chair, stealing what replenishment the cramped, make shift bed
would afford.  My parents did not tarry in my room that night, as the
minutes marched heedlessly onward and the night aged before us.  I
reviewed for them the main excitement of the evening, briefly filling
their inquiries and in return receiving a small dose of chit-chat for
my own reflectance.  As they bid me goodnight, I knew that tomorrow
would be merrier for everyone; the main family unit had been reunited.

Parents are the foot-holds and building blocks that sustain the growing
youth; while other individuals may very well flavor the insights and
spice the outlooks of a maturing mind, the parents yet possess the
solid, nurturing ingredient... stability... to which he can, and will,
turn in trying hours.  I knew that I would forever be my parents'
little girl; it was of no consequence that I would age into adulthood;
I would always be a fruit of their existence, and while we all had
possession of our senses and general mentality, I would, as would all
of my siblings, return to their sheltering arms in fear, in pain, and
in turmoil.  Such was the nature of the bond of father and mother to
their children, creating a debt which can seldom be repaid.  I hoped
that, in my small way, I could give them strength and answer their
needs, and prove to be an enrichment to their lives.

The weekend passed rapidly, but it was appreciated by everyone.  Mom,
it was clear, had to return to her children; though they were, as yet,
names without faces, her obligations as a kindergarten teacher existed
with more prominence than my health situation; I was out of danger, and
my recovery was ripening gradually; soon I would be released from the
hospital and live once more.

Three weeks had elapsed, and still I had tasted no food, nor had I
swallowed a mouthful of water.  My yearning for the sensory delight of
harboring various flavors and textures in the mouth and intermingling
them with cool draughts of liquid refreshment had not abated; indeed,
if the truth must reveal itself, I exalted the characteristics of mere
sustenance to magnanimous proportions, certain that I would heartily
enjoy food of the most modest preparation; dishes which had formerly
sobered my features and impaired my appetite I fancied inviting and

My exuberant preoccupation with food was alien to no one.  I would sit
in bed, cutting recipes and their corresponding pictures from women's
magazines then, in turn, would glue them to recipe cards, as the
tasteless weeks began and ended.  One might have thought that food
would have been a vexation to my mind, yet dreams never inflicted pain
upon my heart, and because they were figments of imagination, mere
mental sketches, their failure in existence caused no dilemma; only,
perhaps, mild disappointment.

The daily visits by the doctors seemed to meld together, echoing the
remarks and questions of the previous day.  "Any bowel movement yet?"
"No."  "Gas?"  "A little."  The questions had taken on the pure
monotony of a scratched record which played the identical phrase over
and over, into oblivion.  How many days, I wondered, would my ears
endure the repetition before the doctors were assured of the normalcy
of my stomach and pancreas?  I tried to close my mind to distressing
thoughts; I knew nothing of my physical condition and through the
doctor's restrictions, I would return to health; I had far too much
confidence and hope to fly to the arms of despair, for in despair one
finds no warmth or comfort.

Having passed my third week in the confines of the hospital, the
doctors finally concluded that the signs were such that they could risk
the removal of the nose tube and allow me to slowly test my stomach's
endurance and tolerance of a liquid diet.  The prospect elated me, and
I promised to abide by their cautious instructions.

Removing the tube which issued from my stomach through my nose was no
major operation; before I had enough time to be scared, the tube was
out and my nose, clear.  Dr. M. said that the tube would have to be
analyzed for bacteria in the laboratory and, at the sight of the grisly
thing, I immediately pitied the individual who would be assigned to the
horrid occupation.  Turning my thoughts inward, I found that, other
than a soreness of the throat, I had no complaints to offer; to be free
of the tube improved my appearance and heralded the commencement of
food into my daily routine.

The first sampling of liquid sustenance proved to be a shadow of my
expectations.  I was served bouillon broth and green tea, both of which
hardly satisfied my stomach's desire; the broth was intolerably salty
to my unused tastebuds and the tea unfamiliar.  Nevertheless, I
consumed a fair amount of each simply as a reminder that I was licensed
to function as any other human, eating and drinking as a matter of

Within 24 hours after my first ingestion of liquid food, I proclaimed
that I felt an urge to go to the bathroom.  The nurse excitedly told me
not to flush the bowel movement until she had inspected the stool; it
was to be a clearly monumental event!  After having proudly enacted the
endeavor of which the absence had, for weeks, instilled nervous qualms
into the doctors' thoughts, I emerged from the bathroom; the nurse
quickly surveyed the matter, simultaneously taking notes.  It was as if
I was a hen who had laid a golden egg, except for the humbling fact
that my offering was soon flushed from view.

I greeted the doctor that day with an unusually wide smile, knowing
that when he asked his well-rehearsed question, I would be able to
answer in the affirmative; however, he had already received the news by
way of the nurse's chart, and beamed with apparent happiness.  "You had
us worried for awhile there," he said.  "Well," I countered,  "I told
you that you would get what you wanted if you fed me."  I sat upright
in bed, grinning tight-lipped and amused by the sheer commonality of
the entire situation; only in a hospital would one find so many
individuals whose good tidings could be realized through such unlikely
aspects of life.  Actually, it was rather refreshing; if the bulk of
society could gather contentment from such normal functions, such
simple pleasures, what an unassuming, peaceful world it would be.

With the advent of my ability to utilize my stomach, came other
surprises which were beneficial to my happiness, if not also my thighs;
instead of morning and evening shots, I could now receive medication
orally, thus sparing my legs further abuse.  Dr. W. was assigned to
prescribe the medication replacing the shots; when I told him that I
was unable to take pills, he studied me from behind his clipboard, and
a wry smile spread slowly across his lips.  "You can't swallow pills?"
he asked. "No." was my firm reply.  My dad, who had been observing the
entire scene unfold, queried, "Laurie, after all you've been through,
that would be easy!"  It was of no consequence to me how "easy"
swallowing a pill seemed to them. . . it was unnatural.   I had no
intention of trying, especially after all I had been through.

Thinking an injection of fundamental guilt or embarrassment would make
more pliable my stiff-willed stance, Dr. W. raised his eyebrows and
said mockingly,  "My three year old can swallow pills."  Surely such an
assertion by a proud father of his youngster's amazing feat would be a
sufficient reason to shame me into taking my medicine.  I looked at him
undaunted and unimpressed.  "I can't swallow pills."  Perhaps
remembering my success at wearing contacts all day, despite his
positivity that I could never insert the lenses, let alone wear them
for the period of more than several hours, he nodded and selected an
alternative to pills.  The art of negative and positive persuasion had
little effect on me if I had full reign over my senses.  Eyeing each
other like rivals, we broke into good-humored smiles as he turned to

Sometimes one's dreams and aspirations bring more pleasure than their
fulfillment in reality.  Many, I am sure, have waited in gleeful
anticipation for a certain event to take place, only to feel acute
disappointment when its enactment failed to bring forth one's expectant
jubilation; such was the case with the ambrosiac  manifestations which
I had bestowed upon food, and the effect which said food wrought upon
my stomach.  To explain further, eating brought about nauseousness;
this surprise substantially daunted my adoration for food, and putting
away my recipes, turned my attentions to other, less torturous joys of
life.  Eating was eyed with sharp suspicion; I was told that, since
three quarters of my stomach was gone, I could expect nausea following
meals and, because of the small capacity, should feed myself often.  As
a result, I would eat a small amount, become nauseous, recover, only to
discover that another tray of food was being placed in front of me.  I
had to force myself to eat; it was a chore to maintain my existence,
not a delight, as I had earlier supposed.

Another curiosity which stemmed from eating was noticed after the
initial bite of jello; oddly, jello seemed to "stick" at the point of
entry to the stomach, then, eventually, pass down into the stomach
itself.  Never having experienced this sensation before my operation, I
mentioned it to the doctors.  They were unconcerned, and felt that any
difficulty would soon repair itself.  I nodded, wondering if it would,
indeed, recover on its own.  I remembered the tender lump which my head
had somehow sustained during my lapse of unconsciousness in the
operating room.  Five days later, approximately all of the hair in the
scalp which grew within the sore region fell out, leaving a temporary
oval bald spot on the back of my head.  When asked about this curiosity
the doctors were mute. Perhaps it was the result of an operating room
panic; I could understand their silence amid such societal leaches as
lawyers and "lawsuit" seekers. The lump would be a mystery.

Because the doctors offered no clues as to the cause of the "sticking"
I managed to concoct several of my own; one possibility was that the
valve between the esophagus and stomach, known as the cardiac
sphincter, sustained damage in the operation or through the long-term
presence of the stomach to nose tube; or, I thought, the muscles within
the esophagus, which push food toward the stomach in swallowing, were
not functioning properly.  The actual reason was never drawn from my
inquiries, and to the present, the sensation creates some difficulty;
yet it, like the other questions, shall always remain a mystery.

With each day I was given more freedoms; the IV was removed, and the
cumbersome pole escorted to the supply room; walks increased in number
and duration as they were now unhampered by either tube or pole.  My
diet improved rapidly, from liquids to strained liquids, to soft foods,
and finally to a regular diet, and albeit the fact that food was no
longer a blissful thought, the small and frequent meals were a source
of entertainment and added sparkle to my day.

Despite gastro-intestinal difficulties, I endured the final days in the
hospital with a new strength; because I was eating and sustaining
nourishment through my natural means, I knew the heavy burden of a long
recovery was loosing itself from my shoulders; I had nearly reached the
summit of self-restoration after physical toil and mental strain.

My personality was refreshed by the small delights which seemed to grow
unchecked in my miniature world; I loved to sit outside on the roof-top
"patio" of the hospital and feel the warm sun and summer breeze touch
my face, while at night the distant lights of Rochester glittered and
shed their baleful remorse before my eyes; they were tempting jewels no
more, but sweet reminders that at the week's end, I could stand beneath
their steady glow. I no longer felt imprisoned, an outsider to the
stream of life.  I was a part of humanity, an element of nature, a
working vessel of creation.  I was not constrained.  If I so desired, I
could dress in my civilian clothes and disappear through the yawning
doors of the elevator, to be lost in a sea of unknown personalities,
and unfamiliar faces.  The idea of freedom was a comfort to my last
days of hospital existence, for it was attainable; I had but to discard
my gown, don my clothes, and flee. . . and it would be mine.  True
bondage, I found, existed only in the mind and the way in which one
perceived his world; for whether restricted under lock and key or lack
of health, the mind is still capable of limitless meanderings if one
but remains open to himself and is aware of his dreams.

On the day of my departure, Dr. T. dropped in to remove my stitches.
Perhaps because he was the primary surgeon, this finalization was
reserved for himself as the ultimate service and last detail of the
operation.  I watched while he snipped the threads, and tugged them
from their month-long residency, some willing to give up their hold,
others wrestling rebelliously with my skin.  Here and there, pinprick
points of blood surfaced along the scar, active protests of dislodged
threads, which shined conspicuously beside the ruddy incision. Though
alarming in its appearance, the skin would one day recover from its
trauma and time would fade the scar; already it showed signs of rapid
healing, itching uncontrollably, as with a vengeance; the soreness
diminished, and I could stand upright with little pain or stiffness.

Dr. T. always appeared to share in one's concerns as well as one's
joys; it was evident that my departure and good progress pleased him.
Other than a slight loss of weight after returning to food, which was
to be expected, given the side effect of nausea, I demonstrated every
sign which indicated a splendid recovery was well underway.

Later in the morning, Dr. M. arrived to remove the drain in my side.
The procedure was little more than a strange tugging and the length of
flexible rubber was discarded.  A stitch was also removed, and the
business was finished with the placement of a gauze patch.

I was quite satisfied and ready to leave.  The doctors I would see the
following day at the consultation in the Mayo building, but to the
nurses, I gave a word of farewell.  In my own way, I would miss them,
for I had grown to know their various personalities; but though I was
grateful for their services, I would not pine my station in the
pediatrics ward. . . even the stale, smoky scent of a motel room was a
better place to spend the night.  Gathering my belongings, I began the
walk to the elevator with my father, beaming happily at my long-awaited
descent into the real world.  "Come back and see us!"  shouted the
nurses.  I smiled.  "Okay!"  I said mechanically; although I was not
intentionally insincere, I knew that I would never return.  Once I
quitted an institution or a segment on life's chain of events, I never
retraced my steps.  I looked not so much to the future as to the
present, and in the present, I wished to live.

As I stepped into the morning sun, I tried to inhale the freshness,
gaze upon the beauty and listen to the sounds; life swelled about me,
too immense to take in at one moment.  My spirits were frothing with
excitement at each successive stride along the pavement as we paced
toward our motel; it was a Big Day.

I rested briefly in the motel room and then we decided to drive around
Rochester so I could see for myself some of the places Dad had visited
on his afternoon strolls.  Many of the streets were lovely, bordered
with trees which grew from scrupulously trimmed lawns.  The houses
behind the green lawns and sculptured shrubs loomed with magnificence
and grandeur; some displayed vast entry-ways while others boasted fine
masonry and stonework.  I had little doubt but that these were the
homes of surgeons, businessmen and prominent city personnel.  The
outward appearance of the homes showed nothing but orderliness and
tranquility, yet for all of the pervasive greenery, the scene lacked a
sense of life; no one peered through the windows, no boy clad in
cut-off jeans mowed the grass, no children played on the
clean-swept-steps, nothing moved but the trees in the wind.  I
reflected on the sight dismally.  Perhaps it was considered improper to
be "seen" outdoors; I lamented the plight of some people, for whom
natural beauty seemed not a thing to be enjoyed, but merely a device by
which one's wealth could be measured, something tangible, something
which could be had.  I had once heard that through riches one might be
free; yet that which I saw in these streets was bondage of the most
pitiable sort, for it was entirely self-imposed.  Restrictions and
social codes made by and for the elite were gladly followed, and those
who bent under their weight, stooped willingly.  Conformity can
eventually overshadow the individual, rendering his former joys
meaningless, if he desires to exist amid prefabricated expectations as
determined by status rather than true values.  Such are the hazards of
social living; personally, however, I would rather sit on my front
steps and wave at passersby.

Then I remembered; it was noon, a September weekday. . . the children
were in school, the parents at work, and youngsters were most likely
receiving their lunch.  It was I who was an alien spectacle, not the
streets through which we were driving; had it not been for my
hospitalization, I, too, would have been seated amongst a classroom of
students, and Dad at work.  Again I mused over the beautiful sights.
Maybe I had simply come at the wrong time; every street can seem
deserted.  I hoped that these lawns were loved as I loved my own.

We roved about the city, finally stopping at an outdoor mall which
extended far beyond my ability to traverse.  Dad and I entered only
several shops which contained the novelty items that had served as my
daily surprises while residing in the hospital.  I tired easily,
however, so we found our way to the motel once more.

The lodging was plain, but serviceable and clean.  My bed was
commodious, compared to that which I had occupied for the past month;
it boasted a built-in massage mechanism, which I tried immediately, and
later regarded as a waste of both time and money.  It was amusing,
however, shaking vigorously, for about three minutes, like a belly of a
rotund man engaged in hearty laughter.  As I unloosed the bedspread
from its clutch around the pillows, I noticed that the pillows rustled
when touched; inspecting them further, I discovered they were encased
protectively in plastic.  My eyebrows arched quizzically at the sight,
yet I said nothing; there must be a reason why the management was
disposed to do this, but it mattered little to me at the moment.  I
wished to rest, and until it was time for supper, discarded all
conscious thought and drifted into a peaceful repose.

In keeping with my redesigned stomach, I ate a small meal at supper
time.  Before setting back to the motel for the evening, though, I
decided that it might be fun to sample one of the famous pies that my
dad had been enjoying throughout the month, so we turned into the cafe,
and luckily, spied several pieces that still lurked in the pie cabinet.
A slice of apple pie caught my fancy, and Dad selected another.  He
had not bent the truth; the pie was delicious, and I unhesitatingly
devoured the entire piece.

Once returned to our motel, I began to note the uneasy qualms of an
upset stomach gradually gaining momentum.  I decided to lay down,
incubating the nauseousness until it had transformed into an
unquenchable, relentless monster.

Before I was able to run, or even think to run, the beast gave a mighty
heave and unloosed its hold on the contents of my stomach.  Apple pie.
The reason was now quite evident for the necessity of the plastic
pillow covers.  Apple pie in reverse was a sight most gruesome.  I
looked once more at my pillow, a wrong move, and bolted for the toilet
as the beast ventilated its frustrations a second time by bellowing
vehemently into the porcelain bowl.

I don't blame my stomach for its mammoth revolt; it had not needed to
function at all for well over three weeks, and then, after a mere five
days of work, it received an entire slice of rich apple pie.  Not
pleased, it decided to send it back.  Thus my Big Day ended on a rather
sour note; but perhaps sweetness, tempered, forms the groundwork of
memories far stronger than those composed solely of sugar and honey.


Chapter 12

"Uncertainty wielded mighty weapons and sharp words.  What IF. . .was
too persuasive to warrant refusal."



With the new day, I was more cautious in my choices of food.  We
breakfasted, then lunched, milling about the city until it was time for
our afternoon consultation.

We were to meet with a Dr. E., an oncologist who specialized in cancer
treatment; the surgeons would also attend.  Playing the usual waiting
game, we sat first in the lobby, and after our names were called, found
ourselves in a room similar to that in which the initial pre-operative
consultation had taken place.  Neither Dad nor I knew what this meeting
would portend; yet I felt that, although my hospital stay had reached
its end, my wings were clipped, unfit for flight.  There would be more
trials, and more obligations; uncertainty seemed to breed obligation,
for to it, I was unextricably bound.

Muffled steps were heard outside the door, and I had a slight sensation
of de ja vu.  Then the door burst open, and a tall man entered, booming
a friendly "hello" to both of us.  We all shook hands and seated
ourselves; soon afterward, the three surgeons, Drs. T. M. and W.,
entered as well as a young smiling doctor who was there simply to
observe.  Dad rose again to greet the new comers.  As the pleasantries
died away, the business of the meeting came to our attention.

Because my tumor had been cancerous, there was naturally the question
of whether surgery alone had been action enough to free the entire
cellular structure from my body.  As far as the surgeons could
recognize, they had removed all cancerous cells, but since cells cannot
be seen by the naked eye, the doctor's supposition could possibly have
been incorrect; for this reason the meeting was called to determine the
next course of action. Since mine was a rather unusual case, they felt
at a complete loss as to the route which should be taken, and having
stated several options decided to privately confer the matter.  The
doctors filed out of the room.  Dad and I looked at one another. The
whole situation seemed ridiculous.  The surgeons were "certain" yet the
state of my health was rendered "uncertain" by the presence of cancer.
One word, and yet it made such a difference; it was almost
mathematical; just as surely as positive and negative numbers,
multiplied, equalled a negative response, certainty coupled with
uncertainty yielded uncertainty.  Moreover, I began to feel like a
subject, someone against whom plots were devised; there was to be no
specific method, no scientific plan in my treatment. . . and while I
reserved faith in the doctors, I knew that an end had been reached
wherein my self-confidence was worth just as much to my well-being, if
not more.

When the doctors returned, they confessed that, although a decision had
been determined, their means of arriving at said decision was quite
simplistic and utterly devoid of calculation. The decision was
literally pulled from a hat, producing a solution which read,
"Chemotherapy," and to which they would adhere unless our wishes were
opposed to it.  At this point, the surgeons took their leave of us, and
I voiced my farewells; they disappeared into the hallway, and the door
slowly drifted back, to close silently and blot their retreating
footsteps.  It seemed strange that I should never see these men again
when, for a month, they were daily visitors and trusted allies.

We were now alone with Dr. E. and the silent, smiling observer.  Dr. E.
explained the situation which had formulated, defining chemotherapy as
a means by which cancer was cured, sweeping any and all lingering cells
from the body with a deadly blow.  In my case, the treatment was viewed
simply as a protective measure, a guarantee, that all cancerous cells
were wiped out; given such a characteristic, especially when
considering my previously mentioned uncertainty, it was already obvious
to me that we would not refuse the proposal. As we sat motionless to
hear the rest of the definition, I became aware of the observing doctor
whose eyes were riveted to my face with an uncanny, relentless
fascination, while his lips remained curled in an unwavering smile; it
mattered little where I would place my eyes, his gaze feasted on my
features, ingesting hungrily every emotion my countenance displayed.  I
listened half-heartedly to Dr. E.'s conversation; he explained that
treatments would be paid through the research funding since my cancer
was a rarity, and would therefore place my family under no financial
burden.  It was nice that my experimental therapy would be no cancer on
my parent's bank account, I thought dimly; my concentration was
withering under the infernal scrutiny of the observer's beaming eyes
and steadfast smile, for there was no benevolence in that plaster-cast
smile, only a keen desire to devour one's expressions; and I knew that
he waited for a certain look, a show of anguish, an emotional outburst.

Dr. E. continued.  He was explaining the ways in which chemotherapy
affected the patient.  Something within me did not want to hear what
would happen, yet my mind took it in; I would feel sick, nauseous,
weak.  I would be susceptible to infections and viruses...  I would be
afflicted with occasional aching...  I would lose my hair...  I could
die.  Tears, unbidden, welled up in my eyes so I tried furiously to
will them away; I did not want to cry in front of those lidless eyes.
It was rude, callous, to stare so unflinchingly as another's future was
verbalized and deftly illustrated by a doctor who knew all of the
hideous cruelties of which chemotherapy was capable.

Dr. E. passed a form to my father, instructing that both he and I read
carefully, and sign if we were in agreement to its statements; our
obligations, their obligations, etc., etc., etc.  I was staring at my
knees, fighting tears desperately.  My head was bowed low to escape the
face which would not leave my own, which granted no peace or
meditation.  Dad balanced the paper on his knees and signed his name
with confident strokes; he passed it to me.  "You can read it first,"
he said.  My eyes were a haze which saw through the page.  I did not
need to read it, for I knew what I had to do; knowing, however, made it
no easier.

I signed without thinking, without reading one word.  The observer was
grinning widely now, a sadistic glimmer of pleasure seemed to sparkle
in his eyes; I did not have to look at him directly; his luminous frame
of mind pierced my unseeing stare.  Tears shone on my face.  I wondered
bitterly if my performance had satisfied him.

To conclude the business of the hour, a date was determined for my
return to the clinic; the commencement of treatment was two short weeks
from the present, and time would not slow its tempo for me.  I would
have to enjoy those days while I was able.  Dr. E. stood, signifying
that the meeting, and his time, had reached its duration; I bid him a
respectful good-bye and he ushered his abominable side-kick out of the
door.  Dad and I gathered our belongings and departed in their wake,
walking toward the lobby.  Climbing in the elevator, descending to our
floor, climbing out of the elevator, walking to the car...  it all
seemed mechanical.  While our bodies glided toward our car,
self-propelled, we decided to leave the town that afternoon.  Somehow,
the future demanded that the need to go home be satisfied.  We went.

The September sun crept low, tempting winter as it reclined toward the
western horizon.  After we had left the city behind us, and found the
route which would lead its weary travelers home, Dad broke the silence
of our brooding minds.  "Would you have been satisfied with just the
operation?  Would that have been enough?"  I shook my head slowly back
and forth, sitting quietly and gazing as the pavement was consumed by
the miles. "No..."  I said, faintly echoing my mute reply.  We drove
on, into the fading light.  Uncertainty rode with us; it was the
impetus which quailed for insurance, taunting our future-bent minds
with doom and dread.  Uncertainty wielded mighty weapons and sharp
words. "What if..."  was too persuasive to warrant refusal.

We arrived in Moline long after sunset; it was a beautiful sight,
crossing the Mississippi, for the river reflected the street lights in
a profusion of multi-faceted bands which sparkled like a king's hoard
of precious jewels.  It seemed a warm welcome, though few people were
stirring, and those that stirred knew us not.  That we knew the land
was enough.

The streets on which we drove seemed like old friends, unchanged, and
somehow dearer to the heart after the extended absence; Fourth Avenue,
whose narrow confines should never have known four lanes of traffic;
53rd St., which boasted one of the few brick surfaces still in use;
and 7th Ave....  the corner mail box, the parallel rows of houses, and
finally, our gravel driveway....  home.  As we neared the end of the
avenue, the headlights caught a curious banner of white which appeared
to stretch over the entire drive.  We approached and stopped beneath a
sign which read, "Welcome Home Laurie," professionally lettered in blue
and red; it was the work of John Moore, Steve's father.  Welcome
home?...  indeed, yes!

The following days seemed a continual welcome; my aunt made some of my
favorite rice pudding, neighbors dropped in, friends visited...  and to
my surprise I received more cards in the mail.  I busied myself writing
numerous notes expressing my gratitude for all the demonstrations of
concern which I had received as well as a note of appreciation which
appeared in the church bulletin in reference to all the cards sent to
the hospital;  it was a job I viewed seriously, because no one had been
obligated to do anything for me.  Just as I was doused with affection,
I might have been completely ignored; thus, I believe it is of the
utmost importance to acknowledge another's selfless expenditures,
whether their value be measured in hours or coins.  To turn one's back
upon the kindness and concern of others is a silent, but effective
voice which speaks of one's own innate selfishness and dearth of love,
for although giving should be a pleasure unto itself, it is a human
propensity to seek further pleasure from the fact of the recipient, and
if the latter remains expressionless and verbally dense, he denies the
giver of his utmost joy.  Giving is more than simply the ability to
spend money; the ungracious and ill-mannered are often unaware, or
perhaps more accurately stated, heedless of this fact.

School was already in session when Dad and I returned home from
Rochester and although Mom and he went to work regularly, I refrained
from going to classes for several more days.  I was still quite weak
from my operation and related weight loss, and my stamina and endurance
were a mockery to their former capabilities, but my underlying strength
helped me overcome all of the obstacles which I had hurdled, as it
would similarly allow me to master those which lay ahead.  I was
strong; cancer was my solitary barrier to a clean slate of health.

Returning to school, which was always a nerve-wracking experience for
me, was further complicated that year by my late arrival; moreover, my
health dictated that I use the elevator instead of the stairs, an
instruction which I abhorred because I felt myself to be a spectacle.
Had my personality enjoyed ladles full of attention, my reaction would
have been that of pure delight, for in addition to utilizing the
elevator, I was allowed to select a friend to carry my books, and
together we would leave the classes early to avoid the jam of hallway
traffic. I was also instructed to come to the nurse's office to eat a
morning and afternoon snack, as well as to rest during the physical
education period.  I characteristically despised being singled out from
the crowd in such a way that everyone's attention was momentarily
turned on myself.  This time, however, it could not be avoided, and
with a plea for inner fortitude to my mind, I followed all of my
directions obediently.  When I was able to forget my embarrassment, I
was quite grateful for the special treatment which I was given.

As it was, I attended school only three days, but in that time I
reacquainted myself with my schoolmates and was readily accepted in my
former circle of friends.  I was unused to such attention which my late
arrival and circumstances seemed to evoke, yet it was pleasant, just
the same.

A memory which surfaces in connection with my few days of school was my
guarded reservations toward my appointed English teacher whose innate
haughtiness took on the unfriendly guise of derisive sarcasm when one
of the less fortunate students directed his attention.  He enjoyed the
reprimand to an excess which was unprofessional and beyond reason, as
he would rend his subject before the other student's eyes to gain their
general humor, and camaraderie.  I would sit quietly throughout the
class, listening carefully to the lesson lest through inattentiveness,
I be attacked by the ruthless teacher and then breathe a great sigh of
relief when the clock read five minutes before the bell.

Very few memories formed during the three days of school, indeed none
which dealt with curriculum or activities; those I described were
pinpoints of feeling, of emotion, rather than events that were special
unto themselves.  Such, it seems, is the manner of my existence;
thoughts and feeling compose myself; events simply form the backdrop
against which, while it remains intact, memories are viewed.

It was a Friday evening when Mom, Dad and I set out to Rochester again.
Because Dad had already taken many days off work, he would only drive
up to the clinic with us and then catch a return flight into the Moline
airport on Sunday; the shop rules had been relaxed (when I had surgery)
for Dad's benefit, and as grim as the circumstances were, the boss
could not abide the thought of sending Dad forms to complete to satisfy
the company, especially considering his flawless work record.
Nevertheless, it had been over a month, and Dad could not expect to
take more days without giving a formal written explanation and
statement of intent as well; with Mom's vast accumulation of sick days,
there was no need for my father to remain during my treatments.

The hour of our arrival was quite late, but since we had two weeks to
plan the trip, we had the foresight to make reservations at a nicely
furnished motel rather than leaving our luck to chance.  It was a
marvelous improvement from the motel of our initial excursion, having
individual bathrooms (instead of one down the hall) and kitchen
facilities which we would use later.

We indulged in sightseeing and shopping throughout the weekend until
Dad's departure, lending to our time the best possible sense of
normalcy by pursuing the activities which I found most enjoyable.  It
was impossible to forget the promise of Monday's treatment, however,
and it seemed to me that I was followed by a haunting shadow of unrest,
while before me, ticking loudly, was ever the face of a clock.  Too
soon Sunday came and Mom and I watched as Dad's plane taxied down the
runway, turned and scorched a misty path into the blue sky.  We drove
back to the city, stopping to buy groceries to outfit our kitchenette,
and then arranging them in the cabinets of our temporary home before
seeking a restaurant for the evening meal.

The so-called "last supper," my last meals taken before all eating had
to cease to comply with the demands of the morning blood test, were
traditionally grand affairs.  I ate whatever struck my taste bud's
fancy, which in my case, was always a chicken dinner.  I doted on fried
chicken to such an extent, ordering it on every occasion in which we
ate dinner at a restaurant, that Dad eventually blamed "chicken" as the
culprit behind my development of cancer.  Although the doctors assured
him that my love affair with fried chicken had played no part in
germinating my disease, he still "hated the stuff"; as with all
unreasonable, unexplainable, occurrences the desire to find a reason is
a fiery quest, which unfortunately is not extinguished by merely
pointing one's finger of blame on a subject.  Only acceptance can wash
away the flames born of despair.

The morning was fine, with the exception of the knots in my stomach.
We drove to the clinic buildings, finally parking in the Damon car
ramp.  From the garage, it was easy to get to the various buildings, as
an elevator ran directly into the subway system of the clinic.  When
the doors of the elevator parted we no longer needed to pause to read
the informative signs posted on the facing subway wall; we were
acquainted with the network of intersecting lines and headed right,
through glass doors and followed the aging, dimly lit corridor until, a
block or so down, we met with the fastidious decor of the Mayo
building.  Still we maintained our course, past a fleet of elevators
and its waiting patrons, a pharmacy and bookstore, and a corridor which
sloped slightly upward leading to the Plummer Building; we covered more
ground skirting a hallway which allowed a brief glimpse of sunshine
through vertical windows in the wall, and plants began to appear,
growing fiercely toward the light.  They were scattered in artistically
positioned containers, guarding the final corridor which led to the
Hilton Building in a stately, yet beautifully satisfying manner.  The
Hilton Building itself had even more plants in the waiting room of Desk
C; indeed some of which were better described as trees, noting the
vigor with which they seemed to soar skyward.  If only I had such luck
with plants, I thought, seating myself on a fiery orange chair.

Blood tests weren't so bad, unless my vein didn't want to cooperate, in
which case, they fell into my "tolerable" category; although I seldom
uttered a word, pain did not thrill me and I suspected that, underneath
the person labeled "a brave little girl" was a very yellow human being.
I knew it would not alter a thing if I professed to being
"lemon-yellow"; life coexisted with pain, and if you felt pain, well,
that was life...  but if you didn't, chances were, you were dead.
Everything had its alternative, and considering the uncertainty riding
piggyback on my shoulders, I felt that I had only one route to pursue,
even if it included pain.  I didn't consciously think about my future,
despite the promise of a cure after the siege, it seemed more
appropriate to dream and take each blow of reality as it was dealt,
without thinking at all.

The blood test accomplished, we left the brightly painted, plant
infested waiting room and retraced our steps to the Mayo building, at
which point we milled about the elevators until finding one which was
not already protesting its capacity.  It was a busy place.

When we reached our floor, excusing ourselves around those who had
packed themselves tightly in the elevator rather than opting for
another "flight," we found an excess of space in the form of an immense
waiting room.  It had the snob appeal of a library; no one spoke, and
few looked up from their magazines except when the nurse would stand by
the front desk to read her list of names, after which, a slight
transformation of the waiting room would take place as the selected
patients strode up to her.  Within seconds, the room again reflected
studious tranquility and heads sank below the horizon of newspapers or
books.  In certain situations humans were so predictable.  Here they
were so reserved, so introverted, so unapproachable that smiles were
left untaken simply because they were not seen; if one existed in such
a location, he would believe that cordiality was dead, severed from the
world.  I looked around and wondered whether anyone would change his
disinterested stare if a loud sneeze issued forth.  I doubted it.
And with that, my name was called.

Forming a troupe of several people the nurse escorted us to individual
dressing compartments and we were issued hospital gowns.  I had been
instructed to undress to the waist only, since my test was a chest
X-ray, and then wait in the claustrophobic booth until further notice.
I finally unlatched the door and sat in the corner seat of the booth
with the door agape, however, disliking my inability to see the nurse
should she have happened by my door; I did not wish to be forgotten in
the maze of hallways and felt more secure with a view.  I had to know
"what was going on"; blindness would be paranoia in its highest form
for me.

Finally my name was called and I popped my head inquiringly out of the
door, hoping that I could attach a face to the voice I'd heard.  A
technician in a blue jumpsuit was waiting in the intersecting hallway,
and I followed him to a bench where I sat until they were ready to take
my X-ray.  It seemed such a dismal place; there were so many doors, and
so few lights.

A door whipped open.  "Lauren Isaacson?"  I stood up and filed after
the woman who led me into a dreary room that somehow reminded me of a
bomb shelter.  "Put your chin against the bar, here, shoulders forward,
and take a deep breath." at which point she ran behind a heavy wall and
peered out at me, continuing, "hold it now... hold it"  Click!  Rumble!
"Keep holding..."  The machine silenced, rendering its five
photographs of my lung onto the X-ray plate.  "Breathe...."  The woman
was so businesslike; I wondered how often she repeated those words...
I wondered if she said them in her sleep.

"You can go get dressed, but don't leave the dressing room."  "Okay," I
answered.  I stepped reluctantly from the armored room, unsure which
direction the room was, and throwing caution to the wind ambled to the
left, and then to the right, and amazingly, I found my room.  What if
the door won't unlock?  I thought, appraising the space beneath the
door and floor; I did not have the best luck with locks, and remembered
many a time when, on a vacation, I could not succeed in entering the
motel room after scouting for a can of pop.  Mom or Dad would always
let me in from their side of the door, while I was still fumbling with
the key.  The door opened easily and I signed with relief; from the
inside I latched the door, still wary of the lock and key, and
proceeded to dress.  Several minutes passed, then a click from the loud
speaker broke the silence.  "Lauren Isaacson... you are free to go."
In other words, it was breakfast time and I galloped from my booth like
a horse from the starting gate of a race.

Hungry though I was, when I seriously began to attack my plate,
nervousness uttered a complaint which I was eventually obliged to
acknowledge; it was just as well; my stomach was not adjusting to the
idea that it had to get back to work, and strongly repulsed a large
meal.  Even my small breakfast conjured rebellion and I sat on the edge
of my chair, sweating and quite nauseated, while Mom finished her plate
of food.  I tried not to watch her eat; the sight of food, the smell of
food... it was everywhere when I felt sick.  Leaving the restaurant I
found the fresh air to be a measurable improvement; at last, when my
nausea subsided, the visions of food danced from my mind and haunted me
no more.

It was beautiful outside; autumn was reaching its peak of glory in
Rochester and Mom and I poked about the streets, waiting for our early
afternoon appointment at the Curie Pavilion.  There was a slight chill
in the air, despite the ample sunshine and our light coats provided the
warmth we needed as we kicked through the leaves.  It was always cooler
than in Moline, it seemed; fall had not quite arrived at home.  I was
glad; I didn't want to miss the color of the oaks, the acorns and the
busy squirrels around our woods either; I wanted to take it in, to wrap
its vision in my memory so that it could never be erased... autumn at
home... would have to wait another five days.

Mom watched me with feigned happiness; she looked at my hair, a
flowing, healthy mass of gold which cascaded about my shoulders, and
felt sickened that it would soon be replaced by a wig.  She knew that
my hair was my foremost joy in the spectrum of physical traits and
would be a difficult loss.  Hair is vanity, to be sure, yet that
observation counts little to the individual who must bear his bald
reality with courage.  Appearance does not make the person, but to say
that it does not matter is a falsity.

I had remembered to take my camera, a small instamatic, which was an
early summer purchase and my latest, greatest hobby.  At various
intervals Mom would snatch it from my hand and position me in front of
a glorious tree or upon a rock, capturing the moment with a click and a
smile.  Later we would look at the photos and the smiles, yet remember
the trauma of our thoughts; the deceptive faces in the photos did not
fool our eyes, though they painted appeal in the visual world.  The
hair, the glow, the newly gained energy... all would be changed by the
time the pictures were developed; we would be seeing the past and, I
felt, by that time, the past would prove a better reality than the

It was time to go back to the clinic.  Curie Pavilion, a cylindrical
building from the perspective of an outsider, was located near the
Damon parking ramp, and across the street from the Mayo building.
Actually, from the street view, Curie was only a glassed in elevator.
We entered the curious building and pushed the elevator button; we had
no choice of destinations; the only way to go was "down."  Once below
ground, we emerged from the elevator and plunged through a set of heavy
glass doors into a waiting room.  A bust of Madame Curie was observing
her flock of patients from one side of the room.  We strode up to the
desk, relinquished our appointment card and took a seat.  The people
were quiet and grim; it was sometimes difficult to discern the patient
from the relative in the unhappy place; worry pervaded the atmosphere.
I wondered what sort of fate I had accepted for myself; I wondered what
joy could possibly exist for these people, what hardships they had
endured, what expectations they possessed.

"Lauren Isaacson?..."  We approached the desk; I smiled to break the
tension, to soften the blow.  We followed the nurse into a room and
were told that the doctor would be around shortly.  Everything was
white or polished chrome.  Sterile.  Antiseptic.  Professional.

I was seated on the examining table, swinging my legs, when Dr. E.
strolled in the room.  "Hello, Lorn"  he drawled,  "Mrs. Isaacson..."
nodding to my mom.  He spoke with us for a brief period, asking about
my health and referring to his clipboard of papers to tell of my "good"
blood test results.  Everything seemed to be in order.  "Well... we'll
get a nurse in here to get your IV started, and then I'll see you again
tomorrow morning."  "All right," I said.

As he had promised, a nurse came in, shutting the door behind her, and
produced a syringe.  "This is a shot to help keep your nausea down a
bit,"  she said, motioning for me to unclasp my pants and bend over.
What a mosquito bite, I thought, pulling up my pants.

Shortly afterward another nurse appeared bearing IV solution, tubes,
syringes, needles... the works.  I laid down as she strapped a
tourniquet around my arm and began her search for a vein.  It was a
slow, meticulous search, which necessitated a smaller needle; she knew
she would never probe the large one into any of my poor, tiny veins.
The nurse opened a drawer, producing a needle which had plastic tabs on
either side of it; "This is called a butterfly needle," she told me.
"Butterfly..." I echoed, peering gratefully at the tiny needle with
plastic wings.  She drew the tourniquet tightly about my arm once
again, this time hastily securing a usable vein and taping the needle
in place; wasting no time, the IV bag of solution was hung from a pole
above my head, into which a syringe was emptied and consequently
diluted.  Immediately I began to taste the liquid running through my
vein, but I subdued my discontent, hoping that the sensation would
disappear; it did not, however, until the drug had filtered into my
system completely.  As the bag of solution gradually coursed through my
veins, slowly, due to the small size of the needle, the nurse
re-entered the room to watch its progress.  When it had emptied, she
raised the bag from its pole, removed the tube connected to the needle
in my arm and opened two syringes; hooking them, one at a time, into
the butterfly unit, she squeezed the drugs from their containers.  My
vein which accepted the drugs felt icy, as if a frigid breeze had been
directed on my hand from an internal source; an involuntary shudder
passed through my body.

"Okay... you're all finished," the nurse said, smiling widely.  She
pulled the needle swiftly from my hand, pressing a square of alcohol
saturated gauze to the arm, then wrapping more gauze tightly around the
needle "wound" to prevent further bleeding.  I found that pressure
applied to the area helped immeasurably to ward off bruises and I would
therefore often hold my hand or arm in a vice-like grip for several
minutes after a needle had been removed, thereby lessening the chances
of a gruesome bruise and its accompanying discomfort.  Thus, I held my
hand tightly with the other and slid off the table as my Mom stood to
leave.  "What are those?"  I asked the nurse, pointing to two white
canisters made of cardboard.  "Those are in case you get sick... do you
want to take one with you?"  "No... I feel okay so far.  I'll see you
tomorrow," I replied, happy that one injection was over, yet realizing
the fight had just begun for me.

Cancer invited numerous battlegrounds and INCALCULABLE wars.
Researchers were plagued by their hope to unmask the potion which would
be the cure, the precious liquid or pill which would purge cancer from
our bodies and crush its memory forever.  Doctors invested time and
energy to diagnose the most beneficial methods of treatment,
prescribing the horrifying potent drugs to their patients while
promising better days to come.  And the nurses were great.  Many of
them were quite young, beautiful girls.  They didn't seem to mind their
daily business of poking and jabbing, despite the occasional "wailers"
which could be heard, protesting the needle prick or the mere thought
of it, from somewhere down the hall. They walked about, wearing
pleasant, genuine smiles, as if their appointment in life was a joyful
one; dealing out poison with a steady hand, trusting unquestionably its
supposed ulterior motive of killing cancer cells and saving lives.

And yet, battered lives were everywhere, scaling all age groups, races
and religions, for cancer knew no barrier and bore no prejudice; cancer
took the weak the strong, the indifferent, the proud, the cheerful, the
embittered... it took all, greedily, in an unquenchable hunger.  Some
it took slowly, savoring each minute, while others it consumed rapidly,
stealing life with a voracious appetite; still others, a paltry few,
were ignored and allowed to linger awhile on earth, facing the question
of death while embracing the essence of life, until another hand
embalmed their existence.

Cancer searched for one's true friends; it could bolster some
relationships and destroy or alienate others, for the word was as
malignant as the disease and struck fear in the stoutest minds and the
truest hearts.  Its scars were inflicted on the patient, his relatives,
his friends... and its wounds were deep, blackened by the apprehension
of death; a will to survive could challenge the meek while the ultimate
humility scoffed at another's pride until it bent into humble
disquietude.  Inner wars evoked change; in this area cancer posed great
opportunities, for it was the pirate of both time and the quality of
life, and if one neglected to acknowledge these as life's greatest
assets, he was living valueless and blind; money, power, prestige...
vanity... were rendered obsolete worries or gained a new perspective
for those who saw the need to change and courageously sought that end,
whether through insight or the forced enlightenment of unavoidable

Secure in my values, cancer itself could not crush or debilitate my
inner self; it clarified myself, bringing forth both fortitude and
frailty, defining my character; I was who I always had been,
emotionally enlarged and with a keener sense of awareness.  The
physical battle with cancer is enough without also having to struggle
to regain or develop one's values and relationships; I was fortunate,
indeed, to be packing the right ammunition to the front line of battle.

We dismissed Curie and the subway, ascending to our car's level in the
parking ramp.  The sun shone brightly through the ramp's open
construction of cement and steel.  I squinted instinctively and turned
my head away.

Once in our kitchenette, I turned on the T.V. and stretched out on the
couch.  The drapes were drawn shut and I preferred them to remain so;
natural light never seemed to enhance the appearance of a motel room
and lent the furniture and other appointments a rather brash, gaudy
flavor.  Light brought forth defects with indisputable accuracy; as the
drugs flowed through my body, I knew that the awaited irregularities of
treatment would soon parade victorious and unabashed about the
domicile, and out of sheer discord, I too, would shun the sun's
scathing glance.  My only wish was to blend into the shadows and lie
completely unobserved.

The TV was, at once, a blaring disturbance and a welcome distraction.
It helped pass the time, but also reminded me of the slow rate at which
time was drifting away.  Between soap operas and game shows,
advertisements about detergent that actually conditioned one's hands,
and gasoline; "Ping, ping, ping, Leonard..." filled the afternoon.
Suddenly I realized that my first post-treatment symptom was beginning
its onslaught.  Nausea woke my deadened senses and I sat up, nervously
alert, trying to decide whether I should make my painful exodus to the
bathroom or stay seated on the sofa a brief while longer; sometimes the
mere sight of a gaping toilet bowl was enough to prompt my nausea to
overflow, and picturing the sight in my mind, I decided to put off the
inevitable until I was certain I could wait no more.

As it happened, within minutes I could wait no more and ran headlong
for the bathroom, emptying what little remained in my stomach from
breakfast into the toilet's wide jowls; it was a small offering, yet
peering at it wrenched my stomach's deepest confines and I vomited
again and again, flushing the awful stuff from view.

Relaxing as best I could, I exhaled and sunk back on my haunches, then
slowly shifted until my legs were crossed.  Resting one elbow on my
knee, I cupped my hand under my chin and listed to the right.  Mom
stood outside the bathroom door, worried and helpless.  "Can I help
you?" she asked cautiously.  "No" I said into the palm of my hand, not
wanting to move, knowing the surges within had just begun.  She brought
me a glass half-filled with 7-Up, which I accepted gratefully.  The
putrid taste in my mouth was masked after bathing it in soda, yet my
stomach did not allow it to be digested, and I quickly relinquished my
meager sampling to the stool.  Water affected my stomach in the same
way; nothing was accepted.

Soon I was retching violently and my stomach, long since devoid of all
possible contents, began hurling its digestive acids up my throat,
followed by bile, bitter and green, which burned like fire.  It seemed
to me that I would turn my stomach inside-out or vomit my intestines if
the battle did not end.  I felt poisoned, as if every living cell was
fighting to live and dispose of the vicious drugs which were entrapped
in my veins.

Until 9:00 p.m. my stomach raged, while I bleated and hacked loudly,
uncontrollably, wracked by the seething nausea of my body's turbid
rebellion.  Then as if the effects of the drugs had ceased warring
against me, I was able to safely withdraw from the bathroom and fall
into the enveloping softness of the couch.  I felt exhausted, and
extremely wretched and demeaned; such futility, such utter
vulnerability, I had never before experienced.  To think that this
abuse was welcomed seemed an incredible madness, especially with the
voice echoing, "It's for your own good!" in the back of my mind.

I was able to eat a hard-boiled egg before going to bed, which Mom
gladly prepared.  Her face was drawn into symmetrical lines of pure
sympathy which she could not conceal, and was distraught because of her
inability to alleviate my misery; although she could not share the
physical burden with me, I felt that she bore emotional pain beyond
that which I took upon my brow.  She wanted always to do "more," yet
her presence alone was, for me, more than enough.

The following morning I ate no breakfast, considering it would be an
imminent folly so soon before my treatment was administered.  Instead I
got dressed and flipped on the set to stare at it blankly while Mom
crunched delicately through her bowl of corn flakes.  The toaster
coughed up a piece of toast.  She rose to fetch it from the machine,
buttering it as the scent assailed my nostrils.  "I wish you could eat
something, honey," Mom said, reluctantly biting into the buttered
slice.  "Yeh..." I dreamed idly for a second, then replied,  "I better
not though."  I didn't want to make a public spectacle of myself should
the anti-nausea shot not take effect.

Our motel had a courtesy car service which we decided to use; by
notifying the main desk in advance, the service was almost always
available when we needed it, free of charge.  The motel had both a car
and a van, although generally the van toted us to the clinic and back
again; thus, hastening to the lobby, we caught the van as other
passengers hoisted themselves into their seats.  The van droned into
motion, taking us past residential streets and avenues until the clinic
buildings grew above the trees with an air of infinite superiority.
Pulling in front of the Mayo building, the driver coasted slowly
forward, awaiting the closest parking place, and finally plunged toward
the curb as a taxi drove away; then, braking quickly, he opened his
door the moment the van stopped and dashed to unclasp the sliding door.
We stood, each clumsily jumping to the curb as the driver supportingly
grasped our arm.  The door rolled shut with a bang.  "See you later,"
the driver remarked as he swung himself into his seat.  We entered the
gray marble building and wove our way through the mass of people to the
elevators.  After watching and waiting several minutes, we finally
found an elevator which could be persuaded to take us down to the
subway level; in a building with nearly 20 floors, most people, it
seemed, desired to travel up from the main lobby.

The traffic dwindled as we approached Curie.  A long subway tunnel
connected it to the mainstream of clinic activity, yet Curie itself was
singularly remote from all else, as if, being the nucleus of cancer
treatment and related disorders, it was purposely kept at a safe
distance.  Following the dim corridor to its end we met with a set of
glass doors and admitted ourselves into the waiting room.  I sat down,
drained of energy; the room had not changed, yet I had.  I no longer
wore the smile of agitated insecurity and ignorance of the previous
day.  My smiles were only for people whose eyes met my own in a chance
union.  While Madame Curie looked over her patients, the receiving body
of radiation or chemotherapy, she seemed to me a menace of happiness
though carved of stone, for upon her death, she bequeathed no true
wealth... her offering bore a great price for its recipients.  Indeed,
some "beneficiaries" paid with their lives upon receipt of Curie's
great gift.  "But it's for your own good," the voice echoed, pushing
madness aside.  If I did not believe the voice, I heeded it; perhaps it
formed my sole resolve to continue, and to endure.

Once inside a private room, my anti-nausea shot was administered,
followed by the injection of therapeutic drugs.  Dr. E. appeared only
momentarily, yet Mom followed him out of the room to question him
beyond earshot.  I later learned that, tormented of heart, Mom had
asked the oncologist if he thought she should quit her job to stay home
and care for me.  "By no means!"  he answered directly.  "Quitting your
job of teaching might make Lauren think that you have given up hope.
You must continue your lives as normally as possible."  She nodded with
renewed understanding and re-entered my room.  The IV had nearly run
its course, and the nurse stood by, ready to remove the needle as soon
as the solution had emptied into my veins.

"Is it okay if I take one of those?" I asked, pointing to the white
canisters aligned neatly on top of the counter.  "Sure," the nurse
replied, handing one to my Mom.  My stomach was already plotting its
rebellion, and  I wanted some security should an impulse overthrow my
will before we returned to our motel. As long as I did not involve
myself in conversation, and inhaled only short breaths of air, perhaps
my qualms would subside.  "There... all done," the nurse proclaimed,
wrapping my hand in gauze.  "Bye," I said grabbing the bandaged hand
tightly; "See you tomorrow."

Mom and I traced our earlier footsteps back to the Mayo building and
there phoned the motel. Several minutes passed, then the courtesy van
rolled up to the front doors.  A doorman issued us out of the building
with a friendly, "Have a nice day, now."  That man was the epitome of
flamboyance; he struck everyone as a neighbor rather than a stranger.
He must have loved people, for people were the essential ingredient in
his position at the clinic.  A genuine smile, a fresh hello; he too,
doled out medicine, and maybe helped to ease a few aching hearts.

I was grateful to be able to collapse upon the couch and watch the T.V.
from my prone position; I took no interest in books or crafts, for they
seemed too taxing and exhaustive in my condition.  Rest was my comfort
between nausea and weakness; I welcomed nothing more than I welcomed
the thought of quiet repose.

As I laid on the couch, the afternoon peeled away, passing much as
Monday had done.  It suddenly occurred to me that I felt tense,
especially in my jaw, and curious, sat up to work my mouth.  I was not
nervous, nor had I need to be, yet the jaw clamped tighter still.  I
placed my hand on either side of my face to gently knead the apparently
cramped muscles.  "This is crazy," I thought.  "A Charlie horse in my
face!"  I rose from the sofa, searching my mind for a reasonable
solution to this dilemma.  "I'll brush my teeth..."  I flew into the
bathroom, squeezing paste on my brush, and began to scrub viciously.
Nothing improved.  I looked at myself in the mirror just as a
transformation took place.  Having no control over my jaw, the bottom
row of teeth pulled to the left, straining against its natural
alignment and audibly cracking as it contorted my entire face.  "Mom...
I think I've got a problem."  She came and looked at me, her eyes
widening at the spectacle before her.  "I can't control my jaw"; the
obvious statement I blurted out of the side of my mouth made us
envision the only possible cause we could ascertain; LOCKJAW.

Mom dialed the motel's front desk, stating firmly that her little girl
had to be driven to Emergency right away, then grabbing her purse, her
only essential, pushed me out of the door.  We ran to the lobby where a
driver was ready and waiting.  "How embarrassing," I thought, looking
down to shield my face from view.  "A pimple on your face is nothing!"

Scrambling into the car, our transit was soon in progress. Meanwhile,
my jaw had taken on a personality of its own.  As it had formerly
brought my bottom teeth to the left, it now forced its way to the
right.  Not content, it again pushed to the left.  This continued all
the way en route to the hospital, while I was wondering if I had come
in contact with a contaminated needle and Mom calculated how soon I
would die!

Once at the Emergency unit, Mom tried to give the doctors and nurses a
coherent explanation of my situation as we saw it happen, as well as to
alert them to my enlistment in the chemotherapy program, while they
stared at me with disbelief.  They nodded in response to the
information, then allowed us to sit in a room by ourselves.  A nurse
came to the door, briefly surveying the scene, and wordlessly departed.
I looked questioningly at my mom who shrugged her shoulders; "Maybe
she had the wrong room..."

The time crept by while my mouth humored itself with further
acrobatics.  Bored with the lurch-to-the-right, lurch-to-the-left
routine, it opened wide, beyond my greatest expectations, and remained
thus for several minutes. I was lucky that there were no flies buzzing
about; I could not have impeded their entry except with a rapid flick
of the hand.  A nurse looked in, then darted away.

I sat beside Mom, my mouth poised in the shape of a horrendous yawn and
began to see the humor in my predicament.  Open mouthed, it was
impossible to smile, but my eyes began to glisten and I let go of a
gutteral "haw...haw...haw."  I must look like "Surprise," impersonated,
I thought, my amusement gaining momentum.

Another nurse stuck her head inside the room.  Mom glanced at her and
she too, sped away.  Mom grew angry; no one helped, they just came to
see the spectacle.  I was a side-show and could almost hear them
talking excitedly among themselves... "Boy, that hit and run was sure
gruesome, wasn't it?"  "Yeh, but did you get a load of that kid in 2C?"
"Ha Ha Ha Ha."  So far most of the "peepers" only saw my profile.
"Hey, Mom," I said, throwing the words carefully, "The next time
someone comes to the door to look, how'bout if I give 'em a full
frontal view?"  She turned to look at me as my yawn slowly relaxed to
facilitate yet another position.

This time my mouth puckered to form a tight "O."  I looked at Mom whose
worry was finally overruled by humor, and she burst out laughing.  "I'm
sorry," she said, "but you look so funny..." I didn't mind, for I was
laughing heartily now, issuing strange "hoo hoo hoos" into the room
through my tunneled lips.  "Here we are," I thought, "laughing like
lunatics, when I might have Lockjaw!"  The doctors, however, didn't
appear to be concerned, for there was still no word or antidote, and an
hour or more had elapsed.  All I desired was an ounce of relief; my jaw
was incredibly sore from the forced contractions, and a pain pill would
have brought immense satisfaction, yet I could merely wait, and try to

Finally after countless repetitions of rights, lefts, ooohs and ahhhs,
a doctor strolled in the room with a red liquid.  I had, by then, given
up my idea that I had contracted lockjaw and looked hopefully toward
the man as he approached.  The contractions had slowed in frequency as
the hours passed, yet my mind still begged for relief.

"Well, we finally figured out that your muscle spasms were the result
of the anti-nausea drug that had been administered to you; drink this
and I'm sure you will not have any more problems... just don't let
them give you any more of those shots!"

I took the red liquid and drank it down; it burned like fire.  I
thought of my stomach, hoping that my draught would not infuriate it to
the point of plotting a revolt; I had been lucky through the afternoon,
having experienced no symptoms of nausea during the facial contortions.
Reflecting upon this favorable aspect, I realized the hours could have
proven much worse, and was relieved that I had ignored my stomach's
plea for breakfast.

The following morning I departed for Curie with an aching jaw; it was
minutely reminiscent of the feeling I would acquire after chewing a
large wad of bubble gum.

Once at Curie we promptly notified the nurses and Dr. E. of my unusual
episode of the previous afternoon.  Dr. E. nodded his head slowly, his
mouth working nervously.  "That drug will sometimes have that effect on
patients, but it happens so seldom, I didn't want to mention it to
you."  "Gee, thanks," I mused, silently.  Personally, I would have
liked to know all the facts. "Oh, well," I thought, "maybe it was no
big deal, but to us it was worth a good scare and a couple of laughs."

A nurse came in and shut the door, instructing me to drop my pants.
"But I'm not supposed to have shots any more," I protested.  "This
isn't a shot," she said.  "It's a suppository...for nausea," she added.
"Oh!" I swallowed my distaste for the idea, dropped my pants, bent
over and took my medicine.

By the end of the week we were fairly used to the routine. We
discovered that the driver of the courtesy car would let us out and
pick us up in front of Curie, which saved my energy.  For security, I
learned to carry my white cardboard "barf bucket" to and from Curie.
Unless I was lucky, I would throw up all afternoon and into the
evening; we therefore devised a way to make the bathroom comfortable by
spreading a towel on the floor and placing a pillow nearby on which I
could lay between seiges.  Near 8:00 p.m. I could usually eat an
egg,toast or a potato.  Mom helped me clean up and dress for bed, then
I would attempt to sleep until I had to wake and repeat the process.

After the fifth treatment, Dr. E. came into the room to set up my next
date for receiving chemotherapy.  My particular schedule was to appear
approximately every six weeks for five days of treatment; each patient
had his own ritual in which the drugs and their dosage, as well as the
duration they were received, were as uniquely determined as his type of
cancer and its extent.  Chemotherapy incurred numerous variables, and
the reaction depended on the drugs administered and the condition of
the patient.  I was amazed to discover that some recipients did not
lose their hair or become nauseous in the least.  Some even gained
weight and carried on relatively normal lives, working and attending
social functions, and basically thrilled they were alive; they
complained only of their excessive rendezvous with needles.  Although
my effects were far from ideal, I was relieved that I was able to
receive my treatments at Curie as an out-patient; free from the
hospital.  One's morale is better maintained, even if the breeze is
felt upon one's face only to and from the clinic.

Dr. E. and my Mom conferred over a calendar, finally agreeing upon a
date lying within the six week bounds.  We would receive a packet
containing specific appointment times in the mail shortly before our
next visit.  The doctor returned to my room as the nurse was wrapping
my hand.  After exchanging a few pleasantries of conversation, he
sobered and said, "You'll have to buy a wig as soon as you can once you
are home..."   Hair loss would not be a gradual affair after having
such a drug and his warning was not intended to be brushed off; I
nodded that I would comply.  "I'll see you in six weeks then," he
drawled, and allowed us to depart from the room at our leisure.  I took
another white canister from the counter top and we stepped from the

Mom had already stowed our bags in the car for our departure, so upon
our return to the motel, we merely inspected the room once more for
articles we might have overlooked and then made our way to the car for
our homeward journey.  I was seated beside Mom, outfitted with two
white canisters, while she packed a sack of apples as an energy booster
through the seven hour drive. Knowing that we would soon be wrapped in
our own blankets improved my spirits to a great degree, despite
haphazard retching sprees and pervasive weakness.

Toward evening my nausea subsided.  We pulled into a rest stop and Mom
stretched her legs.  The sun hung low in the sky, undecided as to its
course, casting shadows from the nearby benches and trees.  I watched
my mom as she walked about, surveying the fields under the suspended
ball of fire, and then strolled back to the car.  She suddenly seized
upon an idea and opened the trunk, removing my camera from one of the
bags.  "I want to take a picture of you... your hair's so shiny."  She
positioned me on a rock and captured on film a being ready to
metamorphacize; the changes had already begun internally, for bereft
of energy, no smile escaped my ashen eyes or crossed my weary face.
Soon my hair, shining in the sun's slanted rays, would be gone,too.
Lives change not only by days, but by minutes as well. I slid off the
rock and we climbed into our car once again; by late evening the
streets of Moline were beneath us.  It was good to be home.

Apart from the presence of drugs, I was able to eat tremendously for
the first few days.  The grayness in my complexion was fanned into a
spark, and the return of my smile (which seemed to parallel my
homecoming) added a small glow to my features.

My stomach muscles, which had for five days, been exceedingly
over-worked, gave up their tenderness, and the needle marks
disappeared.  For two and a half days life leaned toward normalcy.
It seemed a ridiculous idea to purchase a wig; as yet, my hair
appeared fully intact.

The weather had been magnificent upon my return, with autumn's splendor
at its peak.  The skies were flawlessly blue, the deep sapphire blue of
mountain lakes, and the oak trees sent down their wealth of acorns,
grown ripe in the heat of long sunny days.  The leaves were yellow,
golden and red... the harvest was being gathered from the fields, and
gourds were pulled from the vines.  I rested in a lawn chair on the
carpet of grass, while the northern breezes cooled the sun's touch on
my face and wafted through my hair.  I ran my fingers through its
length; feeling the resistance of a snarl, I applied more pressure.  It
loosened and I glanced at my hand with the dull realization that I was
losing my hair. Inter-woven between my fingers were countless strands
of golden brown.  I opened my palm to the breeze and let the winds
scatter them on the ground.  I gathered my hair together, draping it
over one shoulder, and inadvertently harvested another golden handful.
"It's happening," I thought.  Rising from my chair I slowly climbed up
three cement steps and entered through the front door, then threaded my
way to the bathroom.  My hair was detaching itself from my scalp as if
embarking on a massive exodus to some other destination.  I opened the
medicine cabinet and extracted a comb, thinking that I would remove the
loose shafts of hair to avoid snags and major entanglement.

I combed, peering into the glass before me and looked on helplessly as
my scalp began to take shape between the strands of hair, and a
circular bald spot formed on my crown.  Setting the comb on the sink's
porcelain edge, I turned from myself to find my parents, who were busy
outside.  They felt sickened at the horrifyingly malevolent blow which
the drugs had bestowed on me, but there was little to be said, and
nothing to be done.  It was no surprise, yet the reality shocked the
eyes and afflicted the heart with pity.

Feeling emotionally removed from the situation, I decided to save their
eyes further anguish and re-entered the house, taking a seat in the
kitchen.  I was not particularly sad, nor was I angry or embittered;
instead I was entranced, and oddly fascinated by the sudden change in
my appearance.  Reminded of a certain tree which, in autumn, boasts its
splendor for many days and then suddenly abandons each of its leaves
almost simultaneously, creating a barren mass of timber in one day;  I
felt certain that all of my hair would fall out by evening; I had never
dreamed such a transformation could occur.  It was happening so fast.

Mom came into the kitchen and studied me with shadowed eyes.  Within
two hours, the shine of my hair had been replaced by a deadness, a gray
lifelessness, which prevailed over both the detached and sagging
strands of hair as well as the healthier group whose roots as yet
remained firmly implanted in their polluted ground.  The invisible
reaper moved stealthily through its crop, mowing random stalks with a
keen-edged blade and littering the malignant, gray harvest aimlessly
and chaotically above their once-healthy roots.

The sheared strands slid down my head, and converged into a heavily
inter-woven mass of hair at the nape of my neck.  It was matted and
thatched, the dead clogged with the dead and dying.  It was impossible
to restore order with a comb; the only hope rested in the jaws of a
pair of scissors.  Mom took the clotted mass in her hands and clipped
the length to my shoulders, discarding the ashen-gold into the waste
basket.  "Hair couldn't be dead," I thought,"but I have just witnessed
it die."  Why else would hair suddenly lose its shine and lapse into a
gray-sheened, death-like shadow?  Cut hair reflected life; my hair had
been poisoned, robbed of its shine.  It was different than the curl
pressed between the pages of my childhood memories; no book wanted
these lifeless strands, nor would any memory desire to recall them.

After supper Mom and I dashed to the shopping center to look for an
appropriate wig.  I wore a handkerchief about my head in an attempt to
conceal my rapidly balding scalp, for baldness was not as easily
accepted in a girl as in a boy; some men shaved their heads at the
onslaught of summer heat; while others did likewise for sports.

When we arrived at the wig department, it was obvious that we had
waited too long.  I selected several styles that appealed to me, and
removed my scarf, to sit self-consciously before the mirror as the
customers filed past.  Some glanced curiously at me, wondering about my
noticeable sparsity of hair; I now had sympathetically few hairs left,
and my part revealed an inch-wide swath of white skin.  Donning a wig,
I studied myself with amusement.  The wig had so much hair.  I never
had that much hair.  I lifted it off, replacing it quickly with another
and adjusting the new one back and forth. I wanted something which was
as modest and natural as possible.  Why did they all have so much hair?
This one stood two inches off my head; it felt like a hat.  I tried
another.  Not bad.  How about a blond one?  Well, it was worth a
chuckle or two.

I finally decided on a shoulder length wig which sported bangs and a
slight curl.  It was promptly boxed while I replaced my handkerchief
around my head.  I wasn't bald... yet.  I'd have plenty of time to wear
the wig.  It was a relief to escape the peopled store.  The wig would
prove to be my ally and my foe in the months ahead, being both a
concealment of the truth and an object of mockery and bewilderment.

The next morning I woke to find hair on my pillow, and rising to look
at myself in the mirror, saw plainly that I could consider myself bald.
No hair remained except for a few stubborn wisps which clung fiercely
to my scalp like December leaves that refuse to fall even after
winter's icy blasts.  My lashes, brows... everything... had been
depopulated.  The mirror seemed to reflect incredible youth and
fragility.  Painfully thin and hairless, I resembled the gaunt and
disciplined Buddhist student. Withdrawing from the mirror, I went in
search of a pair of scissors to bob my wisps to a more reasonable
length of one inch, then took my wig from its styrofoam head and placed
it on my own.  I peered at myself with disgust; "It couldn't be much
worse," I thought, and headed toward the kitchen for breakfast.


Chapter 13
Year at Home and Diary

"Chemotherapy ravaged the body and tainted the mind just as the cancer
against which its debilitating powers were supposedly aimed."


Year At Home And Diary

Due to my poor and unreliable health, I never re-entered junior high;
it would have been both risky and impractical.  I would have forever
been involved with past homework because of frequent absenteeism, as
well as further depleting my energy level through normal, daily
activities.  Individuals having good health were often taxed at the
day's end; I knew I could not have kept the steady pace that school
demanded of those desiring to succeed.

Standing 5 ft., 8 ins. I weighed, at times as little as 75 pounds.  My
eating was sporadic; on certain days I wouldn't recall having eaten at
all.  When I did eat, my nauseousness would span 20 minutes to several
hours.  Sometimes my only relief would come after vomiting, although
that seemed a rather drastic and unpleasant measure, I found this
voluntary vomiting to be more agreeable than sitting motionless in a
chair for the entire evening to humor my stomach, when the eventual
result was to be the same anyway.  I was soon quite practiced at
manipulating my stomach, as well as determining whether my nauseousness
would irreversibly result in oral elimination or if it would finally
subside without an event.

Ideally I was to eat several small meals throughout the passage of the
day; this would better allow my stomach to process food, as well as
give my body the sustaining energy it so desperately needed.  I was not
overly thrilled at this proposition, as eating seemed only an open
invitation to sickness and discomfort.  To facilitate my obedience to a
greater degree, my dad offered a monetary reward for drinking a quart
of milk each day.  I accepted the offer, yet remained wary of food.
Although there was nothing which did not, at one time or another, turn
my stomach, I discovered that certain foods disagreed less than others.
One of the "sure things" was bread... the more refined, the better.
So called "health foods" were always a mistake, as were foods rich in
fat or sugar, such as salads tossed with mayonnaise or pies of any
concoction.  Oddly enough, I seemed to be able to eat cake; I
determined that this was due to its bread-like consistency.  Perhaps
other successes such as my aptitude for chocolate, were based more on
luck than digestibility, yet chocolate was eaten quite frequently
throughout the year in which chemotherapy treatments were administered.

My eating habits and general health depended on the schedule of
chemotherapy.  Directly following my last treatment in the five day
series, I could eat voraciously, (or so I thought in comparison to my
usual appetite).  Then, after three or four days, I would again return
to "normal," fostering nausea after each morsel of food.  Needless to
say, my lust for food disintegrated upon the arrival of nausea and I
had to force myself to eat, which quickly became tiresome, for I
realized that only sheer luck would save me from sickness.
Furthermore, I actually became weary after a meal accompanied by
stomach complaints; my body, I rationalized, was trying to relax itself
to dispose of nausea, or the nausea caused such inner chaos that my
body wore itself out during the conflict.

Soon after the chemotherapy treatments had commenced, my sister offered
her assistance with the latest family concern and expressed interest in
monitoring my progress and general state of health.  Through mutual
agreement, a plan materialized in which, on our way home from
Rochester, Mom and I should stop at Sharon's house after about five and
a half hours of driving, where I would then remain for three or four
days while my parents were at work.  In this way, I was not alone when
I felt the weakest, and could easily obtain help if I needed it.
Saturday morning my parents would bring me home.

I enjoyed the post-treatment arrangement, for I had always liked
spending time with my sister and, at a distance of 80 miles, few were
the occasions in which this was possible, especially since she had two
young children and a home of her own to maintain.  Although the
circumstances under which I stayed with her were not the most
appealing, we still found time to shop on good days or amuse each other
through the situations that life itself readily provided.  Several most
unforgettable hours were spent laughing hysterically in front of the
bathroom mirror.  Since I had lost my hair, Sharon sewed two bonnets
from scratch, cutting circles of material and fitting elastic within
the perimeter, to warm my head when I slept or simply did not care to
wear my wig.  Having no pattern from which to judge an appropriate
size, however, the bonnet was large enough to conceal my entire head;
trying it on evoked immediate wails of laughter from us both.  Of
course, I could not let the matter rest and continued with further
antics, shoving it over my ears and acting like an old woman who
couldn't hear for the voluminosity of the hat, and then pulling it over
my entire head with the elastic about my neck and pronouncing that I
was a lollipop.  Amid our slap-happy howls (for the hour was late), her
husband must have wondered if we had lost our minds; moreover, we were
trying our best to stifle our laughter so as not to disturb her
sleeping boys, which, in such a hopeless situation, only served to
escalate the humor reflected in the mirror.  I was able to eat
ravenously for three to four days following my treatment; this meant,
of course, that I ate well until I had to return home, by which time my
body had restored itself to a reasonable degree and no longer tolerated
food to the extent it had initially.  Mom soon developed a complex
about her cooking, which persisted until summer when I went directly
home after receiving treatments, instead of sojourning at Sharon's, and
ate my Mom's culinary offering passionately.

Upon my return to Moline I had to appear at the hospital for weekly
blood tests to assure that my white count was not "low."  If the test
results were unfavorable, however, I had to have daily blood tests
until my count was determined as normal again.  A low white cell count
paralleled a higher susceptibility to germs, as the immune system did
not possess its usual fortitude; although, physically, I never felt any
different when I had a low white count, emotionally it paralleled a
fleeting cantankerousness on my part since I was not overly thrilled at
the prospect of enduring more needles.  I was fortunate that I never
contracted any serious maladies; perhaps if I had been plagued by
viruses I would not have viewed the routine blood tests with such
disdainful inappreciation.  As it was, my only health problem was
cancer; all or nothing must have been my system's motto.

One week before the next series of injections, I would begin to feel
better.  My appetite improved despite the lingering after-affects, and
energy was on the rise.  This period of time would have been thoroughly
enjoyed had it not been for the upcoming event, after which my
improvements would again run foul. The pretreatment week was also the
time at which I felt most able to venture out of the house, and would
accompany my aunt or my sister-in-law on small shopping sprees during
the day.  I began to feel human and part of society, yet as I licked my
wounds, I could envision the battlements to which I would willingly
march to surrender my waxing health.

Despite frequent bouts of nausea and marked fatigue, the foremost
reason for my absence from school was my body's severely depleted
immune system.  It was deemed more sensible to remain apart from the
various germs circulated by the students than to place myself in
possible jeopardy by direct contact.  Should I have sustained a severe
infection, the results could have proven fatal. The chemotherapy
killed healthy cells as well as cancerous cells; it is a grave wonder
that one can withstand such violent treatment.

After several series of chemotherapy, I recalled my thought which
viewed cancer as the enemy against which many wars were waged, and
discovered that my analogy was not complete.  Chemotherapy ravaged the
body and tainted the mind just as the cancer against which its
debilitating powers were supposedly aimed.  I felt that the war did not
exist only between cancer and the body, for there was also a constant
struggle between the drugs and the body.  As the body fought for life,
cancer fought for death.... of this, there was little doubt.  Yet as
for the drugs, I became uncertain as to the side on which they actually
adhered, and the voice murmuring "It's for your own good" became an
indifferent noise at the base of my consciousness.

Although I was unable to return to Jr. High throughout 8th grade, I
soon acquired permission to study at home under the instruction of a
tutor, and in this way, maintained my level of educational curriculum
as well as my status as a "student."  Receiving instruction on a
one-to-one basis was definitely one of the more favorable aspects of my
new life-style.  I fully realized the impermanence of this enjoyment;
upon my recovery, I would once again be hurled amid the mob and
mainstream of society.

My tutor, Mrs. Kruse, was assigned to me for the entire year.  Together
we covered the realms of English, math, social studies and science with
the help of a collection of text books which she obtained from my
"would-have-been-teachers."  Several times each week she would stop to
teach and collect previous lessons.  Since she was amiable, highly
intelligent and challenging in nature, I looked forward to her visits;
the time always passed quite rapidly.  In addition to prescribed
lessons, Mrs. Kruse suggested reading material which she deemed of
interest to me, and as a highlight to one of the social studies
chapters, drove me to a local museum.  The trip was a memorable
occasion, if simply due to the fact that I spent the majority of the
days alone and at home.  She also demonstrated interest in my
extra-curricular activities as well as the regular academic subjects;
I would sometimes show her my various crafts and "works of art" with
which I involved myself to abort any loneliness or dejection I might
have otherwise encountered had I not kept occupied.

My projects included anything which was not overly monotonous, and time
thus spent would often encompass more than one casual employment to
assure that my interest would not shrivel up and die before an object's
completion.  Occasionally one of the lovely ladies from church would
include me in crafts, and consequently, I turned out decoupaged eggs
and quilted pillows by the number.  I attempted a painting of a rural
scene, and on other days I would draw, sew, or macrame; at times I
would pinpoint my interest in the creation of gifts and culinary

A prominent aid to my artistic whims came to me by way of my father's
love and craftsmanship; he spent hours of his spare time constructing a
shadow box for miniature arrangements.  Through the same five days,
during which time Mom and I were in Rochester for my treatment, he also
repainted my bedroom.  I was awestruck upon my return to think of his
feverish, love-wrought labors; through work he was able to ease his
internal suffering which accompanied my physical trials.  If nothing
more, he was at least DOING SOMETHING, which seemed to allay one of his
foremost grievances toward my illness in a temporary fashion.

I felt relieved to stay at home that year; it would have been difficult
to feel comfortable when I was sporting a wig.  At this age, so many
kids allow themselves to be governed by popular opinion, whether or not
that opinion has been justly founded.  One may be treated kindly only
to be defaced later in private discussions.  When fear based on one's
acceptability governs his actions, it is his convictions and conscience
that sustain punishment.  While many students may have attempted to
understand the unpleasantness of my situation, others would have
taunted malicious threats or voiced insensitive remarks; physically I
was to weak to withstand such cruelty on a daily basis.

That which I most detested surrounding the aspect of baldness was the
wig itself, for although I was grateful for the mask it provided, I
abhorred its artificiality.  Wearing a wig was unnatural, especially at
my age.  People failed to recognize me.  Moreover, it presented
inherent problems of its own.  It would shift precariously in a stiff
wind, and a blustery day brought visions of it cartwheeling
tumbleweed-style, across a street.  I began wearing headbands, though
definitely not in style, simply to assure that it remained atop my
head.  Another dilemma was the well-meaning oldster who still enjoyed
pulling a child's locks; unaware and full of only good intentions, what
would he have thought if his teasing gesture unveiled the entirety of
my hairless skull?  The wig, therefore, was mainly a social impairment,
for it was during group situations that I experienced the majority of
my embarrassment.

Aspects which aided social interaction were my attitude and a
light-hearted countenance.  It is essentially one's appearance that
opens the door to conversation and eventual relationships; and despite
my different visage, I wished to remain approachable and self-secure
with my health problem.  I tried to nurture realistic, yet humorous
outlooks toward problems, for a sickly person wearing a smile appears
more inviting to others than one who shrinks within his ailment while
displaying steadfast displeasure for his predicament upon his face.  If
one is open and jokes about his health situation, he is also less apt
to evoke fear and hesitant inquiries from friends, and for that matter
mockery from the ignorant; it is no fun to insult an individual who
fully accepts himself and his problem, for there is no fuel to evince
an emotional fire.

I felt totally secure in my baldness only with my family and select
individuals who neither balked nor poked sadistic mirth at my loss.
The wig was worn on all social outings, of course, just as it was
generally donned at home as well. Certain days, however, I elected to
prance through the house without it; the wig was tiresome and hot, and
my head needed to escape its smothering imprisonment during the day in
addition to its nightly freedom.  Happily, my parents did not seem to
mind the sight of my head, claiming it was "kind of cute"; a more
appropriate manner of expressing my parents' view of my loss of hair
was to say it was a necessary evil which had been part of the
"insurance plan," and therefore deemed as acceptable as it could have
been under the circumstances.  I was initially amazed that they could
love a child having no hair, since appearances rated so incredibly high
on the scale of societal importance, and my best feature had been
obliterated.  To think that people found me tolerable and remained a
loyal friend touched deeply upon my heart.

Thus at home baldness posed no problem for me, although I would
sometimes hold back tears when I discovered a long strand of hair woven
inside a sweater or glanced at an old photograph.  The image of myself
reflected in the mirror contrasted dreadfully with the girl I viewed in
the picture albums to such an extent that physically I felt myself to
be an entirely different person.  Unfortunately, I felt less of a
person when I compared my selves, past to present; I therefore tried to
limit these recollections by keeping occupied with crafts or other
mental detours from reality.

By January I was completely used to my way of life.  There was comfort
to be had in monotony and sameness of routine, and while I would
sometimes feel alienated from society, my solitary existence provided
me with emotional security which would not have otherwise been possible.

Each day was very much like the next, and time melded the days together
into oblique obscurity.  When I was not occupied with my lessons or
crafts I would sit, allow my mind to empty itself of all thought, and
then drift to other places, beyond my own stunted life, and there catch
a glimpse of reality as others saw it to be.  Were it not for vivid
daydreams, my year of chemotherapy would have doubtlessly provoked more
duress, yet through fantasy, I was able to surpass my physical
limitations.  Moreover, while public interaction would often degrade my
self-image, thought would instill confidence in my unseen strengths. I
found that the mind possessed more beauty than any bodily attribute, no
matter how brilliant the eye might perceive it to be.

If it were humanly possible to correct physical shortcomings, everyone
would mold his face and body into perfect specimens; disease could no
longer wreak havoc upon one's dimensions or features, and amputated
limbs would quickly be restored.  This is not life, however.  No one
chooses his personal characteristics or form any more than he chooses
to be born or die; over one's features and time-ridden transformations,
one exercises no choice.

Although I was a loner at heart, I became accustomed to feeling brief
surges of loneliness when I would peer from a window and observe the
activity that went on in normal lives.  To be able to come and go,
unhindered by any physical dysfuntions, must have been pure joy... joy
which the vast majority of people took for granted.  It was a shame
that they did not pause for an instant with their bustle of plans and
breathe in the fresh air of their greatest fortune, their health.  To
think people actually worried about popularity, or buying a certain
brand of blue jeans, or getting their hair cut one half inch too short
began to seem utterly incredulous.  Those who doted on trivials I could
seldom abide, but now I had to constrain fury; perhaps instead I should
have pitied those individuals who, in their selfishness, dwelled only
upon that which they lacked rather than their well-being.  Though my
life at the time was far from ideal, I still felt myself to be quite
lucky; I had witnessed at Mayo Clinic various gruesome and startling
examples of disease... one woman's face was riddled with large, fleshy
bumps... another woman's unearthly jaundiced eyes clashed with her dark
complexion to bespeak trouble within... a pretty young woman with one
leg nimbly propelled herself into the elevator, smiling, conspicuously
contrasting with the throngs of people who walked about, eyes downcast
and dreary, searching for the location of their next test or
consultation.  I felt a slight pang of embarrassment regarding my
appearance yet I was grateful to be spared the more obvious discomfort
which would have accompanied drastic, irreversible abnormalities; my
pain would end, and my hair would grow back.

For the time I had only to live with and learn from my physical
restraints; fostering jealousy or bitterness punishes oneself and
further mars one's countenance.  When I found myself beneath the gaze
of one seeing merely my features, I cringed, but then recalled who I
truly was... and who no mask could dominate.

During January of 1976 I also began my first successful attempt at
maintaining a diary.  I wrote faithfully, daily inscribing the events
of my life upon the pages of the small book which, by the years end,
was battered and torn with handling, for it went on every clinic
excursion or other journey which separated me from my home.  In it I
described the aspects which flavored my day; what I ate, interesting
mail, homework, my crafts, and my general health.

Though I did not meticulously describe my emotions, I can recall the
feelings which surrounded various entries, whether they were of
selfishness, anger, fear, or otherwise.  Perhaps I was initially scared
to vent my frustrations lest my book be read by searching eyes; written
word is no longer secret, and I trusted my memory far better than my
hope of privacy, and therefore rarely indulged in expressing
confidences unless they were of the positive sort or so justifiable
that their truth, though poignant, could not have been denied even by
the subject.

Jan. 4, 1976... I got my make-up on...went to church,then to a
restaurant.  It's a real pretty day outside and the sun is shining
through my windows.  I just love my room.  Today I'm going to work on
my corduroy purse some more.  I don't like any boys and I'm glad of
that.  I'm probably weird not wanting a boy to "go with" but I'm not
ready yet.  After all, I'm just 14 yrs. old. (2 relatives) came over
and had supper.  I came into my room because I felt sick.  Finished my
purse...I feel better now.  That's good!

Throughout the diary, it became obvious that an internal struggle was
present which haunted me at the time and annoys me at the present;
nevertheless, it existed, as perhaps it does within all youth. That to
which I allude is the battle between independence and dependence, the
conflict waged by one mind against two wills; that of the adult and the

One of the most prevalent emotions I fostered throughout 8th grade was
insecurity.  It was a by-product of sickness and frequent aloneness.

Desiring to live unnoticed, I began to feel guilty about the kindnesses
I received. I wondered whether I deserved such special treatment; when
I voiced my feelings to my parents, they quickly pointed out that
people wanted to do things for me since my life was tainted by an
illness. "You don't have your health, and that's the greatest wealth
on earth."  I nodded at their statement, yet something still seemed
amiss; I finally discovered that my guilt was fueled by jealous
acquaintances that rather begrudged my attentions.

Jan. 6, 1976... I'm trying to "use up" my cologne and perfume so
everybody won't keep saying "how much I have."  Another acquaintance
would continually quiz me, wondering where I got the money to buy
things as she glanced around my bedroom.  My allowance was healthy, to
be certain, especially if I drank my quota of milk each day; however,
the earnings I acquired were determined by my parents, not me, and I
was expected to use the money wisely.  I often deposited portions in
the bank, saving diligently for a nice purchase.  Otherwise, my funds
were transformed into stamps for letters, gifts, appointments for my
room, or movie tickets.  I didn't feel frivolous; whereas I was given
an allowance, my friends had to twist their parents arms for their
desires.  It didn't appear to me that they were deprived.

Jan. 30, 1976... Sharon, Brad and I are going to the florists in a bit.
Gosh just 'cause I talk about things that would be neat to have, and I
know I would not really want all of it, Sharon says "Boy, you really
have a lot more things than I ever had and you know you have to pay me
back for these things.  You have more than I do considering inflation."
Well, I had known I was 'gonna pay her back even if she wanted to give
them to me as gifts.  Sometimes I wish I was starving and poor and

Coming from my sister the statement was quite a shock, evoking
self-pitying sentiments from me in my last sentences, which now strike
me as a literary pout of pure distress.  I had always considered Sharon
as a statuesque epitome of goodness, incapable of resentment of any
kind; after the initial surprise had worn off, I was glad to know she
was human, for maintaining such sanctity 24 hours each day was

I learned during the year that people felt obligated to be nice to me
(and, indeed, they wanted to be nice) because of the trials which I
endured.  Since they were human, however, their jealousies and stored
grievances would sometimes appear in a choice moment wherein their
self-control was at a low ebb.  I believe that everyone, including
those having well-aligned values, possess a foremost problem which,
despite even the greatest amenities of good health and even a loving
home, can exist within the minds of the most fortunate individuals;
indeed, some people are ashamed of their "problems" since they appear
so insignificant when compared to those in other lives.  Nevertheless,
the problem lives within them and causes real emotional duress.

Returning to my observation, I realized that people who, within
themselves, felt that my problems were essentially greater than theirs,
still needed to air those complaints.  Feeling hindered by me, to a
certain extent, their frustrations would sometimes be directed at me
while their true source of anger remained unspoken.  Such was the case
with my sister.  Following the small episode, I was less enthusiastic
about revealing my catalog reveries, yet I recovered fully, losing a
goodly spirit and gaining a fine sister.

It seems everyone likes to receive mail, especially when the mail
carrier leaves a bundle composed of more interesting things than just
bills.  My love for mail grew into an obsession while I stayed home,
and many days found me impatiently glued to the window, glaring up the
avenue when a substitute carrier delayed the hour of delivery.  Worse,
however, than waiting for the mail carrier was when the mail arrived
having nothing addressed, or of interest, to me; I was not picky... I
welcomed even "junk mail"!

Jan. 31, 1976... I woke up again, which is a miracle in itself
(followed by a dissertation explaining my plans for the day).

I was aware of the implications behind my sickness, yet I do not recall
having believed that I would die; my pain was of the temporary kind, I
thought, and having confidence in my elders and those of the medical
profession, felt certain that my life was not threatened.  Death itself
was obscurity, and only took on the characteristics of ultimate slumber
and freedom from pain; this image brought no fear and occurred mainly
in times of physical discomfort.  I wished neither to delude myself
about my condition nor dwell upon its negative features; my statement
from the diary illustrates that attitude quite well, for, although the
sentence was written in light-hearted jest, its dry humor depended, as
do all jokes, on either an element of truth, an attempt to mask
seriousness, or sheer incredibility.  As the latter was not a factor,
my expression was a truthful and simultaneous outburst, defining my
life in a concise and unobtrusive manner; I was not depressed that day,
but rather, honest in a wry sort of way.

Humor is an asset when one is faced with serious problems, for laughter
unleashes tension, like crying, which otherwise can become
self-destructive.  Laughter and tears are closely related, as is
evident in cases of hysteria or other mental disorders wherein the mind
no longer effectively controls one's emotions in the manner which
society deems proper for a particular occasion.  Mom once related an
incident concerning Lynn, who from birth, was severely cerebral
palsied; strapped in her high chair, she watched Mom cry over
distressing news and in response, began to laugh, bespeaking her
inability to react by shedding tears, as would a normal child.
Generally, sadness evokes sadness.

There are times, however, when grim situations accompanied by humor
should not be looked upon as a "sick" reaction.  I truly believe that
one can find humor in most occurrences, even some of the brutal
realities of life and death.  Ideally one should find the utmost humor
within his own life... he need not search elsewhere; to laugh at one's
own problems divides their weight significantly, so that it is
unnecessary to scoff at another's ill fortune and place humorless
weight upon his ample burden.

Laughter was not only for myself, however, for I had to maintain a
degree of humor regarding both my appearance and my general situation,
spanning isolation to body dysfunctions, to retain my normalcy in the
eyes of those around me.  Laughter makes an unpleasant event more
acceptable despite its inherent distastefulness; even my wig afforded
certain individuals with unbridled laughter when I would put it on
backwards and, playing a mock guitar, pretend to be a member of a rock
band.  Had my reaction to adversity brought a shadow of gloom over my
face and personality the suffering endured by my family and friends
would have been greatly multiplied; as a result, my isolation would
have grown.  Depression is as catching as humor, yet unlike humor, it
is not sought and possesses no magnetism of itself.

Feb. 1, 1976... I got sick in the night last night.  I was real cold,
then really super hot.  I started to make little whines, hoping Mom or
Dad would hear me.  Finally, Mom heard me and Dad came to see what was
the matter.  He helped me get situated on the sofa.  I slept all the
rest of the (next) day.  I can't remember if I even ate today at all.
All I know is that I'm having super weird dreams all of the day.

When my mom began to teach, I remember my jealousy toward the faceless
names which daily she brought home.  Conversation I did not mind, yet
her employment involved much more than that.  She sometimes came home
quite late, and even after working over-time at school she managed to
tote further work to our house.  If she asked for help, I would do so
begrudgingly, knowing that the time she saved by my assistance would
only spawn other ideas from her conscientiousness.  When I no longer
wanted a stuffed animal or toy, she quickly rushed it to school; this
was a true blow, for the kindergarteners were not only benefiting from
her time at school and at home, but were now receiving my old and
once-beloved belongings!  My displeasure voiced itself in a
cantankerous fashion as I stewed my over-all annoyance for small
children's propensities (irrationality, brazen and loud mouths, uncouth
mannerisms, and their tendency toward the profuse utilization of tears)
under her nose.

I finally discovered that, no matter how truthful my statements had
been, she found a way to ricochet them back to my behavior as a child.
Dad was sympathetic, for he knew that Mom's attempts to parallel one's
behavior to that which one found disfavorable in others was one of her
habits.  I asked him whether I was like "this" or like "that,"
illustrating for him the exact scenario which I had placed before Mom,
and often he would say, "No, you didn't do that... or at least not that
bad."  I only complained about those things which I felt I had not
done, for I could not condemn a road that I had once walked as if my
feet had never carried its dust.  Finally, in exasperation, I decided
my war against the kindergarten children should no longer be verbalized.

Feb. 4, 1976... I still have the runs, but the tutor came anyway.  I
didn't have to go while she was here anyway!  I'm glad she came though,
because it helps pass the day a little better.  I stopped drinking the
lemonade as it seems to "go right through" me.  It made my diarrhea all
foamy and icky.  (Not to mention that the runs aren't icky and gross
and all of that anyway!)

Feb. 9, 1976... I'm sure glad I don't have the runs anymore. Tutor came
today.  After she left I wrote 2 poems, although I still have to do
some changing and correcting.  One is about food, and the other is
about the bed pans.

My idea of comic appeal found its way into the creative outlet of
poetry.  I figured that everyone could relate to the nastiness of
having to use a bed pan even if they never had the misfortune to
encounter one; after all, going to the bathroom was funny, if for no
other reason than the fact that it brought humanity down to the
elemental functions of the smallest insect.  No one was above it.

"Diarrhea keeps the world running," and as long as I was able to keep
laughing it didn't seem so bad.  I showed two nonsense poems I had
written to my tutor; she rewarded me with a smile.  Neither of us
mentioned submitting them for the yearly Junior High poetry collection,
however.  After she departed, I turned toward my lessons.

Homework.  I held the word in my mind and reflected on my life.  The
word was befitting of my study habits; all my work was homework this

When You're In The Hospital

I say this from experience
For I know it's not much fun,
When you just gotta use the facilities...
But you can't get up to run!

There's a button that you push for a nurse,
Located somewhere near your bed,
Just hope she gets there in a hurry,
Or you've really something to dread.

She'll pull out something resembling
A well bent silver can...
Now you're the center of attention
Seated on that cold bed-pan!

Different Foods For Different Likes

It's a funny thing
When you think about foods,
Some people eat different things
To suit their changing moods.
Kids usually eat
Just the things they've always liked,
While certain teens prefer
Only foods that have been spiked.
Chinese sit on the floor
Eating egg rolls and cooked rice;
But to the Spanish in their wide-brimmed hats,
Enchiladas are quite nice,
There's the cook in fancy restaurants
Making fine recipes for "Turtle Stew "
And then there's my Mom at home,
Concocting some famous "Leftover Brew."
There's that fat guy going to Bishops,
To get Ambrosia Pie just for fun,
And the other guy going to McDonalds for his
Twoallbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettuse cheesepicklesonion
Now there was Euell Gibbons in the forest,
Eating his "wild hickory nuts,"
But I heard he had an ulcer,
And should have stuck with Pizza Huts!
I could go on and on
About foods, drinks, sweets and such,
But I think I'd better quit now,
While I still have the "rhyming touch"!

Lauren Isaacson
8th Grade
February of 1976

Feb. 10, 1976... I made my class a great big valentine out of poster
board.  It's an owl... Whoo's wishing you a Happy Valentine's Day? Me

Youthful love is, indeed, quite intense.  I bestowed my familial love
upon my sister-in-law, Norm's wife, who also became the companion that
my mind so desperately demanded.  In her I found a depth of friendship
which had always eluded me; perhaps I needed to grow to understand what
I sought.  Those aspects which captured my affection were mutuality,
understanding and compatibility which required no stimulus to evoke,
but evolved through one's inherent, natural character as demonstrated
to the other.  Conversation traversed the boundaries of the menial and
insignificant, while activities were relished simply because of my
fondness for her and, of course, my brother.

In addition to the above characteristics, Tracy and I shared common
interests in sewing, drawing, and outdoor activities; we were also both
thin-limbed, and although she had gained weight by the time I knew her,
she remained thin.  I appreciated having a person to whom I could
unabashedly express my indifference toward food; even before my
operation I viewed mealtime as a hassle and a must for survival; to
this she could sympathize knowingly.  Tracy could also relate to my
lack of womanly fat deposits which naturally accompanied a thin
stature, and we swapped horror stories and lamentations about the
tactless and mentally (dispatched) people we had encountered who
enjoyed taunting at that which our figures still lacked.  We generally
wrapped up such conversations by admitting that thinness was an
advantage.  We were not hampered in any way by excess baggage; nothing
flogged violently if we ran, nor did anything cascade over the sides of
a chair as we sat. We could easily see our feet, and were confident
that old age would find few sagging extremities.  Such were our

I relished the time I spent in Tracy's company; she helped me through
the year of chemotherapy by planning activities each week for us to
pursue such as running errands and shopping.  I most enjoyed the
invitations to stay over night at Norm and Tracy's house, for the best
entertainment was conversation.  I loved the casual atmosphere that
permeated their house, for it seemed to whisper "the simple pleasures
are the best."  They lived quietly, in a modest house, feeding their
equally modest income into house payments, grocery bills and gasoline
for their $400 Belvedere.  It was a life which yielded the serenity
begotten of honesty and hard work; no phantoms of debt wailed in the
late hours of the day, and sleep came easily.  Goals were sighted, then
realized, slowly, one by one; they spent no money that was not yet
their own, but nothing appeared to be wanting in their lives.  I
admired their way of life and wanted to one day establish a home based
on such simplicity and love.

When I stayed over night, the living room couch was my bed.  It faced
the kitchen and in the morning, I could survey the pre-dawn preparation
of breakfast.  If it was a week day, Norm would appreciatively stuff
three or four blueberry muffins down his throat and, grabbing his lunch
bucket, stride out the door to his motorcycle.  Weekends provided a
more leisurely breakfast schedule, and everyone rose at generally the
same time.  Often Tracy fried pancakes as the plates were laid upon the
table and the powdered milk, butter, and a bottle of imitation maple
syrup were extracted from the refrigerator.  Norm and Tracy bought the
least expensive items at the grocery store, which included the
substitute for milk and a cheap brand of syrup.  These two aspects of
the simple life were the only ones which I did not find appealing, and
vowed I would always buy fresh milk and decent syrup even though my
canned fruit would bear a bargain label.  I guessed every way of life
had its flaws.

Feb. 13, 1976... It's Friday the 13th... watch yourself today... Don't
walk under a ladder; if you see a black cat, walk the other way! Only
kidding!  I'm over at Norm's right now.  I had 1 egg and 3 bran muffins
(pig).  Tracy gave me 4 spoons (wooden) for my hope chest, that Norm
made at (work)... I feel real good this morning.  Maybe I'll take a
walk!  Maybe I'll even take my camera and take some pictures.

Staying at Norm and Tracy's house always put me in a good mood, for I
was with my favorite companions and most important, I was understood.
I felt so at ease in their company that, amid life's pain and
uncertainty, living was still worthwhile.  Living, in fact, was really
great sometimes.

Feb. 14, 1976... M. and J. came over today and gave me some valentines
from the class.  Then we talked awhile.   We went to see (a) movie...
It was real funny...

Feb. 17, 1976... Today is Dad's birthday.  I made a card out of
flannel, but I didn't like it, so I threw it away.  Mom dug it out when
she came home (sad face).  I made another card out of a box. You'd
follow the arrows to each side of the box and each side had a different
saying on it.  I also made him some Rice Krispie Treats... never again!
He liked 'em tho'...  Boy, they were like bricks!

Feb. 19, 1976... I made a jumper in 5 hours today.  It's brown
corduroy, bib overall style and below the knees.  The suspenders don't
have clasps, but I have snaps instead.  I made it for the dance Friday.
I would have liked to make a hat to go with it, but didn't have enough
material.  I surprised Mom and Dad a lot by it.  See, they both had
gone to meetings, so I was home by myself from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Feb. 20 1976... Today is the dance!  I'm nervous!  11:56 p.m.--I'm home
from the dance now.  I got home around 10:45 or so.  It was real fun.
I danced with 9 boys; one boy I danced with twice.  One time, it was 5
(songs) straight!  Boy, my legs and feet ache.  After, we went to
Shakey's Pizza Parlor.  I had a lettuce salad for 60 cents (one boy)
asked about 5 kids for a dime and when they asked what it was for, he
said, "It's going for a good cause."  You know what?  He gave it to me!
I told 'em to take it back, but they wouldn't, and (a girl) said she'd
be mad at me if I didn't.  So, I'm 50 cents richer, I think the reason
that I danced so much is because I've been gone.

It was obvious to me that some of the attention I had received was due
to my illness, for my appearance had suffered since 7th grade and
popularity had never been a concern of mine.  Nevertheless, I was
pleased to have been accepted by those with whom I had always
maintained friendly terms.  It was common knowledge that I wore a wig;
I was glad that no one stared or gawked at me with unnatural interest;
some even said that my short hair looked nice, to which I would reply
with a word of appreciation, knowing that I could never believe the
statements, despite the good intention behind them.  I had explained
the entire episode to M. and J. when they visited me on Valentine's
Day, telling them that I wished my plight to be honestly related to
those of my acquaintance, for carrying such a secret would have been
like transporting a dandelion seed head on a windy day.  Seeds of both
truth and controversy would have flown everywhere, and deception on my
behalf would only have served to germinate further curiosity.

The interaction at the dance demonstrated that I had not been
completely forgotten in my absence, although it also served to amplify
the unusual nature of my current way of life in my own eyes.  I lived
each day as it presented itself, not dwelling on dejection, pain, or my
severance from the rest of the world.  When I dreamed, I did not dream
of the past, and was therefore a trifle shocked at the difference of my
days to those of other youth.  Through the months, abnormalcy became
"normal" for me; and perhaps it was beneficial that I could think along
those lines, for I was able to adapt to my situation without undue
frustration.  It is difficult to live "with" something if it is the
source of continual mental torment.  Aloneness did not parallel
loneliness; many times I was very happy that my health allowed me to
avoid social involvements, despite the fact that, after too much
solitude, interaction with others became increasingly difficult.

People were very good to me during my year of chemotherapy, and I
received attention which I would not have enjoyed had it not been for
my health problem.  As I mentioned previously, women from church would
stop by to visit, occasionally bearing a plate of cookies or other food
which I found appealing, or spend their time with me making crafts.  My
aunt who lived next door, also dropped by, or took me on small outings,
as did my sister-in-law, Tracy.

March 15, 1976... I didn't get any mail today.  When that happens, it
almost ruins my whole day.  I'm supposed to get (a long listing of
expected mail)... I hope I get something tomorrow... I love getting
mail... especially packages.

March 16, 1976... My back really hurts today, kinda all around the
middle.  No mail came today at all. RATS!  Some days I just feel like
sitting down and bawling when I don't get any packages or letter or

My day hit a rock-bottom low when no mail arrived, but two days in a
row was nearly insufferable.  I wrote to relatives, two pen pals, and a
girl I had met in Rochester, Mn; it seemed incredible that no one would
have written and no catalog or advertisement buffered the disappointing
sight of the empty mailbox.  This was depression in the life of a
home-bound 14 year old.

Several months later I decided to remedy the depressing situation by
sending my name and photo to a publication produced by an insurance
company which we received regularly.  Having myself written to two
girls who had appeared in the magazine, I figured I should try to put
an end to my disgusting predicament since they had reported receiving
as many as 20-3O letters.  I described myself, my hobbies and,
including a 7th grade photograph, quickly mailed the envelope.

March 19, 1976... I wanted to go to Col. with K. in the summer and told
dad.  He said I'd not be able to.  I never get to go anywhere with her.
He told me we wouldn't go to Col. this summer if I didn't care to go
with them!  But I do!  Man!  I'm depressed!  I'm going to bed without
telling anyone!

Without a question of doubt, my intended action described in the final
sentence had no profound effect on my parents, and if anyone lost sleep
over the incident, it was me.  Frustration marred my rationality and
allowed the childish presence to dominate my thoughts and actions.
Whereas the above incident hurt only myself, since I enjoyed bedtime
hugs anger could also be directed out from myself.  One is born with a
certain degree of destructiveness, for until a parent guides a child
toward the compassionate mode of thought which society demands, and the
child is mature enough to follow that direction, he often exerts
damaging blows on inanimate objects for no reason and similarly
provokes live creatures over which he wields superiority of size and
strength.  In grade school I would capture daddy-long-legs and proceed
to amputate all of their legs until the body was but a helpless dot on
the sidewalk surrounded by eight spasmodically pulsating legs.  My
behavior was quite unnecessary, and I finally was able to see the
brutality of my deadly surgery and allowed the bugs to pass unhindered.
Similarly, my brothers used to follow ants with a magnifying glass,
directing the reflective rays on their small bodies until they began to
smoke, whereupon the ant would collapse in a miniscule puff of fire.

Many households with dogs and cats bear the brunt of the human
inhabitants' emotions.  Mistreatment is not uncommon regarding pets,
and ranges from overt bodily punishment to the supposedly innocent
teasing and frightening of animals.

March 23 1976... Gerb bit me yesterday for no reason at all, so today I
got even. I filled the tub with three inches of water and put him on
the edge of the tub.  He fell in all by himself.  He swam a little.  I
left him in there a half hour... He looked funny... real skinny ...it
really scared him!  I'll never do it again though.

How well I remember my reasoning and behavior on that day.  My gerbil
would never have known why I was treating him in such a mean fashion;
gerbils are naturally active, and not desiring to be held, it bit my
finger in agitation.  Realizing this, yet still frustrated, I decided
to put some water in the tub, measuring three inches at the deepest
slant, and put my gerbil on the tub's edge, knowing full well that the
chance of his sliding into the slippery interior was almost certain;
thus, I could take advantage of a sadistic need without actually
pushing him in the tub or hurting him. As I watched his progress to
assure that he was in no danger, it was apparent that he disliked his
situation entirely, for he found the highest spot immediately and
remained there, propped on his hind legs, craning his head for a way up
to more hospitable surroundings.  After the time had elapsed, I lowered
my hand into the tub and he gratefully climbed into it; I then raised
him up and gently dried him on a towel.  I knew that I liked the
feeling I encountered as my pet jumped into my cupped hands... he
sought my hands, and my offering of care, whereas the previous day,
he repelled my affections.  It was the childish need to possess
something's love; if I made certain that the quality of his atmosphere
was poor, he would seek out my rescuing presence.

No matter how insignificant my action might seem in comparison to the
cruel attacks waged upon some pets, I feel ashamed that I ever needed
to boost my security through such unfavorable means.  Any mistreatment
is unfortunate, but perhaps it is most unfortunate for that which it
reveals about the human who lacks the ability to resist it.

Because I spent so much time alone, I was highly aware of my opposing
desires, and the fact that I was ill augmented each in its own way.
During nausea I wanted no one to flutter nearby; vomiting was a
degrading sort of function for which I needed no help (as it was
essentially involuntary) and desired no spectators.  At times I would
not throw up until I was certain that everyone was beyond earshot.
However, in the aftermath of a vicious siege or a miserable day, I
welcomed parental affection, and on occasion, sought their nurturing
touch.  This latter trait proved to myself that I was not yet as
self-sufficient as I would have liked to be; I needed mom and dad for
more than food and lodging purposes, for part of me was still very much
a little child and that fact would not disappear through false
rationalization on my behalf.  Although the child that I saw within
myself I sometimes despised, having at least fostered selfish ideas if
I had not also allowed myself to act upon the childish whims, I was
glad to be able to revert to that being in times of physical weakness;
perhaps, however, one never outgrows the need for a reassuring hug, and
gentle words.

Most of my visitors were adults.  This suited me just fine, however,
for I felt more at ease with people who were older than myself.  With a
few exceptions, I generally found myself inhibited around youth, for
acceptability was judged within narrow and often unreasonable bounds
with which I did not care to grapple.  Moreover, because I did not have
a particular crowd with whom I closely associated, preferring to roam
with one individual at a time, group situations flooded me with
apprehension.  One such group was church school.  Although I truly
enjoyed the adults who attended the services each Sunday, my March 21
entry reads: "I didn't want to go to church" (I really never like to).
It was the heart-felt sentiments of a rebellious youth, perhaps, who
did not wish to sit through an hour-long service, yet my foremost
objection surrounded the obligatory church school and Sunday evening
MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship; I rarely attended the MYF meetings
during the administration of chemotherapy, although my parents had me
begin again after the treatments had ceased).  I attempted to make
conversation or listen to those speaking nearby, yet could never
include myself to an even modest degree.  As I approached a circular
gathering of kids, the circle would never break or widen to allow me
to "join in."  For awhile I stood behind the circle of heads, smiling
stupidly at their jokes and listening to the flood of chatter
surrounding people I'd never known, until the bell announced it was
time to file to the classroom.  Eventually, I tired of the hopeless
battle and spoke with my parents' friends or else made an early debut
in the empty church classroom and waited for the clock to herald the
beginning of the hour in a less humiliating fashion.

That I did not share common friends with the church youth was
complicated further by the fact that my "shyness" grew when ignored.
When I found myself in an awkward situation, I lost my ability to speak
quite as effectively as if my voice box had been stolen.  Thus, if I
spoke a word or two and was left unanswered, verbalization became
increasingly more difficult until I could not speak if I wanted to do
so.  I recall an outing (or retreat) on which Mom insisted I go,
wherein, during a meeting to plan activities, my suggestion to go on a
bike excursion was virtually eye-balled off the list as if it was an
incredibly ridiculous thing to have mentioned.  I swallowed hard, and
wished I could melt into the wood of my bench.  Later in the meeting
other questions were tossed about and, having considered a likely
answer to one, I opened my mouth, fully intending to speak, but nothing
would pass through my lips.  I shut my mouth again, rather shocked, yet
happy that no one had seen my strange gesture.

Sunday school was not as bad as MYF, because of the teacher's presence
and the short length of class.  I felt sorry for the teachers, poor
volunteers who offered their services each Sunday morning, only to
receive inattentive abuse.  I often wished that the minister would have
cancelled church school for junior and senior high, and instead allowed
them to talk the hour away, since that is what happened anyway.  When
an attempt at discipline was made to silence the noise, the discussion
planned by the teacher would all but collapse and students, or at
least, many of them, would sit despondently in their seats, with
plaster-cast pouts on their faces, and refuse to answer questions
unless directly asked.  Then the answer was generally a curt, "I don't
know" followed by steamy silence.  I wished that I had the clout and
the following to right these proceedings, yet a plea on my behalf would
have been unheard or ignored; unless my barrier would permit me to
enter into the instructor's discussion and help in that meager way, I
could do nothing to reinforce the teacher's strength except, through
silence, keep the bedlam at its current level.  Our church, I found,
shared its problem with other denominations.

March 24, 1976... wrote another poem about spring... really nice out

I remember the day and was inspired to write about that which I saw
around me.  I carried a note pad and pen to the wood pile behind my
house, and taking a seat, allowed my pen to drift along with my mood.
As the sun pelted its warm rays on my back, the world seemed so
beautiful and my heart so full of the world, that I had to capture the
feeling forever.  I possessed no poet's eloquence at age 14, though I
did seek to express honesty and beauty in the written word; I wished
that everyone could see and feel the life which permeated every puff
of breeze through the tight-budded trees.

I felt rather guilty that I fostered such ill fervor toward going to
church and, as a gesture of good will, sent a copy of my poem to the
minister.  Perhaps I wished to ease my own mind against the suspicion
that I was on a collision course with atheism; for although I did not
feel like a heathen, I was terribly aware of a rift between my ideas
and those preached in church; some of the statements actually filled me
with wrath; I searched my mind for the cause of my annoying fury and,
years later, I was finally able to define my religious belief and be at
peace with myself.

To return to my story, I mailed my poem and settled back to pursue the
daily routine.  One and a half weeks passed, finding me at church and
longing for an alternative.  It seemed miraculous, for my wish came

Apr. 4, 1976... I didn't go to church because I got hungry, so I went
with Les and Mrs. K. to the Modernistic Restaurant.  I had 2 1/2 pieces
of French toast, 1 sausage, hot tea.  I wish I'd gone to church tho'
'cause Rev. Jones read my poem "Spring"!  A lady told Mom that I should
try to publish it!  Seven others commented on it!  WOW!

Ironic, life.  Besides the honor of having my poem read in church, it
was published in the weekly church bulletin since a number of
individuals had asked for a copy of it; in the following weeks I was
sent two thank you notes in the mail for sharing my writing with the
church.  It felt good to know that my efforts were appreciated; more
importantly, it prompted people to take a second look at nature's


It's the beginning of Spring,
And God's in the air,
Not just in my woods,
But everywhere.

I can feel him like the breeze
As it blows on me,
And so can the robin, the eagle, the bee.

And as the sun's rays
Beat down on the earth
The world suddenly awakes
And is filled with new birth.

Under the leaves so dead and brown,
Sprouts a Spring Beauty, and life is found.

Spring is life...
Of this I've no doubt,
I feel I'm alive, and I want to shout!

Lauren Isaacson
8th Grade

I used to sit on my front steps and watch the storms approach.  The sky
would turn gray, then dark, inky blue as thunderheads bearing rain
scouted a path above the tall oaks surrounding our house.  Lightning
seared the murky, restless skies as I peered into the dark abyss above
me, and when the storm drew hauntingly near, I would relinquish my seat
for one inside the house.

My love of storms was not blind love; I respected the power of nature
and maintained my distance, continuing my vigilance protected by four
walls.  I once witnessed the mauling destruction of a seemingly healthy
oak as the wind cracked its trunk at 20 feet above the ground and sent
its entire upper portion sprawling to the woodland floor.  I gawked in
astonishment and breathed a sigh of relief that the tree had not fallen
in the direction of my aunt's home.  Wide-eyed, I realized that my
hands were shaking; I left the doorway and took a seat in the living

A Storm In The Offing
Storm clouds are coming,
The wind is in wrath;
Soon raindrops will penetrate
Everything in their path.

The sun is still shining,
The birds, still in chorus...
But this will not last,
For a storm is before us.

The wind is now lashing
The trees without care,
And their sap is now flowing
With each breath of air.

The sun's face is veiled
With a blanket of gray;
The heavens break open,
And rain fills the day.

Lauren Isaacson
8th Grade

Apr. 7, 1976... I kinda' got sick after I ate the cream of rice so I
just read more of my Science.  Then G.E. came over and we did crafts. I
made a wishing well with clothespin halves glued on to a Gerber food
jar.  It's neat.  She even brought an African violet from Mrs. O.  I
also made Easter egg decorations from real blown out eggs covered with
napkins.  At 2:00 Tracy and her sister picked me up.  We went to (the
mall) for a beauty show... wasn't much fun... didn't even get made
up!... I got to sign up for free samples though.  I'll get some!

I had few actual contacts with my classmates of 7th grade, for I shared
little in common with their faster-paced lifestyles and the saying,
"out of sight, out of mind" carried a thick slice of truthfulness.  To
pass the time I often wrote nonsensical poems.  The old west was the
brunt of one of my endeavors...

Revenge Doesn't Alus Pay!
(AS told by an old Mountain Man)

This is the story 'bout a woman named Sue;
Her man wuz kilt by Injuns... her fam-Iy, too!
Now Sue bore a grudge worse than most could tell,
She'd get revenge on them redskins if she had ta go
through hell !

'Ol Sue used a lang-gwadge that stung just like a bee,
And she could draw a pistol faster'n you could knock
your knee!
One day while she wuz lookin' fer somethin' good ta eat,
She spied a group of footprints, made by moccasined feet!

Sue tracked 'em 'til she found 'em near the river bank,
And roped the neck of one, then gave it a yank.
The minute that the others heard the terble cry,
They gathered up their weapons and saw her by and by.

Well Sue was pretty crafty, but not as much as they,
For soon she turned and fled... her being the prey.

In an instant they were on her... that poor, devilish Sue,
She did not win the battle, for she herself was slew!

This is the way Sue ended, it may seem sort of cold,
But she still lives in stories that many folks have told.

Lauren Isaacson
8th Grade

Apr. 30, 1976... Dr. Murrell's office called and said I had to get
another blood test because my white cells are down. I've gotta' have
one Sat., too.  For awhile I was saying some unwriteable things.
I was so upset.

I could never quite understand why they wanted to take more blood when
my count was down.  To me, that made little sense; I would have thought
I should keep all of the blood cells I could.

I saw enough of hospitals to please a hypochondriac; further contact,
after leaving Rochester, seemed beyond reason.  I wanted only to be
left alone; sometimes life seemed so unfair.  I was quite familiar with
needles by April, after having received countless jabs and nearly as my
bruises without complaint, yet orders for additional blood tests
effectively hindered my level of tolerance.  Telling myself that,
"blood test were no big deal after all I'd been through," would
sometimes suffice to relieve my gripping tension; other instances, I
could say, "By now you should be used to them," and then go merrily on
my way.  There were other days when no rationalization would console me.

May 4, 1976... Looked through my catalogs and dreamed...

I loved to dream over catalogs and fill out order blanks, as it took my
mind from nausea and helped pass the time.  Often, I would actually
fill out an order blank yet never send it; catalogs were far more
entertaining than magazines, for they were composed almost solely of

I was amazed that I should be the subject of jealous resentment; while
I was home vomiting, or sitting hairless in front of the TV, they could
run about, full of energy, eat a double-scoop ice cream cone without
heaving the rest of the night away, and let their hair dry in front of
the TV.  I was not resentful of their life; why would they resent "how
much I had"?  I continued to send for things, loving to receive mail.
Clippings and advertisements for free samples were hoarded and quickly
posted.  I sent my name to a beauty club, thinking that the make-up
would be of benefit to my sallow complexion and also something to which
I could look forward each month; to my dismay, I received a letter
rejecting my application and refunding my money, with an explanation
that I was too young to belong.  My mom promptly returned the check,
accompanied by a letter explaining why I wished to belong to the club.
I hoped they would understand, yet their response was beyond my
greatest expectations, for they made me a V.I.P. member wherein I would
receive all cosmetics free of charge.  I was ecstatic that I was
allowed to join; their additional favor was a true gift indeed, and I
quickly mailed a letter of gratitude for their uncommon generosity.

Aside from my family, I told no one of my monthly benefactor, for I
feared the partially concealed jealousy which I had already seen too
often.  I disliked having to be secretive, yet my paranoia ran deep and
I did not wish to stir further coals of bitterness within others.

May 6, 1976... I wish the magazine would come soon!  I hope to get tons
of pen pals.

By the middle of June letters began to arrive from all parts of the
country.  I was ecstatic, and diligently wrote correspondence in
return.  After a passage of a month or more, the letters from new pen
pals dwindled in number, and I was able to establish firm postal
relationships with many individuals.  In all, I had received over 50
letters; and to my agitation, one phone call from a nitwit who claimed
that he wanted to be a "phone pal."  (NO thanks).  Although I responded
to all letters except one, which was from a guy desiring a full-length
photo of me in a bathing suit or shorts, some never wrote again or so
infrequently that I was uncertain who actually lost interest first.
However, these partings did not bother me since I still wrote regularly
to over 20 people and that number alone kept me running to the post
office for stamps and buying paper on a grand scale.

The business of writing letters became an outlet for creativity and
self-expression which, at that point in my life, I needed very much.
While one's circle of friends changed with one's interests and
values, pen pals were sufficiently detached from the prejudices of the
immediate atmosphere and therefore became friends at a safe distance to
whom feelings could be written without the usual fear of
confidentiality.  Actually there were only two or three pen pals with
whom I shared any depth, for many desired only to speak about their
boyfriends and favorite things to eat, and refused to rise above the
superficial acquaintance afforded by one page letters and a 15 cent
stamp.  Expectations and needs varied with these individuals, just as
they did within local relationships.  Some needed only a correspondent
and others, a confidant; the duration of mutual interaction via post
depended on the compatibility of these aspects.

I wrote "Definitions" on May 10, 1976; it captured a bit more
introspection than some of my writing.


Dreams are like the eagle
When it is in flight,
Plummeting down a mountainside
Or soaring out of sight.

Success is like the sky
When clouds roll away
And beckon to the sun
To brighten up your day.

Failure is a shooting star
Which hurls itself around
And makes a crater in your heart,
Crushing spirits to the ground.

Birth is like a flower
As its' leaves unfurl,
Rendering its' love for God
To city, country, world.

Death is like an endless night
To those who don't believe,
Cloaking them in darkness,
The old to the naive.

Lauren Isaacson
9th Grade

May 16, 1976... I went to church with K... just Sunday School, tho'...
Man, I thought our class didn't pay to much attention and those guys
threw stuff, wrecked Bibles and everything.  K. dropped me home around
noon.  I was real depressed for some unknown reason.

Thus, Sunday School was a scene I loved to avoid, even in other
churches.  I felt incredibly guilty that I did not have the fortitude
or spirit to deride the callousness enacted by some of the kids; since
I was already miles from their friendship, I should not have worried,
yet I wished to draw no attention to myself, especially that of the
negative sort in their eyes.  My internal suffering would then have
been much worse;  I opted for alienation over derision.  My idea of a
"religious lift" was a sojourn of solitude among the woodlands.

For my mom and dad, though, my sickness created tension in itself.  Its
presence, and the nausea, hairlessness, and so forth that reminded them
of its presence dined voraciously on their happiness.  During the day
they both immersed their energies into their jobs; exertion was only a
temporary relief, however, and years later I learned that my mom had
sometimes let out an involuntary sob after the dismissal of the
kindergarteners when her thoughts encompassed my loss of hair.  I
rarely saw their anguish, for it seemed that they concealed it very
well. Occasionally, when it ran over, I did not know how to react;
their pain caused pain for me.

May 22, 1976... Didn't do much today.  I dusted and then cleaned my
room (and) listened to records.  (I was sorta depressed and I guess I
made Mom depressed too, because I asked if it was OK to use the record
player and she said "sure, that's what it's for.  I always told Norm
that but he'd never use it.  I guess I just raised the whole bunch of
you kids wrong."  And then she started to cry).

"No, Mom," I thought, standing silently in the doorway.  Depression
weighed heavily on one's self-confidence.  Luckily such feelings within
Mom were transitory and soon replaced by her characteristically
positive attitude; aside from her good nature she did not have time to
be depressed, for she rarely had time to sit.  Maybe it was just as
well, since there was hardly a shortage of worries.  The time and
energy she could expend in worry was more productively spent mixing and
baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies  (and it certainly left a
better taste in one's mouth).

Generally my visits to the clinic were clearly punctuated within my
diary; in effect, five pages were barren of script except for a quickly
scribbled sad face, each accompanied by a concise four letter word,
"BLAH."  The text would resume on the day following my last treatment.

Toward the end of May we drove up to Mayo Clinic for my third to last
series of treatments.

May 26,1976... Woke up (DAAAA!) had X-ray and blood test.  They took so
much blood that I got sick to my stomach and dizzy.  When I got to the
"finger prick place," I was sobbing and crouching over, so they took me
in a room to lay down.  I cried in my little room they put me in for
awhile.  Then I was all right... They pricked me in that same room!

I remember that day very well.  It seemed that I did not feel quite
right as I walked toward the waiting room for the blood test that
morning, and once I was forced to talk, I realized how displaced my
senses were, for I could not even answer their routine inquiries of

"Take a seat, please; make a fist."  The nurse tied a rubber strap
tightly about my arm and began to search for a vein.

"Where are you from?" she asked.

"Lauren Isaac..." I stopped abruptly, looking up at her as
embarrassment painted my face a brilliant hue of red.

Thinking she'll try another question, perhaps an easier one, she asked,
"What's your name, huh?"  To which I replied, "Moline, Illinois."  My
head began to spin in confusion and I wondered if I was going mad.
"I'm sorry... I don't know what's wrong with me today..."  I said, my
voice trailing off as the dizziness intensified.  Nothing of this sort
had ever happened to me.  I was extremely relieved to exit the vicinity
of the blood test, for I despised losing control of myself in front of
others.  Feeling like an idiotic fool, I wondered if the nurses thought
I was new to the procedure, or scared, or squeamish...

The remaining portion of the day went smoothly after eating breakfast.

Mom and I went shopping after taking Dad to the airport.  I got a new
wig, a brush, and wig shampoo.

A new wig.  It took some persuading on the part of my mom, but I
finally agreed to try on some new hairpieces.  My wig was beginning to
show signs of wear after constant daily use and, admittedly, it was
looking rather tacky.  Despite these facts I was reluctant to go
through the nerve-wracking process again, especially since I was now
completely hairless and found the idea of publicly displaying that
trait in a department store utterly repulsive.  We browsed through the
maze of styrofoam heads and many-hued tresses until a sales lady
approached us.  I studied the floor intently while my mom explained
the color and styles I wished to try.  Immediately the lady produced
several boxes housing clumps of curled hair which resembled dead
animals, and motioned to the mirror. "Uh..." I stammered, trying to
muster up my courage.  "Could...I...try them on in a dressing room
or... something?  I take chemotherapy and I... don't have any hair..."
The woman hardly flinched.  "Sure, go right over to woman's apparel..."

What a relief!  Behind the curtained partition I shed my relic and,
standing before the mirror, tried one wig after the other.  "I swear,
nobody has this much hair!"  I exclaimed, frustrated.  "Think of the
milk you'd have to drink to grow hair like this!"

I selected a wig which closely matched my old one in its younger days
and vowed I would somehow smash it down to the proportion of real hair.
Would you like to wear it?" Mom asked, referring to the new clump of
hair slumped inanimately over the edge of the box.  "No way," I
plastered my tried and true wig on my head and it unhesitatingly fell
into place, conforming to my head like an old felt hat.

The following afternoon my treatments began.  However, we received a
pleasant surprise by learning that we could transport the last two days
worth of drugs home with us and allow the hospital to administer them
to me.  Thus, after the third treatment, we were given the expensive
vials of yellow, clear and ruby red liquid, along with instructions for
the doctor, and placed the potent ammunition in a cooler.

May 29, 1976... Took Chemotherapy and headed for home.  Got home around
3:00 or 4:00 p.m.  (TWO relatives) were already here.  (one) gave me a
book on beauty... maybe she's trying to tell me something!  HA!  HA!

May 30, 1976... Had chemotherapy at home.  It took a long time to get
all of the things situated.  It was injected, I threw up, etc., and
then we went home.

May 31, 1976... Had Chemo.  It took an awful long time today.  Home.
Watched T.V.

Chemotherapy, administered at home in Moline was an improvement which
boosted my morale.  For the first time my diary entries did not consist
merely of sad faces and hurriedly scrawled "BLAH'S."  I didn't feel
"good," but I seemed to feel "better."  I could breathe fresh air
instead of the motel's stale stagnancy of bygone cigarette ashes.  I
could even throw up in my own toilet.  Home treatment was indeed a

June 2, 1976... I got sick tonite.  I guess it's just the chemotherapy
doing its duty!  I made myself barf at 10:00 p.m.  I should have barfed

PAGE 111

Chapter 14
Summer 1976


Summer 1976

Summer was always a time of change, and many transformations touched my
life with the coming of the month of June.  School was out of session,
and consequently, my tutor's last day was the 3rd; I now shared more in
common with the other students in that a three month recess from
education had just begun, and the fall semester would find me, like
them, returning to junior high.

Mom, too, closed the door of her Kindergarten classroom for the summer,
although she still persisted in pursuing various projects which related
to her employment during her free time.  She was home, however, and
that was the most important thing.  It seemed to me that life was
returning to normal and I felt less alienated from society since there
was more activity surrounding my home.  Despite other changes I still
looked forward to mail, especially with the advent of my subscription
for pen pals; however, I also found my other mailings to be of great
interest, and appreciated each envelope with my name on it.  An
advertisement for the sale of Christmas cards found its way into my
hands one morning, and after reading all of the information, I wondered
if I should try to sell the cards door to door for added Christmas
income.  As I mulled over the idea, Mom noticed the pile of literature
scattered upon the kitchen table, and briefing herself slightly,
proclaimed that it would be a wonderful way to "present myself to
people" through my own initiative and heartily applauded the idea.

Several days of thought ensued before I decided to sell the cards; the
profit eventually cinched the matter, overshadowing my fear of knocking
on doors and being rejected by potential customers.  It was fun to see
my neighbors, and I felt comfortable standing outside their doors even
if my visit was basically business related.  I walked up and down my
block, collecting orders and trying to gain courage through the sales
which I had already enlisted, for I would soon scout further territory
wherein I knew few names and equally few faces.

As I had suspected, my sales declined rapidly once I ventured outside
of the neighborhood, and my bravery and spirit departed "en masse."  I
had detested trying to sell Girl Scout cookies, and I strained to find
a reason why I felt that selling cards would prove to be any different.
It was different, however, because it was worse; no one recognized the
company whose cards I was attempting to sell, and furthermore, I had to
collect the money and make the necessary change (which horrified me) at
the time of the order, rather than the delivery of the cards.  I soon
had more than enough refusals to warrant my dismissal of any idea of
making further sales.

June 25, 1976... Got dressed and went out on 53rd St. selling (or
trying to sell) my cards.  No one bought a thing.  A lot of 'em gave
excuses like,  "I just got home from the hospital" and "I buy from a
girl down the block and don't want to hurt her feelings"  ETC. !!
What do they think they're doing to me?

July 1, 1976... This week has seemed endless.  I wake up and Mom says,
"You'd better start selling your cards, hadn't you?"  and so I do and I
come back half zonked and then I do some chores around the house and
then write letters.  I feel real depressed... I didn't sell any cards
today. . . didn't feel like it.  After some persuading I went to (the
mall ) with Mom.  Ate supper.  Did dishes, piano, wrote letters... the
same old grind!  I'm taking a bath and I wish someone would buy me
some bath oil...  I think I deserve it after this week!

July 3, 1976... Counted my money for Xmas cards and I came out $17.00
short.  After all that work!  I cried for at least a half hour.  I was
really broke up.  I did a lot of change making wrong.

Salesmanship was definitely not my station in life, and not
understanding how to make change supported that belief.  If, for each
sale of a $4.95 box of cards, I was given a five dollar bill, my notion
of making change concluded that, since it was under five dollars, the
person should receive one dollar, plus five cents to bring the 95 cents
to a dollar.  My only salvation came by way of checks or a patron
telling me the amount of change he was due; otherwise, my blunders
rampaged unnoticed, or at least, unrevealed.

Had I been of stout health, my disappointment would not have settled so
deeply on my heart, but the embarrassment and mental fatigue doubled
with the recollection of the energy I had expended... I felt used and
humiliated "after all that work!..." and the tears flowed unrestrained.

Unasked, Mom and Dad made up the difference in the end, thus rescuing
me from the depths of self-wrought despair.  My work had not been in
vain after all.

July 29th was my dad's last day of work as a tool and die maker at John
Deere Industrial Equipment after 17 years of service.  The following
day, a Friday, he appeared at the shop for a final farewell.

Retirement for my dad was a rather melancholy affair; it was the end to
an age, and the commencement of a new and different lifestyle.  He had
worked since he was 18 years old with the idea that work...
productiveness... paralleled one's self-worth, which, in a society that
is inter-dependent upon each other's conscientiousness, is quite
useful... until a good worker retires and considers himself to be of no
more importance than a bald tire.  A full life of integrity on the job
is all that society requires of anyone; retirement viewed in this scope
is justly earned.

Dad's party was an acknowledgement of his worth to us, which grew only
greater with the passing of one year to the next.  His labors around
the house amplified his presence, and it seemed that all he did for us
were reflections of his love.  Dad most certainly did not waste away in
front of the television or newspaper in his retirement; work was more
than ethical... it was a welcomed pastime.

We departed for Colorado the day following Dad's retirement
celebration, and for awhile, it seemed as if nothing of such
consequence had occurred in the family.   Vacations were a summer-time
tradition which, that year, meant a ten day absence from home while we
skirted the southern Rocky Mountains and climbed about ancient Indian
villages, nestled under precipitous overhangs in cliffs.  I eagerly
tested my new camera, a purchase of several weeks earlier and harvest
of many months of saving, as each new scene presented itself.
Initially battling with the aperture and speed controls amid haphazard
focusing, I eventually began to understand the mechanics of my machine
and concentrated on the actual making of photographs.  Scenic vistas
and close-ups became my favorite subjects, since people often cringed
at the sight of a camera and I did not desire to fight derision with
obstinance; flowers were far more cooperative, especially on a calm day.

A trip from home always made me appreciate the routine which was
temporarily discarded.  As we began to find eastbound routes, my
excitement rose almost to the point it had reached upon our departure;
and while I was happy that we had gone west, I delighted in the
knowledge that my own bed was hours away.

Shortly after we arrived home, Mom and I had to leave for Mayo Clinic.
We had planned our vacation according to Dad's retirement date and the
latter portion of time between my treatments; the close proximity of
the dates made our adrenalin race, yet all appointments were easily

We had reached a turning point, for the series was to be my last set of
injections and miraculously, I did not feel as nauseous as in the past.
After the second day of treatment, we headed home with the costly
drugs.  With the final three days of chemotherapy administered at home,
I had a better selection of appealing foods from which to choose my
infrequent snacks, and found popsicles to be a boon to my situation;
each afternoon I returned from the doctor's office and raided the

My final treatment was administered on the 20th of August, and happened
to be a memorable affair.  The drug infiltrated into my arm.  It hurt
like crazy.  The scarlet-hued drug seeped onto the flesh of my hand as
well.  Once the feat had been accomplished and the needle withdrawn, I
did not stop to wash the red drug from my hand, but exited gratefully
from the doctor's office to the summer day outside.  The treatments
were over!  It was hard to believe!  Now "the end" was reality rather
than a fantastic dream beyond my ability to reach!  Once home, I tried
to wash the red stain from my hand.  Curiously, it eluded the soap and
water; I stared at the spot quizically, wondering when it would
disappear.  It never did.

PAGE 114

Chapter 15
Return to School


Return To School

August 21, 1976... got sick.  It was around 11:30 p.m.  Dad got up and
helped me.  I barfed and then my throat burned.  I never had that
before.  Dad held me awhile...  He's the best dad in the world.

The end of the treatment did not mean that I would no longer become
sick or weak, and as I prepared myself to return to school, I knew it
would not, at first, be an easy adjustment.  The calendar did not pause
for me to gain strength, however, and five days following my final
injection, I went to register for fall classes.  The administrators
were quite understanding and tried their best to ease my nervousness,
making it clear that I should come to the nurse's office for a daily
afternoon snack and at any time I felt ill.  I would be excused from
physical education classes through a note from my doctor, and spend
that hour in the library.  I felt encouraged to know that I could
escape the horrors of P.E., especially since I had to wear a wig and my
energy level was quite below normal.  Perhaps the reinitiation into
junior high would not measure up to my fears, I thought, and went home
relieved.  Five days passed and the schools opened throughout the city.

August 30, 1976... Got up at 6:30 a.m. and got dressed. I ate some
Cream-of-Rice, but not much since this is the first day of school.
Left and picked up Kristi...I saw some of the kids I knew and some
didn't recognize me at first.  Went to my homeroom and stayed there an
hour.  We filled out our schedules and that's about it.

August 31, 1976... Couldn't eat breakfast very well.  I was so
nervous... saw Kristi after Dad dropped me off and we talked awhile
before we had to go in the classes... Some kids said stuff about my
wig.  A girl just stared at my head and a guy behind me suggested to
another kid to pull it off.  He didn't, and thank God! I was pooped
when I got home.  I was upset, too.

It was difficult to maintain my courage after hearing such threats, but
I knew that if I allowed myself to cower in fear before the aggressive
words, the likelihood of my avoiding further taunts would have been
reduced.  That day, without saying a word, I turned a searing,
humorless gaze upon my potential attackers, whose faces were forever
branded in my memory.  They never followed through with their
suggestion, but if they had, it is my belief that they would have
sustained more astonishment at my hairlessness than was their
intention; word of mouth transactions possess little accuracy, and some
individuals, perhaps, thought I wore a wig over my own hair for the fun
of it.

I had few problems surrounding the wig after the first weeks of school,
and the kids realized that I was not among the gregarious crowd, who
would adorn themselves for amusement and attention, but rather sported
the hairpiece through necessity.  Although the "necessity" for my wig
remained vague for certain individuals, other people were blatant in
their curiosity; one such individual was the girl described as having
"stared at my head," who wasted little time before quizzing me whether
or not "that" was "a wig."  I was almost relieved that she was bold
enough to ask, for I hoped that, once her inquiry had been satisfied,
she would cast her annoying gaze elsewhere.  Masking any embarrassment
I might have felt, I looked at her directly and admitted that, yes,I
did wear a wig, and that I had to do so because I'd taken chemotherapy
treatments for cancerous tumors in my stomach; the treatment made me
lose my hair, but it would eventually return.  Her gaze softened, and
after assuring herself once again that my hair would grow back, turned
around to face the front of the room.  I heaved a sigh of relief and
applauded the usefulness of honesty.

As I reflected upon the various traumas associated with my lack of
hair, I was amazed at the power which people wield over the moods of
others whose lives are touched by their kind or abusive words or
actions.  My cousin Gary, who lives next door, came over one morning
before I'd donned my wig, yet due to his natural and inoffensive
attitude toward my appearance, I remarked in my diary that "He saw me
while I didn't have my wig on, but it didn't bother me too much tho."
How different was his reaction than that of another relative who lives
across the country; this relative derived immense pleasure from
forcible, obnoxious treatment of children, over whom he reigned
absolute bodily control albeit their distaste for his repulsive
presence.  I attracted his sadistic attention in his later visits since
I was the youngest of our family, and so it was that on one occasion he
grabbed me in an attempt to make me sit on his lap, and I, struggling
to free myself from his vise-like grip, found myself wrestled to the
floor, pinned beneath the stench of his armpits and unwholesome breath.
The more I writhed to flee from his ugly imprisonment, the more he
seemed to enjoy his power.  I looked around at the group of family
members who encircled the living room, but no one found anything amiss
in his actions, perhaps considering the scene of no more consequence
than innocent horseplay.  But I knew better; this was a man whose
fixation for children passed beyond benign teasing and friendly
adoration; something in his touch spoke of an urge to seize and
capture, to hurt and control...  his touch was wrong.

I was able to feel that which the attending adults could not possibly
have seen, and every ounce of my strength resisted his force.  Since it
was late in the evening, I wore pajamas and a bonnet, and I strained
desperately to assure that the latter remained atop my head; I could
not escape his paws, perhaps, but I had resolved that he should not see
my baldness, pulling the bonnet closer about my head when the chance
presented itself.

It seemed that the struggle was without an end.  Then he suddenly
plucked the shielding bonnet from my head.  His action drained the
fighting spirit from my mind and replaced it with humiliation.  I felt
as if my dignity had been raped, and sunk to the carpet in exhaustion.
A heavy silence draped the conversation in the room as all eyes focused
on the scene before them.  My sister's eyes narrowed sympathetically,
and the light-heartedness drained from her voice as she uttered a long,
descending "Ohhhh!"... and fell silent.  Considering the fun was over,
he released my captive arms, wearing a wide and sickening grin on his
face.  I immediately rolled over without a word, ran from the room to
the basement, where I hid behind the sectional couch.

Clasping my bent knees in a tight hug, I cried silent tears of rage and
degradation, and stayed hunched in the corner for at least ten minutes.
I hoped wildly that he would not pursue me, and when I heard heavy
foot-falls on the upstairs landing, I held my breath. "Bye, Laurie."
His words assailed my ears like fingernails grating across a
chalkboard.  I hated to reply, but feared that silence on my behalf
would stir a need in him to "seek and find," as if involved in some
childish game; I gathered my faculties together and forced a faint
"Bye" from my lips. I did not sound enthused, but it produced the
desired effect.  The back door closed abruptly and silence followed.

As I adjusted to school, I became more outgoing, reacquainting myself
with former classmates and introducing myself to "new" students.  A
teacher allowed me to join the year book committee, and I was selected
as one of three "Art Editors."  School was actually beginning to be fun
for me, and my inhibitions were swallowed by enthusiasm.  My wig,
though a constant awareness, was not a source of fear and nausea,
though an inconvenience, was something with which I had learned to live.

While I was not "popular" at school, I was accepted and had several
good friends; it was all that I had ever desired from social groups,
and was as comfortable as my self-consciousness allowed.  Because I had
begun a new year, my parents compelled me to go to church and its
related functions as well.  I hoped for the best, and for a brief time
I felt somewhat attuned to the group and attempted to involve myself in
conversation.  As the year progressed, however, the tightly woven
friendships no longer peered outside of their circle, and I once again
felt shunned; there were several individuals who were always friendly
to everyone, yet without their support, my alienation from the group
seemed as concrete as the church's foundation.

Oct. 10, 1976... Church and Sunday School.  Felt really out of things.
I almost cried.

Oct. 28, 1976... Share Group tonite.  Only one person said hi to me
when I came in.  Cried at home.

That which I found most distressing was the fact that I had to be among
people who did not care for my company and simultaneously engender
religious and meaningful growth through this association and
interaction.  I was being asked to fulfill an impossible dream.
Religion was intended to be an uplifting experience; I felt only
emptiness.  It would be a long and solitary road, perhaps, but
fulfillment would come.  I would side-step the busy highway and seek my
peace alone.

The changes at home were now quite visible, for Dad had transformed
into an all-day phenomenon, righting wrongs, remodeling and
redecorating with such diligence that, to watch him, one might well
have thought his employment was for pay.  Throughout the week, he
retrieved me from school, and often we would stop for a snack, browsing
in shops afterwards; I enjoyed these outings, especially after a
wearing day.  Dad was now the one who received news while it was still
fresh, gaining first hand knowledge which often a child would neglect
to pass on a second time to a working father; with his retirement, it
was especially important that he did not feel cast out of the

Another visible change in the household was the reappearance of my
brother Todd, who, following the collapse of certain jobs and
aspirations in Chicago, decided to come home to more hospitable
surroundings and search for employment opportunities.  Although his
eyes were blackened in the figurative sense, nothing slowed him down.
Each day his feet scoured the cement; no door was left unopened.  If
there was a job to be had in the area, he would find it.

It did not take very long for Todd's search to reach an end, and he
gladly left the "street sweeping" to someone else.  Working for an
elevator company, as it turned out, did not have its ups and down, and
my brother found himself adequately employed in a stable firm.  I too
reaped the benefits of his new position when he took me to the
company's annual dinner.  "You wouldn't believe the size of the roast
and potato!"  I raved in my diary; I was duly impressed.  Meanwhile...

Nov. 17, 1976... Norm and Tracy went on a vacation. They may be gone a
month.  I guess they quit their jobs!

At the time, jobs were scarce, and most individuals were taking
precautions to assure that they held secure positions and did not
create any inconveniences within their company.  The sudden flight on
Norm and Tracy's behalf was a surprise and concern to us, yet nothing
appeared to be wrong.  "Maybe they are taking a honeymoon that is three
years overdue," I thought, and wiped the cobwebs of apprehension from
my mind; "It will sure seem strange without them on Thanksgiving,
though," I reflected drearily.

My consultations at Mayo Clinic were scheduled every three months for
the first year following chemotherapy, with the first check-up falling
one week before Thanksgiving.  The blood tests and X-ray were the only
tests I was given, which did not seem at all rigorous to me.  Although
blood was increasingly more difficult to extract due to the scar-tissue
present in my veins from the many needles they had endured, the blood
tests were not a threat to my well-being; X-rays also, were painless.
In the afternoon we met with Dr. E. for the consultation and found that
my health was perfectly sound.  The only concern was for my lungs,
which housed a small "spot" of unknown character; this would be
monitored through X-rays the doctor explained, and should cause no
worry.  All signs were favorable; the lungs would be watched as a
precaution, since those having recurrences of my type of cancer were
affected in the lungs.

I was pleased with the outcome of my tests, but did not allow myself to
overflow with enthusiasm. "Everything's O.K.," I wrote in my diary,
followed by a happy face; beyond that, I preferred not to think about
health, for exuberance seemed premature and inappropriate.

Norm and Tracy returned in time for Thanksgiving which delighted me no
end.  They had been absent less than a week, yet I spent little time
pondering over their formerly stated intention of taking a month's
vacation; practicality was probably the reason for their hasty
reappearance, since smiles were in ample supply.  Tracy even called to
ask what to bring for the dinner, and on the day of the feast,
presented a loaf of homemade pumpkin bread to my mom.

Everything seemed terrific and consequently, depression on Thanksgiving
Day made no sense.

Nov. 25, 1976... Thanksgiving.  I really didn't eat too much, I
couldn't.  I didn't feel too great.  I was really depressed.  Went
outside to shoot some arrows.  Tracy came out and we had a big talk
about things...

I was becoming more susceptible to mood fluctuation as the year wore
away, and knew that my depression was part of reaching adulthood.
Every textbook revolving around the subject of health made such
statements, underlining the fact that one's teenage years were often
the most difficult to bear.  Instability appeared to be the rule rather
than the exception as my body and mind secured various realms of
adulthood yet failed to grasp the elusive wholeness of maturity.
Moments of bliss could be attacked by the shadow of torment and
indecision.  I wished to be the self-sufficient master of my life, yet
I first needed to define my beliefs and pinpoint my destination.  I
wanted to make headway, to abandon the circular path of dependence and
strike my own course through shaded lairs of uncertainty.

One area in which I had little uncertainty about my inevitable goal was
the desire for my own home.  Whenever I visited the homes of my sister
or brother, I could seldom resist a long draught of intoxicating
enthusiasm from the stream of ideas rampaging wildly through my head.
When I was back in my room again, I surveyed the purchases which I had
made through the years and happily applauded my preference for mature
objects (aside from the stuffed animals) and considered myself to be
well on my way toward furnishing a place of my own.  Cogwheels carrying
new and magnificent ideas continually worked within my consciousness
and refused to slow their relentless pace.  When my zest was aired to
my parents, their reactions sometimes grated with the ceaseless
amblings of my dreams.  Trying to illustrate the fine proportions of an
idea to them was like attempting to open a rusty lock; I would
surrender in frustration and prepare an alternative route.

Dec. 27, 1976... Went to (the mall ) with Mom.  Looked at china.  Saw
one (pattern) I liked and wanted to start a hope chest.  Told Dad and
of course he didn't approve.  By the time I am allowed to get a set,
that design will be obsolete.

At fifteen, my likes and dislikes were well established, and I did not
fear that I would one day regret the rustic pattern which caught my
eye.  Never before had I seen china dishes that meshed with my idea of
perfection, and I revolted internally when my proposition was dashed.
My dad stood firm, however, saying that it was pointless to store
dishes, especially at my age; and he added, that I may change my mind
about the pattern and what a shame that would be after investing in an
entire set of china.  I knew the situation was hopeless.

I had been through a great deal of pain and discomfort during my year
of chemotherapy, and quietly resolved that I would never be subjected
to such treatment again; now, in the transformation to adulthood, I
felt pain and discomfort of a different incomparable variety, yet its
pangs were just as valid as those which were purely physical in nature.
While "growing pains" were literally a headache, I came to believe
that the term more readily applied to emotional stress and frustration;
growing up certainly did not boast a red carpet welcome.

Dec. 31, 1976... New Year's Eve.  I spent most of it having a migraine
headache, sweating and throwing up.  FUN!..The Isaacsons and Nelsons
were here.  I guess everyone had a pretty good time.  I sure didn't.

PAGE 119

Chapter 16

"No one forgets a past hurt; after a wound heals, scar tissue remains
as a subtle reminder and effectively warns the individual against
potential threats of a similar nature."



A new year had begun.  And on January 15, 1977 we heard that Norm and
Tracy's marriage had culminated in divorce.

It was in the paper, but Mom and Dad rarely read the divorce column;
everyone else knew about the event several days before us, and we only
found out through a Saturday morning call from my aunt who was
naturally surprised to read the startling news.  When Mom answered the
phone as if nothing had happened, and continued to act likewise after
Margaret's inquiry, my aunt knew that Mom was ignorant of the entire
episode.  "Oh, Muriel, you don't know. . ." she gasped over the
telephone line, and proceeded to explain that which had prompted her
call.  "I'll call them," Mom said, and promised to return with an
explanation as she hung up the phone.  It had to be a mistake.  Mom
flew into the living room to scan through the Tuesday evening paper,
and adjusting her eyes to the fine print, discovered their names were
indeed listed among the many divorces; even the address was correct.
Common decency should have allowed my parents to be alerted before the
rest of the world; their pain was needless, because it could have been
avoided.  Mom stood, headed toward the telephone, and dialed

The phone rang several times and Tracy answered with a cheerfulness
that seemed to mock the magnitude of the situation which had just
unfolded.  Recovering, Mom asked, "What happened?... the newspaper...
"Oh that!" Tracy returned, "we just did that for income tax purposes."
Her voice echoed through a void across which no bridge would ever span,
hideously jovial and self-satisfied with her own indifference toward
the institution of marriage.  Mom held the receiver to her ear in
disbelief, momentarily transfixed by the flood of emotions which
seethed violently within her; this was no time for chatter.  "I'm
sorry," her voice broke, "but I just can't talk now," and hung up to
restore her self-control.

Marriage was one of the most significant and meaningful vows in Mom's
life, pledging steadfast love to one's mate until life's end.  Love and
marriage were inseparable; apathy toward one would place the other
element in a similar light.  Marriage also stood for a wholesome sense
of permanence which based itself on a firm trust in mutual, everlasting
love.  Divorce did not coincide with the presence of love, despite the
haughty assertion by Tracy that their's was simply a means of tax
evasion; truth was insensitive to one's emotions just as divorce was
apathetic toward love.

An ocean of speculation washed over our house after the above knowledge
had been gained, and flooded our minds with unanswered questions.  It
was not a general practice of the family to mistrust that which another
individual proclaimed to be true; deceit often wound its fingers around
the neck of one given to the preaching of lies, and while strangulation
was never the outcome, the liar rarely escaped the scene unscathed.
Lying had a nasty way of accumulating, and once it appeared its mark
was difficult to scour away.  We spoke candidly, and expected similar
treatment; telling the truth seemed logical, if not easier as well,
and deception as a form of entertainment was neither among our habits
nor pleasures.  Our family was gullible, yet this susceptibility was
reigned to a certain degree by common sense; if something seemed too
incredible, it was generally shelved in the back of our minds with
overt skepticism, yet outwardly, our heads would bob up and down at the
statement in apparent belief.  Thus, a liar might have often perceived
that his tall tale was accepted when, in truth, the whopper's falsity
merely was not confronted.  Such occurrences afforded us with hours of
quiet laughter or thoughtful dissent once separated from the story
teller, which spared him the embarrassment of what could have resulted
from uproarious howls of laughter or fiery discord.

Divorce for income tax purposes?  Mom translated Tracy's statement as a
distressing, cruel fact; Dad, however, upon hearing the supposed
reason, turned abruptly and stampeded out of the house with a throaty,
"Bull!" as the door slammed in protest.  His strong disbelief modified
her belief in a fleeting instant, and Mom's eyes darkened with the
remembrance of shelved glances and curt remarks which now took on an
entirely different perspective.  There had been warning signs, but
since they lacked the customary flashing lights, escaped notice.

The thought of Norm and Tracy's divorce stunned me.  Although I
disagreed with the idea of procuring a divorce as a method of paying
lesser taxes, I hoped for its validity.  I had no grievance against
Tracy or Norm, for personally, they brought only joy into my life, and
if, through the divorce, I could expect to lose the companionship of
one or both, I would feel a great sense of loss.  I tried to avoid the
negative images which clouded my eyes, and with naive and hopeful
rationalization, banished divorce from my thoughts through the fact
that I had never witnessed arguments or any other signs of marital
instability in their presence.

Of course I saw less of Norm and Tracy with the beginning of ninth
grade.  Time was no longer a surplus commodity, for the homework was
more difficult and life seemed to demand more of my energy.  Growing up
was hard; I could not hide at home in a bay of isolation, and pray that
the world would pass by without casting its shadow on my life.  I could
not cower among shadows; I had to seek the sun... even though it was
often obscured by clouds.

It wasn't always easy to seek the sun, especially in the middle of
winter, and after a week of the flu...  and a week of silence following
the divorce.  Nevertheless, I prepared myself emotionally for my return
to school.  My recuperation was nearly complete.

Jan 19, 1977... Will go to school tomorrow.  Hopefully without my wig.
I washed my hair and styled it, and it looks good.

It was true.  Everything did always happen at once.

Actually my timing could not have been better, since a new semester had
begun and a new array of faces would meet my eyes in the various
classes upon my entry; furthermore, it was a blessing that I had caught
a nasty virus, for my reappearance would be buffered by time and the
impairment of facial recollection which accompanies one's absence.

I studied myself relentlessly in the mirror.  My hair was pixie-short,
yet its feathered, naturally layered style would be a less disagreeable
look for one my age.  A gray and lifeless cast, though dominated by
brown, was still visible in the persistent outcrop, attesting to the
cruelties it had known before it was allowed to pursue life.

The next morning I once again surveyed my reflection.  It would have
been so easy to allow cowardice to overpower my intention; the wig,
poised on its styrofoam head, could either be part of the present or
part of the past.  I looked at myself in the mirror and ran a comb
through my hair; it wasn't much, but it was mine.  I lowered the comb
and placed it on top of the vanity.  Taking a deep breath to ease my
churning stomach, I turned from my reflection and permitted the wig to
become a remnant of history.

Jan. 20, 1977... Break through!!   First day in a year and four months
that I didn't wear a wig to school or anywhere.  I was so nervous when
I went to school.  I felt like I was bald.  But I got a lot of
compliments which gave me confidence.  Dad got me a set of four
perfumes to celebrate.

It was quite a day.  When I said "hello" to my friends in the hallway,
many did not recognize me; then after a brief delay, sudden recognition
would cause their eyes to open wide, exploding like recoiling window
shades.  "Laurie. . . your own hair!"  Others who had somehow missed
aligning the fact that I had been the girl-with-the-wig, were
astonished by the improvement and looked at me in a new light.  Most
surprising to me, however, were the teachers who remained unaware of my
health problem, for I had assumed all of my instructors had been thus
enlightened.  My civics teacher soon proved that my assumption was
incorrect, however, as he looked at me and proclaimed, "Your hair cut
is quite an improvement."  I looked at several of the nearby students,
in whose eyes I caught a shared glimmer of humor.  "Thank you," I
replied.  Still immersed in self-consciousness, an explanation seemed
rather pointless, yet I marveled at his apparent belief that I had
actually chosen to wear my hair in such an unflattering manner.  Some
people must have thought I had a putrid sense of style.  The past,
however, no longer seemed to matter, for it was kindled in the fires of
the present, and I felt incredibly free...  and irrepressibly human.

It was unreal that I had been dubious about the decision to put my wig
to eternal rest, especially after the frightening reception to which I
had been treated on that first agonizing day of school in August.  My
wig caused pain, to be certain, but without it I would have suffered
more; part of me shrunk behind its netted structure of synthetic hair,
and even when my own hair was ready to debut in public, the impending
change suddenly seemed drastic and was accompanied by fear.  I felt
unprotected and vulnerable without the wig's weight upon my head.  It
was as if I had to relinquish my shield and stand alone and unmasked
before the world's judgmental gaze.

My fear, once overcome, was replaced with ecstasy.  I had undergone a
transformation--a metamorphosis--which was amazing.  My courage had not
failed me, it had buoyed me up; now I possessed the self-confidence to
reflect formerly concealed attributes because I no longer detested my
appearance, nor did I have to deal with the menacing blows which it had
previously evoked.  I had initially planned to dispose of my two wigs
in a stately burning ceremony behind the house, but after my hair
returned, I no longer bore any ill will toward the inanimate hair
pieces, and ended their stay at our house by giving them to the Thrift
Shop.  In retrospect, I knew that the wigs were great allies and had
served faithfully for many grueling months.  Their malignancy had
expired in my eyes, for my eyes had expanded their vision.

Through the years I came to acknowledge that people generally have a
foremost problem over which they grieve remorsefully; if that problem
disappears, their lives do not long remain blissful ere another problem
arises to disturb and provoke their happy state of mind.  Often one can
determine an individual's quality of life, or the quality of his
values, through the problem to which he gives priority.  Some people, I
believe, have little more than what I label "illegitimate beefs" (or
insignificant and unfounded troubles); other people dabble midway
between problems and trivials, or have a flair for creating headaches
through flaws in the decisive factors of life.

Personally, I felt my problems would no longer include "real"
problems, for my health was returning.  Nausea after meals was more of
an inconvenience than a problem, and it was the only existing reminder,
aside from operative scars, that attested to my harrowing experiences
of the past year.  If boyfriends and clothes and hairstyles were to be
my only future problems, I figured that I could go through life with
few ill-spent tears.  I had no idea that a major bomb would drop so
soon on my newly acquired happiness.

Jan 31, 1977... Norm called and said Tracy left.  I was (and still am)
hurt.  She was a great person to know and it hurts to think I'll never
see her again.  I feel sorry for Norm, too.  I guess Tracy was seeing a
guy since summer.  It's just hard to take it in.  Norm came over and
watched T.V.

Feb. 1, 1977... Norm's coming for supper every day this week.  I'm
glad.  I think it will help him a little.

I was in the kitchen when Norm called, and after hearing his message
from Mom, curled up in one of the chairs and cried.  It was inevitable,
perhaps, but I, like Norm, had attempted to impede the unstoppable
through positive thought.  Positive thought, however, carries no clout
with respect to the alteration of another's ideas, which consequently,
had already been set as solidly as if in cement.

Gradually I learned the tale behind the divorce as Norm opened up and
shared his emotional burden of the past months.  Because he was not a
demonstrative person and enjoyed having time to himself, he was rather
glad when Tracy stopped asking to accompany him on all of his walks and
motorcycle rides, and through constant togetherness, needing to assure
herself of his love.  The marriage was more comfortable and appeared to
be evolving toward his ideal; stability which came from the knowledge
and acceptance of each other.

Just as Norm began to think of their union as a terrific success, Tracy
lost interest.  The marriage, for her, was no longer exciting, and when
the blood failed to rush to her face upon Norm's appearance in a room,
she felt that her love had expired.  Simplicity was not enough to keep
a constant fire burning, nor was a man whose love for her was steadfast
and true.  She had a fascination for pursuing slightly shady aspects of
life, and unfortunately, an extra-marital romance filled her
requirements for excitement.

In her own way I believe Tracy really loved Norm at first.  Hers was a
semi-possessive, urgent sort of love which stemmed from an undeniable
inferiority complex.  Never having felt herself to be good enough for
Norm, the apparent loss of love (romance) on her behalf seemed to echo
that feeling and guilt settled in to further subtract her self image.
If Norm had been abusive, unfaithful, or otherwise intolerable, her
failing love would have been met with sympathy, however, this was not
the case.  Because dying love reflected badly on her, it was necessary
to procure a reason for her affair and she sought to find fault with
Norm.  As a result, Tracy's guilt was vented toward Norm with an
argumentative guise, for if she could tempt him into a heated
disagreement, perhaps her actions could be better justified.

Norm, however, detested petty grievances and refused to take the bait.
This only served to further infuriate Tracy, whose ammunition had been
dampened substantially.  It was evident that her strategic moves had
collapsed. Eventually Tracy informed my brother of her affair and said
she wanted a divorce.

Norm had made a lifetime commitment which, until then, he thought was
shared.  The news was more than a slap in the face, it seared the heart
and scorched the emotions, for trust and love were suddenly,
unexplainably returned as if they were mere misfits, insubstantial and
bereft of meaning.  He loved her; he wanted no divorce.  He wanted only
to forgive and start anew, and refused to file any complaint against
her.  If she wanted a divorce, he told her, she would have to complete
the legal paperwork; he wished no part of it.

A final attempt to save the marriage was made in November, which
explained the haphazard flight that had earlier baffled us.  It was a
miserable mistake, yet one which was often enacted by desperate mates
who, as they, thought that a honeymoon would revive faltering love.
They returned soon after their departure and Tracy called my mom to ask
if they would be welcome at the family Thanksgiving dinner.  Norm,
however, was the one who had made the pumpkin bread.

Norm was not the image of perfection; no one could be flawless in every
sense of the word and remain a human being.  It was unjust, however,
that he had to sign his name to a divorce statement which was composed
of falsehoods; at that time, no-fault divorces could not be obtained in
Illinois, and it was simply assumed that the individual who sought the
divorce was the one who had undergone mental or physical injury.

As if the court proceedings alone were not humiliating enough, Tracy
continued to weave a network of deception around their entire
relationship which touched family members, co-workers and friends.  A
happy charade was displayed for our benefit, complete with a story that
she had decided to take classes at a local college.  There were no
classes, of course, although Dad once shuttled her to one, thereby
using his ignorance and trust to transform himself and others into

After the divorce had been finalized, she remained living in the same
house with Norm for several weeks.  The magnanimous proportions of
marital collapse had reached our ears, but the full story was as yet
untold; we never knew of the unpleasant facets which must have pervaded
their last days in residence.  The one shred which bears repeating was
that on the final day, Tracy said she had a sore throat and would stay
home from work, only to thread another deceptive claim into a tapestry
of lies when she, with her lover's aid, moved out during Norm's
absence.  Upon his return he found the house stripped of all her
possessions, including those stipulated in the divorce document, and
the best of the two cars.  It was easier to deceive than to confront;
Tracy was never seen again, although a lone belonging mistaken for her
own would occasionally find its way into Norm's mailbox.  Things would
similarly disappear without a word; the dog, whose purchase was Tracy's
request, had not been taken in her exodus from the house.  One evening,
Norm drove home to find the dog missing.  After a rigorous search, he
returned home empty handed and without a clue as to its state or
location, only to receive an explanation from a neighbor that Tracy had
fetched the dog earlier in the day, leaving no note of her action.

Norm had never spoken to anyone during the trying months because, in
his words, "it was such a mess" and he didn't wish to involve the
family.  However, the amount of information that had been gained
afterward served to thoroughly enrage my parents and soon all of
Tracy's good traits seemed to vanish from her character slate.  Through
her lies, many people had been wronged; moreover, the institution of
marriage had been mocked and defiled before my parents, which further
demeaned her image in their eyes.  To have said that Mom and Dad were
angry would have been a drastic understatement.

I, too, was deeply hurt, and watched the various pangs within Norm as
the realities of the matter seeped into the crevasses of his mind.  I
ached for Norm and for myself; I hurt even for my parents.  I hurt, but
was not angry; at first it was difficult for me to understand my
parents rage, because I had never seen in Tracy the venomous,
fork-tongued creature to which she had changed in my parents' minds.
I disagreed with her actions, to be certain, yet I knew she still
possessed redeeming and benevolent qualities which had made her so
likeable from the beginning.  It was to her goodness that I clung,
defending her before my parents with a vengeance.

Tracy was a sister and a best friend to me; I could not simply stop
loving her.  My attachment to her was deeply rooted, not merely because
of who she was to me; she was the first person with whom I shared my
feelings, thereby creating for me a closeness which I had never before
encountered.  For several months I fantasized about her, hoping she
would call or write; I wondered if we could secretly meet and be able
to talk, or go places together.  Gifts which she had given to me became
treasures, breathing life into her memory.  My parents began to think
that I had embellished her memory with an aura of idolatry.

While I did not feel I had placed Tracy on a pedestal, I did believe
that I had an obligation to uphold her good traits and hope something
would happen which could reverse the damage already done.  I scoured my
daily mail with cautious hope, thinking "Maybe today I'll hear from
her"; yet nothing came of that hope.  My brother, Todd, was the only
person to whom Tracy corresponded after the divorce, which perhaps
reflected her inability to face those of us who had known her quite
well.  She had seen comparatively little of Todd throughout her years
of married life, and it was therefore rather curious that she should
choose him as the recipient of a note of explanation and regret.  At
any rate, she stated in her letter that she could no longer live with
Norm, though he had been nothing but a good, kind, and loving man;
further, she hoped that "Norm's parents" would be open-minded and
welcome him back into the family.

Norm was welcomed into the family; indeed, his welcome had never worn
thin, despite our dearth of information and surplus of astonishment to
hear of the divorce.  Time and conversation opened our lidded eyes.

Finally, I accepted the fact that she was never going to write, that
she would never see my real hair, that she was as gone for me as if
blown from the surface of the earth.  I accepted, also, that simplicity
and love did not fulfill her needs and that supposedly shared goals,
including frugality right down to the cheap brand of syrup, were a
farce.  I perceived Norm to be the ideal man, or the closest man
thereto, and felt that Tracy would later regret her hateful actions as
she had regretted other misguided words in her youth; she knew that
Norm was a loner and possessed agoraphobic tendencies.... she knew he
was willing to work hard for comparatively small rewards; he had no
hidden vices or abusive characteristics... and though he was well built
and strong, the similarity to his ancestral Vikings ended where their
violence began.  I realized that while the kettle on the home hearth
boiled feverishly, her love was secure and untouchable, but when the
fire was reduced to coals and the kettle could be taken from the hearth
without scorching her hands, love was polluted by commonality.  The
need to search for her lost flame seized her mind, yet, because she
knew not what she truly sought, her search would continue forever,
leaving behind her an insubstantial and endless heap of charred ashes.

I had vastly overemphasized my importance in Tracy's eyes.  It was
incredibly humbling to be rejected so completely; I thought of Norm and
how much worse it must have been for him.  Death and divorce were
indeed similar, yet in some ways, the latter was more painful.
Divorce, while lacking the ultimate permanence of death, is based on
the heart-rending fact that one's love is no longer enough, and that he
has been left by his mate's choice rather than nature's will and
circumstances.  Though her love for Norm had vanished with the
disappearance of heart palpitations and romantic excitement, I thought
I deserved at least a letter of farewell for all of the good times we
had shared.  I wondered if she had merely upheld a charade of good
humor and enjoyment through our excursions; yet, I thought, she would
not have invited me to share her free time if she resented my presence.

It takes many hours to develop a friendship, and even so, one's
knowledge of the other can never be complete.  While compatibility
opens friendship's door, love and it's by-products, understanding and
honesty, must co-exist as its sustaining force; lacking love, growth
stagnates and generally heralds a hurtful parting of the two
individuals.  If love truly exists in one's mind, however, the love
itself cannot cease abruptly even though the other's actions or beliefs
are radically contrary to his own; the beloved part of the individual
still remains, residing side by side with his formerly concealed,
unsavory propensities.

My acceptance of Tracy's entire personality paralleled extreme
disappointment.  With no prompting from my parents, I looked upon her
new lifestyle and final interaction with the family and Norm as
disagreeable and despaired that the circumstances would not have been
different.  Her image, though tainted, never shattered in my mind, and
for a time, I kept loving... and mourning... the person who I had
believed her to be.  Disappointment alone could not eradicate the
lovely memories spanning three years.

After suffering a substantial loss, it sometimes seems impossible that
a replacement of equal or greater value could ever be found, and
attempts to compare the incomparable often end in frustration.  If
emotional pain is not allowed to stagnate within the inner being and
clog the mind, a person can be open to others without radiating
vulnerability.  No one forgets a past hurt; after a wound heals, scar
tissue remains as a subtle reminder and effectively warns the
individual against potential threats of similar nature.  Only a person
lacking the will to overcome and grow beyond past anguish is truly
mortally wounded, for his wound is not only self-inflicted, but also
infested with litter long decayed.

I had to direct my thoughts and energy toward positive elements in
life, accepting the past and adapting to the present.  The future was
no longer the shining star it had been in my childhood, for it was
uncertain and impenetrable.  Short-term goals were more easily
realized.  The future had a nasty habit of rearranging one's plans;
life changed so fast that it left one groping for stability as if spun
furiously on the head of a top.  Disliking such emotional turbulence, I
tried to buffer life's hurtful potential by dealing with each day as
the unique parcel of hours and events it proved to be.  Adaptability
was definitely one of my more useful characteristics.

With Tracy's departure, I had not consciously determined to find a
replacement for my severed emotional attachment.  I knew such behavior
on my behalf would not only have been uncharacteristic of me but futile
as well; people were not like spark plugs.  However, as the months
progressed, the hole wherein Tracy's memory resided slowly filled and
was replenished, just as a mined crater will be reclaimed by nature and
gradually become a thing of beauty rather than an eternally gaping hole
of waste.  I was filled with strength and confidence from budding
health and vitality; I was filled with the undying love of my family,
but more than all else, I discovered that, with Norm, I had in reality,
lost virtually nothing.

Mar. 15, 1977... I went to Norm's house and we made blueberry pancakes
for supper.  We talked about a lot of things.

It was a joy to be invited to Norm's house.  We did not chafe each
other's nerves; conversation came effortlessly, yet silence was no
menace.  I took pleasure in his neatly arranged house and applauded his
various purchases which adorned the walls or were placed about the
rooms.  With his mind bent on improvement, the house mirrored a flare
for design and decoration as well as Norm's character.  The living room
was a retreat of perpetual autumn, of golden, rust and wood, of
tranquility and restiveness.  To be at my brother's house was to be at
ease, and I readily welcomed his invitations to visit as they became
more frequent.

As my life took on the complications which seemed interwoven with the
stage of adolescence, I became increasingly aware of the necessity for
peace in existence, and felt myself to be extremely fortunate to have
Norm as a valued companion.  My frustrations needed verbal release and
an understanding listener who was sufficiently detached from my daily
routine (home, school, etc.) to reply in an entirely objective
fashion.  It became evident that Norm and I shared a bond which reached
deeper than an ordinary brother/sister relationship, for understanding
and compatibility was the foundation from which our relationship grew.

PAGE 127

Chapter 17
Ninth Grade

"It was a note scribbled on an intentionally crumpled piece of paper.
No purchased card could have captured the essence of that note, or of
the crumpled course my life must take."


Ninth Grade

Through the years I began to observe the mannerisms and personalities
around me with fascination, watching conflicts with casual objectivity
as rivals floundered in their own short-sightedness.  I watched also,
as people mocked the less fortunate, who unknowingly attracted such
treatment like a magnet through their own erring behavior or ungainly
actions.  Some people were simply difficult to abide; often those
individuals did not even realize their high "avoidance factor" despite
continual, and sometimes abrasive, repulsion.  I observed the tensions
between parents and children as the latter reached the restless age of
rebellion and need for individual freedom.  I could understand both
sides of many arguments or confrontations, and often empathized with
each opinion.

Through surveying the world from a distance, I learned invaluable
lessons.  I hoarded reactions to various personalities and situations
and studied them intently in retrospect.  In gathering such information
as human responses, I began to realize why I disliked certain people
and ways of life, whereas previously, I had merely felt inexplainable
disgust or anger.  More than anything, I learned that people generally
did what they wished to do, barring few exceptions, and true kindness
was a rare commodity.  That which I saw was real; it was not an
impressionistic ideal of life, for personal interaction could bring
dejection as well as elation.  Far from being cynical, I came to
believe one was his own best friend.  I remember that I began to feel
sorry for Todd.  He seemed lonely, separated by a societal barrier
which was invisible to him.  Unaware of the reason for this unseen yet
impenetrable wall, Todd sought to find suitable ways around it, which
consequently resulted in forming my most pungent memory of my oldest
brother through its emotional impact on me.  Although I was yet in
grade school, the incident was unforgettable, and forever marked my

It was a blustery winter evening when Norm and his friend were
preparing to depart for his house.  With an air of determination, Todd
informed them, "You're not getting away from me this time," and set
about dressing himself to meet the harsh winter chill.  Meanwhile,
tired of waiting, the two dismissed the scene for their destination as
Todd continued to dress.

Once fitted for the elements, clad in his orange snow-suit and boots,
he trudged up the silent, snow-blanketed avenue as I watched through
the kitchen window.  Before reaching the house, he stopped and
resolutely turned toward home, not desiring to undergo further pursuit.
I felt my heart break for him as my eyes welled up with tears.  How
lonely the world could be!  I decided in an instant to meet him at the
door, clothed in my winter coat.

Together we took a long walk in the snow, heading down a wooded path to
the quiet street below.  We spoke of many things, gently laying the
foundation for a night that I would never forget.  I believe our
stroll, although spurred through loneliness, was the most relaxing
interlude I have ever shared with Todd.

As time progressed, the gap between our personalities widened.  When
engaged in a serious conversation, I found the time thus spent to be
exhilarating, for Todd's intelligence was of great merit; it was
increasingly difficult, however, for me to accompany him to various
functions as I failed to understand the reasoning which prompted some
of his actions and behavior.  Desiring to blend with the crowd rather
than direct its attention, I was flushed with embarrassment at any
mannerism which was apart from the ordinary spectrum of social conduct
as I saw it to be.

Everyone views life through his own eyes, and although the ideas of
individuals coincide at various points, it is virtually impossible to
assume that which is "right" for someone else at a given point in time.
This was another area in which Todd and I differed considerably, yet
here I was able to comprehend the motive behind his good intentions.
Because Todd declined invitations to attend outings early in life, he
later found he was no longer asked to join in a group's activities.  As
a result, he eventually forced himself to become involved in multiple
organizations thereby making up for those he had missed; he evidently
enjoyed the bustle of activity which the groups provided, and was soon
absent from the house nearly every night.

When Todd saw I was declining offers to attend parties or dances, he
thought I was following similar actions which had introduced alienation
into his life, and I would one day discover that I was not only alone,
but lonely.

Mar. 23, 1977... (A boy) called and asked if I could go to the dance at
his school.  When I called him back, he was really discouraged and mad
that I didn't want to go.  But, man, he's so gross!  Never ever combs
his hair.  How sick.  Todd really lectured me on how I should go 'cuz
he didn't when he was my age, but I can't relive his life!  He makes me
mad sometimes.

He pressured me to accept these invitations despite my reasons for
desiring to stay at home.  Consequently, it made me become leary to
divulge any plans to him for fear I would find myself in a situation
that I detested; his arguments were fierce and unyielding, and I sought
to avoid them whenever I could.  Moreover, I wanted to form my own
decisions and began to resent such stubborn, relentless interference.
I believe it is better to "let be" than to stray beyond one's bounds
into the gray and scarred battle ground where individual decisions are
waged and won; it is prudent to counsel, but never so to force.

Todd was unbelievably innovative.  He could construct posters and cards
having multiple moving parts without losing any degree of his
meticulous patience.  The quality of perseverance was a further boon to
his imaginative efforts, and he created countless fascinating objects
dating back to my earliest memories.  I received a greeting from Todd
during my long stay at Mayo.  It was a note scribbled on an
intentionally crumpled piece of paper.  No purchased card could have
captured the essence of that note, or of the crumpled course my life
must take.  Todd always had time to take a walk or to play a game.  He
never forgot a birthday... with gifts he was equally creative.  One
birthday I received a huge balloon (a factory reject) which was a
source of awe and amazement for us all.  We filled it with the exhaust
end of the vacuum cleaner since no one had lungs with the capacity for
inflating that monstrous thing.  Another year, short of funds but long
on loving thoughts, he collected a wide sampling of floral and tree
seed pods.  For me, that meant endless possibilities in creating.

Toward the end of 9th grade, I had gained a fair amount of confidence.
I was amazed to note the way in which the improvements in my health and
appearance affected my self-worth; I no longer felt like a helpless
child clinging to my mother's skirt or father's pants leg for
protective solace.  I was less reserved, feeling that my opinions were
just as valuable as those of others, and decisions, though sometimes
tempered by my parents, belonged to me.  Life was not merely passing
by; I possessed both the ability and the will to actively pursue the
means toward a hopeful end.  The variables along the way would affect
the resulting success or failure, but that, I knew, was simply a part
of life's uncertainty.

Academically I improved as my physical strength increased.  In
reflection, it was obvious that my tutor had not over-taxed my
capabilities during the previous year; I was grateful that she had not,
for the nature of my illness was such that I was forever unsure of the
state of my health.  Upon my reappearance at school the extra effort
required for 9th grade curriculum initially demanded more of my time
and mental exertion; when I finally redeveloped my listening,
comprehension and study techniques, however, I felt less hampered by
the work load.

In addition to the basics, I was able to take a course in woodworking.
Happily, I was not the only girl to have fostered such a "sexually
uncharacteristic" whim, and the two of us felt less ridiculous seated
among our masculine counterparts, knowing our endeavor was not entirely
foreign to the minds of other females.  My apprehension was unfounded,
I discovered, for in time I saw that my work exceeded that of many of
my classmates; I was more particular, concerned with the appearance of
the finished product and willing to direct effort toward the perfect,
rather than haphazard, completion of a project.  Moreover, I had a
natural love of wood and wished to acquire certain skills therewith,
reasoning that one day I would rebuild or at least refinish antique
pieces for my own home.  I was no advocate of women's liberation;
I simply found interest in many activities and subjects.  I had to
prove nothing to anyone but myself.

After finishing a class project to my satisfaction, I began earnestly
on a project of my own design.  That which I determined to make was a
cedar chest, and looked on excitedly as the instructor pulled a stack
of cedar boards from the storage closet and placed them on one of the
work tables.  The first course of action, he said, was to glue the
smaller boards together, after which the uneven width would be
surgically altered in the planer.  I noticed several imperfections
(worm-eaten tunnels) in certain boards, but the teacher was unmoved.
"Those can be filled with wood filler," he replied, walking off.  I
gazed after him doubtfully wondering how I could trust a man who, in
one hour, had to coach his 25 students through their 25 different
projects.  Nevertheless, I started my work, trying to envision a lidded
box in the stack of wood which had probably been intended for a bonfire.

Meanwhile, other school-related activities gathered momentum as the
academic year drew ever closer to its end.  As one of the art editors
for the yearbook, I was instructed to design several covers for
possible use.  My effort resulted in developing four options ranging,
in my opinion, from "nearly philosophical" to "cute"; I placed my
endeavors on the desk of the teacher whose spare time was choked with
yearbook duties.  My designs would not necessarily appear on the
yearbook cover, but I was satisfied that I had succeeded in creating
original ideas.

Mar. 31, 1977... We had a band concert in the aud. and during the middle,
Mr. C. got up and read off the nominee for HALL OF FAME and I was one of
'em! (A friend of mine) wasn't tho, and she didn't even congratulate me.

April 20, 1977... I was nominated for American Legion!  I didn't really
know 'til homeroom, when we were to vote on it!!  (I voted for me!!)
There were 5 boys and 5 girls altogether.

Mr. Cox took a photograph of me for the special American Legion section
of the yearbook so that my grotesque photo, taken when I still had no
hair, would not, at least, appear in the separate section.  I was
relieved and quite thankful to my understanding instructor.

April 21, 1977... Mr. C. said my design would be used for the cover of
the yearbook!!

Perhaps all of the previous events were too much for me; I was suddenly
ill with migraine headaches in a manner which I had never before

April 26, 1977... Got a migraine headache at 5th period.  Didn't go
home though.  Called Dad when school let out, but there was no answer,
so I had to walk home.  It was hard, but I made it.

April 27, 1977... At 2nd period I got another migraine.  It took a half
hour to get Dad 'cuz he was outside.  Finally I got home.  I felt bad!!

April 28, 1977... You won't believe this!  I didn't!  Well, I got
another migraine today right after lunch.  Dad got me again.  Slept
most all day.

After three days of head-wrenching, I decided to play it safe and
recuperate at home.  I found I became paranoid concerning the multiple
headaches, and feared that my worry would result in more pain.

A week later.

May 5, 1977... Got a migraine AGAIN!!!!!... Dad got a prescription for
me and it said to take two capsules, so I did and a half hour later, I
got all numb...

How well I recall that incident.  I was seated at my place at the
dinner table after having swallowed (miraculously) the pills, when I
suddenly was immersed in a bath of incredible, yet unfounded hilarity.
I began to snicker, then burst into a cascade of inexplicable laughter.
My family looked up from their plates and, because of humor's rather
contagious nature, broke into bewildered smiles and tried to detect the
source of my behavior.  "Really..." I replied, "I don't know why I'm
laughing..."  Then, just as rapidly as it had begun, the laughter
ceased and I was convulsed in a fit of tears.  It was embarrassing to
me for I had no control over my emotions, and agitated, I fled from the
room.  At length I was able to quench my strange and unbidden tears
while Dad sat beside me with a worried look on his face.

Afterward I marveled at a drug's ability to produce such startling
effects, yet I was equally startled by the fact that some people
knowingly swallowed pills to acquire mind-altered states of being.
Such was not my goal in life; self-control meant too much to my inner
presence to eradicate reality.

A week and a half later I had another migraine.  It was full-blown; I
even had to vomit.  I didn't, however, take another pill.  Lack of
control was much worse than the presence of pain.

May 18, 1977... School.  I got a trophy for doing the Vision cover and
also a certificate for (submitting) "A Friend" in "Accent on Ink."

June 1, 1977... The 9th graders got yearbooks today.  Everyone liked
'em...  Dad got me and helped me take my cedar chest home.

June 2, 1977... Last full day!!  We signed yearbooks all day.

The last day of school was always fun.  It was a time for reflection
and reliving past events, and while in the midst of such activity, one
classmate turned to me and casually asked, "Laurie, you had cancer,
didn't you?"  "Yes,"  I replied, and briefly related that which had
occurred to me, including my loss of hair.  At one point in the
conversation, I noticed the teacher staring widely at me, as if in
disbelief.  "You look healthy now," his face seemed to say.  After the
conversation turned to a different subject, the teacher sat down on my
desk and asked more details of my experience.  Suddenly, he began
lamenting his marital difficulties and personal problems.  It was my
turn to listen in disbelief; it seemed odd to be selected as a
teacher's confidant.  Although aside from teacher and student we were
both human beings, I did not feel comfortable with the conversation.
I tried to react as an unsurprised, objective listener; perhaps having
been subjected to pain, he felt comfortable and rather compelled to
tell me of his own.  It was something I never forgot, nor did I
encounter such circumstances again.

The end had come of what, at first, had been an emotionally draining
year.  I had experienced much kindness and cruelty, pleasure and pain,
yet I persevered through all the trials and returned all of the
smiles... and at last, the positive outweighed the negative.

As I left the hallways of the junior high school which had, only three
years before, appeared a massive array of corridors, I welcomed summer
with customary gladness and reveled in the freedom that greeted my
steps.  My exit was not saluted with lengthy accomplishments or popular
admiration, and that did not mar my happiness; I cared neither for
applause nor popularity.  I knew, however, that I had done my best and
touched several lives; making an indelible impression on someone's mind
was indeed the highest of compliments that I could have merited.


Directions are disturbing,
At least they are to me,
How anyone ever follows them
Is more than I can see.

They say to take notch "B"
And slide it into "F"
Or else to take the "right" side
And fold it to the "left."

Then in opening a band-aid
They say to pull a string,
Well I could pull and pull and pull all day
And never reach the thing.

And say you want some Pringles,
Preferably for Brunch,
But you couldn't get them open
Until it's time for lunch!

Directions are a problem,
(I think to everyone),
And it's comforting to know
I'm not the only one!

Lauren Isaacson
9th Grade

PAGE 133

Chapter 18
Summer 1977

"I felt as if my heart would burst, for never had I experienced such
profound closeness with nature. . .  My sense of reality had heightened
and every inch of my body was alive with incomparable sensations."


Summer 1977

The middle of June was slated as the beginning of our summer vacation,
and on the 15th, we departed for Colorado.  It was a grand trip, for
Dad had promised an extensive vacation following the debilitating
chemotherapy treatments, and told me that we would go anywhere I
wished.  My choice was not a difficult one; I had always loved the west
and desired to see both "old sights" and new.  The resulting journey
made its first stop in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, but since we had
been to the area numerous times, we did not tarry long; the day after
hiking up a small hill and splashing barefoot in an icy mountain
stream, we drove along Trail Ridge Road and headed north to the Tetons
and Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone was a source of much fascination, yet prior to our arrival
at the park itself, a short ramble in the roadside brush (for the
purpose of taking a better scenic photograph) led to the discovery of
an entire moose carcass.  I quickly hoisted the head into the air, and
positioned it before my own, whereupon my mom excitedly captured my
lack of respect for the dead on film.  Unable to relinquish my antlered
scull, my parents agreed to stow it in the trunk.  The weathered skull
had been callously separated from its body without last rites or a
solitary tear, but, driving from the area, I did not really think the
moose would mind.

The next day, after scouting past numerous bubbling geysers, I bought a
moose charm in a souvenir shop.  I wished to commemorate my find of the
previous day (and perhaps, subconsciously placate the moose's spirit if
it had suffered any ill-will toward my action).  We also decided to eat
lunch at that time since the restaurant was in close proximity to the
renowned "Old Faithful," and being so close, had ample time to finish
our food before it again blew its steam skyward.  Lunch arrived soon
following our order, yet time began to drift away as Mom delved into
her mountainous chef's salad.  It was obvious that we would miss the
eruption of Old Faithful if direct action was not taken; Dad and I said
"good-bye" to Mom and dashed on to the extensive patio where other
visitors were gathering.  Eyes were riveted on the strangely steaming
mound; a few men checked their wrist-watches, as if doubtful of the
geyser's punctuality.  No one was disappointed.  Exactly one hour after
its last appearance, a mad bubbling issued from the previously silent
pit and multiplied its violent surges until frothing liquid shot into
the sky.  People oohed and ahhed and pointed fingers.  Cameras clicked

When the show was over, the crowd disbursed and Dad and I returned to
the restaurant to fetch Mom.  Fifteen minutes had elapsed; she would
probably be waiting at an empty table, nursing her glass of water to
alleviate boredom and nervousness.  We turned into the restaurant and
couldn't believe our eyes.  There was Mom, still poised over a fair
amount of salad, eating diligently; "the salad wouldn't leave,"  I
thought.  At least she wasn't bored during our absence.

Mom eventually finished her salad and we resumed our sightseeing.
Yellowstone Park was an intermingling of beauty and oddity, and as a
result I used a fair amount of film.  The animals, though wild, were
close at hand and I was able to see buffalo and elk to my fulfillment.
After two days we left the park and headed into Montana and Washington,
stopping to see the Grand Coulee Dam for my dad's benefit.  I was not
impressed and did not care to linger over the massive system of water
retention, yet the trip was not entirely my own and I therefore tried
to suppress my disinterest.

The following day proved more to my liking as we once again headed into
a park.  I had never before seen Mt. Rainier and was truly awed to view
the spectacle created by the superior snow-capped mountain.  Though
surrounded by other mountains and lushly forested valleys, Mt. Rainier
dominated one's attention like a bejeweled lady among serfs.

June 23, 1977... Went into Rainier.  At this one place this jay would
come down and take a peanut out of Dad's hand (in mid-air).  Went to
Paradise (visitor center) and hiked up near Mt. Rainier.  I never felt
so good in my life.  Had to walk through snow in around 3-5 places.  It
was real neat.

The day was the highlight of the entire vacation.  Separating myself
from my parents, I sped up the trail, spurred onward through a
boundless source of energy and excitement.  I felt as if my heart would
burst, for never had I experienced such a profound closeness with
nature.  I enjoyed the beauty, but basked in the ecstasy which swelled
from within.  My sense of reality had heightened and every inch of my
body was alive with incomparable sensations.  I listened to the world,
to the breeze tossing the fragrant pine; I absorbed every detail and
mourned the journey's end, whereupon the noise and clutter of
civilization would scour away the feeling which I so desired to
prolong.  Seldom was I entranced by emotion; I slowed my pace and then
stopped to breathe a final breath of tranquility before surrendering my
blissful state of mind to the realm of the ordinary.

Retracing my steps, I eventually met Mom and Dad ascending toward the
direction I had climbed.  "There's quite a bit of snow up there,"  I
told them.  Sporting only tennis shoes and sweaters, they quickly
re-routed their steps and chose a down-hill trek; they had exercised
enough for one day anyway.  The three of us ambled down the
mountain-side, stopping once for a snowball fight which could not be
resisted.  It was amazing how rapidly one's mental state changed with
the introduction of various sensations or the presence of other people.
My previous feeling was now only a memory, firmly implanted, yet miles
from my grasp.  It was a gem, secure in my mind, and I knew that I was
somehow wealthier than I had been.

Two days after Mt. Rainier, we were driving down the Oregon coastline.
At several intervals we stopped so I could test the breakwater beneath
my bare feet.  The shore was beautiful, despite the gray clouds and
ocean mist that eventually obscured the farthest cliffs from view.  I
seemed to be walking in a colorless world where all things grew only
darker or lighter shades of silver gray.  The water was icy and forbade
me enter; even the foam which rushed up the sand to enrobe my toes was
too frigid to withstand, and sent me sprinting from the constant waves
to higher ground.

The following day we continued through Oregon to Crater Lake, a
magnificent sapphire body of water which left my eyes agape; then,
between destinations, we met a trucker who took us on one of his lumber
runs.  As we mosied down the long state of California, we toured a
lumber company and then were awed by the magnificent stands of Sequoia
Redwood trees which soared above all else with an aura of statuesque
grandeur.  The giants were some of the oldest living things on earth,
and it seemed incredible and obscene that anyone should desire to cut
them down for timber.  Compared to the trees, my life seemed a mockery,
a dwarfed and highly insignificant thing.  All did not depreciate with

Our stay in Santa Monica encompassed eight nights and as many days, as
we enjoyed a variety of sights.  We stayed with relatives who knew the
area quite well and therefore provided a guided tour through some of
the attractions, including Universal Studios, Huntington Gardens, Will
Roger's Ranch, and shopping mall, and of course, Disneyland.  No trip
to the west coast would be complete without a jaunt to the latter
amusement park and we made ours an all-day affair.  On our own we
traveled to another amusement park, Magic Mountain, which boasted a
vast array of rides better suited to my suicidal whims.  At the day's
end, my dad and I had been whipped, jolted, plunged, riveted and lost
as many stomachs as cats have lives to have satisfied my boldest
cravings for at least a month.  Mom, as usual, was most content to sit
and watch.  Had she indulged in some of the wilder rides, I fear she
would have at best, suffered from acute hoarseness and at worst, been
carried from the park on a stretcher.

Leaving California, we stopped at one of their famous "Date Farms" and
to my utter disappointment, saw no date trees.  At least the place did
not charge admission or try to plaster a revolting bumper sticker on
the car while shopping within the "supermarket."

Skirting the southern route through Arizona on our way home, I
discovered the meaning of "hot" when referring to weather.  At 112
degrees I was extremely pleased that we had an air-conditioned car;
ventures into the sunshine were like tiptoeing through a blast furnace.
Sweat dried on the face, forming a sticky glaze with the dust floating
on the hot air currents.  I would not have been surprised to see spit
dry before hitting the ground.

Two days into the blistering heat we stopped at White Sands National
Monument.  The sand was so blindingly white that attempts to gaze at
the drifts without sun-glasses were hopeless endeavors.  On that
particular day I was unable to walk bare-foot on the fine sand due to
its scorching heat, and we finally decided to duck into the visitor
center before shriveling into sun-ripened prunes.

The trip was nearing its end, and I looked forward to sleeping in my
own bed and investigating my mail.  Even restaurant food lacked its
excitement as the days progressed, which was a definite sign that I had
turned my thoughts toward home.  There was one notable exception,

July 11, 1977... Stayed at a real neat motel... and ate at its
restaurant.  Swam for an hour and half.  After awhile, I started talking
to a guy in the pool with me.  After awhile we saw a drunk guy!  It was
funny.  Then he asked if I wanted something cold to drink (an RC COLA).
We talked awhile after and Mom made me come up finally.  (a sad face)
He was from Dallas, TX.

The evening was memorable for my mom also, who, for a short time
observed our conversation at a pleasant distance.  Since I had removed
my contacts for fear of losing them in the swimming pool, my vision was
rendered useless with regard to recognizing faces and perceiving detail
at distances greater than one foot.  Therefore, when my "friend"
excused himself from the area, I sought my mom's visual acuteness and
asked cautiously, "Mom. . . what's he look like?"  I was relieved to
discover that she found the guy attractive, and settled into a
pool-side chair as Mom retired to the room, noticeably humored by my

Such brief encounters augment confidence, for therein one is able to
discover his attractiveness to the opposite sex.  Ours was the type of
interaction which was fleetingly romantic, yet bereft of expectations;
each of us knew the conversation would last no more than several hours
and end with a smile and a reluctant farewell.  I believe the intrinsic
briefness created the comfortable atmosphere, for when one knows he
shall never see someone again, he leaves behind the fear of peer groups
and personality changes which often accompany a better knowledge of the

The next morning when I recalled the previous evening, I realized with
horror that if I saw the boy, I would not recognize him and hoped for a
clean escape from the motel.  To my relief, I saw no one who remotely
resembled a male teenager, and dismissed myself having only faceless
memories of a pool-side conversation and a cool RC Cola.

The family vacation was over after four weeks, and we were all glad to
be home.  The trip was fun, yet it served to strengthen the heart
strings attached to our oak trees and modest house, and though
familiarity of itself was not love, it certainly did not subtract from
love's essence.

The remainder of the summer was spent in an easy, enjoyable manner.  I
whiled away the hours on my bicycle or indulged in one of my crafts; I
met with friends from school, and stayed at my sister's house for one
week.  Junior High School was a memory, pasted between the pages of a
scrapbook.  Even my unfinished cedar chest had, by summer's end, found
its way into the garage attic.

The last days of freedom melted under the hot August sun, and I began
to wonder how three months could have escaped so soon.  I once again
traveled to Mayo Clinic and returned with good spirits.  The latter
part of the same week Todd moved to a distant Illinois town to accept a
position as a woodworking teacher for ninth grade students.  The wheel
of change had begun to turn, and "home" meant three people instead of

PAGE 137

Chapter 19
Tenth Grade


Tenth Grade

There were no miraculous suggestions, books, pills or other devices
which could have properly prepared me for the onset of growing pains.
My High School years, more than any other time in my life, proved to be
the toughest emotional battleground.  As I grew physically, mentally
and socially, my emotions were constantly fluctuating, eventually
creating a finely-honed, razor-sharp edge on which all interaction was
carved into a deep and memorable impression in my mind.

Tenth grade came as somewhat of a shock.  It reminded me of the terrors
of seventh grade, for I had a different locker, an entirely foreign
building and a new and larger mass of faces to which I was supposed to
become accustomed.  The lunch room appeared enormous to my nervous
stomach, and among the flood of students pressed before the snack
counter, I considered myself lucky to have made it to the front to
order.  Once I had my lunch, usually a long john and orange drink, in
my possession, I turned reluctantly to search in desperation for a
familiar face with whom I could sit and more pleasantly pass the time.
If I saw no one, I would find a seat apart from the various
congregations and open a book as if trying to read.  While I ingested
my donuts the words danced meaninglessly across the page beneath my
unseeing eyes; insecurity prevented me from attempting to seek my
acquaintances just as pride demanded that my attention be riveted to a

The classes were not as distressing as lunch time, with the possible
exception of physical education, since they were governed by one's
teachers rather than oneself and generally did not reflect complete
anarchy.  I was much more relaxed in a routine setting wherein nothing
was left to chance; I had no anxiety toward finding a seat, since one's
initial choice usually lasted the entire semester, nor was conversation
a worry because it was not permitted after the beginning of class
anyway, and if I failed to unearth rare gems of humor, silence did not
endure so far as to become embarrassing.

I disliked negative attention and therefore often neglected to raise my
hand during class discussions.  Of course, if the truth shall be made
known, I so despised directing another's gaze, that virtually any
attention was, from my point of view, "negative."  Therefore, if I
raised my hand, I wished to be certain my statement was correct and
sometimes went as far as writing my answer on paper so that I would not
stumble on my own tongue, as was my habit in a stressful situation.
Another habit, however, sometimes impeded my valiant intentions.  That,
by name, was day-dreaming.  Having an innate stubbornness within me, I
would foster ill-will toward subjects which, despite my greatest
effort, I failed to grasp; enter, day-dreaming.  Such was the case with
an "Honors English" class which I made the mistake of accepting.  The
class was basically the duplicate of "regular" tenth grade English but
wielded a decidedly tougher grading scale and a faster pace.  Only one
of the three teachers who taught the over-sized class had sensible
expectations of the students and a personality which reflected no
favoritism among her subjects; unfortunately, I was lucky enough to
study under her guidance only the last semester.  The first semester I
fell under the instruction of one of the other women; she was single,
opinionated and sharp-tongued, and had the habit of dissecting the
least complicated story into shreds of symbolism and hidden meaning
which would have amused the authors to no end had they been alive to
contest her brave statements.  The teacher had no room for differing
opinions; the only way to succeed on tests was to regurgitate that
which she had proclaimed as having relevancy or truth.  Reflecting on
her marital status, I quickly understood.

Seated in English class one day, I found myself lured from the
discussion momentarily to exercise some uninvited thought.  When I
returned my awareness to the classroom the teacher was looking around
the room for a volunteer to answer her last question.  I decided to
raise my arm to reply, and she nodded that I should speak.  After
giving my answer, the teacher studied me indifferently and remarked,
"That answer has already been given."  I shifted uneasily in my chair,
deciding to follow the lesson more closely.  Several questions later,
another multiple-answer question was presented to the class.  Hands
went up around the room and answers rushed into the teacher's ears.  A
favorite student raised her hand to offer a reply, and when bidden to
speak, her answer was a virtual carbon copy of the previous speaker's.
The instructor smiled at her pleasantly.  "That answer has already been
mentioned, however, since it is of such consequence, I'm glad you
repeated it."  I stared in disbelief and knew that I had no hope of
winning under conditions as deplorable as those I had just witnessed.

With the initiation into high school, I decided to attempt a routine as
near to normal as my system would allow.  The last thing I desired was
a complication which would separate me from other students, so I
elected to store cookies in my locker to provide the extra energy I
sometimes required to alleviate an infuriated stomach or an aching head
between meals.  I tried to forego my snacks entirely, but decided my
action was unwise after repeated and quite audible rumblings of ignored
hunger pangs during class.  Because the consumption of my snack would
occasionally swallow an extra minute of my time, I procured a note from
the school administrator that officially excused a late entry into
class.  I rarely needed the note, and the teachers knew I was not the
type to abuse such a privilege; the system worked very well.

I felt more "normal" physically than I had for many months, and decided
that I should try to negotiate a hated physical education class even
though I would not have had to do so given my health history.  Although
it was tempting to avoid the issue altogether by procuring a medical
excuse from my doctor, I did not wish to invite failure through
cowardice on my behalf.  Too often I watched people use health problems
to buffer a difficult situation or create an unwarranted advantage when
in actuality, their only lameness was the excuse which formed on their

My progress in physical education depended to a large extent on the
progress made by my stomach to digest its food.  If it decided to
cooperate, my activity was in no way impeded.  However, because of its
irregularity, such cooperation was markedly infrequent and I would
often find myself uncomfortably nauseous; as the sports grew more
demanding, I knew that the class was not going to be acceptable.  I was
of no value to the team if staving off the urge to vomit, and the
teachers disbelieved my need to sit quietly on the side lines.  "You
look fine to me," their appraisal seemed to say.  I almost wished my
stomach would yield to its sickness and give the doubting teachers an
eyeful to cure them of their disbelief.  Eventually I asked my doctor
to write a medical excuse for me which served to place me in the
library for "study hall"; this arrangement pleased me for I was then
free to study, read, or dream as dictated by my mood.  Physical
activity was pursued at home during periods of good health; this was no
awkward adjustment since I desired to maintain my fitness, and when I
felt well, I did not spend time slumped sluggishly in a chair.  Seated
in the library, I reflected gratefully that I had not taken any drastic
measures before securing the written excuse; I also knew that, since I
was no tyrant, I probably could not have given such a gruesome display
even if it had been a foremost desire.

PAGE 140

Chapter 20
Eleventh Grade

"I was always reminded of a tea kettle filled with boiling water which
had to let off steam or explode; had I been unable to "blow-it-out," my
emotions would have strained violently against my being, and while a
shattered teapot could be replaced, sanity was less easily restored."


Eleventh Grade

Adolescence is an explosive age wherein change is an intrinsic factor.
One begins to weigh the significance of specific values in an attempt
to discover which values shall be given foremost importance in life.
There are numerous trials and errors, and many lessons are learned
through failure or fear.  An elder's words of wisdom are not always
sufficient to curb the pangs of rebellion; the youth wishes to use his
own mind to dictate that which he shall experience rather than to live
through the vision of greater knowledge.

With the onset of 11th grade, I had gained enough confidence to pursue
my version of parental rebellion which, compared to my characteristic
desire to please and meld, baffled and then concerned my mom and dad.
Disputes generally centered on minor details such as curfew, yet
progressed to include whose company I could keep and which events I
could attend.  For the first time in my life, I was trying to make my
conflicting views heard.  This measure only created misery on all
fronts, however, because my father did not welcome variances of
opinion.  I never yelled in my efforts to illustrate my views, for that
would have proven disastrous; but despite my steady-voiced assertions,
conversation became more difficult and rendered the family bliss into a
sort of haphazard time-bomb.  As a result, I began to foster unwanted
feelings of intolerance toward little quirks and mannerisms, as often
will accompany deeper grievances and unsettled disputes.  Instead of
accepting the gap of understanding that had evolved, I projected the
frustration which came from the impasse upon petty outlets.  The little
things ate at my mind and aggravated me beyond all reason; I despised
myself for allowing such inconsequential details to taint my father's
image or turn me from his love.

With my mom, it was different.  She allowed me to voice my opinions
although they differed from her own.  Despite my plea for "freedom " I
was choked by the ambivalence of my emotions.  I longed for choice yet
craved intervention.  For example, certain days found me in an
unexplainably aggressive state of mind and my anger begged to be given
reign over rationality.  So perturbed was I with my inner turmoil that
sometimes I wished to argue for its own sake, creating an issue to
banter back and forth like a volley ball; other times I wanted mom to
say "no" and thereby settle a dispute which raged internally, for
parental objections were often weightier and less subject to
contestation than were personal decisions to forego a particular event.
Of course, there were also those things which I desired to discuss,
yet felt compelled to remain hidden from my mom; I knew that to share
certain instances would have jeopardized my ability to see many
"friends," and although many of those individuals I later decided to
avoid, I needed to make the decision on my own.

One person who understood was Norm.  It was not so long ago that he had
undergone the need for independence, and sympathized with my sometimes
over-blown grievances.  When I spoke to Norm it seemed that my
"problems" dissipated into the wind or became so insignificant that I
could easily bear their weight.  The changes in my outlook and
disposition seemed only fleeting steps to adulthood, rather than
imprisoning hours.

In my eyes, Norm's life was a reflection of perfect balance,
self-sufficiency and peace of mind.  I longed for the day when I too
would be able to own a house and make all the choices that were his.
I dreamed of such a life, and it seemed incredible that he would ever
seek an alternative.  Paradise, however, as well as prison, is in the
eye of the beholder.

It no longer seemed of much importance.  He could do it, and the
knowledge of his initial success was of more worth than continued
success.  Norm decided to move home.

The divorce had left my brother with half of a house and, in certain
respects, half of a life.  It was necessary at the time to prove to
himself that he could live alone.  Therefore, Norm paid for a house and
refurbished its interior; he performed all domestic functions while
working a 40 hour week; he found mental stimulation through books and
occasional personal interaction with friends.  Such accomplishments
provided a sense of satisfaction; the gradual rebuilding of Norm's
physical world complimented the restoration taking place within himself.

Once Norm had finalized his basic dreams in the material sense,
however, it grew obvious that the inner rebuilding which still clamored
for completion could not be done alone.  He was the sole spark of life
in a house from which the cobwebs of deceit could never be wiped.  But
for an attic full of worn out memories, his was an empty house.
Houses, of themselves, do not indenture the heart; thus, without regret
or apology, Norm came home.

January was the coldest it had been in years, or so it seemed.  To
brighten the blustery evening, Norm had invited me to share a pizza
with him at his house.  I gladly accepted the invitation and spent
several pleasant hours staring at a lively fire and talking.
I departed feeling very content, never suspecting his oppressive
loneliness.  Norm had concealed it from everyone, and it came as
somewhat of a surprise to see him standing at the door so soon after
saying good-night; loneliness pooled in his eyes and I realized it had
filtered deeper than any cursory glance could have perceived.

Personally, I was elated at the prospect of sharing the upstairs with
my brother, especially if living at home was what he truly wished.
Several years earlier the arrangement would not have succeeded; then he
sought to free himself from the constraints of youth through
establishing his own credibility as a functioning part of society.  Now
he had tasted life's offerings, the sweet and the bitter, and knew that
he could alter his happiness through certain changes on his part.
Loneliness was one pain which he had the power to alleviate; his return
was a matter of choice, not defeat, and with a clear conscience
regarding his desire, pursued his intent.  After assuring his welcome,
he and I drove to his house so he could secure a parcel of clothing and
other necessities for the night.

As one household began to dissolve, the family home eagerly digested
the other's former occupant and his belongings.  It took several months
for Norm's house and major furnishings to be sold, but those objects
that he wished to retain were loaded unceremoniously into sacks and
stashed in the attic or placed hastily about various parts of the
house.  A microwave found its station on the basement counter, and
shelving provided a haven for his stereo equipment.  A handsome
recliner stole a living room corner and became known as NORM'S CHAIR;
if he entered the room to find HIS CHAIR occupied, he didn't quite know
where to sit.  It became evident that this home was his home and, with
an ample dose of personal interaction and companionship, the emotional
wounds had begun to heal.

School was actually fun for me after my tongue lost some of its shy
inhibitions and I was able to joke and carry on conversations before
classes.  I joined no extra-curricular activities, however, since I
valued free time and generally wished to go home or to a friend's house
directly following school.  Moreover, I entertained the idea of finding
a part-time job, and did not wish to spread myself so thinly over those
undertakings which I had deemed to be worthy of my time; I was still a
perfectionist, and that ruled even the most rebellious of my whims.

That autumn I obtained employment at a fashionable store in a local
shopping mall.  I was notably excited since the job promised to be
better aligned to my interests than either of my other jobs...
babysitting and a two week stint at a fabric store.  The former, I
decided, demanded too much of my tolerance and felt I should quit
before I was jailed for child abuse.  Actually I, the sitter, was the
abused party; I would return home after an evening of utter turmoil
clenching three dollars in my hand.

On the worst occasion, I was to sit for two children at the end of the
avenue.  Soon after my arrival I discovered I was sitting for only one
child; the other a monster.  Inside of three hours he managed to reduce
my state of mind to that of a murderess.  He disobeyed every request,
every order, every threat.  He ignored his mother's dictate that
specified he could eat no more than two candy bars.  After consuming
five, the bag of candy went on top of the refrigerator, the sole place
in the house which he was unable to reach.  The monster, outraged, then
proceeded to unshelf every toy he owned and move it into the living
room.  Afterward, he decided to hide in the closet.

For a brief moment, I was relieved.  Seeing this action had an adverse
effect on me, in his opinion, he came out, wielding the vacuum cleaner,
and tore about the house like a wild thing.  His next move,
unfortunately, was to raid another closet, from which he carefully
selected a bag of rubber bands.  These he pinged across the room,
firing joyously, until I  impeded his efforts.  The rubber bands found
themselves on the refrigerator.

I looked up.  Ten o'clock.  Unbelieveable.  The parents said they'd be
home "around twelve."  I took a deep breath and noticed the monster was
cackling from some unseen location.  Deciding that I should pursue the
source of my discontent, I finally found him grinning widely at the
door of his bedroom.  "I let the gerbils out of their cage," he
announced proudly.  I rolled my eyes.  "Terrific," I replied, lacking
any enthusiasm.  As I had a gerbil, I was not frightened at the
prospect of catching the rodents, but was concerned they might become
lost in a couch or any of the thousand other places a gerbil could
hide.  I immediately dropped to my hands and knees, knowing they
generally fled beneath the furniture, and searched the carpet for the
tiny animals.  Sure enough, they were nervously enjoying their freedom
under the bed's protective cover.  I succeeded in flushing them into
the open, whereupon they were promptly stripped of their liberty and
lifted, by way of their tails, into the cage.

I turned out the light and marched into the living room where boy
monster and his sister plotted against me behind suspicious smiles.
I sat down and he left the room; not desiring to be surprised, I
followed, entering his room just as he was about to unleash one of his
gerbils again.  "No!"  I yelled.  He disappeared, leaving the business
of finding the gerbil to me; it took a bit longer this time because the
mite had escaped to the master bedroom before I could detain it.  Once
I had the animal by the tail, I returned to the bedroom in time to
intercept the monster's second attempt to free his other gerbil.
Determined that no more searches would take place that evening, the
gerbil cage also decorated the refrigerator top.

Of course, bedtime was a chore in itself, but one battle which I was
determined to win.  Through a stroke of luck or a dream realized, the
two finally went to sleep, leaving me to blink at the T.V. in a
fatigued stupor until I collapsed on the couch.

The parents returned well after two o'clock in the morning to find me
slumped where I had fallen several hours earlier; I had earned the
sleep, especially under the circumstances that I endured.  Having
baby-sat for over seven hours, on which I had not counted, I felt that
my brush with insanity would be buffered by a "substantial" payment.
The husband handed me some tightly folded bills and two quarters as I
stepped into the night air, and by the feel of the wad, I trusted his
integrity and believed that my effort might have been worthwhile,
indeed.  The "going rate" was at least 75 cents per hour, with the rate
increasing to $l.00 or $l.50 for every hour past midnight.  I
calculated in my mind as I paced toward my house, knowing that I had
been gone seven and a half hours, and turned the bills over in my hand
with anticipation.  "A five and maybe a couple of ones. . ." a thought
echoed.  I opened the door and entered, removed my shoes, and went into
the kitchen to see what the light would reveal.  Unrolling the bills
reverently, I straightened them one by one and put them on the table.
One, two, three, four dollars. . . and fifty cents.  I stared silently
at the bills, recalling that my minimum payment should have been $5.75.
I felt used and cheated, and frankly, quite insulted.  My mom, too,
was angry and said I should protest my under-payment, but I was afraid
to call "grown-ups" and let the matter drop.

The following week I received a phone call from the mother, requesting
that I baby-sit some night that week.  I had not honestly let the
matter drop, for it had festered in my mind since its occurrence, and
bid me forego further assignments with that family.  "No," I replied.
A hush ensued, urging me to explain.  "I won't... I can't handle your
kids."  In a diminutive tone, the woman acknowledged my statement and
said good-bye; by her response I somehow felt she had just experienced
de ja vu.  In certain respects, I pitied her, and in others, I pitied
the children.  The latter would one day rise to discover the world was
greater than mother's protective and generous arms could encompass.
Perhaps the former would one day wonder why she had treated "no" like a
word from a foreign language.

Deep inside I believe that humans desire a sense of discipline from
youth; guidance assures a child that his guardians care about his life
enough to intervene in areas of possible danger or misdirection.
Discipline commands respect toward oneself and others because it brings
order to chaos and reality to life.  As I grew and observed my
classmates, I saw those whose parents were not restrictive often led
sordid lives.  They lied excessively or vulgarly splashed the truth
before their parents to openly wound them.  I cringed to see such cruel
treatment of good people, for these parents had never lived lives
similar to their child.  At first I was baffled by my classmates'
apparent hate for their parents, so I compared their lives to my own
and discovered that, as children, tantrums and tears produced their
desires.  I used neither, for neither would have proven effective; "no"
always meant "no" whether referring to a request or given as a
disciplinary expression.  I respected my mom and dad's authority, which
consequently augmented my love for them.  This was essentially the
differing factor which separated my childhood from that of my friends.
I concluded that their "hate" evolved from a lack of respect combined
with the bitterness of leading empty, selfish lives; instead of
searching themselves, they blamed their parents for their frustration.
The parents cannot bear the entire burden, however, for each normal
human possesses a mind which is quite capable of inviting either
positive or negative change into his life.

Discipline is essential for the attainment of maturity, and the sooner
one encounters it, or becomes aware of its necessity, the sooner growth
can begin.  I reflected over my current wish for freedom, and was
silently glad that my parents had always voiced appropriate objections
toward my sometimes doubtful intentions.  No one had ever labeled me a
"brat," I mused with satisfaction, so why should I babysit for other
people's nightmares?

My first "real" job, for which I filled out an application, was as a
clerk in a fabric store.  Since my ex-sister-in-law had worked there
and because I sewed occasionally and purchased goods at the store, I
viewed the place as somewhat of an old friend.  That fact did not abate
my initial nervousness, however, nor did it serve to reverse my
ultimate opinion of the place once its image had steeped in a boiling
pot of reality.  I liked people, but when people became "customers"
certain nasty transformations often took place.  This I quickly learned
when, without ample training, I was hurled amid a mob of angry women
who had stampeded into the store for the weekly bargains and expected
rapid service.  Once my nerves were ruffled, I tottered precariously on
the edge of tears; I wished to please, but my conscientious attitude
could not tolerate overt customer hostility when I was doing my best.

After the cyclone dissipated, I would return bolts of fabric to their
various locations; if I did not know where a certain type should be
placed, I asked for direction.  Inquiry, I reasoned, was better than
making rash mistakes.  This part of the job, combined with cleaning and
general upkeep, became my favorite as I needed not worry about customer
interaction or managerial displeasure.

After two weeks, the manager called the three night employees to the
counter after closing out the cash register in order to voice some
complaints.  Because I was the newest employee, he directed many
explicit implications toward me, essentially blaming me for numerous
misplaced bolts of material which he had gathered throughout the store
and brought to the counter.  He reported, also, that the money in the
register and the amount dictated by the receipts did not coincide;
"someone," he said, "has been short changing customers."  He looked at
me. "Laurie, you've got to be more accurate and speed up."  When the
speech was over and the misplaced cloth returned, we all fled from the
store; company morale, I previously learned, had suffered under this
manager.  I reached my car and, once inside, let go of the frustrations
and hurt that had multiplied since the job began, letting myself cry
freely, without restraint.  The blame, I felt, was unwarranted.  The
assistant manager had told me earlier that week that I was doing fine.
I had not been responsible for the misplaced bolts of cloth, for I'd
not seen those particular patterns that day; a customer could easily
have decided against the material and stashed it in the nearest rack.
As I thought about the excess cash, I recalled that, in past
experiences of making change, I classically over-paid, not under-paid
the customer, which would have resulted in a loss for the store.  While
I may have been responsible for some error, I believed that all
complaints could not lead to me.

For the sake of my nerves, I decided to quit the job.  I dried my
tears, drove out of the parking lot and headed home, where I then
called the store and told the manager I was through.  I felt better
than I had felt in two weeks.

My job at the shopping mall was a vast improvement.  Not only did I
work for an amiable manager, but I did not have to ring up sales at
all.  A cashier was in charge of that responsibility.  Moreover, when
I eventually learned to act as a replacement cashier, I had no qualms
toward making change since the machine instructed me "how much" was
owed or received; I had only to count the currency.

Again, my favorite part of the job dealt with the stock itself, rather
than the customers.  I enjoyed helping people when they desired
assistance, yet revolted internally against the thought of
administering high key sales pitches to the public.  This was the only
objectionable aspect of my employment at the store, for occasionally
the manager would encourage me to be more aggressive toward customers
and try to sell merchandise to those who had no intention of buying
anything.  Admittedly, I would have preferred to hide behind racks of
sweaters, sizing and straightening, than to approach a stranger and
ask, "Could I interest you in a dress today?"  followed by a persuasive
cascade of sweetness and sales talk.  Such tactics never worked for me
and I found I sold more through helpful suggestions than flamboyant
appeals.  Nevertheless, when sales dropped after Christmas at an
alarming rate, reflecting the fact that everyone's closets were full
and their wallets empty, only the best sales people were given enough
hours to add up to a worthwhile pay check.  During this decline, I
spent most of my working hours in the storeroom, unloading and hanging
new merchandise.  This suited me perfectly, despite the few hours and
accompanying meager pay; if only I could have found a part-time job
dealing exclusively with stock work, I would have been in a state of
bliss, able to simultaneously work and think. . . and be paid for my

As the working hours decreased and I found that I had spare time beyond
that which was required to accomplish my homework, I sought excuses to
obtain one of the cars and escape my self-imposed prison at home.  With
friends or alone, I would shop, run errands, or simply drive around the
city streets.  The car became a symbol of freedom and attainable
destinations, an inanimate capsule devoid of judgemental constraints.
In the car I could whoop and holler, cry or laugh; I could vent my
exasperation to the music on the radio, or wallow in a pool of
depression without spreading the effect upon anyone else.

I was essentially adrift on a sea of emotions, constantly hurled from
happiness to depression and back again.  As contradictory as it may
sound, I believe the instability of my emotions was the element which
permitted me to maintain overall sanity; instability was one thing on
which I could depend, for no emotion seethed within me long enough to
create duress of itself.

I asked myself, "Why am I depressed?"  I had no right to be depressed,
in my opinion, yet I felt I had no control over my radical ups and
downs.  "I'm healthy for the most part, my hair has returned, thicker
than it was previously, I'm doing well in school and have a few people
to call 'friends' . . . so what is wrong?"  Through that year the
question remained hidden in the back of my mind, unanswered yet
unshakeable.  I continued to pursue happiness through a confused sense
of individualism and an uncharacteristic flurry of activity.  I was
befuddled by my own ambivalence and, to further harass my state of
being, allowed the fluctuating emotions of others to work upon my mind,
thereby creating disturbances beyond all reason.

To this end, I fancied myself to be in love with a young guy with whom
I had become acquainted through "in-the-hall" pleasantries and smiles.
After two "dates" we discovered we could converse remarkably; I was
delighted by the apparent honesty that we shared and became confident
that our's would prove to be the romantic friendship of the decade.
Having been subjected to hurtful and unreasonable endings of
relationships, however, I had no intention of placing my pride in
jeopardy through a display of groveling affection or stifling promises.
I told myself to subdue my feelings and expect nothing, yet hoped
desperately that the dominoes I had erected would fall in the orderly
fashion that my forethought deserved.

As it happened, my "dominoes" fell in a manner which had no sense of
order.  I learned quickly that "good deserts" had nothing to do with
the final outcome of a situation, and even one's offering of platonic
friendship could be dealt a cruel blow or be considered unacceptable.
Despite these unwarranted actions against my cautious and understated
affection, I could not entirely cancel the heartfelt wishes my mind
contained because he continued, at very sporadic intervals, to
encourage a romance.  In no time at all I was thoroughly confused as
to the part I played and my significance in his life.  On certain days
he spoke to me at school,and other days I was ignored or avoided.  The
same was true pertaining to encounters outside of school, which often
resulted through chance rather than a specific plan. Whether he would
assume a romantic stance or pursue a totally platonic guise became a
valid mystery.  This infernal uncertainty did nothing to promote
self-confidence, for within me I continually questioned the purpose of
his unpredictable snubs; was I too tall?  Did I embarrass him?  Was I
not in the "right" crowd?  Questions, unanswered, riddled my mind and
shook my heart.  As the school year coasted along, I began to realize
I couldn't necessarily take all of his cold shouldered greetings or
lack of acknowledgement as personal digs against my presence.  He had
problems of his own and moods of his own; this revelation on my behalf
only gave me more reasons to worry and dwell on him, however.  No
longer did I cope only with my own burdens, but attempted to share the
pronounced emotions displayed by my "flame."  When he looked
melancholic, I too, soon adopted the feeling for myself; if he was
happy, I could be happy.  I quickly became aware of the fact that my
technique was indeed a lousy one and the potential for happiness was
quite slim.  With my friends having only mouths, their ears plugged
with their own concerns, I resorted to the written expression of my
personal pressures.  Though the paper could not respond, it similarly
could neither judge or reveal my emotional sieges of ink, for the
hurried scrawls were carefully concealed.  In this fashion, many
troubles were rationally resolved; my thoughts were considerably less
hideous when viewed as written words, set apart from the mental clutter
composed of both reasonable and emotional meanderings.  I could
objectively scan the bold sweeps crossing page after page and discern
the real from the imagined...  My deep felt depression carried
through to today. . . as well as my bad luck!  I saw D as I was coming
and wasn't extremely thrilled, which is a shocker in itself; and to top
it off, he barely squeaked out a "Hi" to me.  That wasn't too much of
a surprise, because he has been known to ignore a person. . . me, for
example.  I must admit I'm really not all here today.  I just don't
understand what is going on with him.  One day he is my friend and the
next, he is a stranger. . . Oh, well, I can get so depressed sometimes,
it's not even funny!  The weird thing is that I'm not especially
depressed today, I'm just in a weird mood. . . When I got home, Dad got
mad because I forgot to tell them about the PSAT test.  He asked about
five different times why I didn't let them know.  I was so shocked that
I went outside and climbed the big pine tree.  I'm upset when I do
that... especially when there are no branches on the lower half of the
tree, and I had to jump to the lowest branch!  I got in a better mood
after awhile, but it took a bit of psyching on my part!

Spring 1979

Walking down the wide highway of life....
Happy, but confused.
I've noticed you walking that highway too,
And I've often wondered if you felt the same way I do...
And then one day you came to me,
Smiling, and holding out your hand in friendship.
Was it two weeks?  Four?
The time seemed to fly past
Whenever I was by your side.
With you, I had no fear to reveal myself...
I felt comfortable and secure
When you were near,
And thought of you constantly
Whenever you were away.

In addition to hurried prose and diary entries, I also began pinning
down my feelings in the form of poetry. Within the poems I could lament
my confusion and aloneness, and the self-dependency which had become
threatened by my offering of friendship and its subsequent futility.

Love Rollercoaster

Days robed in silence...depressed for awhile,
Then turn around with a flash of a smile.
Happy, contented, with work and with play,
Don't get excited, it's only one day!
Tapping my shoulder, "HI, there!" he said,
One hour later, I wish I was dead!
So much confusion, so little I know,
Oh!  To run and hide...to get up and go!
Age seventeen and still the same goal.
Filling my mind, my body, my soul.
My love is something I just can't ignore,
But I'm so tired...Can I take any more?
Depression sets in like a cold, dark stare,
And spurs my asking "Why do I care?"
That question comes again and again...
Face it kid...this is the battle that you'll never win!

Lauren Isaacson
Spring of 1979

Love's Confusion

Interpreted, exaggerated...
Real and imagined...
Actions performed to hurt,
To confuse, to make happier
Some stranger's day.
I am that stranger,
Jack of many trades.
A translator,
Handyman, all in one.
Like a stranger,
I am trying to know you.
Like a translator,
I am trying to understand.

Lauren Isaacson
Spring of 1979

A Heart Untaken

I gave my heart away,
That's not easy,
No, not at all.
I am...dependent...
On none other than myself.
So why then, am I
Still falling head-first
Into a bottomless cavern?
Yes, I gave my heart away.
But it was left untaken,
Blowing in the wind.
How can I describe
The way I feel?
There are no words
To relate the emptiness
And darkness
Which has prevailed
Upon my soul...
My entire being.
I need to be reconstructed,
By those I love.
Is that asking too much?
How is one expected to live
If no one will accept his love?
He cannot live...
Merely exist.

Lauren Isaacson
Spring 1979

Love Is

Love is,
It has no time,
No place.
When there is love,
One knows;
It can be felt in the air
Like a cool breeze
From calm seas.
Love can penetrate
The heart
Like a sword;
it can be painful,
And tear one apart
Piece by piece
Until one is only half
Of what he was.
And yet,
One hangs on to the feeling,
Scared to go on
But unwilling to let go.
Love is an emotion
When in its truest sense
Is stronger than steel
It will not die
Even after life.
Love is beautiful,
A feeling
Which cannot be matched
Or copied.
Love is.

Lauren Isaacson


My life...
Sometimes like a lovesong;
Contented with the little things,
But forever striving for the love
I feel I missed somewhere along the way.
It's all so confusing, this.
Life... so real, so complex.
It's everchanging, and sometimes
I lose my way and stumble...
Always able to get up once more.
Maybe one day I'll not get up...
Just wait until someone picks up the pieces.
But my wait will last 'til eternity,
For no one travels my path.
Alone? ... no.
Merely unique... one of a kind.
Finding a true friend is a search
Not easily fulfilled...
But then love is not a song easily sung.

Love is serene and peaceful.
Love can make you go bananas!
Christmas...love with a special kind of warmth.
Love is a joy ride!
Love... the natural high.

Lauren Isaacson
April 17, 1979

As I reflected on the words I had written, I perceived I had turned my
back on my greatest ally, myself.  I needed to depend on myself for
strength and happiness, for a burden is essentially one's own to bear.
No amount of sharing and communication will take the place of one's
personal acceptance of a problem; a candle cannot illuminate the
darkness for one whose eyes remain closed.

I reviewed, also, my diary entries of the months passed.

Feb. 9, 1979... Friday the ninth... what a fantastic day!  I felt
terrific.  I talked to (him)...he came up to me at my locker!  I was
the one to say "I've gotta go now."  Wheee!

Feb. 14, 1979... (He) and I talked.  He said he was going to buy a
Valentine's Day card (for me) but forgot!

Mar. 8, 1979... (He) and I may go to a movie this week-end for his
birthday (on me).  I was a little surprised he brought it up!  I was in
a great mood... had a great day!!

Mar. 14, 1979... (He's) making it a point to avoid me...nothing new
though, right?

Mar. 29, 1979... I talked to (him) at least five minutes straight!

Apr. 19, 1979... I'm so down.   I sure wish I could get out of it!
This is a real drag.

Apr. 23, 1979... I was in such a great mood today.  Nothing really
happened though.  Ha!  Oh, well.  Maybe you're happier that way.

May 2, 1979... Cry!  It would feel better...Bad day.  I was depressed
most of the time...

May 3, 1979... Talked to Dumbo quite a bit, considering I usually can
never talk to him!  I don't know why that makes me so happy.

May 21, 1979... Pretty good day.  I talked a TON to (him).  Yippee!  He
said he saw me Friday night on 23rd Avenue.  He kept looking at me!!
He said his weekend wasn't that great.  I guess that makes two of us.

June 1, 1979... Last month I saw (him) once.  It was 10 days between
then and the time before.  I hope its never that long again, although
I can handle it better this time...if it works out to be that way.

June 16, 1979... At 6:30 D. got me and we went to Peterson Park (because
he forgot to take money out of the bank) and played frisbee and talked
while (his friend) filled up the tires with air... it was fun.  (He
then took me home and went to a party.)  I guess Norm and Mom and Dad were
talking about him... he didn't go to the bank and get some money even
though he knew we were going out that night.  Norm told them, "If I
knew I was taking a girl out, I'd make DAMN sure I had some money!"  He
was a little mad.  Mom told me that.

I saw my infatuation was rather pathetic.  Ours was an empty
relationship, devoid of stability in its most meager sense.  I recalled
how often his intentions were rejoined with apologetic excuses when
those intentions were waived to pursue other activities in which I had
no part.  Such treatment consumed trust and debilitated affection,
causing me to turn gradually from my romantic ideal and grasp reality,
despite the pain that the action entailed; self-deceit would only delay
the inevitable hurt that naturally accompanied unfulfilled dreams.

With summer nearly sunning itself on the doorstep, I fostered no
conscious inclination to fret over my flickering flame; too well I
remembered the previous summer, through which I mourned the loss of a
different guy's attentions (whose attentions, I might add, were the
first I had ever received, as he was my first actual date).  I finally
realized, after ruining my entire summer, it was the attention, not the
guy, over which I lamented.  I liked knowing that I was, to an extent,
desirable and attractive for my feminine qualities, a knowledge which
had to come from sources other than my mom and dad to seem valid.  As I
no longer required a male admirer to uphold or applaud various aspects
of myself to assure my adequacy as a person, I looked forward to the
upcoming months with reminiscent anticipation.

Among the various events of the summer which followed 11th grade was
the renewal of friendship between Steve, my next-door neighbor, and me.
Throughout junior high our meetings had been markedly sparse, the
result of differing circles of friends rather than personal quarrels.

After several brief conversations, we discovered we shared common
interests which could provide the foundation for a friendship.  Our
"fellowship" introduced me to people who eventually became friends of
my own, and those from school with whom I had previously associated but
drifted slowly toward other interests and destinations.

The new introductions included Jon, whose companionship colored many
days of the summer and would later evolve into an extended
relationship.  Looking at the pages of my diary, the carefree days
described therein now seem to possess a dream-like quality; the days
were bundles of minutes in which only the present mattered.  I did my
chores and went out with friends; I threw the frisbee and played
miniature golf; there were picnics and movies and light conversation.
The whirlwind had stabilized, but it hadn't slowed... and I did not
give myself time to think.

Norm, however, provided me with such time.  When we spent several hours
together, canoeing, hiking through wooded trails, or lunching near a
winding river, I was unconscious of time.  An hour was not a hoard of
60 minutes crammed sardine-style into the face of a clock.
Conversation was a matter of choice rather than obligation and an aura
of humor pervaded the atmosphere in which jokes need not be vocalized
to be shared and understood.  With Norm, I was able to find the peace
which seemed so elusive in other company, and to revel in the silence
that, through my lack of assertiveness, I was otherwise unable to
attain.  I felt whole in my brother's presence rather than a torn and
fragmented person who cringed under hostility, watched silently the
destruction which acquaintances wrought upon themselves, and melted
beneath the persuasive tactics used to rob me of time I did not wish
to give.  Norm spoke "to" me and "with" me, but never "at" me, an
aspect of togetherness in which other relationships often failed;
thus, as my segmented self fell into entirety, it did not take long
before I realized his presence was prized beyond all others.  At a
time in my life when emotional stability was a rare commodity, I felt
lucky to have discovered the mutual compatibility which grew rapidly
between my brother and me; indeed, I believe we were both lucky.  Not
often does one encounter an unassuming yet caring relationship in
which no conditions or specific roles exist to induce friction and
jeopardize love itself; it was a gift that I appreciated more as time
passed, yet without hesitation took for granted, feeling confident
that, as I for him, my brother would always "be there" for me,
a listener, friend and companion.  If only my other friendships
were half as dependable, half as refreshing!

Although most of our plans were slated for the weekend, we occasionally
took several hours of a week day evening to go for a motorcycle ride or
take a long walk.  Walks were especially enjoyable because they often
included what we labeled "blow-it-out conversations," which were
comprised of disturbing thoughts or events that generally remained
inaudible plagues.  Grievances, observations and complexes tumbled
forth to be dissected in a rational means by two brains rather than
one, which would hopefully render a more concise view of the idea or
problem, or dissolve it completely.  We also delved in areas of
questions for which there were no answers, posing inquiries for
discussion rather than for the solution thereof.  After such vigorous
conversations, we both felt somewhat exhausted, yet relieved just the
same.  I was always reminded of a tea kettle filled with boiling water
which had to let off steam or explode; had I been unable to
"blow-it-out," my emotions would have strained violently against my
being, and while a shattered tea-pot could be replaced, sanity was less
easily restored.

Norm, too, expressed his gratitude for the ability to release emotional
tension through discussion.  Living alone had provided ample time for
solitude and the perusal of philosophical writings, but that aloneness
needed to be buffered by personal interaction.  Norm was an individual
who required more time alone than did most people, yet he was not an
island, entirely self dependent and devoid of the need for others, and
though his employment allowed a degree of social interaction, it was
only the light-hearted, surface variety in which "closeness" had no
part.  Our outings were at once social and personal, depending upon the
present need; that is, each meeting was not wholly devoted to serious
conversation, for that, too, would have become wearisome if depth and
meaning were relentlessly sought.  Life truthfully has its burdens, but
conversation need not be added to the list; all things, I believe, must
be tempered, and lacking carefree banter and easy laughter, life gains

With a full two months of my summer vacation behind me, I was looking
forward to a three-week vacation in Syracuse, New York when August
arrived.  I would be spending time with Sherry, a pen-pal who had
evolved into a good friend through the exchange of letters.  The
previous year she had accepted our invitation to visit Illinois and
accompanied us on a week-long trip to the Colorado Rockies.  I was now
repaying the visit.

Ours was a unique relationship, but one that was understandably
comfortable.  Beginning as pen-pals, we quickly noted the potential in
each other for the development of a lasting closeness and a willingness
to listen; these factors, augmented further by our great need to be
understood and accepted as we were, provided a sturdy foundation for
friendship.  Each letter became a prize, something regarded with zest
and anticipation, for in it would be heartfelt troubles or elation, and
possible advice or consolation in reference to previous correspondence.
Thus, after two years of personal disclosure, we felt compelled to
meet each other.

In retrospect, it was amazing that her parents had given her permission
to accept our invitation.  Having no clear picture of who I was aside
from a grocery sack full of my letters, which I might add, they were
not allowed to read, Sherry's trip was prefaced by a great deal of
anticipation; her parents coached her, and a long-necked neighbor
preached doom and despair, while friends queried about the need to
visit "some hick girl in the corn fields."  She carried the
anticipation with her as she approached our airport terminal; it was
inscribed on her face next to the wary smile and suspicious eyes.  I,
too, had been nervous, but by the end of the day, our misgivings had
been washed away by a flood of chatter.  When we once again stood in
the airport terminal, tears welled up in our eyes; we were parting not
as pen-pals, but as friends.  The days ahead seemed a little more empty
because we could share no more time together.  As I prepared to fly to
New York, I fostered nervous qualms, yet my anxiety did not reflect
upon Sherry or her home; I was hoping wildly that we would still "get
along."  Letters did not fill the gap that had appeared after meeting
Sherry; before we had been pen friends, but now we were friends who
wrote to each other.  It was somehow quite different, and it was I who
felt in need of a shield.

Conversation was slow at first, with each of us uncertain as to which
topics would spark the most interest.  I began to wonder if I had made
a mistake in coming.  Her excitable nature sometimes startled me, and
when she told of incidents wherein she had screamed her rage at local
friends, I cringed in silence, hoping that I never would evoke such

As the evening crept away, our tongues relaxed and I felt somewhat
relieved.  I could be no one but myself, and I seemed to feel I was
being accepted; within I experienced a mental sigh of relief.  Looking
at the clock, we discovered the hour was near 4:00 a.m. and thought it
would be best to go to sleep.  "Before we can do anything tomorrow,"
Sherry said, "I have to pick up the kitchen and pick up the living
room. . ."  I snickered and exclaimed, "Gee. . . you must be strong!"
Any remaining tension broke under our laughter; humor worked miracles.

The following three weeks passed in a flurry of activity, talk and
laughter.  I fell into the role of second daughter and was pleased that
my temporary home proved so hospitable.  Whether joking over evening
popcorn or sudsy dishwater, it was obvious that I was no guest,
but a welcome member of the tribe.

With Sherry and her parents I captured a lush glimpse of the Niagara
Falls; I also accompanied them on a company picnic and a family
reunion.  Most of the time, however, Sherry and I ran our own agenda,
comprised of shopping sprees, hikes, drives in the country, movies, and
everything else imaginable.  We frequented one particular pizza parlor
with such predictability that our arrival was greeted with quizzical
stares.  We also learned the horror of leaving one's car locked in a
parking garage after midnight, when, upon returning via bus from the
state fair, we discovered we had been misinformed as to the supposed 24
hour status of the garage; though vandals seldom work in another's
favor, a sawed-off portion of a railing allowed freedom from an
otherwise assured overnight imprisonment, which, in turn, would have
left us few options but to search for a phone in some unlikely business

Leaving Syracuse was a melancholic affair which generated an inner
sense of solitude and reminded me that I had no close friends of my own
age and gender at home.  Curious though it may sound, I also realized
it was largely my fault, having a high intolerance for mind games,
play-acting, and senseless chatter.  Moreover, there seemed to be no
median between the judgmental and the valueless.  I could never
tolerate the former group, for no one is perfect, and I was slowly
drawing away from the undauntable latter group.  I had the ideas about
life which I would not allow to be tainted through carelessness or
indiscretion; certain forms of filth were, I knew, impossible to wash
away.  I began to wonder if one's character could be defiled by mere
association. . . and I drifted further still from former friends.

I became markedly outraged at schoolmates who acted irresponsibly and
then decided that my ear was the one upon which they could hurl their
misadventurous rot.  Initially I listened in silence, disagreeing with
promiscuity and the like, yet maintaining a wall of mute disapproval so
I would not dampen the various relationships.  One's sexuality, I
reasoned, was only a portion of the individual and need not pollute the
entire character.  Little by little, however, my intolerance toward
certain propensities grew and eventually led to mutual partings rather
than outright broken friendships.  Some differences create gaps, and
others gulfs.

This change of friends produced a mellowing effect on my lifestyle
which I not only needed, but desired, and although I indulged in fewer
social activities, I found this new aspect acceptable, and indeed,
preferable over my past.  After I realized my nervous energy was my
mind's plea for help and change, and continual activity for its own
sake led only to emptiness, it did not take long for my "rowdiness" to
wane.  I discovered without parental interference that "the wild side"
of life did not conform to my concept of what life should be; I cared
too much for honesty in friendships to enjoy parties wherein
play-acting was a primary focus.  The mere idea of taking drugs seemed
incredibly idiotic and was complicated further by its exorbitant
price-tag and illegality; the first element staved my urge to
experiment with drugs, while the last two set that feeling in cement.
Toward alcohol I fostered a friendly regard although I despised
immoderation; liquor could be enjoyed without partaking to excess.  I
held little respect for those who required intoxication to have fun and
also disliked seeing an individual's personality change under its
influence, for in my opinion, such revelations demonstrated a lack of
genuineness of character when sober.  Although I enjoyed certain
alcoholic beverages, it did not matter whether or not I drank; I was
crazy enough to enjoy life and have fun without liquor, and it
certainly was less expensive.

For the most part, I felt that my emotions had stabilized.  I no longer
was living "on the edge," squinting at brilliant sunlight and then
plunging into gray storm clouds; nor was I tough or immune to pain.  Of
course, I did not wish to become a robot, devoid of emotional concern,
yet in certain instances, a lack of feeling would have been welcome.

Establishing a relationship is, at best, difficult and at worst,
impossible.  Because relationships are generally of primary
significance regarding one's happiness or lack thereof, they are
elemental to life.  Unfortunately, there is no prescribed formula
pertaining to flawless success in relationships, and one is left to
mimic the designs wrought by others or resort to one's own intuition.
Without a doubt, life is hard. . . barring any drastic handicaps with
which one is born.

There are those who yearn for youth and pine forgotten tatters of
memory, yet I would not choose to relive the  pangs of childhood and
relearn the expectations of society.  I recall too well the ill-chosen
words which sprang from my tongue, the unintended regrets which stemmed
from an unimpeded glance or action, and the troublesome problems whose
solutions, though somehow problems in themselves, would have been
solved likewise had the identical factors been presented a second time.
With regret I remember instances which haunt my recollections, though
long passed; there was a boy in church who nervously asked if I would
be "his girl"...and through my pitiful degree of shyness, never gave a
reply; and the homecoming dance, my first and only formal function, in
which I was so utterly nerve-stricken that I was unable to pin the
boutonniere on my date, to eat my dinner, to speak cordially on even
the most trivial and insignificant subjects.  I remember the
disappointment which accompanied my first attempt to secure a "date."

Oct. 27, 1977... I want to ask Scott to go on the hayrack ride.
Everyone is really pressuring me.

Oct. 28, 1977... I asked Scott today...I followed him to his locker and
asked.  He said that he was having one on the same night and he'd let me
know.  Oh, I sure hope he comes.

Oct. 30, 1977... Hayrack was tonight, but I didn't go.  Scott never
even called.

Filtering through my memories are also the times in which I was asked
on a date and for reasons of my own, chose to refuse the invitation.  I
tried to say "no" without hurting, for I knew how difficult it was to
pose such questions, and the way in which a reply was given could
either demean, depress, or simply disappoint.  Being asked on a date is
a compliment, no matter how distastefully one might view his "suitor."

My dating career was short-lived, as I began to view romance in a
highly cynical manner, having found little in the way of true happiness
while "playing the field."  I had difficulty enough when I dated one
person at a time.  Moreover, I was unable to bear the pretense which
accompanied romance; I had little of the "romantic" in my personality,
and if I played a farce, I knew it would reveal itself in time.  It
would be more appropriate, I resolved, to always be myself and thereby
avoid a later explanation of my mistaken identity.

With my indifference toward romance came an amplified emphasis on
friendship, for it alone seemed real.  Platonic relationships had no
intrinsic pressures or expectations such as the obligatory kiss after a
"date"; a touch, if given at all, was supportive, not demanding.

I loved talking with people and tried to treat everyone in a like
manner.  Most of my friends were of the male gender.  As always, I was
better understood and enjoyed for my humor by guys and felt more
comfortable in such company.  Generally this was no problem, however, I
found certain people so delightful that occasionally one of them would
mistake my enthusiasm as being more than simply platonic in nature, and
not desiring my supposedly romantic inclinations, would begin avoiding
me.  Eventually I would realize I had indulged in one too many smiles
or had been too energetically involved in the conversation, and to
solve the misunderstanding without damaging an ego, I would ignore the
individual completely for several days.  When my staccatoed lack of
interest toward him finally obliterated his illusion of my deep
feelings, he would resume friendly interaction.  It was a rather
humorous chain of events, but one that yielded favorable results.  As
long as misunderstandings are possible, I find it comforting to know
that at least some have the potential to be corrected with relative

Since stability was one of my higher prerogatives, I continued dating
one guy rather exclusively, especially toward the latter portion of my
senior year.  However as he bested my age by a year, he was away at
college, coming home only once each month.  Having to reaquaint
ourselves every visit, the resulting relationship was hard to maintain
and wrought havoc on my emotions far more than I had ever expected.  I
see-sawed between that which I desired the relationship to be and what
it was.  I battled between saving the enjoyable friendship at the
expense of an uncertain romance.  Although I cared for him, it was not
the type or degree of caring which should have been associated with our
relationship.  Therefore, I often asked myself the validity of the
entire affair.  At times the gulf between us was so great that distance
was welcomed because it secured our friendship. I did not have the
furtitude to put an end to our psychedelic relationship, for I was
easily cornered by his overt persuasiveness and flow of rhetoric, which
smothered my ability to think or listen to myself.  Moreover, for
better or worse, the relationship provided me with a sense of
protection and an excuse to refuse other dates.  Thus, the relationship
continued, despite its flaws, interwoven with other memories and dreams.

Holder Of The Key

Although I love being at your side,
There's still that part that has to hide
For I'm shielding myself
From a feared remorse
Which would erupt
If your love lost its course...
Shipwrecked and broken
On the craggy shore,
"Look... accept...
I love you no more!"
Friendship is the only key
To loose the me that isn't free!
I hold fast to that sheer control
Which forbids emotion to take its toll
And tear me to shreds...
Leaving naught but remnants,
Nothing but threads
To blow in the wind
Until one day
My spirit would lead me
Ever away...
Far from the lair
Of self-wrought despair.
I'll build me a fence!
I'll build me a wall!...
A windowless room
That's eleven feet tall!
And there shall I dwell,
A vacant shell...
The only escape
From life's loving hell.
An existence blind to reality
Is merely my mind's chosen fantasy
Of what I would become
If I should come undone.
Yet, in a sense,
It is real and very true...
In my love for the world...
In my love for you...
Sometimes I wish
I loved you more...
But still clench the key
To my heart's door.

Lauren Isaacson
January 1980


It was only yesterday,
And hours before when I,
Without a thought of calories,
Had baked a chocolate pie.

In reflecting culinary action,
Its value I must assess
For in the act of doing so,
I created quite a mess!

Buying property is like peanut butter on bread...
The more peanuts you've got, the better the spread.

PAGE 160

Chapter 21
Twelfth Grade

"One must like himself; self-love is the core from which all else
grows, including the ability to give and to accept."


Twelfth Grade

At the onset of 12th grade, I had found employment at a large
department store where I worked in ladies fashions, hanging merchandise
or ringing up sales on a computerized register.  I worked hard,
thinking of myself as having just one of many thankless jobs in which
the "reward" came only via Friday paychecks.  Yet hard work did pay
off, and my boss had, indeed, noticed.

A comment I had written in February of 1980 read:  Pete came up to me
at work and said, "Laurie, I just want to say that you are a super gal
and a fine employee."

The next line, written as a matter of fact, stated:  I had a hernia.

Compliments can come as a shock when they are not freely given, but
perhaps that is when they mean the most.

Three days later I found he really meant the words he had said when he
changed the work schedule for me so I could go to Mexico over the week
of spring break.

Feb. 29, 1980...  I started crying!  He said, "I'll break my back for
someone who's willing to break their's for me."

It was almost more praise than I could ingest in three days. Almost,
but not quite.

Mexico was a sweet memory, although I would never choose to travel
there again.  A gift from my parents after having studied Spanish for
four years, the trip was educational as well as recreational, and also
proved to be the most enjoyable group experience I had ever known.

The tour led by two high school language teachers, skirted the less
wholesome neighborhoods of Mexico City for our eye-opening benefit.  We
saw rampant filth encircling the street vendors and gutters which ran
foul with the discarded carvings of meat markets.  In such areas a
rotten stench ruled over the otherwise pervasive fumes of car exhausts,
creating what seemed a playground for the generation of a killing
plague.  No one looked surprised as a man ran half-clothed through the
crowd, his hair a matted mass which could not conceal the madness
evident in his wild eyes and hideous grin.

After such sights, a taxi would slash its way into the traffic and
whisk us away on a perilous drive to more hospitable places.  Busses
would carry us to major sights where we viewed the country-side, the
pyramids, and museum artifacts.  We marveled at the splendor of
Catholic churches, caressed by the many offerings of peasants whose
coins beautified the altars and columns with gold.  No where else had I
witnessed such awesome wealth amidst such utter poverty.

One sight which seared my memory was a church wherein a funeral was
taking place.  Undaunted by the mourners, a Mexican tour guide led us
through the church as if death and grief were impersonal matters,
unworthy of respect.  I hesitated at the doorway, not wishing to enter,
then realized that I knew nothing about the city and might find myself
lost if I did not follow.  I narrowed my eyes in disgust for the
awkward situation and, head lowered in a token of sympathy, filed
quietly past the aisles of darkly clothed mourners.  No wonder people
hated tourists; the incident could have been avoided altogether with a
sensitive guide.

Taxco was the most enchanting of the tour's three cities, for it
facilitated a preserved glimpse of old Mexico.  Here the streets
remained narrow corridors of brick, twined up and down the hillside
between stucco buildings like wildly frolicking vines.  Palms soared
toward untainted, blue skies, and red tiled roofs basked in the warmth
of the sun.  Evening was an enchantment, a brief step into the past.
The stars crept slowly from behind their sapphire blanket as the sun's
last rays set on fire the gleaming dome of a church.  As the night
deepened, many of us made our way down to the main street where an
Easter procession was to be held.  There we witnessed a reverent
celebration of faith, silently watching a line of worshippers as each
guarded a candle, sheltering its life as their savior sheltered their
lives.  In a world of uncertainty, these lovely people were content in
their faith; it was beautiful, but it was not for everyone.

The final stop of the tour was Acapulco which most resembled a city of
the United States.  No one scoffed or gestured comically in our
direction at our "different" types of apparel as they had done in
Mexico City; there, slacks were not considered proper attire for women,
nor were shorts for either gender.  One episode in the zoo made all of
us smile when a little Mexican child, curious to see blond hair on a
pair of man's legs, walked up to one in our party, felt his legs to
determine their validity, and then gazed up at him wonderously.

In Acapulco white skin and blond hair was still the exception, yet it
was no spectacle.  Moreover, shorts and "American" attire seemed to be
the rule, which made everyone more comfortable.  Personally, I wanted
to make a good impression or leave none at all, for when traveling in a
foreign country, one may offend without the slightest intention; custom
and language differences can create barriers and eventually, prejudice.
Having encountered one "bad egg" in a dozen, it is far less involved
to condemn the entire batch rather than to survey them as individuals;
certain people are more prone to this attitude than others.  This
apparently was the type of philosophy which ruled an unforgettable ice
cream parlor patriarch, for when five of us respectably waited to be
served at his busy establishment, we finally realized that we were not
being overlooked but ignored.  The man sat motionless behind the
counter with his legs splayed widely and arms folded on his rotund
belly, intently watching the progress made by his employees until one
waitress looked at us and inquired with her eyes.  "Maria!" The
patriarch spat the name with agitation.  "No!"  The girl looked down
and sought another customer.

This was a new experience; so deep was his hatred that it overruled the
typical lust for profit.  We turned from the counter, smiling at each
other.  Once outside we all shared a hearty laugh.  The stupidity of
the situation was incredible to me, for not only had the patriarch's
attempt to belittle and demean fail, but he had also lost money.  I
pondered the scenario, asking myself why it did not bother me, and
concluded that it was because self-satisfaction was of more importance
to me than the manner in which I was viewed by others.  One must like
himself; self-love is the core from which all else grows, including the
ability to give and to accept.  And, in an ice cream parlor in
Acapulco, I found that self-love is also the best defense.

Acapulco was the grand finale of an exciting week; white sand beaches
above a frothy surf, cool draughts beneath rustling palms, tempting
meals and flea market sprees, and a special evening roving the quiet
shoreline after sunset.  It all seemed an incredible fantasy,
especially in retrospect, having spent a week apart from familiarity.
Only one aspect of the days in Acapulco could have been channeled into
a category other than fantasy; after days of careful food consumption,
the inevitable curse of Montezuma fell upon me.  Luckily, I was not so
horridly afflicted that it made any appreciable difference in my plans;
perhaps after so many years, Montezuma's need for revenge had become
less poignant.  Or it could have been the Kaopectate.  Of course, I do
not support superstitious curses as being the cause. . . but when the
affect is of such magnitude, I bear arms to combat the siege.

On Easter Sunday we boarded a jet and headed for Chicago.  Between
shifting positions, stretching, peeps out of the porthole windows and
in-flight snacks, the hours drifted past.  Somehow, the holiday itself
was lost.  I simply was not accustomed to spending spring break away
from home, let alone Easter in mid-air.  It reminded me of the
Christmas my family spent in Florida; I felt cheated even though I had
fun.  My mild depression left with the landing in Chicago, where we
deplaned and motored the remaining distance.

Norm met me in his old Belvedere.  He and his fish car were a welcome
sight as I stepped into the frigid air.  It had even snowed since I was
last home.  This was reality, I thought with a smile.  The trip ended
as suddenly as it had begun, taken in the wintry gusts and buried
beneath the joy of homecoming.  I watched the others as they turned and
whirled, anxiously seeking their families and securing their luggage in
a wild flurry of activity.  This was the world I knew; Mexico was far
away, and soon its memory would be a distant, clouded image, destined
to share only the past.

For the present I shared the glowing impressions in my mind, relating
the vast differences amid basic human cohesiveness.  Despite various
cultures, people remained relatively the same; I thought of the
curiosity of the child and the calculating hatred of the patriarch,
knowing that such people existed in every city.  Well into the night I
rambled excitedly of my experiences abroad, content that I was home.
I might fit in many places, but home was where I belonged.

I was never much of a romantic.  There were inside of me, however,
pieces of idealistic images which, due to their inconsistency with
reality, provoked great surges of duress.  These mental pictures,
depicting that which "should be," stuck in my mind and festered there.
Whether they were derived of societal suggestions or secret aspirations
of my own concoction, I could not tell, yet they were infuriating,
whatever their origin might have been, because of their unattainable
quality.  The latter part of 12th grade was infiltrated by such lofty
ideals, and I had to watch myself closely to make certain I did not
begin to play a role other than me.  "One's senior year," stated the
ideal, "should be a celebration of the past and the future; one's days
should be filled with blissful fun and one's company should include the
steadfast friends made through the course of the years."  I observed
classmates and for some, my ideal seemed their reality.  Deep inside of
me, however, I knew that, in reference to my life, my ideal was a
sinking ship.  I possessed perfectionistic qualities but lacked the
ambition and the need to acquire awards.  For myself I wanted to
succeed.  I did not, however, have to be the best; depending on so many
variables, who could determine what was "best"?

Idly I reflected on my achievements:  two year member of the National
Honor Society, member of the Spanish Honor Society, and placed second
in the school (after a native speaker) for a National Spanish Exam, for
which I received a Spanish Dictionary.  It was not a lengthy or
conspicuous list, but I was satisfied.  I could never live up to my
ideal because I disliked public display; I felt that accepting
recognition would direct undue attention and I would be placed on
trial.  Within the realm of intelligence, I felt myself to be quite
small; knowledge is infinitous, and to claim praise for assimilating
such a minute portion as was encased in my mind seemed unfit.

My reactions, or lack thereof, regarding academic achievement were
greeted by my mom and dad with a degree of chagrin and disappointment.
A child's success is a good reflection on the parents; thus, when I
failed to pose for the yearbook photos which honored Society members as
a group, she despaired that the anonymity of my accomplishments would
hurl me into oblivion.  Had I seen through her eyes the importance of
recognition, perhaps I would have remained after school and posed for
posterity. . . and for my parents.

"Blissful fun" was yet another part of my ideal which had no parallel
to reality.  Fun was not a given property of one's senior year, a
mindless embellishment punctuating the culmination of twelve years of
public education.  Instead, fun was a state of mind, quite dependent
upon one's capacity for having fun.  It was imperative to possess
creativity, openness and fearlessness toward work; bored people were
often simply lazy.

Fun, a highly personal noun, too often was used generically, which led
to overrating certain pastimes and berating others.  The result, of
course, was either harrowing disappointment, or pleasant surprise,
depending on one's particular luck.  There was also the possibility
that one could fake the role of having fun merely because it was the
appropriate response; this, more than any other aspect of my ideal,
ensnared my sense of reality.  I found the power of suggestion,
combined with my mind's ideal, would let me take part in an activity,
pronounce that I had enjoyed myself, and continue to believe such even
after the experience was over; then, in later reflection, I would
realize my pretense and wonder why I had allowed myself to adopt
another's definition of fun rather than pursuing my own intuition.

Such departures from rationality disturbed me, particularly because
they were uncharacteristic; while I often sat steeped in thought or
immersed in dreams, I rarely played out those reflections in the
physical sense.  Furthermore, play-acting was a nuisance because when
such activity resulted in emptiness, it was a sore waste of time.  Free
time was one commodity with which I was rather stingy; therefore I
tried to be selective regarding how the precious moments were spent.
Even so,mistakes were made, and less favorable outcomes became a source
of bitter resentment if I allowed myself to stew in their memory.

Finally, the ideal called for "steadfast friends," created through
mutual interests and communication.  In reality, I had acquaintances,
and I had what I called "friends" for lack of a more appropriate word.
With these classmates, I often felt like a mother, a psychiatrist, or
an impartial listener, entirely detached from the situation at hand.
As the "impartial listener" I lapsed into a role such as I described
earlier; if I faced unpalatable situations or discussions while on
"automatic," I could then tolerate them without feeling undue
frustration.  I voiced no unsolicited opinions, utilizing silence as
a manner of maintaining peace in my world.  Thereby I lost nothing...
nor did I gain.

As high school drew to a close, I no longer felt obliged to analyze
each moment.  Soon all would be different.  The hallways would echo no
sound and store no memory of those who had passed.  Friends would be
lost to each other and acquaintances would fade like early morning
dreams.  Achievements would pave the way toward further education,
jobs, or merely attract dust on a chest of drawers, remembering that
which no longer existed.

I had enjoyed my time in high school as best I could considering the
topsy-turvy state of my emotions.  I had met some fine people and
experienced some genuine "fun."  My achievements were satisfactory and
I felt content that graduation was near.  I did not wish to relive or
prolong high school.  Maybe my ideal demanded too much of life, or
perhaps I was more fully accepting that one's ideal vision of life had
little in common with reality.  I knew only that I wished to pursue a
life unfettered by those wistful images.  It was time for me to begin
closing one door.

After final exams, school was recreational rather than educational.
The yearbooks were distributed and I made a point to sign the annuals
of those with whom I had shared memorable occasions or developed
worthwhile relationships.  For many, the message in the yearbook was a
last farewell.  Some I would truly miss and remember always, even
though they were not persons who had spent time with me outside of

Impressions were a curious phenomena.  I wondered why certain moments
captured my attention. . . the carnation I received on "flower day"
from a junior who had taken notice of me. . . the penny retrieved from
the hallway which my Spanish teacher handed to me. . . an inside joke
which survived two years. . . smiles and humor and craziness.  These
were the ingredients of my foremost impressions, and the forerunners of
memories; these fragmented images would survive outside the confines of
the yearbook, and generate fleeting smiles for years to come.

Graduation was no longer the solemn promenade of grace and grandeur it
had once been.  The classes were large and impersonal, and it seemed
that everyone graduated whether they earned the honor or not; a classic
example testifying that, where there is plenty, there is often little
gratitude.  We wore disposable gowns and caps, with the latter being so
cheaply constructed that all four corners hung down about our heads in
a mockery of pomp and circumstance, creating a group which looked like
berobed court jesters.

Due to the behavior of the previous graduating class, teachers
patrolled the group to assure no items such as frizbees, squirt guns
and bubble blowers made it into the field house.  I was relieved; while
graduation had lost its magnificence, I still did not desire to take
part in a circus.  Aside from our appearance, the ceremony was fairly
respectable.  The various speakers neither rushed nor belabored their

Row by row we stood to file toward the stage.  I felt my stomach pinch.
It was an orderly system; a name was called, the diploma was
presented, then a hand-shake completed the scenario.  My name was
called.  I accepted my diploma, smiling, and proceeded to the principal
to receive a handshake. It was my moment.  Then another name was called
as I paced down the center aisle to my seat.  For me, all was done.
Another name echoed through the field house. . . a moment belonging to
someone else.

In the din and confusion following the ceremony, I found none of my
closer acquaintances.  The swarming mob whooped joyously, rallying
about and shouting their intended destinations.  I suddenly felt the
aloneness I had anticipated, crashing down and separating me from the
flock.  What, for others, would come more gradually but perhaps more
painfully as well, I experienced in an instant.  Such a large crowd,
and yet I knew no one!  Indeed a door had closed.

I gazed at the crowd, dejected and disappointed, then resignedly found
Jon.  We had planned to go out for pizza and "hit a party," but since I
had learned of no parties, the latter would have to be replaced by a
different option.

"So you've grage-ee-ated, kid," he smiled over at me from the driver's

"Yeh. . ." I replied, trying to hide my depression.  "You are supposed
to be having fun," the remnants of my ideal entoned.  I smiled and
spoke light-heartedly, almost in a reflex action, deriving solace from
the fact that the night was still young.

We drove to the shopping center which housed the pizza parlor, noting
that a traveling carnival shared the parking lot with the cars.  My
eyes brightened; I loved those things.

Jon looked at me.  "Let's go on a few rides before eating," he

"Well . . . are you sure?"  I asked.

"Yeh!!  Come on... it's your big night."

I looked at the vast array of neon lights which blinked invitingly,
trying to decide what to ride first.  None of the rides were
particularly ferocious in my opinion, but I settled for the
tilt-a-whirl, a ride which afforded a small thrill.  We seated
ourselves inside the semi-circular capsule and the fun began, flailing
us clockwise, then counter-clockwise, as the capsule raged up and down
on its track.  It was no generous ride; such carnivals rarely endow its
patrons with their money's worth.  The machine grated and clanked to a

After exiting I glanced at Jon, who appeared rather stricken by the
glassy gaze in his eyes.  He also burped repeatedly, suggesting his
stomach had protested to the ride.

I almost hated to ask, "You OK?"

"I'll be all right. . . let's just sit down for awhile."

We walked to his car and leaned on the hatchback.  Several minutes
passed and Jon returned to normal.

"Let's go and eat..." I urged, having no desire to witness a repeat of

"No, no... it's your night.  I want you to have fun.  I'm OK, really."

"I don't know... let's just eat," I replied.

More persuasion.  It was inevitable.

We went on another ride.

It was similar to the first, throwing us up and down in unison with the
squall of hydraulics and blaring loony tunes.  I ventured a look at Jon
and swallowed hard.  His greenish appearance had little to do with the
neon lights.  He began to burp once again as we made our final madcap
spins and slowed to a stop.  "This is not good," my thoughts roared; I
felt rather frantic; I honestly did not wish to think at all, but my
mind would not oblige.

While thoughts such as "Oh, please, no!" raced through my mind, Jon's
stomach began venting its frustration on the parking lot.  Not about to
just stand and watch, I walked a few paces behind him as he made his
way toward the pizza parlor restroom where he could finish the job.

He disappeared into the restaurant and I remained outside, leaning
against the building while various emotions seared my thoughts.
Embarrassment, guilt due to my embarrassment, pity... perhaps a swig of
self-pity... and anger.

"It's your big night, kid."  Yeh.  Sure.

PAGE 167

Chapter 22
Summer 1980

"The Colorado Rocky Mountains were my vision of paradise. . .I felt no
spiritual rift with the universe and no emotional rift with myself. "


Summer 1980

Summertime was no longer the carefree season of my childhood years.  In
addition to employment, I broke a once-solemn vow, taken in early
youth, that forbade me to enlist in summer school.  Since I planned to
attend the local junior college in the fall and Speech 101 was one of
it's graduation requirements, I rationalized that I should take the
class before all else lest I died of fright during a presentation; I
then would not have taken all of the other college courses in vain.
Breaking my oath for the sake of my life did not seem to be a frivolous
decision and, in my mind, undeniably justified the class.

A second reason I wished to take speech through the summer was my
anticipation of smaller classes.  When my friend Steve learned of my
plan, he too decided to follow my lead.  Unfortunately, many others had
prescribed to my line of thought, and Steve and I found our class
brimming with students.

Actually the class was rather fun, especially having Steve as my
comrade.  Together we endured the awkward moments and embarrassment
and, with sparkling eyes, shared the humor begotten of nervousness.
We looked on as the anxious quirks of our classmates became personal
trademarks which would either be overcome in time or rage without end.
Through the class, whether it was my bombed impromptu on "television,"
or Steve's short but memorable sales pitch for "Billy Beer," we
afforded each other an ample dose of moral support, not only surviving
but succeeding.

Again this year summer was a bit of a whirlwind.  A date-book was the
only record of my daily accomplishments, for I seemingly had no time to
write lengthy descriptions of the day's events...or more accurately, I
lacked the fortitude to make time for quiet pursuits.  One might have
said I was too busy to be unhappy, but it would not have been quite

Nevertheless, my date-book overflowed.

June 8... Norm and I went sailing; motorcycled to Loud Thunder.  We had
pizza and beer at the river.  It was nice.

20... Went to Jon's after work.  We ate at Frank's Pizza and then to (a
store) Party at Jon's.

23... 40 hours (of work) this week.  Think of the bucks...

26... I did my first speech... got an A!  Steve and I went out and ate ice
cream afterwards.

30... After speech, Norm and I took the BMW to Galena.  It was a terrific
day.  I loved it.

July 3... Speech.  Work.  Mom and I went (shopping)  Steve and I went to
West Lake.

4... Work.  Jon and I went to (a) nature trail and picnicked, then to the

July 6... Norm and I went sailing on the Mississippi.  He lost my straw
hat.  After supper, we took off with the "kicker" (Motor for the canoe).

9.... (My boss) thought I was lying when I called in sick.

21... Worked on final speech.  Topic:  Stress.

29... Steve wished me well for Mayo trip.  Norm and I took a long walk in

30... Packed suitcase; spent 45 minutes in the bathroom... left for
Rochester, MN

31...Took tests... shopped...Mom bought me a pair of jeans.  Swam for
1-1/2 hours.

Aug. 1... Saw Dr. E. and left.

One might have thought I would have elaborated further on the results
of my examination.  After all, it had been five years since my stomach
operation, and this was my last check-up, the famous "five years and
cured" judgment used by cancer experts.  However, the trips had almost
elevated themselves to vacation status due to the scenic drive and the
chance to swim, dine out and shop, for the tests were familiar and no
worse than uncomfortable.  Of more consequence, though, was the fact
that I did not feel the joyous relief that should have come with E.'s
clean bill of health; I happily acknowledged his statement, "You would
be more apt to die on the highway driving up here than to get cancer
again," but refused to revel in the news.  It was too good, and
accepting it as the irrefutable truth was too risky.

Mom was delighted to hear of the test results, but she too, held
elation in reserve.  It did not seem credible that I was entirely
healthy.  I still grew nauseous after eating and experienced other
stomach-related disorders such as food "Sticking" above my stomach and
gastrointestinal disturbances.  The doctor had no concern over these
symptoms.  My stomach was not what one could label as "normal"; it was
reasonable to assume I would always encounter some problem with it.
Shrugging off the nauseousness was convenient and logical.

I wondered if skepticism was my excuse to undermine happiness; I hated
to think it was an emotion of my own invention, a manufactured
impediment used because I did not desire to be happy.  No, that could
not be!  Emotional reservation was self-preservation at work. . . it
was security, and the rejection of the thought that health and
happiness were inseparable components of living.

Summer relaxation generally came at irregular intervals, disguised as
hikes, canoe trips and motorcycle rides with Norm.  I did not find
total disengagement from my daily cares until two thirds of the season
had elapsed.  A week's time was not enough by my way of thinking, but
it was all I had been given; it was better to be satisfied with what I
had than to waste time bemoaning that which I did not have.

This summer Norm and I decided to vacation together.  Having discovered
that our day trips went smoothly, we had few qualms about spending a
full week exclusively in each other's company, and with high spirits,
set out at 4:00 on a Sunday morning, bound for Colorado.

We were so psyched about seeing the mountains that we drove through the
entire day and into the evening.  When we finally decided, about 7:30,
to find a motel, the choices were "limited" to "nonexistent," so we
forked out $20.00 for a ram-shakle room.  Thinking our chance of
finding a decent restaurant would be slightly better than our luck with
motels, we tried to locate the town's business loop.  After discovering
the two traffic signals and skirting the streets in both directions, we
gave in to our hunger and raided a 7-Eleven, which would have been
closed in fifteen minutes.  Securing some lunch meat, milk, and a can
of pork and beans, we drove back to our humble room, intending to heat
the beans on a portable gas stove.

The gas stove would not light.  "It had performed famously at home,"
Norm insisted, feeling somehow betrayed by the inanimate object
sprawling before him.  At least our choice of food could be eaten cold.

Norm picked up the can of beans and retrieved a can opener from a sack
of utensils, clamping it on the can like a pro.  The can galloped
'round and 'round, but failed to open.  Outraged, Norm flew at the can
with a metal punch, flailing and prying with a vengeance until a jagged
opening would accommodate a spoon.

It was not what we had in mind, but it was a Sunday evening in a small
town.  We stayed up for awhile, blinking at a show on television.  I
felt reasonably content, but Norm stole glances at the traitorous stove
ranging from malice to disbelief.  "Man!" he kept repeating, "It worked
at home." I couldn't help but smile to myself; he demanded so little of
life, but on that night, even the smallest favors had been denied.
"Poor Norm," I thought.  He was more discouraged than I!

Aug. 4, 1980... Got a great little kitchenette.

We were enthusiastic.  $20 per day or $120 per week bought a basement
level, two room, paneled unit, complete with garage-sale dishes and
pans.  The toilet was elevated on a step to assure that it would flush.
It also boasted a relic radio and a T.V. with poor reception.  The
best things about the place, though, were the river which rushed
several yards from our door and the ability to procure frozen pizzas
from the friendly owner, Marion.  After a day of rigorous hiking, I
would ask Marion to heat a pizza and she and I would talk until the
pizza was ready.

I felt sorry for Marion.  She was a widow who tried to keep the motel
intact for her guests despite rising costs and the continual threat of
delapidation.  The place was in disrepair, but having little help,
change was more of a dream than a possibility.  She had endured
hardship in life; she looked poor, but with dignity, not despair.
Marion accepted things in a manner which encouraged trust, making
herself welcome company and her motel a homey place to stay.  On one
visit, I happened to mention that Norm was my brother.  She accepted my
statement with unparalleled grace, although it was obvious by the
glimmer in her eyes that she did not believe a word; she had seen too
much to swallow that story.  Having nothing to hide or defend, I let
her believe what she would.  With or without proof, one believes what
he wants to believe.

"That's it!"  Relieved of our luggage, the trunk appeared to have been
disemboweled.  I slammed the lid and turned around to see one of the
other guests intercept Norm as he strode toward the car.  "Hi, there,"
the man bellowed.  "See you've got a Dodge Dart, too.  Got two of 'em
at home.  Darn things just won't wear out... " Within the passage of
five minutes we knew more about him than either of us cared to know.
And we hadn't even asked.

"Come here every year," he stated.  We also learned the man delivered
mail for his bread and butter; he was married and had kids.  There was
something very unpleasant about the man, apart from his obnoxious flow
of conversation.  He was the type of person who was oblivious to his
own abhorrant characteristics, a man who would drown his victim
unwittingly and not realize that he had died.

When I thought the conversation could grow no worse, his eyes took on
an eerie glow and he related to Norm the events of one of his past
vacations, wherein he and several relatives traveled to Montana.  From
a previous trip, I knew Montana was a state resplendent with ground
squirrels, and had enjoyed feeding them on one memorable occasion.  The
man, however, found the animals satisfying for quite a different
reason; he, his son and another man spent an afternoon gunning down
approximately 400 squirrels.  It was a lavish affair which had afforded
him pure delight; his excitement over the reckless slaughter was
complete and shameless.  He had done some ranchers a great service, he
raved.  As he blasted away, I am sure that service was the last thing
on his mind.

I gritted my teeth, glad that none of the conversation had been
directed to me, while Norm, visibly unimpressed and equally disgusted
by the man, inched toward the car.  Fortunately, the man's wife
appeared from the darkness of a motel room and we were spared further
discussion of the ground squirrel Armageddon.

"Be seein' ya'," he offered.

"Yeh," Norm's tight-lipped response almost had to be cranked from his

Pulling from the motel lot was a relief.  "Now there is a guy who likes
to kill," I said.

"Yeh," Norm replied.  "A good ol' boy. . . nothing like blowing up a
few rodents on a weekend..."

The sheer number of his kill was enough to astonish, yet more
disturbing was his unrestrainable enjoyment of the event.  There was no
nobility whatsoever in his action, for no one had asked for his
assistance or solicited a need for a specific harvest of the animals.
Certainly the grazing cattle injured themselves in rodent holes, but
killing aside, the man took no interest in filling the holes in the
line of duty.  Thus, amid hundreds of bodies, the real menace remained.

In context of need, hunting was natural, but when utilized as an
outlet, a fulfillment of the need to kill for its own sake, hunting
terrified me.  I voiced my sentiments to Norm and we wondered aloud
about the possible outcome if no such outlet was available.  How would
the killing need be vented?

We drove into the park and experienced the reminiscent awe of the
mountains.  It was unparalleled beauty.

After twisting through the pines we pulled off the road at a scenic
turn off and roosted atop a pile of boulders for the rest of the
afternoon.  Occasionally a timid chipmunk would appear, nervously
twitching its tail until our presence caused it to scoot behind a rock
or bush.  Once again, the sadistic mailman crossed my mind, and I
wondered how the Colorado rodent population would fare.  With luck, he
had left his arsenal at home.

The Colorado Rocky Mountains were my vision of paradise.  Their immense
proportion, viewed against the surrounding pines, deluged my senses
with an all-encompassing wholeness and an aura of well-being.  No other
place produced such an effect within me; I felt no spiritual rift with
the universe and no emotional rift with myself.

I could not understand the stop-and-start tourists who drove through
the park simply to justify their bumper stickers; or those who, at a
scenic turn off would jump out, peer over the railing and pronounce,
"Nothing special here" if there were no chipmunks to feed.  They wanted
artificial, invented forms of entertainment.  If there were no buttons
or knobs to pull, no tour guide, nothing that spoke to them through a
speaker or took them on a ride, the place had no significance.

Whirlwind tourists rarely ventured onto any of the trails, or if they
did, seldom walked further than one mile.  Since all social amenities
had to be packed in, few sight-seers prepared themselves for adversity
of even the kindest temperament.  They generally had no poncho, wore
heeled shoes or sandals, carried no energy food, and of course, no
water.  Once their mistakes were evident, they wasted no time retracing
their steps, trundling down the trail with parched mouths agape and
pouting loudly for the lifestyle they had momentarily misplaced.  Norm
and I generally encountered these people on our return from a long
hike; since our trek had begun early in the morning, we avoided the
afternoon rain and completed our hike long before the sun dipped behind
the mountains, washing the surrounding land in darkness.  When I saw a
"typical" tourist attempting a hike while toting a radio or blandly
surveying the scenery, I realized how different I was... and how
thankful I was concerning the former statement.  I knew also, that if
it were not for the differences in people, I could not revel in the
solitude that was mine to enjoy.

Our days in the mountains were excellent.  The rain never lingered,
leaving the nights clear and cold.  We often returned to the park after
supper to drink in the darkness and listen to the wind dance in the
pines.  Apart from society, but for an occasional passing automobile,
we felt delivered, not deprived.  Cool winds swept through the
silhouetted trees and curled between tight crevasses, producing a
melodious rhythm which conjured the impression of silence.  The noise
of society was stilled in tranquility.

By daylight we roamed the trails, packing our essentials and my camera.
I never hoped to confine the actual beauty of nature on film, but
toted my camera as a pictorial diary.

Photographs had become my favorite souvenir for their dimensional forms
recalled statements attesting to one's destination... they were almost
like eyes into the past.

Aug. 8, 1980... Sandbeach Lake (a 4 mile hike).  It was gorgeous.  Got
sunburned.  Felt great...not tired at all.

Our last hike was to Sandbeach Lake, which was nestled in the high
country at the end of a rigorous trail.  I label the trail in such
terms because it did not simply travel upward; it repeatedly involved
many declines as well, thereby creating a hike which was as difficult
upon returning as it was at the outset.  However, despite the evils of
the trail, the lake was a reward more than adequate; it was a rippling
sapphire wonder clenched in the palm of the mountains.  Its white
shore-line was hemmed by gnarled, yet dignified pines, while the cold
and bloodless splendor of Long's Peak presided over all things, living
and inanimate.

After reaching the lake, our day was spent lolling about its perimeter
as a cool breeze modified the naked heat of the sun.  The place seemed
a virtually untouched remnant of land; we assumed the lake's crystal
water was no less than pure and wholesome, and without hesitation,
drank our fill.  As the numbingly cold liquid ran into my cupped hands,
it brought back memories of mountain streams and the unspoiled lakes of
Minnesota.  Such draughts were ambrosiac delights.

When the sun began its westward descent, we regretfully pulled
ourselves from beside the lake and shouldered our packs.  Both Norm and
I had come to view my legs as unstoppable, but my energy level after
such a trek was a surprise.  As he prepared to rest his legs following
supper, I suppressed a grin and asked if he would like to take another

"Noooo. . . " Norm moaned in obvious protest "We've done enough, you
dummy," he asserted, one eyebrow cocked above the other.

"OK," I smiled, having received the expected reaction.  We often
bounced our known foibles off each other for the purpose of mutual
amusement.  He was not mad at my suggestion, nor did he think me dumb;
consequently I never expected an affirmative response and would not
have pursued the issue because of its illogical quality.  Besides. . .
he was bigger than me.

Aug 8, 1980... Both of us are feeling sorta' sick.  Probably from
drinking lake water yesterday.

It was a bitter pill, but it had to be swallowed.  The lake must have
been the culprit.  We knew that pools of water were more questionable
drinking sources, but Sandbeach appeared pure beyond question.  It
would have been easy to say "Things just aren't what they used to be,"
but more likely than not, a passing animal had polluted the water
previous to our consumption and we were victims of chance.

By evening we felt much better and prepared the car for our early
morning departure.  Before trying to indulge in some restless sleep,
however, we drove to the park and made a final circuit of our favorite
scenic views.  I branded the magnificence into my mind so I could later
return to the mountains in envisioned thoughts.

At 4:00 in the morning we were off, drifting down the black road which
wound silently through the mountain pass.  Above, rocky sentinels
observed our progress, their formidable figures etched against the dark
mat of the sky.  As we coasted deeper into the rocky crevasse, the
stars receded into the morning light, bowing to the far greater sun
which sought dominion over the earth and sky.

With the coming of dawn, the spell of silence was broken. and we gained
relatively flat land.

"You know," Norm said, "Once I leave, I can't remember what the
mountains look like; I just can't see them in my mind."

I was glad that I could; I possessed a hoard of images for reflections.
Unfortunately, though, mental pictures could not be shared.

Aug. 9, 1980... Drove straight back. Norm didn't feel good.  I helped
him get downstairs and all.

It was a long shot, to be sure, but by the time we hit Des Moines, it
seemed ridiculous to check into a motel when home was a mere four hours
away.  We kept driving.

We rolled up to an empty house since Mom and Dad were still on
vacation.  Opening the door a certain stagnancy assailed our nostrils,
proof that no one had disrupted the air for days.  It was home,
nevertheless, and a few brisk passes and several gusts of wind sucked
through the screen windows dissipated the stillness within minutes,
transforming the house into a breathing creature once again.  I was
happy to be home.

Upstairs I found Norm seated on his bed, his eyes unfocused and
restless.  I stopped and he looked up at me.

"I feel strange. . . it's hard to describe.  Nervous and out of touch."
His appearance made me wish I could hold him, shelter him from some
undefinable evil.  When I asked if there was anything I could do, he
wanted me to stay and talk; far more than all else, he did not want to
be alone.  I sat down on the twin bed opposite Norm's; later he decided
to watch television, so I brought his pillows downstairs and made
certain he was comfortable.  After awhile, he announced that he felt
better, and I rose to go upstairs.

"Thanks," he said "I'll stay up a little longer."

"Are you sure you're OK?" I asked.

"Yeh. . ."  The fear and bewilderment had gone, leaving a rather placid
figure to stare at the television.  Despite his stature, there was
something about Norm. . . an innocence... a vulnerability... that gave
him a child-like quality; and within myself, something instinctual made
me alert and watchful of his needs.  Involuntarily, I always kept an
ear peeled for Norm; I never asked myself "why " and it never seemed to

Aug 15, 1980... Went to (the mall) with Mom.  Got china.

Before summer's end, I was able to realize a dream I had maintained
since I was 13 years old; Dad submitted to my desire to purchase a set
of china, regardless of the fact that it would be in the attic for at
least several years.  I was elated, after five years.  I still liked
the same pattern, and I simply wanted to buy the pieces while the
pattern was readily available.  The rich, coffee hued plates bordered
with muted gold vines would one day bring further enjoyment to my
dinner table.  I wondered when I would first use them. . . in an
apartment, to mark the beginning of a new job?. . . or in a house,
the first meal prepared for a husband. . .

Mom and I carefully packed the dishes in their boxes and I watched as
Dad pushed them, one by one, into the depths of the attic.  How could
such a plan be a mistake?.

Aug. 22, 1980... Rehearsal dinner with Steve.

Mary, one of my first playmates, was about to be married.  It was no
shock, she had dated the same young man for eight years.  The only
comment that seemed to abound concerning the event was,  "It's about
time!"  I had no qualms toward the success of the marriage, for if they
had not seen the myriad facets of each other's personalities by now,
they were either blind, deaf and stupid, or extremely keen actors.
Personally, I believed in them entirely.

I asked Steve to accompany me to the rehearsal dinner, and to my
delight, he accepted the invitation without hesitation.  He was my
first choice and, in my opinion, best suited for the occasion.  Not
only was he personable and well-dressed but he knew the bride as well
as I did and would have no difficulty engaging in conversation with
the other guests.

Aug. 23, 1980... Mary's wedding reception 'til 12:00.

It was a lovely summer evening, and as one of three bridesmaids, I felt
elegant strolling down the aisle in my peach gown and picture hat.  The
wedding progressed smoothly, with no disruptive children or sideshows,
thus ending a veritable storybook romance in the typical style.

Once the ceremony was over, several neighbors and friends remarked
that, dressed as I was, I looked like a bride; indeed, after such
processions, I could not deny that I heard my own imaginary wedding
bells.  Situations like these were a jaunt from the ordinary, and
indulging in a bit of personal fantasy seemed a natural benefit.

At the reception Steve and I enjoyed ourselves on a grand scale.  The
food and drink and dancing were merriment of the finest proportion, and
we hovered at each other's side throughout the night.  Those who did
not know us thought we were married, and although I over-step the
bounds of modesty, I do believe we made a fine pair.

After the celebration, I held more memories to carefully tuck away.
Mary would not be living on 7th Avenue any more.  I suddenly felt a
million miles from trikes and trinkets and Barbie dolls.

PAGE 175

Chapter 23
Black Hawk College

"Change. It seemed too simple to be the cure for depression;
nevertheless, a cure it was. "


Black Hawk College

When fall classes began at college and I found myself on the inside
looking out, time was once again a rare gem.  Balancing a full load of
study in one hand and what had evolved into a hateful job in the other,
I soon found myself nervous beyond all levels of acceptability.

Some people thrived on activity, and the more deadlines they had to
meet the better they performed. I did not.  For me, school in itself
expended plenty of effort, and with the added pressure of my job,
wherein I now had to work at a newly installed, central cashier island,
I watched helplessly as my sanity wore away.  The new system was
chaotic and inefficient; two cashiers had to meet the demands of
patrons who congregated on all four sides of the island.  There were no
numbers or lines to assure that customers were served at their proper
time, and special sales from the surrounding departments were never
clarified to any reasonable extent, leaving us to distinguish
"bargains" through catalogued stock numbers and tips from the customer.

Under such slow procedures, anger and pandemonium were the routine
terrors of employment.  My desire to please was a virtual
impossibility.  To the public, "I was the store" and any disagreeable
feature of the store or its policies were doused on me while the upper
echelon stood beaming at a safe distance.  "You'll get used to it," one
particularly brash fellow would comment as I propped myself up on the
counter after a long and grueling siege.  Then he would spin around and
walk leisurely to the escalator while I gritted my teeth in silence.  I
am sure he was responsible for many "bitten" tongues through the years.

When I was relieved of cashier duty my nerves were as taut as a
bow-string, and to dissipate my energy, I would zing about the
department like an arrow to its target.  I hung clothes and arranged
the stock with such speed that an onlooker might have thought I was
competing in a marathon.

Once home, I still could not relax.  Homework, if any, demanded my
thorough attention after work, so I  would routinely plug in the coffee
maker and brew twelve cups of caffeine.  With a warm mug in one hand, I
was able to perceive with intelligence the content of books and write
themes which otherwise might have dissolved altogether through the
debilitating numbness of fatigue.  When I had completed my studies to
my satisfaction I allowed myself the liberty to prepare for sleep.

"Going to get your four hours?"  Norm would tease.  Actually, it was
more like six hours.  I am sure my body would have preferred eight.
However, the caffeine had the ability to bluff my body's requirements
and I happened to need all of the waking hours I could reasonably
obtain.  Thus, six hours of sleep plus twelve cups of coffee equaled
one day of maximum level performance.

Unfortunately I failed to acknowledge the existence of hidden parts of
the equation which, in reality, were the most important regarding its
successful outcome.  One could not give 100 percent of himself toward
all areas of demand; there would be nothing left.  Before realizing
this concept, I fell into the hole that I had been so intent upon
digging; having depleted myself, I stood alone at the bottom of the
pit.  My confidence was no longer a staff, for it had crumbled on my
way down.

Thereafter, little I did was worth any merit; it should have been
better.  Self-satisfaction was almost an impossibility, so I tried not
to direct notice.  Even when I appraised myself in the mirror, I saw
only pounds that needed not thrive on my body.

Sept. 14, 1980... Work 12-4. Not a bad day. Pizza for supper. I gotta
lose more weight.

I was very depressed, yet so busy that my depression had taken on
emotional nuances of its own before I took the time to utilize
objectivity and see my problem.  Meanwhile I had erected many of the
building blocks of an anorexic; though I wished no attention, I felt
emotionally "small" and naturally turned to dieting as a means of
attaining physical smallness.

What had begun with scrutinizing my body before a mirror and weighing
myself at least twice a day blossomed into an obsession.  I became an
expert on the subject of calories, reading every article and scanning
every chart to ascertain that my daily intake of food never exceeded
my minimum requirement.  If I ate too much, I turned to exercise as a
partner to dieting.  Indulging in a late night snack would make it
necessary to burn the calories before bedtime, and I would do 45
minutes of leg-kicks and lifts to alleviate the guilt of eating.  I
even encouraged a nervous state within myself to burn more calories at
work.  I began to view diet pop and coffee as alternatives to eating
without feeling physically deprived.  The caffeine helped me to retain
energy without having ingested a bulk of calories.  I also lied to
avoid eating.  If Mom told me to take some meat, I would say I was not
hungry and would eat it later.  Later, of course, never came.  I
stopped accompanying my parents to restaurants to better adhere to my
diet plan, not trusting myself when faced with a tempting menu; my
supper would then consist of a bowl of lettuce and one half of a glass
of milk.

When the subject of dieting became my favorite topic of discussion, I
realized I was not simply trying to lose weight; my compulsive behavior
did not originate from the thought that I was over-weight, but rather
something far greater that I had chosen to ignore.  I studied my
obsession and grew fascinated by it.  Never before had I given such
power to an emotionally derived fixation (except perhaps picking my
nails into virtual oblivion; that, however, was a habit, not an
obsession, and had no authority over my common sense).

After its discovery, I looked upon my fanatic dieting as a "willful
distortion of reality," for I knew what I was doing.  As if toying with
or testing myself, I allowed my emotions to "feel fat"; since I was
aware of the irrational view of myself, I perceived that it would not
rule me and I was in no danger.  Something within me made it impossible
to lose control.  I was fortunate; I was able to understand, indeed,
feel the terror of an addiction without personally submitting to its

I was curious to find the strength of this radical self-perception and
how long my rationality would tolerate its existence, as it certainly
affected my life on a daily basis.  It happened that I allowed my diet
to carry on until I weighed 115 pounds, at which point my parents, Norm
and several friends were truly worried about my thinness.  Crazy though
it was, I continued, emotionally speaking, to view myself as
overweight; rationally, however, I knew I was too thin, and not
desiring to be a source of concern for my loved ones, decided the diet
had proceeded long enough.

Yes, the diet would come to a halt.  However, there would need to be
additional changes in my lifestyle to combat the underlying problem.
Because I had allotted ample time for self-observation, I pin-pointed
my problem as having stemmed from physical and mental exhaustion.  Also
to blame, but initially less apparent, was an evasive need for freedom
and personal time. . . which had always eluded my control.  I was
trapped between asserting a nasty declaration of independence and
submitting entirely to those who would rule my time; total conqueror or
total prisoner seemed my only alternatives, and disliking both, ignored
the issue.

Returning to the more obvious realm of change as dictated by
exhaustion, my first act of healing was to quit my job.

The results were marvelous.  Even before I was actually through working
at the store, I found the strain had been lifted from my mind.  I was
flooded with relief and realized that, for months, I had not emanated
such happiness.  Previously, I reflected, happiness only came in the
form of doing something for someone else.  Thinking about myself
brought a sense of disgust and the need to deny myself of life's
pleasures.  The greatest compliment I could have been given at that
time was, "You're so skinny!"  If I heard comments in just suggesting
that I was in any way overweight, I would still take them seriously;
Norm caught on to my twisted thinking and quickly began calling me
"Hair-on-a-stick."  It was a name I loved. . . and one that aged with
me, although I never again turned to such destructive means of abating

Ode To The Furnace

A groan,
A rumble,
The furnace turned on,
But my heart nearly stopped!

Lauren Isaacson
January 1981


The flight
Of the owl...
Vise-like talons
Stifle life...
The ceasing
of breath.

Lauren Isaacson
January 1981

The Endless Vigil

Step carefully, now,
For a house never sleeps;
Beware of the hallway...
The second plank creaks!
The stairs to the basement
Will yawn in dismay
At the touch of a stranger
Tiptoeing away.
Hush!...not a word
Near the southern most vent...
(On revealing one's presence
This house is bent!)
For an echoing message
Will rumble and shout;
"Someone is here,
Of this there's no doubt!"
Step carefully, now,
For a house never sleeps...
Quietly whispering,
A vigil it keeps.

Lauren Isaacson
January 27, 1981

Change.  It seemed too simple to be the cure for depression;
nevertheless, a cure it was.  Not all changes would be as easy as
quitting a job or dropping a class; I would not allow myself to be
fooled by my relative success regarding the cessation of dieting.  Some
changes, I realized, would hurt myself and others, and these were the
ones that would deal with my freedom. . . my time; they would be the
most important changes of my life, and to forever avoid these would
lock me in an unhappy state of being. One day I knew they would be
faced, for to deprive myself of happiness would be a deprivation of
growth, and life without growth would be worse than death. Thus, before
growth's stagnation, change.

Mar. 15, 1981... I can live, love and laugh because I have known my
emotions; I have experienced ecstasy as well as depression.  Serenity,
though, lies midway between the high and the low.

I was staring thoughtfully through the windshield. "I think maybe the
reason I can't make decisions is because I lack confidence, I guess."

Norm glanced over at me from the driver's seat, his eyebrows
punctuating a look of disbelief.  "Man," he said, "That's great!"
enjoying the moment to its fullest.

My statement had rolled from my lips with unflinching honesty.  It was
a gut analysis, a spontaneous reaction that could not be retracted once
spun into words.  I shook my head.  "It's pretty pathetic, isn't it?" I
laughed. It became the joke of the month between us, made more
humorous by the fact that it was true.

For the most part I was able to enjoy  life after quitting my job.  My
anorexic tendencies slowly disappeared and I turned my attention away
from food.  School was my only real obligation, and though I applied
more pressure to various assignments than perhaps was necessary, I was
satisfied with the final results because I knew I had done my best.  I
found that certain subjects made me come alive with interest, and while
self-confidence remained low, confidence in my school work increased
rapidly.  Occasionally I dueled with guilty qualms when I was indulging
in recreational activities because I wondered if I had studied enough.
Rhetorically speaking, however, by what measure and under whose
authority is "enough" determined?  Norm, more than anyone, helped me to
see the necessity of "letting go". . . of saying, "enough!" and turning
my back.  He felt little obligation which allowed him to do as he
wished; when his emotional well-being was at stake, few people could
alter his stance.  He spent time as, and with whom, he desired.  If he
chose to be alone, he made sure no one interfered with his intention.
At times Norm's reactions unintentionally hurt the feelings of others,
yet his sanity remained intact; he knew his limits, and made certain
they were never reached.

I, on the other hand, would plow headlong into a doubtful situation at
the expense of my emotional well-being, to avoid hurting another
individual's feelings.  I would endure intolerable people and ready
myself for the asylum, while the person rattled on and thought well of
me.  After his or her departure, Norm would be responsible for finding
a putty knife and scraping me off the ceiling.

It was no secret between me and myself that I despised a fight.  I
controlled anger with a fervor, frightened that I could not defend my
position if the recipient of my vehemence chose to see red.  Quite
removed from anger, though, I could not even wage a modest war against
the persuasive tactics of those who would pirate my wish for solitude
or guarantee myself "equal" time in a conversation; if I was not
blessed with a fair companion, my desire to spend time alone was rarely
respected and my views were seldom heard.  How was it possible to say
"no" without being hounded until my response was "yes"?. . .or claim my
share of the conversation without rudely interrupting with,
"shut up!"?...

I hated to hurt people; I once had a hard time hanging up on a prank
phone call.  Nevertheless, I knew I was still slightly depressed, and
until I was able to defeat my lack of aggression, I would continue to
be haunted by the weakness and resent those who dexterously wielded the
power of persuasion over my head.

During a sociology course based on the family, students were given
various choices for extended study beyond those areas covered in the
classroom discussions and book reading.  Because I loved to write, I
decided to keep a journal of my personal views on relationships.  As I
had previously discovered, writing helped me to clarify my emotions in
a logical and systematic fashion; knowing this, I looked upon the
assignment quite favorably.  It had been some time since I had last
spilled the contents of my mind onto paper, and an assignment dictating
that I do so granted me the time I needed to pursue my beliefs in depth
and reflect on personal experiences and observations.  This assignment
would be no waste of time.

I rarely ventured anywhere without a note pad and pen.  When I was
enlightened by relevant thoughts or glimpsed feelings that pertained to
my journal entries, the note pad would suddenly appear and I would
scrawl viciously until I had captured the idea in permanent ink.  Soon
I possessed a hoard of ideas and encapsulated thoughts which would
serve to fuel the concepts expressed in the journal itself.

PAGE 181

Views on Choice

". . . one's self can be either his best friend or in selfishness,
his worst enemy."


The normal human mind is to be used; primarily it allows man to
survive.  It then allows an immense capacity for growth, and a
definition of values toward compatible co-existence.  A child grows to
adulthood, and similarly, his brain and thoughts are able to mature;
he can choose between instinctual selfishness or attempt to view life
with a broader scope, thereby improving the world he touches by
improving himself.  The more the mind grows, the more humble its
"master" becomes, for he realizes that knowledge is infinity and
infinity cannot be encapsulated in the human brain.

It is not enough to say simply "we are what we are," for although there
are certain aspects of one's personality which, I feel, are
unchangeable, I must also believe that man has a certain amount of
liberty over his actions; yet possessing that mental freedom, man also
is capable of perverting both instinctual behavior and societal
standards of conduct.

The ideas of right and wrong are generally clarified for each person by
his elders when he is yet quite young.  Even those with learning
disabilities and those who are not severely mentally retarded have the
ability to distinguish between socially defined "good" and "bad"
behavior.  When children grow into adulthood, it is difficult to view
wrongdoing as simply "bad behavior," much less "acceptable"; one has
been taught to think, and then to act.

Even when the environmental aspects through one's youth are considered,
certainly the expectations of behavior and conduct are taught in the
school; the child cannot say he was not aware of the societal rules,
despite any lack of respect for those rules in the home.  Each
individual possesses a mind of his own; he is free to act upon or
disregard negative pressure.

Saying evil occurred due to environmental pressures is, perhaps,
today's way of avoiding the issue of bad and good behavior, blaming
life's circumstances for immorality, instead of facing the fact that
the person made a wrong decision of his own accord.  Those who
continually blame other people and circumstances for their personality
disturbances gain little respect, for one can choose with whom and in
what manner he desires to spend his time.  Exceptions shall always
exist, yet often a grand problem can be reduced by making select
changes in one's  life; changes such as a transferal from a tough job
situation, or the decision to stop interactions with a "friend" who
truly is not a friend.  People must be responsible for their own
actions, although it is always easier to blame, to utilize a scapegoat.
It is virtual music to the ears to hear someone in this age admit that
he has made a mistake or has done a grave disservice to humankind.

The environment argument robs each person of his individuality, for if
one cannot be punished for wrongdoing then he cannot be applauded for
decent behavior.  It would be as if one was a robot, devoid of
character, and stripped of choice.  Furthermore, the fact that two
children from the same environment, indeed, the same home, can grow to
be complete opposites in character, subtracts environmental importance
regarding one's disposition and life choices.  It is not so much the
environment as the manner in which one reacts to it that forms one's

There are countless choices in life; whether to lie, or tell the truth,
to cheat or be fair; whether to be unresponsive or kind, to give or,
like a child, demand constant nurturing.  Then, of course, there are
degrees of tolerance regarding the enactment of distasteful traits and
illegal practices.  While a minor may snatch a bottle of liquor and
proceed to intoxicate himself in the woods behind his house, an adult
can legally indulge, yet will then climb into his car and drive
haphazardly to his next destination; an under-aged drinker, and a drunk
driver...both are illegal, but for me there is no contest as to which
is the worse offender since the "adult" drunk is jeopardizing lives
with each block he passes.

When other crimes are committed, such as mass slayings and violent
attacks upon innocent victims, insanity is often utilized as a way to
avoid severe punishment.  While certain individuals may well be apart
from reality, surely not all of those who claim insanity are, for they
knew exactly what they did, as well as the implications and seriousness
of the crime.

When an apparently mentally intact adult commits such a brutal
violation of the societal code of conduct, it is difficult to
rationalize his behavior as acceptable by way of insanity; certainly he
exercised a choice, worsened by the fact that he was an adult.  He did
not use self-control; though he felt murderous, he did not have to act
upon his impulse.

If an individual was bound inextricably to a fore-fated disposition by
(God) then his actions would prove nothing as to the man's character...
that is, his inherent ability to choose right over wrong.  If God
undertook the creation of a perfectly "good man," in so much that he,
the man, was incapable of doing evil, the man could not receive
applause for his acts of good will because he essentially had no other

In conversations with my father, he often offered an inquiry for
discussion as to which man is essentially the "better" of the
following: a non-drinker who, without the slightest twinge of anxiety,
refuses a drink, or the alcoholic who, fighting desperately, also
refuses a drink as sweat forms upon his brow.  My father could always
come to the conclusion that the non-drinker was, in essence, the weaker
of the two described since he felt no temptation in the first place and
could not be congratulated for a decision which created no mental

The above analogy could be substituted in many arenas of human
weakness.  Though the degree of temptation toward wrong-doing varies
among its subjects, I believe the most courage and fortitude of
character is demonstrated by those who are able to rule their impulses
and seek the road of a clear conscience.  A battle won with oneself
against injustice will always remain a noble endeavor; one's self can
be either his best friend or in selfishness, his worst enemy.  There
are times in everyone's  life when two or more choices present
themselves for inspection; and it is not always easy to choose the
ethical course of action, yet for those who are mentally aware of
themselves and the people who share their world, there should ideally
exist only one choice, the benevolent choice.

It will never be possible for one human to completely judge another's
character, and likewise carry out justice on earth.  Even if the
committers of crimes are punished, justice will not come to the victim
who suffered the loss or trauma.  The victim's pain can recede, but it
cannot be washed away.  My mother told me once that when she was a
little girl, she thought God would strike down evil people, and they
would one day fall over, dead and benign.  It did not take long for her
young eyes to see that life was not that way.  However, one can,
perhaps, derive a small amount of satisfaction from hope vested in
"ultimate justice" and the idea that a being far greater than the
greatest human is able to detect one's truthfulness and the depth of
his knowledge of right and wrong.

PAGE 183

Views on Awareness

"An individual who is not one with his inner core cannot hope to give
of himself fully, for his mind encompasses only his life, and not life
itself. "


The inevitable passage of time, varying levels of maturity, and our
life experiences are all elements which, in part, have the power to
change our outlook on life and alter our personality; it is yet the
mind, however, which fully determines our reaction.  To illustrate this
point, allow me to create the following scenario; two women, both of
whom enjoy a life of queenly leisure, are one day forced to face their
husbands' untimely death, thereby obliterating a prime factor in their
story book existence.  One woman, quite distressed, solemnly prepares
for her husband's funeral arrangements.  After the initial shock of his
sudden departure from the earth, she is able to settle into her daily
routine once again.

The other woman, however, is completely unable to accept the solid
truth that her husband is dead.  She pines remorsefully through each
day and wearies her friends with her incessant lamentations.  So
obsessed with the mourning of her late husband is she, that she
eventually falls into deep depression and seeks the aid of a

Thus we have seen two instances which have had numerous circumstances
in common, yet the manner in which the women reacted to their
misfortune was markedly different.  This leads me to believe that an
individual is essentially who he will ever be at birth, excluding, of
course, those accidental occurrences which mar and sometimes obliterate
certain abilities of both mind and body.

Despite my belief that a person will be essentially unchanged from his
mental and behavioral patterns as determined at birth, there is within
each individual a certain ability to change; however, the potential
must be there.  One cannot become someone or something for which he
lacks all foundation.

That which allows an individual to overcome the reins of selfishness
and base behavior, and to grow toward the best image of himself is
awareness.  It is the key to change and self-improvement, and through
these qualities I believe it also sets one free.

Awareness is not easily given to definition, having so many variables
which shroud its very essence in obscurity.  It is more than one's
perception of the world; it is also the ability of an individual to
view himself with objectivity and in turn, understand the way in which
he is visualized by others; it is seeing the world through an eagle's
eyes, and conducting oneself in such a manner as to avoid injuring
humankind; it is demonstrating respect to one's neighbors and
associates in a way which is conducive to nature's intent and societal
congeniality.  It is the ability to know when the time is right to
voice one's opinions and when, also, to remain silent; it is
restraining habits in the presence of others which are discourteous or
distracting; it is conducting oneself in a manner respectful of himself
and the whole of society, for without the benefit of the unselfish, the
world could not exist.

Unlike other aspects of ability, awareness is not a factor which is
easily determined.  This is so because there is no scale by which to
calculate awareness as there is in dealing with educational acuteness.
Moreover, awareness does not necessarily reflect intelligence; one can
be extremely intelligent yet possess no sensitivity regarding his
conduct.  To further add to the confusion, everyone feels himself to be
aware of his actions; while some undoubtedly control every aspect of
their personality in public situations, others feel as if they are
perceptive, but conduct themselves rather distastefully in the midst of
others.  Once alerted to their actions, they are able to alter their
behavior.  Still others continue to demonstrate highly irregular
behavioral patterns even after candid instruction, for they feel their
actions are in no way peculiar, and are not hesitant to say there is no
reason for them to change.  Then, of course, the true victims of
insanity are not responsible for their actions, for reality has become
distorted and vague; the same is true of mentally retarded individuals.

Just as every human being has mental and physical potentials, so, I
believe, do we have an "awareness potential."  In all things there are
degrees of performance and capabilities which are instilled within us
long before birth; these seeds can sometimes lay dormant until,
perhaps, the need arises for their use or they are, in effect, stumbled
upon by their master.  Though we may well attain our potential in a
certain area, whether it be consciousness toward societal behavior or
an inexplicable hatred for the mathematical language, there are other
mental and physical arenas which are seemingly boundless in regard to
one's capabilities; I tend to think of these as one's "natural gifts"
which apparently grow with little effort on the part of the individual
thus endowed.  We are not created equal in the mental, emotional, or
physical sense; we do, however, excel in various facets of each.  Thus,
while its presence alone determines if one can change, the amount of
one's awareness is the controlling factor of how much one can change.

Through observation and extensive thought, I have reached the
conclusion that any obsessive self-indulgence or selfishness is merely
a hollow attempt by the individual thus incensed to fill an emotional
void.  Self-love is quite separate from self-infatuation, with the
latter lacking all objectivity in thinking because all thought is
mirrored toward oneself.  Selfishness is an insatiable hunger which
consumes far too many individuals; as with all obsessive emotions, it
feeds upon the imprisoned mind, destroying the love and replacing it
with malignant desire, resulting in no less than hatred.

No one can read the mind of another, or delve therein for the
truthfulness of his statements or actions.  Only the individual knows
whether he is giving his best or if selfishness is the controlling
power behind all deeds.  I do feel, however, that one who displays a
knowledge of all restrictions and codes of conduct regarding another's
rightful behavior toward himself is also capable of returning respect
and cordiality, for obviously he is aware of societal expectations.

When a person is aware of his faults but makes no effort to change, he
is a leech upon society which drains others of their rightly earned
freedoms, whether as simple as desiring a yard bereft of dog litter or
the wish for tranquillity, or as significant as the right to security
and peace within the home.  He who takes from society without returning
something of himself gains the regard of no one.  One determines the
way in which he shall be treated by his self-conduct; respect begets

The person who indulges in selfishness is a most distressing companion;
he demands rather than asks, and will not take "no" for an answer; he
is opinionated and short-sighted, seeing only the effects a certain
measure will have upon his own welfare; he feels he knows everything,
and will be pleased to fill one in; if he listens, he will misconstrue
the information or turn it around to suit himself.  One unwilling to
change himself looks only to his own needs; he is unable to release his
child-like mentality for fear that he shall not receive "his share";
riding abreast of laziness, rebellion, resentment, or another usually
child-like mode of behavior, he locks himself in a prison which he
himself built.  Indeed, he would be pitied if he was not so abhorred;
yet it is unfair to expect a share of the harvest if one has not also
planted seed in the field.  Thus instead of attempting to discover the
true problem behind his emptiness, the self-centered individual often
ignores his mind's plea for help and tries to fulfill himself through
that which others will give, creating a most devastating hindrance
toward personal growth.

One must develop his mind to the point that he can love and accept
himself, and regard his flaws not as hopeless, but rather, attributes
which, with growth, will be overcome.  Only through undiluted awareness
can one develop wholeness of character.  An individual who is not one
with his inner core cannot hope to give of himself fully, for his mind
encompasses only his life, and not life itself.

While awareness allows one to discover his faults, honesty clarifies
them.  Looking into one's own character can be unpleasant and even
distressing, for there is no one who does not wish to erase certain
mindless inclinations and base emotions from his personality slate.
However, without the initial realization and acceptance of such faults,
no reversal shall take place.  It is through these confessions to
oneself that one is able to grow and eventually change into a being
more worthy of his own existence in the realm of nature.  I view
honesty as a product of love.  Therefore, honesty toward oneself must
be of utmost importance in the development of self-love and the
creation of inner wholeness.  In this scope, perhaps it could be said
that irrationality is an attempt to "mask" selfishness, for few who act
toward the benefit of humanity will inflict upon it needless pain.  For
the most part, only thoughtlessness proves injurious to the masses.
Just as it is important to nurture one's character, so is it imperative
to see the whole character and weed from it that which desires to choke
and plague its life and surrounding lives.

I believe that each individual desires to be liked by his fellow man
and have a sense of "belonging" . . . (although certain individuals so
desire companionship that they succumb to the notions of others and rob
themselves of a personality).  They want to possess a feeling of
individuality, and be accepted for who they are and wish to become.

Far from perfect, I realize that I could use an infinite amount of
improvement within my character, and despite the menacing flaws which I
must face, I feel quite fortunate to be able to acknowledge them, for
without detection, they could not be overcome.  I hope that I will grow
in strength and love until I no longer live, for when inner growth
stagnates, one essentially dies.

Soul's Voyage

Alone, I observe
In the eerie glow
The earth-bound voyage
Of falling snow.
The trees are all clad
In angelic white...
Such calm I find
On this midwinter's night!
Framed by the door,
'Twas the picture of peace
And earnestly beckoned
My soul to release
That I might lose myself
In night's deepest confines,
Ne'er to return
To life's dismal design.
My heart would not yearn,
Nor would it pine
For a life that was lost
To one more divine.
Ah, but alas!
And how the night flies
From dawn's icy fingers
And wind's bitter cries!
'Twas naught but a dream:
The night gone by
When moonbeam rays
Kissed snow-drenched skies!
Ah, cruel memory!
Disparaging blow!
For my hopes are consumed
'Neath the deepening snow.

Lauren Isaacson
January 1981

PAGE 187

Chapter 24

"Owning a healthy sense of self-worth was not immodesty
but protection against vulnerability. "



Jan.--Feb. 1981... I am a loner, used to spending time alone ...
I dislike a lot of contact...

....I am a listener, although not always by choice...

....I think a lot... contemplate life (and) death.  Is there such a
thing as thinking too much?

. . .I know myself through observations and experiences and my writing.

Writing is sometimes the only means through which I can express myself,
for I found that, being a listener, I usually help people more than
they do me.  I perhaps begin, but more often than not, I fail to say
what I set out to say.  I wonder if this makes good relationships...all
ear and no mouth.  (But) I feel better giving than receiving.

...One must be receptive, or the relationship cannot last.

...The amount one discloses about (him) self is oftentimes parallel to
the amount of attention given (to him) by the partner.  If one listens
with the intensity of a brick wall, it naturally follows that the other
will be less likely to express feelings in other situations...he feels
shut out.

...He is the chief voice in the relationship.  (He) says he will listen
to me, but unless I talk in an unending flow until I'm finished, he
breaks in with a response and continues to elaborate upon it until I
have virtually forgotten my thoughts.  I have found short, powerful
phrases the only means to convey my beliefs at times...or reading my
personal essays and poems to him.  Sometimes I feel small . . . I am
unable to make myself heard.

Feb. 1981... Although a relationship is composed of a great deal of
sharing and companionship, the need for privacy must be respected.
Each individual needs to maintain a firmly established sense of
identity to fully give of that self.  Grow side by side and learn from
each other...two vines cannot grow on one tree lest they strangle their
support and eventually, each other.

...I find it most exciting to discover someone and watch him grow in
his understanding of life.  I could not live with myself if I felt I
was purposely attempting to mold another individual to fit my
perception of the "ideal mate."  I once told (my boyfriend) that I
would rather break up with him than change him, for propensities which
I found disturbing would be virtually non-existent to someone else.  He
has as much of a right to live and love in his own way as I have.

...The friendship which (he) and I share is invaluable and
irreplaceable.  Perhaps it is because I place no supreme importance on
romanticism that our friendship is my deepest gratification.

In another composition, I wrote these words:

I look not for the ideal because idealistic individuals are often quite
disappointed when their "key" is ultimately bigger than the "lock."
Instead I give my best and accept life as it comes.  My concept of
happiness consists of satisfying the mind to achieve emotional
stability.  I try to look to each day as another chance to grow in
knowing myself and my world.  My "ideal" would include a total
acceptance of life and a perfection of love.

During that period of time, I also expressed with morbid cynicism my
inability to dissuade a friend from his use of marijuana.  The poem,
although somewhat disturbing, projects my hostility toward a habit
which claimed sufficient importance that it continued despite my open


Is life (for you)
So dull and meaningless....
Is it so necessary to escape,
To drift from reality,
To pull away
From summer's soft and fragrant breeze,
And mold into a being
Which is not yourself
But rather,
Some distorted orb of existence...
If you so desire
To kill yourself,
Draw your plans...
Burn the grass...
Blow your charred breath
Into the baggy...
And pop it.
Be daring.
Your loss of life
Seems so indifferent.
Why not go out with a roar,
Like the coming of March,
Instead of this infernal,
The suspense is killing me,
And I'm ready for a good show.
I'll applaud...
I'm a good and experienced audience.
I'll be intent (as you)
On your motive.
Can't you get it over
So I can go home,
As usual,
And take off my clothes
And my make-up
And roll my hair...
So I can play Bozo
In the great show
Called Life
That never ends
Except for you, my friend.

It was evident in my writing that I harbored discontent.  Perhaps this
was because I had recognized the elements and images of good
relationships.  In my written kaleidoscope, I contrasted
generalizations with personal experiences; I was aware of what I wanted
in a relationship of romantic nature and knew that my current
relationship did not have the capacity to fulfill those
characteristics.  I had been trying to forcibly extract romantic
inclinations from within myself and adhere them to primarily platonic
feelings.  I was not blind; in the brilliant sunlight, I had seen
reality, but rather than facing the light or turning my back, I had
simply chosen to wear sun-glasses to cut down the glare.  For a time it
had been the easiest solution; now, with a certain degree of fear,
I knew I could no longer deflect the truth.

For several months I continued to drift along, contemplating life's
moments and my reactions to them.  I had been letting life "happen"
without becoming involved in the decisions that were at least partially
mine; self-confidence had withered, robbing me of my voice and my
ability to decide how my time would be spent.

Toward the end of spring, my personal analysis bloomed; although the
flowers, my conclusions, were not delicate things of beauty.  I found
I had transformed into someone who I disliked, feeding on a tremendous
wall of resentment.  Since I was not strong enough to simply
discontinue the romance, I began to create areas of conflict, tempting
him to argue or basting him with his faults.  Knowing that he generally
avoided disagreements at all costs, I tactfully asked questions for the
purpose of testing his genuiness of character and individualism.  I
tried to induce friction to see when and if he would take a stand, yet
he never would.  I began to wonder if he possessed any opinions of his

Needless to say, the time we spent together was not joyous for either
of us.  I grew irritated at little eccentricities and habits, sometimes
with good reason, and on other occasions, without.  Even simple
companionship, which I had once valued, became a victim of the blighted
romance; as he sought to do everything in his power to maintain the
romance, stressing that our problems would pass, I strained violently
against his intentions with the hope that our relationship could
deflate to the status of friendship.  It was a battle that neither
wished to lose and blazed ever more intensely through the days because
nothing was lost or gained.  I was unable to walk away and he refused
to shake my hand.  There was no room for compromise.

May 30, 1981... West Lake.  Doubtful...thought (he) and I might break
up.  We just sat on the blanket in silence, and then I went over and
picked a wild rose and brought it back.  I showed it to him.  "It has
thorns," he said.  "Some of the prettiest things have thorns," I
replied.  "I know."  He squeezed my hand.

When summer came I felt the relief of having no obligations.  Time was
my own, logically, but I had to laugh at the thought.  "Who are you
fooling?" a voice cackled from somewhere.  I mused for a second and
then became annoyed.  "You don't refuse him calls and dates, because
you are afraid of hurting him, yet, when you are together, you display
few loving qualities!"

By harboring such hostility, I was hurting both of us.  I began to
realize more damage was done through seeing him than if I would collect
myself and entirely pull away from the relationship.

He did not want to let go, that was a given.  I needed more time; that
too was a given.  In one last attempt to stress my needs, I asked him
to grant me three days of complete solitude, during which time he would
not call or visit; after some argument, he agreed.

Time was a gift, and the first and second days were marvelous.  I was
alone and it felt wonderful.  The third day, however, brought duress
via the mail; unable to let go, he sent me a letter.  I was decidedly
angry, considering the letter a breach of promise.  After all I had not
asked for much.  Three days.  It had not seemed an unfair request.

Disappointed, I folded the letter and returned it to its envelope.
Some things in life seemed so impossible. It was ironic that, through
various ways of caring, people could hurt each other so badly.

The following events changed my outlook on life toward the positive,
which at the time meant an improved self-image.  My parents had noted
my lack of confidence and perceived it was a marked impediment.
Without an agreeable opinion of oneself a person cannot hope to lead a
full life; fear of failure precedes and echoes every step, eventually
leading to emotional immobilization.

Out of exasperation for my warped self-image, Mom took matters into her
hands and enrolled me in a charm class, acting upon the theory that a
woman's confidence was directly related to her appearance.  I objected,
but Mom insisted that I go.  Thus, with reluctant steps and an uneasy
stomach, I drove to my first class.

Students were challenged to enhance unique features with which they
were born.  Rather than criticizing oneself, the emphasis was on
improvement.  This involved a thorough evaluation wherein one's traits
were honestly viewed, after which a commentary was meticulously written
for the instructor.  Every student was given an individual make-up
consultation, and as a weekly assignment, we were to come to class
wearing make-up and proper attire.  We learned the correct way to walk,
sit and gesture, and were instructed concerning hair care, manicures,
diets and exercise.

The most beneficial aspect of the class from my point of view was
learning. . .or perhaps simply remembering. . . that no one was
perfect.  Moreover, vanity in carefully measured doses was not
frivolous; beauty dealt more with the ability to project one's inner
self than painting and displaying the surface characteristics.  Though
it may sound shallow, the compliments which I received in class by my
instructor were the stimuli I needed to reinforce the image reflected
in my mirror.  For the first time in months, I felt good about who I
was on the inside, even though I had to begin my "renovation" on the

Toward the middle of July I was able to escape in every sense of the
word when Norm and I took our second vacation together.  I knew the
week would grant me time and distance required to objectively view my
troubled "romance."  The trip meant a chance for both fun and

We stayed, once again, in the basement level unit of last year's motel.
Upon entering, we quickly noted that no changes had been made.  The
same relic radio still graced the dresser, and the same avocado crushed
velvet bedspread sagged drearily to meet the worn carpets covering the
floor.  It was somehow a pleasant sight, albeit the fact that the place
desperately needed attention; I guess it was like a worn out pair of
tennis shoes, ugly yet be-loved for the sake of the mileage and
memories which they represented.

The following morning, as we strode toward the car, we truly felt at
home when we noticed the sadistic mailman of the previous year busily
engaged with Marion.  We looked on with amazement.  The one undesirable
factor of last year's vacation had reappeared!

Hoping to escape recognition, we quietly loaded the car while he jawed
away, absorbed in his story of the hour.  We might have slipped from
the parking lot had it not been for Marion's eyes flicking repeatedly
from him to us.  We both had one leg in the car when a huge bellow
resounded from his direction.

"Hey! Weren't you the folks with the Dart?"

We felt as if responding with a "yes" would be an admission of guilt
for some heinous crime.  "We were the ones!"  Norm replied, pulling
himself into the protection of the car and starting the engine.  My
brother was artfully combining politeness with perpetual motion.
A brief exchange ensued as the car rolled slowly backward from its
parking space, then a shift into low gear signaled that the
conversation had ended.

"Catch ya later," the man yelled after us.  He never did.

Five days dissolved, one into the next, until the week's peaceful
interlude came to an end.  The time had allowed my emotions to rest and
my mind to clear.  Questions which I feared to answer now appeared to
have lost their malignancy, and I had gathered the courage to enact the
unsavory business of breaking up.  Nothing would dissuade me; my
decision had been made and its certainty felt like the cool breezes in
which it had been developed.

I came home feeling revitalized and cleansed.  Nature's splendor,
Norm's companionship and time to enjoy for its own sake; these were the
aspects of life which, for me, made it uncomplicated and full.

With my decision firmly planted I was a changed individual, and it was
obvious to my boyfriend that the summer would not bring us closer
together.  Confidence helped me to overcome his heartiest attempts to
reroute my intentions or confuse my thoughts and within days after
returning from Colorado, I did what we both knew was inevitable.  As we
parted, I was drowned in sorrow. . . for myself and for him. . . and
although confidence helped to dispatch a prompt conclusion to a
floundering relationship, it did nothing to absorb the pain which
accompanied such an end.

Breaking up hurt.  It had to hurt.  I knew I had done the right thing;
like a canker, my resentment festered when in his company.  I finally
cared enough to let go.

I remember that night so well.  We had stopped at a playground to rest
on the swings after a bike ride.  I was feeling quite detached and
spoke very little.  When the summer sun drifted from view, I stood to
mount my bike, and he rose to receive the customary good-night kiss.  I
offered my hand as he approached, leaving no doubt that the romance was
over, but he would not accept a platonic relationship.  He was not
ready for that; I could understand, but I would still miss him.

"Well, I guess you'll never see my black pants," he stated, reminding
me that he and his mother had gone shopping earlier that day.  Why did
he have to say that?  "Never" was so permanent.  I felt tears well up
in my eyes and cloud my vision, and pushing off into the gathering
darkness, I realized that I may never see him again.  For years he had
demanded much of my time; now he was rejecting all of it.  No, there
was no compromise.

I pedaled home, half-blinded by tears, then rushed upstairs to my room
to hurl my frustrations onto paper.  Writing was the release that I
needed; I had to ask myself whether or not I had done the right thing.
Three pages later I was satisfied that I had, concluding my written
rampage with, "I think I'll make some bran muffins."

The rest of the summer was spent as I wished, and admittedly took a
degree of adjustment on my behalf.  Such a wealth of time was alien
to me.

As always, freedom had its price.  Mine was lost companionship, and I
did experience lonely moments, for he had been my principal friend as
well as my boy-friend.  Generally, however, I remained content with my
decision.  Not only had my ability to follow through with an important
decision multiplied my confidence, but I was no longer haunted by the
knowledge that I was hurting another individual or trying to ply him
into something he was not.  Moreover, as a loner, free time was most
often a luxury; the rare occasions of actual loneliness were remedied
through the former, positive facets of my ultimate decision.

I excitedly enrolled in the charm school's other class, which taught
the skills necessary for one to become a model.  Regardless of my
eventual aspirations, I assumed that the class would prove enjoyable
and fulfill the educational side of a glamorous dream.  My intuition
was accurate and I loved every minute, from performing turns and poses
to working with a photographer for my own photo session.

When the class came to an end, the proprietor invited me to her office
and offered me a cup of coffee.  Saying that I showed promising
qualities, she bid me sign a contract with her firm for local modeling
opportunities.  I was stunned.  My portfolio had turned out quite well
and I had fostered little anxiety in the class, yet such a display of
high regard was a powerful and pleasant shock.  Her offer bridged my
loftiest hopes and without hesitation, I accepted the contract.

If humans could fly, I surely would have soared home that day.  I felt
so good, so whole.  There was nothing that could impede my sense of
freedom; no one would make my decisions or steal my time.

Owning a healthy sense of self-worth was not immodesty, but protection
against vulnerability.  I knew I could bestow kindness and still be
shunned, or honestly state my opinion and draw hateful criticism.  The
difference was confidence.  In many ways, life seemed too good to be
true... too good, at least, for me.  I could not stop suspicion from
seeping into my mind; even Norm and Mom professed to be rather leary
toward harboring too much optimism.  Unadulterated happiness and good
luck appeared in fleeting glimpses for our family, and to feel
differently now was too risky.  I therefore enjoyed my newly acquired
good fortune with humility and wary disbelief.

All good things come to an end, and summer's end paralleled the
beginning of my second year of college.  I felt different that year,
quite ready to welcome new opportunities.  Looking back, last year's
memories recalled a vision of myself trying to breathe through a
plastic bag while striving to function like a normal human being.  Now,
constrained neither by the depression spawned of unfaced problems or
subdued emotions, the world appeared as it should; I had drawn out all
of the hob-goblins that my mind repressed, and scourged them.

Several weeks into the fall semester I received a letter from my
ex-boyfriend.  Briefly informative and somewhat impersonal, I
considered it a peace offering and a suggestion that mild relations
could resume between us.  I was pleased.  We knew each other's likes
and dislikes, and had spent many recreational hours together; his
casual friendship would be a pleasant addition to my good luck.

Deciding that enough time had elapsed since the rending of our
emotional ties, I wrote back to him, honestly defining the hurt I had
experienced and how hopeful I had been that we could one day be
friends.  After posting my letter, I heard from him again, almost
immediately; his exuberance toward restoring a relationship was
overwhelming, and it was plain that the direction he wished to take was
unlike that which I had mapped.  A definite knot swelled in my stomach;
I did not want to relive that which had transpired between us when we
were last together, and I nervously asked myself, "what have I done?"

In typical style, I suffered for awhile, drenching myself with worry
until I sought my notebook to disentangle the hoard of thoughts that
had just constricted my rationality.

Aug. 5, 1981... Is it wrong to have a friendship wherein one of the
involved parties is highly romantically bound to the other, who is
not? . . . Is it wrong to relish each other's company, ruled by the
standards set by the individual who is not involved whole-heartedly?
All of a sudden I feel I have greatly wronged him by writing back...
Is it right to call someone to be your friend, and date him, but
constantly keep him at bay?  I somehow feel that I am the bait and the
holder of the pole, while my "friend" is kept running in pursuit.

It always helped to see my problems in the black and white form of ink
strokes on paper.  Perhaps I was unrealistic to believe that two people
having such different intentions could maintain a healthy relationship.
I would not fret about it, I decided with determination, nor would I
tolerate a reenactment of last year's folly.  As long as I remembered
that days were made up of individual minutes, I had no reason to burden
myself with worry over that which had not yet come to pass.  If I
controlled the minutes, the hours, days and months would surely take
care of themselves and cause no pain, for as I had written in a
journal,  "I can't stand to hurt anyone any more."

Beginnings and endings, life changed continually under their influence.
Autumn 1981 seemed rich and alluring, a virtual invitation to walk in
the sun.  In a diary entry dated over one year later, my memories of
that time were sweet.

Nov. 3, 1982... My life was beginning to come alive...  From an
experience with cancer five years before, I was given a sharp taste of
the harsh brutality which is an innate, but sometimes overlooked,
characteristic of life.  I viewed life as highly impermanent, and
believed that it was too short to spend one's precious time playing
games of popularity and prestige.  What mattered was feeling...
experiencing... life to its fullest without marring in any way the rest
of society.  Modeling I saw as a potentially exhilarating encounter,
which, like all facets of one's life, would inevitably come to an end.
Carrying this baggage of values upon my shoulders, I felt entirely
prepared for success or failure, and intended to propel myself toward
modeling at full throttle.  I had no idea that the end would so soon be
upon me...

PAGE 195

Chapter 25
Return of Cancer

"To reverse the feeling that I was the query in an unfair hunt, I had
to establish for myself that I had complete control over the situation."


Return of Cancer

It was October and my classes were well under way. Seated at my
favorite table with books and papers sprawled casually about, I was
studying for an exam between frequent sips of coffee and sight-saving
glances around the room.  I looked down at myself and tried not to
think; the striped sweater I wore readily acknowledged my asymmetrical
stomach, even if I did not.  Whatever it was had not gone away.

Several days earlier I had noticed a certain lopsidedness to my stomach
region, but not desiring to worry, assured myself that it was
"indigestion complicated by gas" and would, therefore, "pass."  The odd
part was that it did not pass, and staring down at my stomach it was
still readily apparent.  "Maybe I've always been like that," I told
myself.  "After all I did lose three-fourths of my stomach."

I must not have convinced myself, however, because when Norm and Dad
rumbled down the stairs, I asked them for their opinions.  As each took
his turn interpreting the portents revealed by my striped sweater, the
other would say, "Call the doctor if you're so worried."

I had to agree that it was better than speculation, so I picked up the
phone and dialed the doctor's office.  His nurse, a brusque, dominant
figure, answered.  I had always been rather overwhelmed by her, and in
my currently agitated frame of mind, sputtered out my name and request
as would an army private to his platoon drill sergeant.

"Dr. is on vacation," she stated.

"Uh, could I see the other doctor?"  I asked as my emotional ball of
string unraveled a bit further.  I only wanted to see a doctor; it did
not matter who I saw.  I just had to know that I had no physical

"Lauren, Mayo Clinic is where you should go."

"But I just wanted someone to take a look. . ."

"If you have a problem, you should go to Mayo..."

"But... can't you?..."

She would not even schedule an appointment.

I had been mildly concerned about myself; now I was in a state of
mental pandemonium.  I hung up the phone as tears singed my eyes and
the lump in my throat multiplied to twice its original size.  The
nurse's staunch refusal to see me was like receiving an impromptu death
sentence, and implied that mine was most certainly a problem too great
for a family doctor to handle.

I had not prepared for such resistance and blunt pessimism, but perhaps
tact and sympathy were only smoke screens when one's prospects were
assumed to be dim.  The two emotionally soothing elements surely did
nothing to right a physical wrong; maybe she honestly felt that she was
doing me a favor.

My thoughts, nevertheless, went on the rampage after the startling
conversation, and in no shape to make further calls, I gladly accepted
my Dad's offer to call Mayo Clinic for me.  He immediately phoned to
schedule some tests and a consultation with my former oncologist; only
then did my frustration wane.  Unconfirmed suspicions were bad enough
without the additional terror of being denied a chance to search for
the truth.

My new plans for the coming weekend made various cancellations a
necessity.  Apart from school, I had accepted an in-store promotional
for cosmetics through the modeling agency and also intended to visit a
friend at college, where Halloween festivities were reportedly quite
arresting.  Re-routing my plans was a disappointment, but I had to ease
my tormented mind; excitement seemed to be raining down on me in
buckets, and added a different aspect to the expression "when it rains,
it pours."

The sense of urgency which had initially wrought such havoc upon me was
squelched by the upcoming clinic appointments, and the week progressed
without further turmoil on my behalf.  When Thursday arrived Dad and I
packed ourselves into my car and rolled out of the driveway toward the
unknown answers that we sought to find.

For the first time, Dad and I were traveling to Rochester on our own.
Because I was having a routine set of tests for a symptom that, as yet,
possessed no form or definition, Mom was going to remain at home and
teach her kindergarten classes.  I had no objection to this, since the
entire trip was based solely on the paranoia which sprouted after my
questionable discovery, and frankly I was beginning to feel rather
foolish for even mentioning it, let alone pursuing my suspicions.
It could be anything. . . or nothing at all.

"It's not stupid if it puts your mind at ease," Dad consoled.
I felt better when he said that.  The last thing I wanted to be
was a hypochondriac.

The envelope of appointment cards held nothing that sounded
catastrophic.  There were cards labeled "blood tests" and "chest X-ray"
as usual, and one card that read "cat scan," I stared at the last card
with latent skepticism.  The name itself held no malice; with luck, the
test would prove to be painless as well.

The cat scan, I later discovered, was another means of taking an X-ray,
and with this knowledge, felt sure that I would live to tell about it.
As it was my final test, however, I could not help but wonder if it was
worse than the rest; I had noticed from previous experience that the
more detestable prodding, poking and outright sampling of one's body
was reserved for last, which was appropriate, perhaps, since a main
event was always the biggest fight.

I sat in my dressing room, musing over the test's infinite
possibilities until I was retrieved by one of the generically-attired
clinicians and led through radiation wonderland to a room housing a
huge device.  A circular opening in the machine appeared to devour the
examination table on which I was instructed to lay.  This was, indeed,
something new.

Once inside the room, the door closed and the technicians scattered.
I watched from my spot on the rigid table as some people milled about
the machine and others remained attentive from behind what resembled a
sportscaster's window.  One young woman began to prepare my arm for an
injection, so I smiled and seized the opportunity to talk.  I always
felt sorry for the staff at clinics; daily they received undeserved
abuse from bitter or frightened patients, as well as a significant
amount of mute apathy.  I wanted to disprove the possible thought that
all patients had the personality of cold oatmeal. . .and I wanted to
know just what the test would entail.

"Does that hurt?"  I motioned my eyes at the machine's jowl, which
stood agape slightly above my body.  The woman shook her head and told
me to remain very still as the final adjustments were made.

"Is this all there is to it?"  I asked, referring this time to the

"Sometimes a patient has to have two types of injections, but you
probably won't..."  she said.  Her pleasant tone eased my mind and
instilled trust, much like a friend would have done.

Suddenly everyone disappeared to the observation window and the lights
dimmed.  A series of instructions were broadcast from the window and
then the machine came to life, clicking off pictures of my insides as I
held my breath for dictated intervals.

When the lights flashed on, the woman came to my side again.  She told
me it would take a few minutes to know whether or not my X-rays were
satisfactory, so we ventured into a trivial conversation until the
results were determined.  Activity resumed shortly, signaling  that a
verdict was at hand, so the nurse departed, only to return with an
apologetic look on her face and equipment for an IV in her hand.

"I'm afraid you're going to need more X-rays," she said.  "The doctor
needs more contrast."

Bad news is a strange concept.  It is something one considers but
seldom prepares for; even life's most inevitable pain and indignities
are not taken  personally if they remain hidden from view.  Everyone
knows that he will age, but until the strand of gray or sun-kissed
wrinkle appears, aging itself can be ignored.

"The doctor needs more contrast."  The statement entered my mind and
closed a door.  Up to that moment I did not know if anything was wrong.
Now I knew, and like a 30-year-old who found his first gray hair, was
not surprised.  I did not live in fear of losing my health and
happiness; when one deals with each day, he needs not prepare. . .
he needs only adjust.

I returned my attention to the needle that was about to be inserted
into my arm.  "Does that stuff have any effects?"  I asked.  She smiled
at me and hesitantly said, "Well, we're told not to mention this, but
sometimes patients say they can taste it and those who have had
chemotherapy are psychologically affected by it and want to vomit."
I knew what that meant, and holding back a grimace of displeasure,
said that I had experienced the effect she described.

"Thanks for telling me," I continued.  "I hate not knowing what to
expect."  If I was anticipating the worst, the test's actual pain and
discomfort did not seem so bad.  With the needle in place, the nurse
turned to me and said, "I hate to have to stick needles into nice
patients like you."

When the solution began to drip into my system, I felt my stomach
perform an involuntary flip-flop.  The hateful taste and sensation had
not changed and I had to wage an intensely conscious battle against a
powerful urge to gag and rid myself of the distasteful invader.  After
receiving a compliment such as the one just given to me, however,
vomiting was unthinkable.

Once again I found myself beneath the scanning X-rays, wondering if the
second search would uncover any answers.  If so, I would be enlightened
when we met with Dr. E.

The only information I was able to extract from the consultation was
that I had an enlarged liver.

"An enlarged liver?"  I spoke the words with a hint of amusement.  For
me this was a great curiosity.  Liver was something most people refused
to eat; beyond that, it was of little importance.

Apparently there was much I did not know about the body's dire
necessity of the liver, but the doctor said nothing and accepted my
light-hearted reaction without comment since he was unable to provide
further information anyway.  Testing had proven inadequate; beyond the
enlargement, he remained mute regarding the possible interpretations of
the X-rays.  Perhaps he did not wish to instill premature fear by
offering stab-in-the-dark diagnoses.

It was clear to me that I had no option but pursuit; a liver biopsy,
scheduled after the consultation, would hopefully solve the mystery.

I was nervous.  My anxiety could not be shaken, for the thought of a
biopsy engendered memories of the bone marrow test, a test which I
vowed never to take again.  What terror had I willfully agreed to
undergo this time?

It was a relief to hear my name called on the loud speaker; the time
I'd spent in the waiting room was of no benefit to my peace of mind.
I could think of nothing else but unbridled pain, and mulling over
such thoughts tended to have few positive effects.

After disrobing and donning a hospital gown, I was led into a waiting
room used by other patients and soon began a conversation with an older
woman who also had an enlarged liver.  Over the fact that she was
enlarged I did not argue, however, I could not resist asking myself how
much of her enlargement actually had to do with her liver.  Whether her
mistake was due to self-deceit or a lack of awareness did not matter;
concern and uncertainty were two elements we shared, and we wished each
other luck as a nurse ushered her from the room.

I spent a brief while surveying the floor before I was called.  A nurse
directed me to a room and instructed me to lay down on a hard examining
table, whereupon I was left in darkness for two hours before a doctor
arrived.  Meanwhile my state of mind deteriorated rapidly as I listened
to the sounds emanating from the surrounding rooms.  Most were only
voices trailing off into the maze of corridors and finally disappearing
behind various doors of anonymity.  However, with my mind housing its
unarrested and nameless fears of the forth-coming biopsy, other sounds
were transformed into horrendous tortures, the likes of which I would
surely undergo.  One such fanciful flight of imagination was set off by
the unimpeded verbalizations of an old man whose room was across the
hall from my own.  Since my door was propped open, I had noticed him
sitting in his wheelchair and muttering complaints or idly sucking his
gums.  Eventually the door closed and his tests began, leaving me to
interpret the activity behind the door through his vocalizations.
There were garbled grumblings, which I had expected, but then groans
replaced words and I began to worry.  They were awful.  They were the
cries of horror shows and nightmares, scaling a full octave and
attaining a tonal quality which rivaled professional sound effects.
I was impressed; so much, in fact, that my stomach had managed to tie
itself into a perfect knot by the time the doctor arrived.  I appraised
the old man's throaty outbursts as the sound track to a liver biopsy.

Luckily I was wrong.  Whatever were his trials, whether real or
imagined, they prepared me for optimum punishment, to which I was never
exposed.  Although I was horrified in my solitude and misinformation,
perhaps my final opinion of the test's severity was buffered by the old
man's wailings.

After my long wait, the nurse who had initially shown me to my room
entered, and finding me lying in the darkness, flicked on the lights
with a round of apologies.  She explained the unreasonable delay was
due to an inability to obtain the CAT SCAN X-rays.  Generally Mayo's
system worked quite effectively.  Considering the large scale of the
facility, I was amazed that things ran smoothly at all.

The X-rays and doctor arrived in unison and the test commenced after a
brief series of questions on my part.  Naturally, I desired to know if
it would be painful and was informed that it "could be."  I was then
given a local anesthetic and braced myself, recalling that the pain
killer did little during the bone marrow test.

"Did that hurt?"  the doctor asked.

"What do you mean?"  I countered.

"I've taken the biopsy," he returned.

"What?"  I was astounded.  "I didn't feel anything!"  The doctor
instantaneously became my best friend.

I remained on the table to await the results of the biopsy which had
been whisked away to the laboratory.  Since the doctor had to judge his
targeted area through the X-rays, there was no guarantee that he would
hit an affected portion of the liver; if the lab reported finding
normal tissues, the doctor would have to try his luck once more.

As my luck would have it, another biopsy had to be taken.  If that one
failed to produce answers, my condition would have to be determined
through alternate means; cutting into the liver, as in a biopsy,
created the risk of hemorrhage, and therefore limited the number that
could be performed at one time to two biopsies.

The doctor posted my X-rays on the light box and studied them intently.
I wondered what information he drew from the strange transparencies;
the X-rays told me nothing at all.  If I had not known it was my liver,
the mottled shape would have been no more than a nameless abstraction.

"Are livers supposed to have spots?" I queried.

The doctor shuffled his feet for a few seconds, then admitted they did
not.  I guess it was a stupid question, especially since the elusive
spots were the intended targets in the test, but I had to know all of
the available facts.  The truth was my comfort and my ally; it was the
cure for fear born of ignorance.

The second biopsy was also determined normal.  After the long day my
knowledge was still limited to the fact that my liver was enlarged and
spotted; it was information, but it did not satisfy.  To Dad the normal
tissues found in the biopsies were good news; i.e., if biopsies in two
different areas were clear, I could not be seriously afflicted.  To me,
however, the findings punctuated the necessity for more tests and
promised to prolong the unhappy state of emotions which accompanied a
dearth of solid facts.  Thus, as I laid on a hospital bed waiting as
instructed for four hours to protect myself from internal bleeding, and
having worried excessively and learned relatively little from the
former expenditure, I could not look upon the day without thinking of
the expression "much ado about nothing."

Relatively little testing was done at Mayo over the weekend, so my dad
and I planned to go home for Halloween and two days of normalcy.
Because of my biopsies, however, the doctor recommended we remain in
the city over night to avoid excessive movement and possible
complications.  Homebound Saturday morning we planned to return to
Rochester on Sunday evening, at which time I would be expected to check
into the hospital; Monday's agenda would include surgery.  Having
exhausted all the other less radical options, an exploratory operation
was the only manner available to determine the mystery concealed
beneath my flesh.

I was glad to be home.  Holidays were made to be spent at home, in my
opinion, and Halloween was no exception.  That weekend, though, was
especially important to me.  Like my trip to Colorado before the
operation for cancer, coming home was quite possibly my last taste of
the life which I had lately enjoyed; I needed not kid myself that the
operation's results could change my life in such ways that it would
never be the same again.  The present was all that was mine, and
nothing was certain but the few hours of autumn sunshine and
jack-o-lanterns which graced the days.  Those were the elements which
I embraced with all of my enthusiasm until it came time to leave for

The drive was memorable for many reasons.  Dad and I were, once again,
traveling alone to the clinic; the three of us would have gone, but
since Mom had employment obligations in the form of parent/teacher
conferences, she decided, for the parents benefit, to remain at home.
It was the year's first conference and no one could have substituted.
With my car's heater useless, it was also the first time we drove the
truck.  Because the truck had a manual transmission, steering and
brakes, and Mom's blood pressure rose at the mere thought of having to
drive it, we presumed it would nullify her nightmares if she retained
use of the family car.  Finally, it was the first time we had ever
driven to the clinic by way of the prolific back roads that skirted the
northern farmland; though we stopped at various intervals to assure our
progress, only once did we find ourselves on the right highway
traveling the wrong direction.

All things considered, it made an interesting drive, and between eating
lunch in a small town and buying M and M's at a gas station and watching
Iowa's flat land slowly transform into the more hilly dairyland of
Wisconsin, I did not burden myself with the essence of our trip; I
found more importance in enjoying the seven hours than stewing in the
ignorance of my health situation.

When we reached the outskirts of Rochester, Dad pulled into a gas
station to fill up the tank and I jumped out of the truck for a
stretch.  It had been a beautiful autumn day.  The buildings now etched
long shadows upon the sunny landscape; soon shadow would meet shadow
until all was covered by darkness.  I turned slowly to face Rochester
and my eyes locked on the two familiar buildings which towered above
the city.  The clinic buildings, old and new, represented an integrity
in medicine which commanded respect; they could bear the happiest or
the most solemn news, and remain untouched, for in those two buildings
illness and death were more commonplace than health.  Brothers of the
same mind and purpose, the buildings formed an entity of themselves,
daily inhaling and exhaling patients irregardless of whether the
patients actually survived.

I took a deep breath to still the sudden, wrenching nervousness which
clenched the pit of my stomach.  The two buildings defined the reason
I was there even if they, as yet, gave me no real answers.  It was
then that my joy ride ended and the unhappy reality of retiring for
the evening in a hospital room created waves in my mental calm.  Even
my so-called "last supper" was clouded by anxiety.

One's natural reaction is to run from a threat, and to postpone less
palatable situations as long as possible.  For me, however, there was
always a point at which flight and postponement no longer satisfied my
emotional needs, but instead created agony in their own right.  When I
reached that summit, I grew intensely nervous and within minutes made a
180 degree turn which boosted me into an entirely different mode of
thought.  That which I had fled, I sought, and if I was denied the
pursuit of my goal, I would experience an inner explosion of panic.  To
reverse the feeling that I was the quarry in an unfair hunt, I had to
establish for myself that I had complete control over the situation.
In effect I did not "give in" or surrender to a stronger authority; my
flight came to an end through a deliberate, conscious decision on my

And so it was that I finally decided to check in to the hospital and
surrender my body to a world of white. Once I was clad in the gown, my
identity became synonymous with scribbles on a chart, and color, the
brilliance of life on the outside, drained away.  Hospitals robbed me
of something; I could be happy and possess a positive outlook, but the
energy and vitality of life was inaccessible.  Perhaps this blandness
in my soul was a way of coping with adversity, for if I had little
passion from the outset, no ill tidings could evoke a particularly
heated or irrational reaction.

Dad left relatively early for his motel, or maybe my feeling of
isolation only made it seem that way.  Had I been able, I would have
left also; sterile atmospheres are rather nerve-wracking, and I knew
Dad was nervous enough without the added pressure of whiling away the
twilight hours in a cramped four-bed hospital ward.

The room had no T.V. so I turned my attention toward the window.  Tiny
dots marked streetlights and houses, but the vast darkness prevailed
over most of the scene, creating a solitude which mirrored my own.
During hours such as those in the hospital, I realized how terribly
insignificant I was as compared to the entire world.  A person could
lose himself in this world.

The morning held no delights.  I would not even receive a breakfast
tray.  I looked forward only to a day of anticipation in which I was
fourth in line to leave for the operating room.  I could do little but
stare at the walls and wait for the morning to ripen into afternoon.

By mid-afternoon I began to wonder if the operation would be cancelled
due to the lack of time, but finally several people retrieved me,
whereupon I was taken through the hospital corridors on a gurney and
given a different perspective of the building than I was accustomed to
seeing.  (Unlike some public buildings, I was pleased to note there
were no spit-balls on the ceiling.)

Riding along the hallway, I also perceived a difference in myself.  I
was in the spot-light, the main attraction in a frightening event. . .
and yet I was not worried.  A relaxant had siphoned off my excess
nervousness and the remaining anxiety drained away because my waiting
was over.

In a partial dream-state, I watched as blue frocked workers rushed
about, preparing for my operation until I was wheeled into surgery.
There, bright round lights shone overhead and doctors and nurses craned
their necks to see their next patient.

"You're going to feel a stick," the nurse warned.

I watched as the doctor placed the needle in my vein.  For the first
time I was aware of my surroundings up to the moment I received
anesthesia, and it was truly an enjoyable experience.  The relaxant had
full control of me, and a loaded gun would not have evoked duress.  I
looked at the kind and gentle nurse and began to drift away, little by
little, until reality faded and then plunged into a sea of darkness.

I woke up in a ward which housed three elderly women.  My bed was
crammed in a corner of the room with a curtain serving as the only form
of privacy; from my vantage point, I was able to view an extensive
portion of the hospital roof through the window.

The first person I saw was my father who appeared to be stricken with
concern for my condition.  Immediately I asked, "what is it?"  to which
I was given a sober reply of "It's cancer again."  I was quiet for a
moment, and then thought dryly, "It figures."

Reactions to drastic news are manifold and multicolored.  To say there
is a specific process through which each grief-stricken individual
shall pass parallels the statement that all people look alike.  I
cannot regard emotional turbulence with simplicity, for each individual
possesses different levels of consciousness, or awareness, which
likewise renders his ability to cope with a given situation as singular
as his character itself.  Though one individual's coping strategies may
closely resemble those of another, they still are unique.

To avoid categorizing I will remark upon some of the various reactions
I have encountered, including those in myself, family, and friends as
"possible reactions" rather than referring to them as "steps" and
thereby applying on them a more definitive and absolute quality.  While
it is possible for people to experience each "possible reaction," not
everyone shall.

If I was asked to name a frame of mind in which one can best cope with
adversity, I would unhesitatingly say, "acceptance," for it is the most
pleasant manner of greeting and harboring a potentially grim reality.

Attaining acceptance gives one the ability to objectively view the
hardship and cope, in a very real sense, with the final outcome; this
means there is no longer a fight for life, but an enjoyment of it.
There are no more bouts of pervasive anger, fear, or depression; when
these emotions do occur, they rapidly pass as do the tides of emotion
in the healthiest of people.  The problem is seen and understood in
realistic terms, rather than as a boogy-man in the night contesting for
one's life.  There are no more superstitious pleas for help, and while
hope is maintained, no more does one cling to blind hope.

Acceptance does not imply that the individual is happy with his health
disorder; however, it does allow him to live in peace and embrace those
facets of life which he holds meaningful.  Once enabled to accept
reality, the individual is secure within himself and can similarly
project that ease upon those who are close to him.

Unfortunately there is no prescribed method of gaining acceptance;
while some individuals can grasp their difficulty outright and begin to
redefine their lives, others require time to work through the various
stumbling blocks which often accompany trauma.  Still others are never
able to attain acceptance and die in turmoil.

Two factors which I feel can greatly serve toward the goal of
acceptance are awareness and communication.  One's reactions cannot be
altered unless he is aware of them; once able to note irrational
behavior (such as anger directed toward a wife rather than at cancer)
he can with time change his actions.  Communication's effect on
adversity is that of purification, for conversation purges minds of
fear and lonliness and gradually filters irrationality from one's
thoughts into non-existence.  In the following pages I hope to
illustrate the importance of communication and ironically, perhaps,
the few instances wherein communication should be squelched.

"It's cancer again!"  A mere three words, and yet the impact is great,
and the repercussions greater still.  It is strange, somehow, to think
so few words could alter the course of a life, and profoundly affect
countless others; yet once imparted, dreams give way to reality, and
agony can filter deep.  Plans once one's own must be fulfilled by
another, and the future in which one had pictured himself, shall be
clipped short and uncertain.  Losing all that one holds dear is rarely
a kind image, for despite religion or a lack thereof, death is life's
greatest mystery, as it ever shall be.

The initial reaction to a terminal illness is often that of undiluted
shock, especially cases wherein the patient had demonstrated no drastic
changes in health or felt no persistent pain.  Perhaps the dismal news
was revealed after a slight, but disconcerting health symptom; the
doctor was visited with hesitant anticipation, with the hope that the
abdominal protrusion was only persistent gas, or the cough was merely
the stubborn remnants of last winter's cold.  Although some poor souls
cannot release themselves from the notion that it is "only a mistake,"
or "a dream," most individual's stupification will subside, allowing
them to face up to the situation and deal with it as a factual absolute.

Because I had sought an appointment with the doctors at Mayo Clinic of
my own accord, I was prepared for any diagnosis which the test results
would uncover.  Noting that my stomach region appeared lop-sided I knew
there was something amiss despite my seemingly good health; thus the
result of the exploratory surgery was disappointing, but I cannot say
it was a shock.

I felt no need to question the test results or wildly seek second and
third opinions.  Viewing the pictures taken by the CAT Scan of my
liver, I had nonchalantly asked, "Are there supposed to be spots on it
like that?"  Before the doctor had given an answer, something within my
mind yelled, "Of course not, you idiot!"  The doctor responded
likewise, although considerably less profound.

That which helped me deal with my verdict, coupled with my suspicion
that life, for me, had been sailing along a bit too smoothly and the
fact that I had cancer previously, was an unusual strength to adapt to
adverse situations.  From early in my childhood I was able to have the
objectiveness to realize that things don't always happen to "the other
guy"; actually, if something could go wrong, it probably would.  If
there was a log poised between two opposing banks of the creek, the
odds were that I would fall off of it in crossing.  In a world of
"other guys" I was just one, yet that in itself proved I was immune to
no adversity.  Thus, instead of "why me?" my question was generally,
"why not me?"  I happened to be one of the cancer statistics, and
I was far from alone in my plight.

Mine was no easy burden, yet it was mine to deal with as best I could;
wallowing in a murky pool of self-pity would accomplish nothing.  When
I felt a wave of pity tempting me with its utter worthlessness, I would
accommodate it for a brief period and then cast it away to pause and
reflect upon those whose health involved more horrid complications
than my own.

In keeping with some individual's idea that everything happens to the
other guy, often the same people will feel that they are alone in their
suffering.  The person who cannot empty his mind of envious jealousies
toward the healthy only further torments himself, and subtracts from
his capacity for peacefulness.  Although those who yet possess their
health should appreciate it, they should not be made to feel guilty for
their fortune.  Every mortal being will one day find himself confronted
by life's ultimate reality, death.

My dad, characteristically pessimistic, was not overly surprised by the
news that my cancer had returned.  After all, he was quite used to bad
news.  It was just one more undeserved bombshell to fall upon our
family.  One might assume that time and past anguish would have
provided a natural immunization to further emotional rending.  Still,
somehow he felt the pain; I saw it in his eyes.  For Mom, the news was
emotional heartburn and swept like a roaring fire through her chest.
After Dad phoned her she caught her breath, walked to my old bedroom
and stood in the doorway for a long while.  Then a feeling of anger
added fuel to the fire; she had remained at home for conferences,
giving her time and effort for the children of other parents, yet some
never bothered to attend their scheduled conferences.  It had been a
slap in the face; coupled with my poor health report, however, Mom felt
victimized, as if by traitors.  She stayed home. . . she "should" have
been there.

Mom stared at the lime green walls through a transparent screen of
tears and remembered me as a little girl, long-limbed and skinny.  It
was happening again; the impossible had returned to deal its final blow.

The pain of reality is not solely one's own.  If an individual's
relationships with family members and friends are of foremost
importance in his life, the news of his illness will have a profound
effect on everyone.  Their reactions play a significant role in
determining the patient's sense of emotional stability and well-being;
he must witness the emotional pain felt by his loved ones, evident
through tearful outbursts, inappropriate anger, or pervasive gloom, as
each person thinks of the future and the way in which the loss will
affect his own happiness.  I feel it is crucial to share the internal
suffering openly and honestly between family and friends, for a health
difficulty, although borne by one, is a burden felt by everyone
personally involved.

Though I had prepared myself for whatever the outcome might have been,
I had not been certain that the enlargement necessarily predicted the
presence of cancer.  There were, after all, many other disorders that
could cause the liver to enlarge.  My haunting emotion that I had not
overcome cancer was now parallel with reality; my "balloon of
health" was beginning its descent.  I focused my eyes on three flower
arrangements which were blooming profusely on my nightstand appearing,
it seemed, out of nowhere.  They formed an odd contrast to the bleak
and antiseptic atmosphere, as if to say that life can continue even in
such places as hospitals where dim hopes and faltering heartbeats evoke
a sense of gloom which permeates entire corridors.

I began to barrage my father with questions, many of which he was
unable to answer since he had not yet conversed with the doctors to any
great degree.  He could only tell me that the surgeon opened my
mid-section and took a biopsy.  Seeing that the cancer was widely
distributed throughout my liver, he was not able to operate and
therefore sewed up the incision with best wishes.

Because the cancer was the same type as I'd previously contracted, the
doctors believed that it had never actually disappeared in the first
place, and spread without their knowledge to the liver.  This might
have occurred at an early age, lying dormant, or more probably,
spreading slowly until it had touched numerous sites.  Leiomyosarcomas,
presumably, are considered primarily "older women's cancers" which may
spread to the lung; this baffled the doctors to such a degree that they
placed me on research after the initial bout, at age thirteen.  To find
that it had again defied their previous knowledge as to the behavior of
the average leiomyosarcoma, recurring in the liver without so much as a
trace in the lungs, was considered absolutely mystifying and unique.

Despite the uniqueness of the cancer, the fact remained that I was a
young woman with a dreaded disease. . . one that had supposedly been
"cured" by the lengthy operation and chemotherapy treatment.  I
reflected how my oncologist (cancer specialist) had reassured the
permanence of my cure by saying, "There is more of a chance of your
being killed on your drive to the clinic than of having a recurrence of
cancer."  He was that sure.

I do not envy the doctors.  Daily they encounter sickness and health,
yet are limited in their ability to heal and assure their patients of
continual well-being.  They are accused of being incompetent when they
cannot act as God.  They are assumed to be uncaring and detached, when
in all actuality they would lose their sanity if they were subject to
emotionally react to each individual sadness.  When they deliver the
truth to a waiting patient, they are often called tactless.  They are
blamed for finding a health problem and thus disrupting their patient's
happy-go-lucky lifestyle.  Personally, I'm content with doctors and
feel a need to demonstrate that gratefulness.  When the surgeon visited
my room after the operation, I greeted him with a smile and attempted
to make him comfortable.  I knew it wasn't easy to face me; we looked
at each other like old friends and he took my hand in his own.  What
could have been said that had not already expressed itself in his eyes?

I questioned Dr. Telander about the various specifics of the operation,
and casually inquired as to the reason they did not "simply rip the
sucker (my liver) out?"  He then informed me that one cannot live
without the organ.  Slightly embarrassed, I said that I had never been
much of a biology student and continued with other questions.  I truly
was not aware that the liver was an organ of such consequence.

Although I never encountered Telander again, I was assigned to a doctor
who made one or two rounds daily to note my progress.  I bombarded him
with any questions which happened to cross my mind, no matter how
stupid they seemed.

Earnest conversation between a patient and those with whom he
interacts, whether doctors or family members, is a necessity.  Although
the truth is often painful and frightening, I am a faithful advocate of
knowledge over ignorance, and feel it is to one's benefit if he can
receive the news of his illness in a manner which is, at once, tactful
and concise.

Rather frequently I have heard accounts of close relatives of a
terminally ill patient begging the doctor not to divulge the full
implications of the patient's health.  The plea, usually something to
the effect, "Oh no, Doctor, you can't tell him. . . the truth would
kill him!" is somewhat curious in the context it is used, for
doubtlessly the patient will die whether he knows all of the facts or
not.  For those who doubt the beneficiality of telling the truth, let
me further illustrate my assertion.  After receiving a clean bill of
health, a person who has, unknowingly, contracted leukemia continues
with increasing difficulty to do the activities which he formerly
accomplished with ease.  This individual is not ignorant; despite any
clever lies that initially might have given comfort, it will be evident
that something is wrong as symptoms gain momentum.  Withholding
information depletes the individual's right to spend his time as he
wished and, I might add, to work through the possible stress that is
associated with such devastating blows.

The most terrifying part of a horror story is when the killer is yet at
large, faceless and unknown.  This general prefix applies to any fear,
I feel, because once the unknown is brought into the light and
understood, it can no longer evoke the terror it had when it rampaged
through the mind as a veiled monster.  A person is not afraid of the
dark, but rather, what lies concealed within it.  Similarly, illness
can evoke feelings of terror as the body degenerates before an unseen
attacker.  If a person is educated about his illness, I believe a great
deal of trauma could be avoided.  Instead of presuppositions, one had
facts, and as in the horror story, once the killer is recognized, the
audience is given the hope that the victim will see and overcome the
horrid pursuer.  With regard to the patient, this could mean hope
instead of futility; when described symptoms do not appear, the patient
assures himself of more time to enjoy his redefined life.

If a patient is led to believe his life is far from ended, he may put
off preparations for those who shall survive him.  When, through
misguidance, he discovers that he no longer has the time which he was
"allotted," he may feel frustrated and foster deep regrets.
Preparations cannot be made without a previous knowledge of one's
illness and should one fall rapidly into his demise, there shall be
no time for the assumption of his rightful choices.

Many people have confessed their more precious moments were spent after
the knowledge of their forthcoming death.  Life was lived to its
fullest, since unimportant worries fell venomless before meaningful
concerns.  There can be rediscovery of those aspects of life which are
so easily taken for granted; one can relearn to see the world other
than through the tunnel vision of self-preoccupation.  Look up and
drink in the sight of a star-filled night; peruse the ground for the
tiniest flowers, and catch and return a stranger's smile.  Savor the
smell of an orange and feel the cool rain pelt upon bare arms.
Often the most elemental of things bring the utmost pleasure.

I had only two objectives to accomplish while in the hospital;
education and recuperation.  With regard to the latter objective, I
pressured the doctor, to a certain degree, to note my rapid rate of
recovery so that I might be able to sample hospital food.  I wanted to
make certain that I ate solid food in days, not weeks, as had been the
case on my initial stay at St. Mary's.  My body cooperated with my
scheme, and I was soon eating voraciously.  I didn't care what
everyone else said... I thought the food was delicious.... even though
my first meals were made up of liquids or soft food.  It was a joy to
be able to eat again, and my body was in dire need of replenishment;
I was never nauseous following a meal... perhaps my stomach was too
starved to concern itself with the extra energy it would have consumed
in making me sick.

The ward in which I was recuperating was rather small for the four of
us who slept there, and I was more than exuberant upon receiving the
information that I would soon be moved to a semi-private room.  The
ward was buzzing constantly with activity, as the elderly women were
given various medications, mental awareness quizzes, and frequent
visits by the physicians.  Visits by nurses would occur throughout the
night and therefore afforded little true relaxation.  Privacy was also
a difficult matter, since curtains were the only form of separation
from the crowd; I often wished to speak with my father, but felt
undeniably hindered to do so, as I did not wish to evoke an atmosphere
of secrecy nor did I want to impart to the general public one of my
personal concerns of fear.  Another observation of my surroundings,
which I might add, I found more humorous than disturbing, was the fact
that my roommates doubtlessly felt quite at ease due to their obvious
lack of consideration for the more lady-like behavior customary in
other social situations; they freely gave full reign to any of numerous
gastro-intestinal noises which plagued their comfort, creating a
laughable facet of hospital living that perhaps few would appreciate.
True to character, I tried my best to squelch any roars of hilarity and
enjoyed the entire affair silently in the confines of my corner.  My
move to a semi-private room was a remarkable improvement, and I found
my roommate to be amiable and very sensible.  A middle-aged woman, she
was hooked up to at least two machines to drain impurities from her
system.  Her unpleasant state was further increased by her husband's
bland concern; she was alone at the hospital, which was made even more
apparent when her call to home spurred less attention than did the
football game her husband was viewing on the T.V.  Although she
chuckled about the brief episode, I am sure the apathy on the other
end of the line must have hurt.

Shortly after my placement in the room I was allowed to eat "regular"
food.  To be quite candid, I was elated upon hearing the news and asked
when I would be receiving the first sampling of solid fare.
Surprisingly, I was able to procure a snack that very evening and
feasted royally.  My nurse cautioned me, not wanting me to have
difficulties later with indigestion, yet no such ill consequences
occurred and I contentedly slept the entire night.

Having been placed on solid food, I rapidly gained strength and
proceeded to exercise my body to further aid in its full recovery.
I still tired easily, however, and found myself obliged to nap on a
regular basis; in this I have always been fortunate. . . I have an
ability to sleep despite adversity.  Sleep is the only drugless manner
in which to temporarily release oneself from a troubled mind, providing
of course, that the subconscious does not wreak its own havoc through
the presence of nightmares.

The day came that I had been working toward with such intensity and
fortitude of spirit. . . that being the day of my release from the
hospital.  When the doctor made his morning visit he informed me that I
would be able to depart early the next morning.  I asked whether I
would again see Dr. E. before leaving, and learned that a visit was in
his plans.  As it happened, he arrived shortly, and before my father
had eaten breakfast; this allowed a one to one confrontation which I
truly preferred.

Whether through avoidance or mere circumstance, the doctors never paid
any visits when my father was present.  They would make their daily
rounds early in the morning, long before he had arrived, or at night
when he left for his motel.  This seeming "avoidance" could have been
due to the fact that I was no longer of child status, and the doctors
felt that decisions should lie heavily on my behalf rather than
confusing matters by including the emotionally wrought inclinations of
my relatives.

Personally, I was relieved that I was able to confront the doctors
alone, thereby allowing a fluid question and answer session,
uncomplicated by concerned family members who might have misunderstood
information, or in their excitement, failed to hear other facts and
necessitate repetition; these group encounters are seldom low-key when
they do occur, and thus I found myself ill-prepared to deal with such
intense conversation while still drained from the operation itself.

When Dr. E. entered the room I had prepared myself for ingesting a fair
amount of information and sat upright in my bed with a pad of paper and
a pen to capture all that he was about to tell me.  Moreover, the days
which I had just spent in the hospital were not simply taken up in
leisure time activities such as watching television or browsing through
magazines; I had devoted a great deal of time to serious thought.

I feel that everyone has a limit as to how much he will endure, both in
the physical and emotional sense.  Since physical well-being reflects
one's emotional health and vice-versa, the body will set its own
limitations if one is but aware of them, and of course, heeds them.

It is not living, but the quality thereof, which for me determines my
capacity to endure physical or mental pain.  Life with excessive pain
is merely existence, and it is precisely that mode of existence which I
shall always wish to avoid.  Life for the sake of life is merely the
fearful abhorrance of death, the final cycle in earthly existence.

Undergoing a full year of chemotherapy was sufficient time for me to
grasp a clear idea of the drugs and their side effects.  I knew at 14
years of age that I would never again be placed under such physical
duress; I knew that my emotional health would be in turmoil.  To once
again attempt to prolong life through such dreadful means would be a
price too high to justify.

If one cannot say "Enough!," he is reduced to a mere shell of his
former self through treatments which cannot cure; the illness itself is
not so cruel.  Moreover, one who accepts treatment without a hope for a
cure dies in pain multiplied by the lack of peace which reflectance
would have brought.

When cancer was once again found to be the culprit behind my distended
stomach region, the decision whether or not to accept treatment was
virtually incontestable.  My only objective was to leave the hospital
and return to my redefined life; I desired to regain my strength before
it waned as a result of the cancer itself, and this was possible only
if I had no treatment.  I felt that this was the beginning of the end
of my life, and I did not wish to relinquish any of that time toward
the pursuit of impossibilities; treatment is a poor word to bestow upon
an ineffective poison which would deplete life's quality.

The doctor wore a distinctly business-like air as he proceeded to
explain the details concerning my general state of health.  I
methodically wrote his words on paper so that I would not forget any
relevant details in my later discussions with my family and friends.

The available treatment was chemotherapy, and although there were
different drugs in addition to the former lot, he professed that none
would actually cure my type of cancer.  The result of undergoing
treatment would be the temporary shrinkage of the tumor, with the hope
perhaps, that a new and promising drug would be discovered in the near
future; the side effects would echo those which had so delighted me on
the previous encounter.  I could not help but wonder if the time lost
during the administration of treatment is subtracted from the days
which one supposedly gains from having it.

Seeing that I was not reacting to the option of treatment with feelings
of great joy and anticipation, he then turned to the more sober issues
of death via liver encroachment.  Listening attentively, I made certain
that all of my questions were adequately answered before he fled from
the room.

Liver cancer, he said, was usually painless; if pain was a factor, my
doctor could prescribe a remedy which would lessen the discomfort.  As
the liver dysfunctioned, it would lose its ability to metabolize body
chemicals; unable to rid the body of poisons, lassitude would set in
while the appetite decreased.  Finally, sleepiness would overcome any
effort to remain awake and eventually result in a coma until death.

I felt sorry for Dr. E. as he told me these facts.  I could tell that
this visit was extremely difficult for him since his eyes did not often
meet with my own and he seemed eager to sprint from the room.  I had
been a "five years and cured" case; the fifth year after my first
operation he dismissed me with a clean bill of health.  We had given
each other cordial good-byes, never thinking the next year would bring
such disappointment.

Before he exited the room, the doctor restated that the chemotherapy
treatments should commence within a month if they were desired, perhaps
his way of punctuating the option which he knew I did not wish to take.
I nodded in acknowledgement.  It must be difficult for a doctor, one
whose profession is that of helping people live, to find he is unable
to offer a cure; it brings to the surface the fact that medicine,
although miraculous in many ways, is not omnipotent.  Once again we
said good-bye, yet this time, I knew it would be our final farewell.

One of the more difficult tasks I had to perform was expressing to my
family my wish to forego treatment.  They needed to cling to the hope
that there was something to be done for my malady, and were not pleased
upon hearing my steadfast rejection of chemotherapy.  Since I had
foreseen, somewhat, their probable reaction, I was prepared for a
lengthy duel and had therefore decided to write on paper the key
directions that I wished the conversations to follow.

The two discourses which ensued were emotional, yet controlled.  I knew
I had a weighty task to perform if I was to gently but thoroughly
bespeak my desires to my worried father, and later my mother and
sister, and further persuade them to accept those decisions.  I
candidly explained my repugnance toward chemotherapy, punctuated by the
facts that it had not worked previously and the doctor had related that
although there were new drugs, none could cure my type of cancer.  With
all sincerity, I said I did not know how long my life would prove to
be, yet I wanted to maintain a life of quality, for that best equated
my idea of what life should hold for each individual; I desired to own
a sense of peace which could never be attained if I continually chased
the spectrum of miracle cures so prevalent in a world whose main
objective, for many, is the procuring of wealth.  Time itself meant
little if it did not also have the amenity of joy, and in my 19 years I
had experienced more quality than some individuals realize in a
lifetime of 80 years; I stressed that my family was an important part,
indeed, and inherent part of that quality.

I hoped that my family would be satisfied with my judgment, although
their disapproval would not have altered my stance; I feared they would
attempt to force treatment upon me through relentless conversation and
in so doing, make life at home unbearable.  This, happily, was not the

After receiving my dissertation, my father needed time to think and
sort out the information he had just heard, and decided to take a
lengthy walk into town for the duel purpose of eating lunch and trying
to digest the disturbing truth which cancer brought to the surface;
mortality does not concern itself only with the aged.  While he was
gone, I replenished myself with both food and rest.  My mother was to
arrive in the afternoon, and I fully realized I would have to repeat my
performance for her and Sharon, my older sister.  I wished to appear as
normal as possible.  I had curled my hair and applied my usual dose of
eye make-up to improve any pallor which might have been visible due to
the operation; I did not want my appearance to evoke unnecessary
amounts of gloom or despair.  Satisfied that I had done my best to
improve upon myself, I settled back in the bed, clad in the glorious
hospital garb which resembled pillow ticking and decided that I
coordinated rather nicely with the rest of the decor.

When the entire group arrived it was already late in the afternoon.  My
father accompanied Sharon's family on a tour of the area, leaving only
my mother and Sharon to visit with me directly.  I noticed that my
mother had lost weight, underlining the worry that was inscribed on her
face; Sharon's face echoed that emotion, and I knew I must speak with
care.  It can be difficult to avoid mechanical speech when one is
trying to maintain control of his emotions, yet to do so can prove to
be less injurious to the listeners if they share one's feelings on the
topic being discussed.  Cold facts divulged without the benefit of a
warm heart will only multiply the pain; there is no sense in hurting
loved ones through callous explanations.

It was with painful resignation that my family members then present at
the hospital accepted the future which I so desperately needed to
control.  More than my resistance to treatment, (for they too had
witnessed the drastic effects which are inherent characteristics of
chemotherapy) the family was besieged by the inevitability of my death.
There was now the real possibility that I would die long before my
parents, and in this they felt little capacity for contentment.  At the
close of our discussions, I believe everyone derived a handful of
solace through the hope that "miracles DO happen"; there were reports
of complete remission and cases in which the cancer inexplicably
vanished, leaving no trace of its former habitation in the individual's
body.  Continuing research in the realm of cancer treatment was also a
source of emotional sunshine to my family, and allowed everyone to look
toward the homeward journey with anticipation.

I felt exhausted.  Though I truly enjoyed seeing my mother and was
grateful that my sister's family had made the time-consuming trip, I
was happy to grant their leave to partake of supper.  As they departed,
I sunk back into the bed with a sigh of relief.  It had been quite a
day... and it was not over yet.  I attacked my dinner tray as if it was
the only food I had seen in days; it is amazing how an emotional strain
can deplete one's energy as thoroughly as participating in a rigorous

While I was alone with my roommate, we opened the curtain which
separated the two halves of the room so we could talk and feel more in
tune with the world.  I felt extremely lucky to have been placed with
such a personable lady, as television is a poor excuse for
companionship (unless one is sharing a room with an unpleasant and
irrational whiner!)  After my family had departed, she expressed that
she had been rather awed by my duo performances.  She said she
"admired" my strength and ability to verbalize my feelings, and
although I graciously accepted her compliments, I told her it had been
a topic about which I felt quite strongly.  When one's decision is
incontestable, and is fueled by past experience and anguish, the future
can quite easily be foreseen.

I believe that one has made the correct choice if, after his decision
has been voiced, he feels an overall contentment and freedom from
excessive amounts of mental duress.  Everyone must live with a
patient's choices, but only he dies with them; this is why it is
crucial for a patient to voice, and the family to heed, his personal
opinions regarding his future.

Later that evening the troop returned from their meal and converged on
the room.  Since it was rather small to comfortably house six visitors
on one side, we made our way into the hospital corridors to see those
sights which happenstance would reveal.  We eventually found ourselves
in a quiet waiting room which boasted several comfortable and very
accommodating couches, as well as a few tables upon which the numerous
fragments of jigsaw puzzles were scattered.  At this point, any form of
diversion was welcome, especially for Sharon's kids who doubtlessly
felt a trifle suffocated in an atmosphere where everything squeaked
with cleanliness and relentless order; I'm sure they were not the only
ones who felt intimidated as they passed through the marble hallways.

We entertained ourselves as best we could, electing to remain in the
vicinity of the carpet and couches until it was time for them to leave.
Engaging in small talk and battling with the jigsaw puzzles until
totally infuriated at our lack of progress, the night fell away.  When
the visiting hours had reached their end, my parents and company bid me
good-night and left memories of the day which had just elapsed, as well
as renewed excitement for my release from the hospital.  I reviewed the
day's events as I lay tucked between crisp sheets and a mound of
pillows; it had been an exhilarating experience, yet one that brought
little actual joy except the knowledge that one has been understood and
has found peace with himself.

I greeted the morning with exuberance, and the physician in a likewise
manner; it was as if I radiated undiluted joy.  I watched as he
methodically checked my lengthy incision, and then assured him that I
felt fine when he quizzed me about various details concerning my
general recovery.  Well aware of my excitement, he cleared my passage
for dismissal and had me sign any necessary papers bearing witness that
I had indeed left the ward on that day.  As I rattled off my happiness
for going home, he smiled, knowing the elation was no personal
reflection on him, and said, "Home's always the best place to be."

When breakfast arrived, I attacked it with customary glee and then
turned my attention to packing.  I also took great pleasure in making
myself presentable through the application of some eye make-up and
donning civilian clothes; it seemed that my release from the hospital
was not final until I had my shoes, instead of bedroom slippers, on my
feet.  I am sure that it is quite psychological, but I think that white
smocks make an individual feel worse than his physical health should

I did not wait long before the family arrived and the time had come to
be escorted from the building.  Amid the rousing excitement, I wished
my roommate a speedy recovery and presented her with one of my floral
arrangements; it filled the space where her husband's bouquet should
have stood.  Looking back, I hope it brought more happiness than
sorrowful longing for those unforgettable considerations which were
never hers to enjoy.

My dismissal was something akin to a landmark affair for me.  Although
I was in the hospital for only a week, the freedom to walk in the cold
November wind embellished my spirit with a feeling of vitality.
Standing amid the elements of nature, it was not difficult for me to
accept the cycle which bonded my existence to all living things.  To be
consciously aware of life's complexities was living in its truest
sense; in life is both urgency and tranquility, yet when viewing life
as a whole, there is little difference between the two.  Thus the cycle
is congruent; though it changes, it remains the same.

It was in this state of mind that I left Rochester, Minnesota.  Later
that day I was welcomed by my brother, Norm, who then received the
"news" with the added support of my parents.  We were generally in good
spirits, which evoked a rather frustrated, "I don't see what you're all
so happy about!" assertion from him; that we should be pleased when no
remedy was available was disconcerting. . . with time, however, he was
able to understand the importance of quality in life.  He also was one
who did not do those things which would bring turmoil to his life.  If
one continually succumbs to the notions and desires of others, his own
thoughts are rendered meaningless, and likewise, is his existence.

PAGE 212



Cancer, or any debilitating injury or illness cannot be viewed as an
act of God which is bestowed upon an unsuspecting public as randomly as
winning tickets in a perverted lottery.  I reject the thought that any
supreme diety would choose certain individuals to suffer and allow
others to live peaceful and fulfilled lives, or through their own
choice, aimless, meaningless lives; I do not feel that a God would thus
inflict an individual either to punish him for wrong-doing or through
suffering, make him into a stronger human.  Though it may be a
consolation to believe that suffering has a purpose, I believe that an
individual's pain has no more divine purpose than if he'd stubbed his
toe.  While the mastery and acceptance of ill fortune will make a
person stronger, it would then seem that everyone could benefit from
grief, and God would therefore assure each person of his parcel... but
it doesn't happen that way.  Grief is part of existence, and while
certain people may have more than "their share" as far as statistical
averages follow, nature does not operate through calculated averages.
I believe cancer befalls individuals just as blight will infest a
perfectly healthy tree and cut short its life expectancy.  It is
interesting to me that many individuals will always attempt to justify
their illness in such manners in order to keep their faith intact; as
far as they are concerned, a loving God must have a reason for doing
such a thing to them.  People have forgotten that illness is a part of
life, and perhaps more prominent is the fact that many refuse to
acknowledge their own mortality.  Just as illness is an inherent factor
in nature's infinitely complex cycle, death also belongs to the natural
order of things.

"God will not give us any more than we can bear" is also a disagreeable
reason (to my way of thinking) for explaining why suffering is God's
gift to us.  Far too often, the burden is too hard to bear and the
person is unable to cope, leaving him bitter, enraged or even insane.
This cannot be pigeonholed neatly as suffering which was to the benefit
of the individual... or that which was "no more than he could bear."
Moreover, why would a diety wish to dole out pain to some simply
because they could "handle it" while allowing others to go their merry
way through life because they would have "cracked" under the grief?
The latter group may empathize with the former lot, yet they cannot
"enlarge their spiritual horizons" through observation alone.  Thus,
while the former group grows in insight and reflection, the latter
enjoys life's surface values and are bereft of the "enjoyment" which
true suffering would bring.  Who, then, is the better off?

PAGE 213

Quality in Life


Another aspect concerning religion and death which never ceases to
amaze me is the devout Christian who believes that one should strive
for every possible breath 'til the end, as if life for life's sake is
of foremost importance.  To me, this is saying that heaven is not as
great as proclaimed; if their faith, indeed, is so steadfast and
secure, would not the proposition of the imminence of heaven produce
more smiles than that of another painful breath of life?

I feel that life must contain an element of quality to be worth the
actual existence.  To me this would mean wrapping myself in thought,
and perhaps, subsequently unleashing my hoard of mind-words onto paper,
where they would then remain for later perusal.  My thoughts and sense
of self are more precious than any physical activity I might pursue, or
monetary affluence I might acquire.  This fact may be the reason why I
am content despite physical limitations and inconveniences and my
deformity in stature.  Though if it were my choice, I would most
definitely elect to be of stout health, I feel that I am yet rich in
the far greater facets of character; for it is one's mind which makes
the person, not the body.

When I see one who is healthy, I don't envy that person, nor do I feel
I "deserve" health more than "so and so" who lives a wild life but
remains healthy.  In fact I would never trade my life for that of
someone else.  I would still want my mind, body and soul.  While I may
detest my body's waning functions, I would not care to live in
another's body a life which had no meaning.  Moreover, it is not
possible to know the sorrow which he might have borne, or the gripping
habits which have tortured his mind.  If I've ever envied a person, it
was only my former, healthier self.

Moreover, quality of life reigns over the quantity of one's days.  If
one has attained a level of consciousness with which he is content
despite ill tidings, he has reached a sense of quality in existence, no
amount of time will better that which only the mind can attain; after
all, what is ordinary existence but the pursuit of aspirations which
shall place shelter over our heads and feed our hungry bodies?  For one
fostering a higher ideal of life, every day matters are not a bore or
resentment; they are inherent facets of life which easily yield to
accomplishment when it has been acknowledged by that individual that
there are unseen elements far greater than a comfortable lifestyle
which renders life meaningful.

PAGE 214

Bargaining and Prayer


The idea of "bargaining" for more time never really occurred to me,
although I was quite aware that this type of reaction was often enacted
by an individual whose life was to be lessened through physical
incapacitation.  I shall always smile to remember the movie "The End,"
wherein a terminally ill man determines that suicide is his only hope
to retain dignity in death; he tries countless measures to kill
himself, all of which fail due to their haphazard nature.  Finally he
swims out to sea in the hope that he will tire and drown, but at the
last moment, decides he actually wants to live and calls upon God to
give him the strength to swim ashore, tempting God with a 50% pledge
and regular attendance in church.  The movie was a humorous comparison
to the way in which some people truly bargain for more time; I feel
that this type of reasoning can only injure the individual, especially
if God should "reject" his proposal through a worsening of his

A healthier alternative, which also allows for the patient to maintain
his religious stance.... if indeed religion is important in his life...
is to instead "hope" for a longer life.  Hope does not as easily fall
into the realm of religion and therefore remains a separate source of
emotional comfort; there is no dependency upon God, doctors or other
people to cure him.

Given the fact that man was blessed with a mind of his own, which is
essentially too complex for him to understand, it amazes me that he
continues to speak of the mind of God as if bestowed with
acknowledgeable characteristics, abilities, and functions.  Often
people will say, "God gives one the strength to bear loss... pain...
hardship... etc." as if one bereft of inner fortitude can expect to be
given that gift through prayer.

I have always believed it to be more fruitful to pray for strength
rather than a cure when faced with terminal ailments.  I do not believe
that one can "lean on" God and await replenishment, since I cannot view
the essence of God as a crutch or in any other way which would place
Him outside of one's self.  If God resides within an individual, He
cannot be a crutch.

Perhaps it is better to say that one's belief in God gives him
strength; for if God sent strength as an answer to prayer desiring
strength, why do not all people receive the feeling of renewal?  Why
are some left to insanity, psychosomatic disorders or neurotic
behavior?  To credit God for one's strength would only serve to
discredit His "unanswered" prayers, as is the case with physical
disorders.  I do not believe God would endow one with the fortitude to
deliver himself from anguish and neglect the emotional appeals of
others.  Housing such thoughts can be devastating.

It is one's unrealistic expectations of God that can sometimes create
turmoil for an individual, which again may result from the attempt to
personify God.  This attempt on the part of an individual to personify
his deity often results from his need to feel guarded and loved;
without family or friends he can still have a heavenly father and thus
is not alone.  My strength comes from within, and is augmented by
loving family members.  I tend to think, rather than to pray, for I
feel the unity of all creation is within me and encompasses all things;
thus even my most quiet thoughts are not spoken in emptiness.

When people said they prayed for me, I looked at their statement as one
of thoughtful kindness because it demonstrated that they cared for me
and my family.  Yet within, a voice would scream that praying for
health misused the idea behind prayer.  Although prayer means vastly
different things to each individual, I like to think of prayer as a way
of communing with God; while there are many who ask God for favors in
prayer, to me this cheapens it.  I feel it should be used for the
attempt of attaining oneness with the eternal spirit and nothing more,
unless it is to unify one with himself and allow him to dismiss his
selfishness to think of and unite with others.  This well-known quote
echoes my sentiments: "God, grant me the serenity to accept things I
cannot change, courage to change those I can, and wisdom to know the

To further elaborate on the subject, I would assume that an individual
who divulged in prayer such a "bargain" would eventually feel the shame
brought about by the realization that he would never have sought this
plea or offered his humble services had he not first been stricken by
physical illness.  Most likely the thought would have never crossed his
mind.  One would think that the person would have waved God's flag in
times of health and prosperity.  But, as with the vast majority of
people, thoughts of one's own death rarely occur to those caught up in
the robust living of life.  Thus guilt can both evoke, and be the
product of, promises too great to keep.

PAGE 216

Chapter 26
Categories of Acceptance

"Even the smallest pleasures seem more meaningful when they are shared,
while the tragic moments are buffered by love. "


Categories Of Acceptance

I was home once again, and my greatest wish had been realized.  Somehow
I thought my life would now be simplified, and that I could wield
complete control over the ways in which I desired to spend my time and
conduct my remaining life.

With something akin to fascination, I looked at myself in the mirror
and focused my eyes on my protruding stomach region which would one day
be the cause of my death.  The subjects of death and other intense,
wrenching emotions possessed a magnetism which had always held me
spellbound.  I was drawn to the startling views of human tragedy in
both literature and art forms; a life tottering precariously on the
edge of sanity or mortality could offer a glimpse of the more painful
aspects of reality which many often neglect to acknowledge.  Images
which accurately depicted the horror of war or the anguish of a mother
of a stricken child were those which captured my attention; though
beautiful works would please my eye, only the gripping views of life
held the capacity to stir my senses.

The thought that I now shared a common bond with those gripping views
of existence similarly held my fascination.  I wondered what my family
would undergo during the harsh period following my death; I pondered
whether I would see earthly lives when I no longer was part of the
world.  I spent lovely afternoons in peaceful reflection, drinking in
the earth's beauty to somehow retain the days as if they were my last.
Time itself lost its importance as I embraced the cycles of nature and
my own life as one, rather than separate entities. I marveled at the
pitiable lack of control we, as humans, have over our lives; after
attempting to rule the world, we are at last brought to the level of
all things through the element of mortality.  I shared a kinship with
autumn following the rediscovery of cancer.  Like a tree divested
of its leaves, its only proof that life yet flourished deep within;
I questioned when my color, too, would fade, rendering me helpless
against winter's icy grasp (death). Death was no romantic notion which
smuggled lives on moonlit nights; it was merely an endless cycle.

Nov. 1981... I quieted my thoughts and listened as a distinctly
familiar echo of sadness resounded in the autumn air.  It seemed as if
the old tree above me was attempting a futile last stand in the face of
the impending desolation of winter.  A blast of northerly winds
scattered the furiously spinning leaves to form a semi-circle about my

I picked up the leaf, noting its fragility as it crumbled under my
touch.  I realized that I was observing a change of seasons in which
only brittle remnants of spring remained to display that life had
actually existed.  A gust sent the fragmented leaf to be buried
unceremoniously in the midst of thousands of other leaves, which were
rustling their distaste for their hapless plight.

I watched several more leaves rattle a loud protest as the wind
determined their fate.  Another leaf, one which could easily be labeled
as a spectacular tribute to nature itself, was swaying gently in the
crisp breeze.  It was different from the other leaves, seemingly
unafraid of its destiny.  I continued to watch until it was slowly
delivered to the ground to rest in silence at my feet.

That is the way death was intended to be, I thought; stealing quickly
over its prepared and quietly waiting subject, death overcomes life
with no struggle and no outcry.  I sighed and wondered when I, too,
would be beneath the dried and decaying vestiges of many summers passed.

I culminated my restful sojourn amongst the colorful show of leaves
with thoughts that have frequently entered my consciousness during
reflective intervals; one must first accept death if he is ever to
understand life.

I will never forget an incident which occurred shortly after my release
from the hospital.  Seated in the middle of the shopping mall, I was
engaged in observing people hurry in and out of stores, and while my
face did not radiate feelings of great joy and elation, I did not wear
a mask of sorrow either.  Just then, a man happened by and remarked,
"smile, you're not going to die!"  I remember how idiotic that phrase
sounded to me, and it left me speechless.  "Yes," I thought, "I shall
die. . . and sooner than you might suspect." Everyone dies.

Quite apart from denying my illness, I found myself quite preoccupied
with it, and initially it was difficult to carry on in a "normal"
fashion in the sense that I could not detach my mind from the fact that
I had cancer again.  After learning of my recurrence I immediately
began thinking thoughts such as, "if I subscribe to this magazine,
I wonder whether I'll receive all of the copies. . . ," and while
driving down the road, "I wonder if I'll ever get a speeding ticket,"
or when in a pet shop, "if I got a parrot, it would outlive me."

I remembered my china dishes and realized that my dad had been right;
I should never have purchased something which represented the future.
The future did not belong to me. . . it was dissolving before my eyes.
My dreams were changing out of necessity, since most dreams depended on
time for their fulfillment... and time was one amenity that I could not
hope to claim.

Nov. 1981... I dismissed modeling altogether after appearing in a
luncheon (style show), which I enjoyed entirely.  I somehow felt unable
to accept the demands of the career when I felt my health situation was
so uncertain and unreliable.  Admittedly, I could have modeled for a
short time.  Somehow, though, it didn't seem important any more.  I was

I thought of the teenager who had a car, yet lacked the fuel
to drive it.

I speculated as to whether or not I would witness the spring-time
again, and could not help but question absently if my 20th birthday
would prove to be my last.  I was unable to release myself from the
thought of my impending death; I wasn't simply Lauren Isaacson.  I was
"Lauren Isaacson, victim of cancer."  I identified myself with the
disease and found my thoughts encompassing various subjects with cancer
continually in the back of my mind.  I never denied the presence of the
disease, nor did I wish it on someone else, and perhaps this is what
allowed me to bridge a period of gray disillusionment so common in the
acceptance of solemn news; I would much rather face a heart-rending
truth than to live amid a cloud of fantasy derived of the mind. Tumors
have no conscience, and no amount of wishing, cursing, or bribery will
cause the disease to disappear.  These mind-games will one day come to
an abrupt, emotionally wrenching halt or lead to personality
disturbances if not corrected; such reactions only injure the
individual or those with whom he must associate.

In coping with a weighty truth of such magnitude, the family as well as
the patient, will experience various and ever-changing emotions, and I
believe it is quite important that these feelings are ventilated.
Simply because the family is not afflicted with the illness does not
mean that the individuals are immune to its emotional nuances.  In
fact, the family is sometimes the worse off; they essentially feel
helpless, unable to ease physical pain or shield their loved one from
his frightful pursuer.

When the family is able to openly converse on the topic of the
patient's illness and imminent death, the entire affair seems less
formidable, rather like a beam which is directed upon the unlit
recesses of a room, thereby dispelling the uncertainties which lay
dormant in the darkness.  Because there are manifold reactions to
adversity, related conversation will evolve at varying rates.  While
some people would be ready to speak candidly after a brief time, others
need to ingest the situation gradually and should not be pressed into
heavy conversation directly following a shock.  Moreover, there exists
in most humans the great need to face life's circumstances with dignity
and composure and would not, therefore, relish a serious discussion
until they could do so without losing control of their emotions and
causing a tearful scene.

Although it is unhealthy to continually dwell on the plight of the
family, silence is debilitating. . . especially if it evolves through
avoidance of the problem, rather than simply the inability to verbalize
one's thoughts.  True coping deals with self-expression, not the clever
avoidance thereof.  One should never attempt to stifle grief, for to do
so will create unendurable stress; and what, I might add, is so
terrible about venting one's sorrow in the form of tears, when the
situation certainly merits that behavior?

Anger is an understandable reaction to the discovery that one harbors a
debilitating disease, for since everyone must eventually die, surely
there are more pleasant routes toward that destination if given the
right to choose.  Moreover, anger is thought to be a less degrading
form of expressing depression.  No one wants to suffer or restrict
himself in a manner unnatural to his lifestyle, nor lose his sense of
control, no matter how much or little he actually has.

If anger is a prevalent emotion, its release is necessary; yet
projecting that anger on undeserving family members or hospital
personnel is unfair.  Anger is counter-productive when wrongly
displaced; fanatical rage and irate demands are increasingly ignored
and replaced by the unfortunate avoidance of the enraged individual.
No one can benefit from this chain reaction.

An alternative which could be used by the patient having the
objectivity to discover his outward rage is anger expressed through
writing or intelligent conversations rather than transforming the anger
into unfounded complaints.  The problem is not the unsmiling intern,
or the wife who arrived ten minutes later than planned.  The problem is
health, and if not dealt with, attitude as well.

A reasonable exception is when the patient's anger is derived of pain;
it is virtually impossible to be civil if each breath heralds another
moment of severe physical anguish.  This belligerence should not be
taken personally by either relatives or hospital staff, nor should the
unfounded anger described above be ingested as relating to their
presence or prescribed duties.

If it is attention the patient needs, it is more likely to be given
if he behaves in a manner deserving of amenity.  It is a pleasure to be
near a person who, despite his personal problems, can retain humor and
conduct himself in a respectable manner.  If my experience is any
indication of the quality of the residency in hospitals, I found the
staff to be most personable if treated likewise.  On the rare occasion
that a patient is forced to abide a hostile nurse, or one who refuses
to believe that he is suffering to the degree that he claims, a
complaint is well within reason.  One case in particular concerned an
incontinent elderly woman who, after an accident over which she had no
control, was chastised by a hostile nurse, resulting in tears which
should never have been provoked.  A patient is not paying for abuse;
moreover, a hospital without patients is just a stone building, and its
personnel is up for hire.  Inflicting emotional anguish has no place
in the medical profession.

When I felt frustrated by the constraints which resulted from my
cancer, I encountered no pervasive or continual anger.  Furthermore,
the anger was targeted at the source of my inability to function
properly, rather than projecting it toward an innocent companion.  Mine
was the self-contained anger similar to that which I would feel after
entertaining influenza for nearly a week; weary of its limiting effect
on my mobility and general well-being, I would hurl devastating
thoughts inward, then later proceed to calm my cantankerous spirit
and await the arrival of health.

My father held a rather negative view of the possibility that good
could prevail over evil; he always expected the worst, and often was
quite right in his assumptions.  Even so, expectation does not cancel
one's disappointment at having supposed correctly, and his broken heart
was obvious.  A touching moment in a movie, a poignant verse of song or
the reading of one of my poems was enough to send a tremor through his
voice in a later attempt to speak.  Often depressed or angry, he was
tormented by the many adversities which had befallen our family.  It
just didn't seem quite right that he should have such difficult burdens
after he had lived a morally conscious life; others, lacking all sense
of moral responsibility, seemed to live long and healthy lives, or died
simply because of their own ignorance and gluttonous indulgences.
Hounded by such sources of resentment, acceptance was gained, then lost
once again at varying intervals when he viewed the healthy, but empty
lives whose health, he thought, should have been my own.

Aside from the family, my dad had no confidant or close friend.  He,
like many members of the family, was quite self-sufficient.
Unfortunately, one's self-sufficiency, displayed in grave situations,
can discourage closeness, whether consciously or not.  Thus, when such
an individual truly desires someone to hear his concerns, no one is
near enough to care.  Even persons with whom one had worked on a daily
basis can prove to be unenthused listeners; often their association
clearly ends within the confines of the job description.

Though not always apparent, my dad was a highly sensitive individual.
An injustice or injury persisted, inflicting pain and stress.  More
than anything I believe my father needed unsolicited affection and
demonstrations of sympathy; lacking these, especially from his
co-workers, Dad felt himself betrayed by the one group with whom he had
spent so much of his time.  He could easily have drowned in self-pity,
for no one wished to help with the bailing out of his broken heart;
sorrow was like a hat which only he could wear.

My father would, on occasion, mention that if he had not married, or
had children, he would not have had to experience the pain of losing
dear children or seeing them riddled with health disorders.  Life
without emotional grief would be "easier" and more stable, yet to
shelter ones self from close relationships would also be an enormous
deprivation; love is the foremost joy of living, and it cannot grow
through alienation from society.  Even the smallest pleasures seem more
meaningful when they are shared, while the tragic moments are buffered
by love.  To separate ones self from affection for others denies a
virtuous human potential to develop, as it simultaneously creates more
emptiness than that which occurs upon the death of a loved one; the
grief-stricken survivor has memories, but the emotional hermit has only
stability.  There was indeed, a sacrifice for love.  It was one that my
dad was willing to take.

In one of our conversations, I once asked my father if he thought he
had basically accepted my health disorder.  He replied, "I don"t think
I will ever accept it, because it's not acceptable."  For his part,
maybe he just lives with it.  What other choice does one have,
excluding madness or suicide, but to live with it?  (It just doesn't
mean that he has to like it!)

Guilt very often accompanies the illness or death of a loved one, and
can be released through conversation.  The unfounded sort, stemming
from regrets such as a patient's unfulfilled dream which the relative
felt he impeded, or a mother's inability to detect subtle changes in
her child's health, is a counterproductive, if not debilitating, manner
of reacting to the problem.  These emotions are quite corrosive to the
individual, and it is important that they are quickly corrected; this
can be done through attentive listening and positive reinforcement.

After discovering the malignancy in my stomach, my mother effectively
chastised herself by asserting that she "should have noticed that I was
eating less and getting thinner."  She held on to her belief while I
tried to assure her that the extent to which the cancer had spread was
not her fault.  I reminded her that many children are rather lanky and
thin when they are growing too rapidly for any food which they eat to
transform into fat; the body needs the nourishment to sustain itself,
and has no excess for insulating purposes.  With time and reassurance,
she finally dismissed her guilt; I listened to her statements,
returning not with, "You shouldn't feel that way," but with reasons
which effectively reinforced the pointlessness of her guilt.  As with
any invitation to change one's outlook, a person fostering guilt must
be shown why his view is unreasonable and needs to be altered.
Statements such as "Don't feel guilty" define the desired destination,
but offer no direction as to the means of attaining that goal.  I have
sometimes wondered whether this type of guilt is not merely a
subconscious means of inflicting punishment upon ones self in order to
more deeply share the pain felt by the ill person.  Guilt which is
evoked through hateful thoughts or malicious wishes toward the ill
person is sometimes more difficult to manage, due to the fervor with
which the mental darts were hurled at the patient before the onset of
illness.  Abreast a wave of superstition, the guilty party quietly
blames himself, feeling responsible for the evil which befell his
victim.  It is important for the guilt-stricken individual to realize
he does not control the hands of fate.  To further complicate matters,
often the dying or deceased individual is surrounded by an aura of
purity, and it is deemed unfit to denounce his character despite the
validity of the statements.  Though loss makes memories all the more
dear to the heart, I feel that one should not forget that these people,
sick though they are, are human; they possess irksome habits and have
made foolish mistakes as does all humanity.  To elevate an individual
beyond his former limitations is an open invitation toward the housing
of personal guilt, since any negative emotions concerning the patient
will be thought of as hostile and unfounded; one is not only denying
the disturbing propensities of the patient, but also, and more
important, he is denying his true feelings, thereby trapping himself.

In this scope, I might add that elevating a person who has not yet died
can create an undesirable situation for him, in that he may feel
threatened by this new and unrealistic public opinion of himself which,
consequently, is greater than he is able to uphold.

Another sort of guilt, planted by the patient, is somewhat related to
the above.  Although conversation is generally thought to be a healthy
exchange between concerned individuals, there are those who,
unfortunately, take the business of sharing their health problem
wholeheartedly.  Applying no restrictions on themselves, they
continually voice their complaints until a situation is created wherein
the complaints are more of a burden to the family than is the illness.
I feel that reactions such as these on the part of the afflicted are
unfair and completely selfish.  Forcing constant awareness of an
illness upon a loved one is cruel and emotionally debilitating.

When a situation such as the one described occurs, I wonder whether the
patient truly loves his "subjects"; a caring individual would still
want his family to derive joy from living despite his inability to
actively take part.  Jealousy has no place in love, especially when a
loving relationship is placed in jeopardy by the imminence of death.
A patient's jealousy can often promote guilt; ultimately, however,
it begets only resentment, not true love and devotion.

My father was acquainted with a man whose wife was a constant source of
worry.  She was what I would call "the delicate type," in need of
constant attention and sympathy whether she truly needed it or not.
The day finally came when she found herself bedridden, demonstrating
the symptoms of an actual health disorder, and her personality took on
the shrieking demeanor of an angry bird.  She expected constant
nurturing care from her husband, yet nothing he did would please her.
After hounding him relentlessly to pick up an item at the store,
she would be enraged because of his "lengthy" absence.

Eventually the poor man agreed to place his wife in a rest home in her
home town.  However, through her injection of guilt, he still felt
obliged to maintain a daily vigil by her side.  The man became
emotionally and physically exhausted, and suffered to such an extent
that his sanity was nearly obliterated; in tearful, emotional outbursts
he would relate the "sad" condition of his wife, and elaborate in
detail their conversations and prayers, never thinking that her's was a
very disturbed mind.  Bereft of any other communicational outlet or
friendships, he accepted the blame for his wife's unhappiness.  In
effect, he was starving for conversation and emotional support, causing
an irrational view of reality.

Although, toward the last portion of her life, the wife was mentally
incompetent concerning her nasty behavior, she would have been capable
of changing her actions earlier in life, yet, through a jealous and
self-centered need, she obtained a constant awareness of her presence
by lamenting any flaw in her well being.  The husband may have enjoyed
the initial pampering as a means of elevating his feeling of
self-worth; here was a woman who needed him.  However, as any excess
can be overwhelming, her preoccupation for comfort was his final
undoing.  Had she thought less of herself and allowed him the freedom
to breathe, the obsessive guilt she strove to plant would never have
taken root in his mind.

It is essential that the patient allows his family to continue in a
"normal" fashion, for it must be accepted that there will be a time
when life must carry on without the sick individual.  This is not to
say that a husband should start to seek another mate before his wife
meets her demise; behavior of this nature is cruel and, I believe, says
that his wife was not loved but only needed for the beneficial comforts
she could provide.  However, continuing attendance in a church, or
meeting with friends should in no way be thought of as frivolous or
forgetful of the sick, but rather as a form of therapy for the living.

I wanted my family to continue its current lifestyle, and for the most
part, that was no problem.  However, Mom continued to feel guilty about
her health and ability to do anything she desired while her young
daughter was forced to stay home.

As my cancer progressed and I did less in the social realm, spending
week-end nights at home, my mother became concerned about leaving me
alone when they went on a small excursion or nighttime gatherings; she
worried that I might be lonesome or scared, or need help of some kind.
It was somewhat of a chore to assure her that I would be fine; should I
be scared or lonesome, it would pass, and with regard to my health, she
would be powerless to aid in my comfort even if she was at home.  As a
final effort I confessed that I truly enjoyed being alone sometimes.
I too needed room to breathe, to feel that, even with my severe
limitations, I was yet in control of my life.  It was important that
I knew I could take care of myself if the need would arise.

Guilt may derive from actual wrong-doing on the part of the
guilt-ridden as well as the causes described above.  Whether spurred
from emotional neglect, mental abuse, infidelity, or another source,
this guilt is the only type which I feel is worthy of its keeper.  When
an individual knowingly hurts another, yet makes no attempt to correct
himself, the former deserves to feel the grasp of pain.  No apology, no
matter how magnificent, can take the place of past injustice.
Therefore, while the past is history, perhaps these regrets can best be
handled by a silent oath to behave differently on future occasions.

The refusal of friends to face my health situation always brought about
a keen sense of frustration on my behalf, modified to a certain extent
by pity.  It is impossible to attain any depth in such relationships,
since continual avoidance of reality cannot be upheld.

One such relationship, in which a friend would not acknowledge the
presence of my illness, was eventually transformed into a virtual
charade.  Conversations revolved solely around trivial matters or
reminiscent revelries.  Discussions of the present surrounded her
doings only, for the least hint of my illness would leave the
conversation stunted.  Because I never cared to dwell on my ill health,
any remark was of the passing sort, yet even these seemed too much for
her to abide.  It was as if the pre-cancerous person was the only "me"
which existed for her; my entire self was no longer acceptable.  As no
change occurred, our rendezvous became less and less frequent, and
eventually subsided altogether.  I felt uncomfortable having to hide
behind a mask of my former health for my company to be tolerable; it
was better to be alone.  Friendship must be built upon honesty if its
true potential is to be realized.

Frustrating to a lesser degree were those who could withstand a cursory
mentioning of my illness, but would then perform a mental backflip and
begin discussing another topic as if I had no problem at all.  It
seemed that their understanding of my health condition was not
congruent with the activities which they considered me capable of
negotiating.  Stifling an open-mouthed, incredulous stare, I would then
attempt to explain that I was unfit for that particular suggestion, but
perhaps we could find a mutually agreeable alternative.  I always tried
to coax one's realization of my health situation, rather than
attempting to "cram" the truth down uncooperative throats.

It is so difficult for society to abide the thought of terminal illness
and death, especially in those we love, and therefore it is often
ignored in a conscious effort to prove its nonexistence.  Though it is
natural to attempt to flee that which seeks to invade one's happiness,
running, unfortunately, shall not make the menace disappear; the young
are not the only group of people who, when faced with the illness of a
loved-one or friend, search desperately for their "running shoes."

While the voicing of feelings is very difficult, it can bring peace of
immeasurable degree to yield to their expression; after a loved one
dies, one can no longer deny that he was terminally ill, and is left to
cope not only with the disease, but with its ultimate effect.  Where
there might have been memories of a loving farewell, there is
emptiness.  Just as spoken words cannot be recalled, words which are
left unsaid are merely lifeless fragments of conversations which might
have been, and forever plague the happiness of the individual who
elected silence instead of self-expression.

The utilization of excessive denial toward the fact that a disease is
incurable can jeopardize one's time and quality of life.  Denial
alienates its victims from family and friends.  While the patient, or
conversely, his relative, continually galavants across the country in
search of a miracle drug or pretends the truth shall not come to pass,
lost days can never again be regained.  The feeling of hope afforded by
such futile excursions and mental conjurings is, I believe, less
beneficial than are the quiet and intimate interludes which might have
taken their place.  The longer one avoids the unfaltering truthfulness
of such a situation, the less time he has to enjoy his remaining days
in a "normal" fashion.

Unlike certain studies on illness and death, I cannot feel that denial
is parallel to hope, nor can I think of the need for hope as a lack of
acceptance.  As I soon discovered, self-absorption in a traumatic
illness eventually becomes monotonous, and one will naturally turn his
mind to encompass other interests.  This is perhaps more prominent with
extended illness, as the patient and his family pursue routine
activities while a "lack" of symptoms permits.  Although cancer is
definitely part of my life, it is not my whole life.  While I have
never thought a cure was likely to be discovered, I know there are many
involved  in cancer research; thus, as I live day to day, a ray of hope
shines through a door which is not completely closed.  Hope injects an
element of pleasure in lives which would otherwise be stagnant
reflections of death itself.  While there is yet a chance to survive,
and discomfort is not the primary essence of each day, one tends to
think of life; it is all we, as humans, truly know.

Luckily my family and better friends did not avoid my problem.  There
were times when we felt pressed to talk, and let go of the tears which
were usually held at bay throughout the day.  Disappointment and faded
dreams stabbed my father through the heart, and he lamented the many
sadnesses with an angry vengeance.  Mom's aching for that which could
not be often liquified into tears.  Norm, on one of our walks, would
blandly state, "No luck at all . . ."  The need to speak, and the
responsibility to listen, alternated between us, and strengthened our
relationships; the patient is not the only one in need of a tireless

I had to be able to be free to talk and joke of my illness, not hide
its existence in the corner of my mind.  It was part of my life,
becoming as natural as eating and sleeping.  Had I been forced to
conceal my feelings my life would have been one of loneliness and
despair; I would only have been what people wanted to see...
an image, not a real person.

I was alive, housing an alien growth, indeed nurturing it, so that it
may fulfill its purpose.  To try to impede its fixed intent seemed
futile; cancer desired to squeeze life from my body many years ago...
and now it truly appeared that it would succeed.  Thus, almost pleased
with the belief that my life had found its rut, from which it could not
be removed, I wanted to live in a manner conducive to good spirits.
No one, I thought, would interfere with my peace.

PAGE 225

Chapter 27

". . . I did not want to exist on a roller coaster, constantly grasping
an inflated balloon of hope for each successive "cure" . . ."



Returning to college was difficult, as it prompted numerous
explanations as to the cause of my absence.  I was honest, relating my
situation as gently as the English vocabulary allowed.  I wished no
pity, simply the same cordiality which before had greeted my entry into
the room, and happily this I did receive.  Yet more than this, I found
within many eyes a deep incredulousness, as if they were simultaneously
amazed and frightened that such a horrid disorder had pounced so near
to their own lives.  Their faces proclaimed "it cannot be!" while they
tried desperately to transform my words into a statement which they
found reasonable and within their capacity to understand.  How could
such a thing happen to someone "so young."

One particularly agreeable friend wasted no time in asserting that I
would follow a plan consisting of health food and soon find myself
"detoxified" and on my way to full recovery.  Dubious, and rather
self-protective, I hesitantly agreed to accompany her to the local
natural food store to see if the owner knew of any promising, no-fail
treatments for cancer.  Once there I was shown a variety of self-cures,
ranging from herbal diets, to drinking carrot juice and exorbitantly
priced tea.  I failed to see how such measures could possibly help, for
if they did, would not everyone with cancer be flooding into the store,
rather than laying bedridden in a hospital ward?  I looked around at
the people.  They appeared to be ill.  Carrot juice drinkers, I
presumed!  At any rate, water infused with plain tea sounded more
appealing to me, and my friend and I sat down at one of their tables to
peruse several books on the subject of cancer.

Because I had so thoroughly resigned myself to my inevitable death, I
did not relish the thought of inquiring into cures; it was as if these
"cures" threatened my happiness and sense of emotional security, for
once acceptance has been attained it is not easy to smile upon that
which may destroy one's inner peace.  When I would try to explain this
feeling, people often thought I housed a "death wish" or that I had no
zest for life.  It was a chore to explain this was not true, but
rather, that I did not want to exist on a roller coaster, constantly
grasping an inflated balloon of hope for each successive "cure" and
then falling into the despair of disillusionment when it failed to
enact its promise.  I hoped my attitude did not injure my friend's good
intentions; ironically we were each looking out for my well-being...
she wished for my health and I for my sanity.

Scrawling several book titles and clinics on a piece of note paper
I dismissed myself from the store into the fresh autumn breeze.
I determined to check out a book on vitamin C therapy at the library
before going home, although I honestly hoped that the information
therein would prove doubtful and not merit further investigation.
Maybe I was some sort of an odd-ball, I thought, toting the book under
my arm. . .everyone wants to see me cured but me; I wanted that also,
but without the lies and shams that treatment often entailed.

After thoroughly scouring the book for details, I found my previous
assumptions to be correct.  It was not proven that vitamin C increased
one's life expectancy and, as I had also surmised, the ingestion
of large amounts could render some ill effects, ranging from mild
discomforts to more serious complications.  I was relieved to read
this, as I disliked the idea of taking massive doses of anything;
I respected moderation.

The toxic effects of vitamin C were excessive gas, nausea and diarrhea
(of which I felt I already had enough), urinary burning, irritations of
the mouth, and injury to the tooth enamel, dehydration, a depletion of
minerals in the body, and finally, a temporary increase in pain for
terminal patients and possible risk of hemorrhaging for those with
advanced cancers.  Additionally, I found it interesting that vitamin C
in massive doses could speed one's demise if he was near to death,
while bestowing more energy upon those who were not; as I had no way of
discovering in which stage I was classified, should I have been near my
death, I felt no urge to roll out the red carpet of welcome by taking
vitamin C.

So it was that one option of treatment had been thankfully discarded,
and my friend reluctantly nodded in appreciation of my rejection of
vitamin C.  I shared an affinity with normalcy and serenity in life,
yet in time I began to see the many trials which lay before me and my
goal; even simplicity is difficult to attain when love and concern are
one's barriers.

Another reaction to a dreaded diagnosis is what I would call "a feeling
of desperation" by the relatives.  Flooded by the reality that a family
member may soon die, a relative may override his usual rationality by
playing doctor and assuming what is best for the patient.  This type of
behavior is understandable; often a person who loves another will
attempt to do all that is within his capabilities to comfort the sick.
Through fulfilling his own emotional needs, the relative is then better
able to cope with the illness, for he feels he has not simply watched
his loved one fade away.

The relative's source of emotional comfort may lie in the steady
pursuit of all hopeful treatment, reading any related publications on
the disease spanning diet strategies to mega-dosages of vitamins as a
potential cure, or perhaps arranging prayer sessions to pray the
disease away.  When one boasts an array of caring friends and
relatives, the suggestions fly; it is quite a compliment and should be
viewed as such.  The patient, however, should not feel pressed by these
informative offerings, and always remember that he has the right to
decline their pursuit.

In dealing with an over-zealous relative, it is imperative that a
patient communicates his desires to the relative in a manner that will
accommodate and acknowledge the concern, yet enable him to follow his
own needs.  Everyone has a right to decide that which is best for his
emotional well-being, and to assume that an individual's needs are
identical to one's own is, indeed, a great folly and disservice to the

When a person makes choices for another without first consulting him,
it is a direct violation of personal freedom; reactions to this type of
treatment vary.  A generally meek person may feel obliged to abide by
his captor's urgings, either through fear of opposition or an
indisposition to openly hurt, an act derived, supposedly, of pure
concern.  This type of person is quite vulnerable unless his relatives
are protective of his wishes and do not extend their boundaries when
decisions must be made through making personal demands.  When a plan is
devised, fully knowing both the quiet disposition of the patient and
the fact that the plan in question would prove to have a disagreeable
impact on him, the enactment of such a plan would be nothing short of
overt maliciousness.

Another reaction to this decision-making effort may be fury, with the
patient recklessly attacking the relative's "good intentions."
Although anger is justifiable in such situations wherein the patient's
desires were completely overlooked, I feel that wrath is punishment
more harsh than the over-wrought relative merits.  One might argue that
if the relative truly had the patient's well-being in mind, he would
have inquired into his wishes before enacting his own.  Though
basically true the argument cannot stand alone without also expressing
the necessity for the patient to accept the chaotic mental states
possessed by his relatives as a natural reaction to their own sorrow.
Anger demeans its subject's need to retain hope, whereas a thoughtful
explanation will yield a greater understanding of the entire situation
as faced by all those concerned.

Because I value the ability to choose the routes which I wish my life
to follow, I have similarly felt it is only fair to allow others that
freedom as well; while I may have voiced an opinion toward a subject
concerning someone other than myself, I would never feel it was
acceptable behavior for me to take any action toward the fulfillment of
that opinion.  My oldest brother was different from myself in this
regard, as the following story will demonstrate.

Often Todd would take issues into his own hands, apparently feeling
that his way was undoubtedly THE way.  It was virtually impossible to
illustrate another viewpoint.  Consequently when I received the
diagnosis that I had cancer once again, the dark cloud which fell over
the family receded somewhat after my resolution to forgo chemotherapy,
yet Todd, who lived some distance away from the immediate family, was
unfortunately less informed as to my generally good state of health at
the present time and proceeded to think only of my rapid demise.
Telephones, unhappily, cannot relate the entire picture of one's
health; had he been able to actually see for himself that I was not
fading away with each passing moment, I'm sure the turn of events
would have been different.  As it was, however, he decided we were not
preparing ourselves for the onslaught of my disease, and unbeknownst to
us, made an appointment for us to speak with the director of the
"family hospice" service at the local hospital.

On Thanksgiving weekend everyone came home.  I was in immensely good
spirits, as I felt so very fortunate to be out of the hospital and with
those I loved.  Moreover, I was happy with my decisions and glad to
feel physically well so soon after the exploratory surgery; I knew my
health would not decline before the holidays, and in this I found

In the afternoon I dismissed myself from the festivities so that I
could rest.  Shortly after my disappearance, Todd and his wife found
their way upstairs to my room and asked if they could talk to me.  They
entered and we discussed my health; I was glad to answer any questions
which might have been forgotten, or otherwise left unanswered.  They
then gave me several books, two of which concerned the topic of death,
namely, "On Death and Dying," and "On Dying With Dignity."  Todd
quickly made the statement that I didn't have to read them if I didn't
want to, slightly embarrassed by the whole affair.  I wasn't offended
by the gifts, but thought them to be rather humorous.  I thanked Todd
nevertheless, acknowledging that many people have benefited from
reading those books.  I further said that although I felt in no need of
assistance with regard to my handling the disease and eventual death, I
would perhaps read the books simply to see what the doctors had to say
about their keen observances of the dying.

Before our discussion had come to a close my mother came upstairs to
join the group.  Todd tried to conceal the books he'd given to me.  I
wondered about his effort of secrecy; did he have second thoughts as to
the appropriateness of the gift, or was he concerned about Mom's
reaction?  I once again squelched a smile, noting how death is a
characteristically dismal and uncomfortable subject; we all made our
way to the main floor.

The following day everyone was gathering up their belongings for their
journey homeward.  As the day progressed and Todd had made no effort to
pack, I became suspicious.  He finally voiced the plan that he had in
store for us, that being to talk with the director at the hospice
service.  We immediately rejected the idea, saying we had no intention
of utilizing the service at the present time.  It was then that he told
us he had actually made an appointment for us, and the director would
be expecting us in a few hours.  Since we had first thought the idea
was a mere suggestion, the negative feelings of anger did not surface
until now.

Norm, sensing as I, the trouble which was bound to occur, excused
himself before making a scene.  He decided to take a walk to displace
his rage.  I firmly told everyone that I was not going; I didn't want
to start digging my grave before my demise, not to mention the fact
that I did not wish to die in the hospital if it could be avoided.  But
above all else, it was the principle of the whole affair that set off
my self-protective behavior; I would not have my decisions made for me.
My parents were also angered at the thought of their being entirely
left out of the decision to see this man, multiplied by their lack of
preparation for the discussion which was about to take place.  At last,
understanding Todd's concern, they agreed to accompany him.  As I
watched them file into the car, I wasn't quite sure if a battle had
been lost or won; perhaps in the forgetting of principle, followed by
the acceptance of the former, no one truly wins.

Letting one be free is sometimes the hardest gift to bestow upon
another person, yet it can be the one of greatest value.  Without
personal choice, freedom is but a laughable reality.

Another case which was marked by what I would consider faulty and
injurious judgment involved a couple who had been married for 52 years.
This couple was a classic example of opposing personalities living
together under one roof; she was a rational, mild-mannered lady, while
he was obnoxious in every possible sense of the word, needing to be the
constant attraction and principal authority presiding over any group or
function.  He had to have his way or he would make life truly miserable
for the unfortunate individual who attempted to voice an opinion,
carrying out his revenge with cruel indignance.

After suffering what appeared to have been a stroke, the woman was
hospitalized only to discover that a tumor had formed in her brain.  It
was evident she would not have long to live, so she decided to forgo
the torture which would accompany chemotherapy, the sole option of
treatment, and explicitly informed her husband of her wishes.  As time
passed and her condition grew worse, she eventually lost all ability to
verbally communicate; it was at this point that her husband bid the
doctors to administer chemotherapy, with the supposed hope that she
would regain some of her lost functions.  Consciously aware of the
decision which had been made by her husband on her behalf, yet
incapable of voicing her opposition as to its commencement, she was
forced to submit, for the last time, to her husband's self-centered
dominance.  He saw in her eyes that she begged to be released from the
treatment, but he played the ignorant fool and watched as she quietly
faded into the obscure limbo of unconsciousness.

All through their life together, until her quiet end, the man thought
only of securing enjoyment for himself.  When he felt his well-being
was in danger, he sought only to maintain his happiness, which had
little to do with the welfare of his dying wife.  This was apparent in
his total lack of empathy regarding her wishes, and the merciless
ignorance of her speechless plea.

It is difficult for me to believe that such selfish persons exist, for
I hope the vast majority of people will conquer their selfish
tendencies in order to facilitate the desires of their loved one, even
if it shall mean a more rapid decline in health.  It is important to
realize that only the patient suffers bodily pain; it is ultimately he
who must undergo the treatment, which could in fact, significantly
alter his overall comfort.

For these combined reasons, I feel it is fair to allow a mentally
intact individual to decide how his remaining days shall he spent; this
is why open conversation among family members is of such great
consequence.  When the illness prevents further decisions on the part
of the patient, it is then up to the family to respect his previously
stated wishes and, should further decisions need to be made beyond
those which had been specified, strive to make new options benefit the
patient's comfort.  Above all else, kindness should prevail and guide
in the solutions to any questions which might occur concerning the
patient's death.  A patient should not be made to suffer through a lack
of acceptance on the part of the family; behavior of this sort not only
uses the dying, it overtly abuses them.

PAGE 230

Chapter 28
Christmas 1981


Christmas 1981

I had always loved Christmas, but it was special that year.  Like all
else in my life Christmas had not actually changed; the lights were no
brighter, and the first snow was just as brilliant.  However, I
realized that the holiday could easily be my last, and I wanted my
final memories to be vivid.

To make the most of the day, preparations were always begun directly
after Thanksgiving.  The Indian corn was packed away and the Christmas
decorations took their place, transforming the house into an
inescapable reminder of love and happiness.  Each ornament, given to me
by Mom for my own future tree, I unwrapped with care, wooden men, mice
with glasses, corn husk dolls... they added life to a sapless tree.

Cookie baking commenced following Thanksgiving also, and continued
sporadically up to the 23rd of December.  Because Mom was engaged with
her kindergarteners, I often baked the bulk of the cookies during the
season.  Dad and Norm also appreciated my endeavor, but for reasons
unrelated to Mom's.

The most fun I had was shopping for gifts.  Norm did not share my
enthusiasm in this area.  His miserly side sometimes bloated to
monstrous proportions, and since he seldom indulged in frivolous
expenditures, he saw no reason to do so for anyone else.  However, more
than having a penchant for saving money or a distaste toward giving
unneeded gifts, his aggravation could have been a result of his
agoraphobic nature; Christmas meant shopping and shopping meant stores,
and stores meant people, and all four elements meant chaos and
incredible stress for Norm.  Occasionally we would stop and browse in a
shop if he was not nervous, especially when we were on one of our
drives that skirted small towns; otherwise we avoided heavily crowded
public areas.

After Thanksgiving my brother and I drove to the Amana Colonies in
lowa, a tourist attraction in themselves.  We wandered into several
shops.  At one, a shop selling woolens, we happened upon a shearling
coat of rugged beauty and timeless appeal.

"What a coat..." Norm inspected the workmanship and overall appearance
with something akin to awe.

"I wonder if I should try it on..."

"Go ahead!"

I had never witnessed Norm so utterly engrossed by something of
material significance.  He slid the coat off its hanger and,
shouldering the bulky hide, stepped before the mirror.  Few people
could have pulled off a look like that; he resembled a veteran

"It really looks good," I said.

"Yeh, not bad, huh?"  It wasn't immodest; it was true.  He replaced the
coat and, giving it a long look in parting, strolled out of the store.

"That was some coat," he raved.  Norm talked about it all the way home.

Half-way home I knew what I was going to buy him for Christmas.

The following afternoon found my dad and me on the highway, heading for
the colony so I could buy the sheepskin coat.  Clenching my purse, I
couldn't wait to relinquish the folded bills in my wallet.

"This is going to be the best Christmas!" I exclaimed.

Dad looked at me as if I had slipped into lunacy.  I hadn't expected
him to understand; he was too bitter about my recurrence of cancer.

I thought of the previous Christmas when Norm had given me the gold
watch necklace.  I had been flabbergasted, not only because of the
great expense, but because of the love expressed through its purchase.

The coat was a similar expression, plus a great deal of gratitude.  I
needed to say thanks in a way that would last.  I never stopped to
calculate the length of a lifetime, but believed the coat would survive
that long.

On Christmas Eve the gifts were opened.

"Norm, what do you think of mine?"  I baited him.

"Didn't you get my gift yet?"  I continued.

He looked about his feet for unopened packages, but found nothing. I
knew he would not; the coat was still in my closet.

"Oh!  I guess it's still upstairs!"  I raced up the steps to retrieve
the coat, then decided to put it on and wear it downstairs.

Unable to rid my voice of its smile, I presented him with the coat

"It's all yours," I said.

Norm looked at the hanger, the coat, at me, at the coat again.

"You're kidding..."


Tears welled up in his eyes as the truth sunk in.  Perhaps Norm best
described the way he was feeling when he said. . . "what a load!"

It was almost more than a person could handle.

We took a nighttime stroll after our celebration ended.  The air was
crisp and clear and stars blinked like thousands of tree lights.  Apart
from our conversation all was silent, befitting the midnight hush.
This was, indeed, the best Christmas.

PAGE 232

Chapter 29
Self Imposed Barriers

"I am nature, and like all aspects of nature I, too, must respect
the passing of seasons within my life."


Self Imposed Barriers

I too, was capable of erecting quite formidable barriers to my health,
happiness and general desire for peace.  The initial days of my last
semester at Black Hawk College had me floundering desperately for
sanity; I had talked myself into attempting 17 hours of credit so I
would receive a degree rather than merely transferring my hours to the
next college if, indeed, there would be a "next college."  Had I not so
enjoyed sanity, I might have allowed myself to entertain this wretched
state of turmoil; as it was, reason soon came to my rescue and I was
able to fling one enormous subject back into the sea of college
courses.  Having discarded the excess weight, I was perfectly capable
of continuing my other subjects with ease and enjoyment, and
accommodate my tendency toward perfectionistic behavior through my
attainment of an A average.

Perfectionism is a behavioral pattern which is not easily discarded,
yet when one fostering this destructive mode of thought is able to
control it, and reach the irrevocable conclusion that perfectionism is
a desperately counterproductive personality, he is able to
substantially reduce his mental anxiety.  One ruled by perfectionism
finds no happiness, and must also face the future in a similarly
uncompromising light.  Since no one is perfect an endless struggle
continues throughout one's existence.

One course which deserves mention if only for its intrinsic quality of
humor was called "biofeedback."  Of many options, a student was
required to choose a course under a certain category despite its utter
worthlessness regarding his degree.  These were often regarded with
contempt, as students felt them to be a sheer waste of time;
nevertheless the courses were an easy "A" for those who applied a
modest degree of interest and effort.

My elected class centered on controlling and tempering one's emotions
through the relaxation of individual body parts, and eventually slowing
one's involuntary functions such as heart rate and breathing.  These
various forms of relaxation were monitored by electric devices attached
to pulse points on the head and arms.

More interesting than the machine, however, was the teacher who
lectured to us.  Apparently her method of relaxation worked incredibly
well, for she would stand in front of the class and speak so calmly, so
slowly, that she nearly fell asleep mid-sentence.  As the class wore
on, those seated about the room would either begin to fidget
uncontrollably or gradually transcend earthly consciousness into a vast
ocean of dreams.  I often found my mind wandering aimlessly, far from
the room in which my body was confined, yet I fostered a benevolent
sympathy for the dreamy instructor and tried to concentrate upon the
content of her messages, though like a flower in tight bud, they took
forever to unfold.  When it was finally time to depart, and we all
dashed toward our cars, I could not help but wonder whether it was safe
for her to drive thus relaxed.

In addition to discovering new methods of relaxation, I desired to hear
other opinions which dealt with emotions and the control thereof;
I fought a battle with depression a year earlier, and won; thus my
interest stemmed from former conflicts which, resolved, inhabited my
memory only, yet stood as steadfast reminders to listen to my mind's
plea for rest.

The assignments in the class were not in the least rigorous and usually
consisted of merely reading books of the "self-help" variety.  With the
exception of one book, those which I read were generally "compatible"
with readers, meaning that they took all stands in general but none in
particular.  The book with which I had extreme difficulty was based
upon the premise "If it feels good, do it," for which I have little

1982:  "I have decided that, although Dr. D's speech within the book
denies it, he is also an insecure person; or perhaps he is simply vain.
My reason for so stating this was due to my observance that Dr. D's
cover photo is purposely cut in such a manner that his unquestionably
bald head is concealed from the general public.  Baldness is certainly
not uncommon in our society, nor is it something which should be looked
upon in shame.  After all, you are what you are... body and mind
are a unit!

Moreover, if his photo was so ingeniously cut for the purpose of
vanity, he needed not "grace" us with his countenance on both the front
and back covers of his book.

I further noted that his title and choice of attire coincide in such a
manner that one is led to believe the book is of a different content.
To more clearly explain myself, "erroneous" is much too easily confused
with "erogenous" especially when teamed with D's low-cut knit shirt
revealing a sparsity of chest hairs!

An individual seeking guidance toward finding his own beliefs and
personality is quite vulnerable; suggestions made by self-assured,
confident people will create a vivid color in his mind.  Therefore, it
is important that one who is easily persuaded guards against such
flagrant and opinionated views of personal conduct, lest he be drawn
into a mode of behavior which is worth less than he merits.

I do not believe that a person housing a low self-image should be told
to feel free to exercise his wishes as long as they please only him;
while no one respects a person who compromises all of his beliefs to
please or "be liked" by others, one who succumbs to his every whim
despite the ill consequences toward others also gains nothing.  It is
beneficial for the uncertain individual to ingest each successive
suggestion, and choose which is his desired path toward improvement.

Reading self-improvement books was often a disappointment as I found
the content to be disagreeable in ethical terms or some startling and
conclusive evidence which I had already concluded on my own.  I also
pitied the individual who needed to read such books before realizing
that he fostered depression or another debilitating emotion; yet hoped
that once his repressed emotions were brought to the fore, he would
find the altruistic guidance needed to become an emotionally balanced
individual, rather than a monster begotten of the misguided advocates
of selfishness.  If everyone abided by the "philosophies" stated in the
latter books, the world could not be a tolerable place to exist;
lacking concern for one's fellow man, society would fall into disarray
and collapse altogether.

Mon. Mar. 15 1982... On this 15th night of March, the heavens once
again proclaim that spring indeed will come.  Beneath the shroud of
haze one is able to catch fleeting glimpses of lightning, followed by
the inevitable and distant roar of thunder.  Each day possesses a unique
beauty; I am happy that I did not miss this event.  Perhaps the steady
beat of rain upon the roof-top will lull me to sleep a sound, contented
sleep. . . the thunder again claps the listening ear while lightning
sears the gray sky to the realization that a new season is close at
hand.  I sleep... with peace of mind and body... and rejoice in nature's
splendor and complexity which man cannot begin to understand.  Is not
mystery the food which keeps one alive?

It is spring once again.  Here I sit feeling at once happy and sad
toward the coming of another season.  A balmy and gentle breeze now
whispers through the budding trees, taking the place of winter's harsh,
relentless chill.  With each rain, with every ray of sunlight, the
grass hurries to be lush and green.  Nothing can hold back the passage
of time. . . of the seasons.

I am flooded with an almost uncontrollable urge to cry. . . to loosen
all my burdens upon this strong and vital earth.  Yet one cannot
unleash from himself that which is his part in nature's unceasing life
cycle.  I am as essential, or nonessential, as every living organism;
it must follow then, that I make no demands which cannot possibly be
fulfilled.  I am nature, and like all aspects of nature I, too, must
respect the passing of seasons within my life.

Things change rapidly; still others remain relatively the same; across
the ravine, the graveyard stands as a solid marker of the past, and a
constant reminder that no one leaves the earth alive.

Forget it.  I cannot write.  It seems that one's inner thoughts happen
to be the most difficult to express.  Writing used to be easier.  But
then, perhaps, the more one (experiences) the harder it is to write it
down.  The nearer one is to death, the less words can express one's
true feelings.  Words would not do justice to my feelings.  Perhaps I
am only passing off my inability to write... but I think not.  However,
I shall try again...  Am I at the end of the road?  Have I nothing left
to say?

Spring soon descended on the earth, and though I tried to envelope
myself in its many splendors, I felt them spinning dizzily away, with
summer following close behind like a shadow which remains hidden due to
the dimness of the sun.  The forthcoming season was recognized as one
of rest and relaxation, but viewing the month which lay before me
brought no inner comfort, for my time had already been reserved by the
desires of others, gazing apprehensively at the calendar, months were
swallowed by demands which I felt I could not impede, so concerned were
those who wished to "see me," the rarity which would soon disappear
from the face of the earth.  "How shall I withstand the whirlwind?"
I asked myself.  "When am I to live?"

For one who is essentially a loner, not only wanting, but needing, time
alone, enjoyment of life decreases as social activities increase.
Initially, I plunged bravely into summer, hoping that if I met its
demands head-on, I could more easily manipulate my necessity for quiet
interludes; I further supposed that significant hints would prove
sufficient impetus under which to situate free time.  Alas, I was
wrong, and to my dismay, found myself on the edge of thorough emotional
duress.  Rather than risking a relationship due to a brash, beseeching
plea for peace on my behalf, I allowed myself to rend internally,
leaving a tattered remnant of myself at the summer's end.  There is
only one respite to that assertion, that was time spent with Norm on
the week-ends or on the trip to Colorado...

It is a rather strange sensation one encounters when he fosters dreams
and desires and yet, simultaneously, knows that those dreams are that
which, in all probability, will never materialize; and while one deeply
feels the disappointment of this unattainable goal, he also accepts the
situation blandly as a matter of course.

Toward the mountains I felt just this emotion. . . desire and inability
mottled with the acceptance that had already developed within my mind.
Coupled with the internal disappointment of the "now" was the
realization of that which I was capable of mastering the former year.

Despite these physical limitations, however, I am still able to
thoroughly enjoy the mere sensations of the mountains by way of my
eyes, ears, and touch.  Here I can still derive a satisfaction... a
feeling of solitude... which no other type of atmosphere can fulfill.

It is my opinion that only a brash fool could not love this atmosphere.
...this is no place for hate... it is for life, emotion, and death
and for the celebration thereof.

Sept. 2, 1982:

Here I sit, casually observing the transformation of summer into the
cloak of early fall.  It is slightly unbelievable that summer is now
slipping away as smoothly as the wind shuffles my hair.  I enjoyed the
summer, but the time has elapsed from one day to the next until the
days themselves are lost in a hazy dream.  Had I only the chance, I
would rearrange time to include the serenity which I now possess.  I
feel that my early summer was washed away in a blur of nervous, albeit
necessary, activities; I remained uncharacteristically surrounded by
petty occupations to retain a shred of sanity. . . so reved up was my
emotional stability that I neglected, unconsciously, to step out of the
race.  I felt cheated. . . having so little time and yet so much I
desired to accomplish.

PAGE 236

Chapter 30
Autumn at Augustana

"School was not a "given" in my life. . . I had no other alternative
but to uphold a charade of normalcy. . .that gave my parents the right
to hope. . . "


Autumn At Augustana

With summer drawing to a close, my friends slowly drifted their
separate ways as the fall semester of 1982 beckoned and bid them to
cast away the carefree mood of days gone by.  I, too, readied myself
for the new semester with apprehension; the purpose of continuing
school in my state of health eluded me, yet I felt too weak to contest
the arrangement.  Drained from months of activity which depleted my
energy and abused my emotional stability, I knew also that I had
developed further symptoms of liver malfunction during the summer.
Even the mildest days, with temperatures reaching no higher than 70
degrees, would cause my body to overheat; if I did not remedy the
situation by chewing ice or removing myself from the location, I would
sweat profusely, and eventually obtain a relentless headache and
nausea.  This symptom was altogether annoying and seemed to me a huge
inconvenience, as I could not sit comfortably in an atmosphere which
most people heartily enjoyed.  In addition, I would tire easily and
found it increasingly more difficult to perform the least taxing of
functions such as rapidly ascending multiple flights of steps, without
reaching my destination quite breathless, my heart pounding at an
alarming rate.

Knowing these effects would not subside, I dreaded the coming months.
September and school seemed to fit together like pieces in a jigsaw.
I could not help but wonder where, in the world, I would possibly find
a niche.

I initially enrolled in four classes at Augustana, feeling obliged to
retain full-time status if I intended to obtain an education within a
reasonable period of time.  From the outset, I elected to study German
as well as two other "staples," those being a Geography course and a
course in English literature.  I still entertained the romantic notion
of traveling to Germany one day, utilizing with fluency and grace my
haphazard rendezvous with the native language.  After two weeks in the
class, however, I deemed it too much of an emotional strain to attempt
a new tongue under the pressure of the teacher who radiated the
likeness and temperament of Adolph Hitler.  Quickly moved to a
decision, I dropped the course to add another in English which tackled
the various plays of Shakespeare.  This, I thought, would be more apt
to lie within my realm of understanding.

The first class of the day was Early English Literature, which was
taught on the lower floor of "Old Main," a stately edifice which, to
me, seemed to possess the ability to gather and retain heat within its
confines.  Each morning I would mount the cement steps which led to Old
Main, hoping that "this time" some windows would be open to allow cool
air to cleanse the room of its persistent stuffiness.  Sometimes before
class, one window would be breathing fresh air into the room, exhaling
through the open doorway the stale air which otherwise choked the room.
Upon the teacher's arrival, however, the door would automatically
close to "keep noise to a minimum," and I cringed with dismay as the
circulating air stopped dead in its tracks.

As the instructor spoke of the early legends of the Norsemen and the
icy gales in which men battled, even my wistful images of the frozen
climate could not impede my body's growing internal heat.  I would
begin to feel as if an oven had been opened in front of my face,
followed by an unrestrained flow of sweat.  I fought to retain my sense
of humor and enjoy the class, but as my hair began to plaster itself
closely to my scalp from the heat, concentration gradually lessened
until I could think of nothing else but fleeing from the classroom to
the fresh air outside.  At the end of the hour, I dashed through the
door to the nearest restroom in an attempt to restore, to a reasonable
degree, my appearance.  On many days, I actually looked as if I'd just
been swimming and had not allowed my hair to dry.

Depending on the amount of time I had to spend between classes, I was
sometimes able to sit outside and let the breeze dry my hair and cool
my body.  A shortage of time or inclement weather forced me to simply
walk to my following class, where the cooler room eventually afforded a
more comfortable situation for me, allowing me to slowly dry off.

Throughout the hours between my second and third classes, I would
purchase and eat lunch and then situate myself in the least obtrusive
spot I could find to study or write.  On several occasions, I was able
to visit with an old friend, with whom I'd initially become acquainted
at church, and who, I might add, was virtually the only person I felt
comfortable addressing.  When she appeared, time passed rapidly and
easily.  She also dispelled some of my fears about the campus (among
these, the library) by ushering me through the quiet corridors of the
rather intimidating building.

To my friend I also expressed my feeling that the school had a more
impenetrable barrier than any other I had experienced, giving one the
impression that the circles of friends which existed could not afford
any new members. Repeatedly, I had offered triflings of conversation to
classmates, only to be answered with blunted replies or silence.  Since
the bulk of the students were not daily commuters, she had experienced
the same treatment her first semester and therefore concluded that the
best way to feel a part of Augie was to reside in one of the
dormatories until she had developed several friends and
acquaintances, and then return home to live.

I knew, of course, that the next best way to meet people was to join
organizations, and as the old saying goes, "get involved!"  My mom used
to suggest that I sit down with a group at lunch, introduce myself, and
start talking.  I suppose there are those who would have success with
this type of salesmanship, yet I could never barge through closed doors
into a conversation of which I had no knowledge.  This would seem more
an invasion of privacy than an extension of friendship.  My general
health was also an inhibitive factor; apart from my appearance, I was
tired and weak, and did not desire to explain my situation to others
for fear of adverse reactions.  Fatigued from attending school and
studying my lessons, I felt I could ask no more of myself; I extended
my friendship and smile to those who would accept them, but attended no
extracurricular functions, desiring instead to use up any reserve
energy in doing those things at home which I most enjoyed. It helped to
understand the general flavor of Augie as being intrinsically different
from my former school; I did not react to its indifference as a
personal affliction, nor did I seek out various social groups to forge
a place for myself in the hearts of others.

Through my weary and knowing eyes, I observed the turmoil of which I
was not a part, feeling worlds away from the carefree and jubilant
frolic which bespoke the presence of health.  I felt suspended in time,
as if all else moved about me, each following his desired route, while
I stood rooted before a dead end.  Never before had I encountered such
desolate helplessness, yet I did not wish to change places with anyone
... even with cancer quietly closing in.  Though health could have
endured some improvement, with my mind, my values, I was content.
While certain individuals under my gaze possessed what seemed to be
genuine character, I saw also those who chatted constantly about petty
concerns and displayed no depth or true emotion; their lives were a
farce.  If this was the trade-off for being part of the social
whirlwind, I was content, as always, to watch unobserved from my
stationary corner...

The Observer

I am the satellite,
The worldly observer
Of a spinning mass of confusion.
I am equidistant
Between humanity
And the heavens,
Between star-strewn galaxies
And streets besmeared
With innovations....
I see and compute
And attempt to make sense
Of this confused world....
Though the heavens
Are complex,
I believe they are not
Half so much as are
The roads of human life.

September 10, 1982
Lauren Isaacson

Negative Aspects

In my world
Time passes slowly,
Allowing moments to reflect upon the aspects of life
I coldly rejected:

I see meaningless lives,
Bereft of all worry,
Flaunt worthless smiles,
And empty laughter.
Pessimists carry frowns
Behind trudging feet
Upon leashes......
Forever dragging their burden
Of discontent to the world.
Souls haunted by loneliness
Hang their heads in despair,
Their eyes searching desperately
For the shred of compassion
Which will never come,
Until loneliness surrounds
And follows their every step,
Heralding irreversible regression:
Chronically depressed
Cling to sadness
As their sole purpose in life,
While their troubled minds
Create wistful images of suicide.

September 12-15, 1982

Lauren Isaacson


One may choose
Countless masks
To portray his image
Unto the world,
And yet it seems
That ultimately
Masks are shattered;
Revealing that which
Resides within.
It is wise to discern
Between one's mask
And self
Before life exposes
Untainted features to humanity,
The one body
Which is utterly ruthless
In its judgment.

September 15, 1982
Lauren Isaacson

Perhaps my most enjoyable hours were spent outside on a hill
overlooking the campus.  On the hill, I felt serene; every other place
on campus I felt my life slipping away, as if I was carrying death
within me.  Here I would sit in idle reflection and muse on the autumn
leaves falling lazily to the ground.  The squirrels, with their crazy
antics, were desperately hoarding all the acorns they found, burying
and reburying until I'm sure even they didn't know where the acorns
were.  And I mustn't forget the restless breeze, ever blowing and
hinting of winter.  I shared a bond with autumn that was, at once,
beautiful and sad.  In life nothing truly ends, although there are
countless births and as many deaths.  With or without my own existence,
life itself would go on, virtually heedless of one heartbeat lost to
forever.  In this reflective and tranquil mood I would transfer my
thoughts to paper to better clarify for myself and for others the way
in which I viewed my existence.

The War Within

Daily, it seems, I feel the alien
Presence that resides within,
Slowly pressing life from my
Faculties in a bland attempt
To reign in full over my ravaged body.
Neither do I madly oppose nor readily
Submit to my ruthless attack,
But attempt to retain a shred
Of normalcy in my existence.
Life takes what it will, and
Being a product of two lives,
I am subject to be called
To nonexistence, as is all creation.
Nature permits no flattery...
No favoritism...hence the
Ultimate equality of mammals,
Whether man or beast, in death.

September 27, 1982
Lauren Isaacson

The third and last class of the day was geography, dealing with the
conflicts of urban life and the planning of cities.  It was what I
would call a "crash course," as it was a full quarter of work condensed
into a mere four weeks' time.  The first test, being somewhat of a
midterm exam and covering a great deal of the text and lecture
material, was given after about two weeks; I need not say, perhaps,
that I found the class to be quite exhilarating.  Indeed, it kept me on
my toes, if I may borrow a well used phrase, and taxed my eyes as well.
My efforts proved worthwhile, however, and I scored highly on the
initial exam.  A final exam and a project were the only remaining
obligations of the class, leaving two English courses as my sole
exertions for the rest of the quarter.  It wasn't a bargain, but then
nothing could be had without making an allowance of some consequence.

After attending my class, I would gratefully return home, exhausted,
and lie down for several hours.  I generally did no homework on days I
went to school, saving my energy for days off and weekends.  School
coincided with drudgery, for I was no longer deriving any pleasure from
life.  If I was not in school or studying diligently, I was thoroughly
fatigued and unable to pursue diversions of my liking.  It seemed to me
that I was nearly committing suicide through the over-exertion of my
failing body, playing the role of a normal person when I was unfit for
the rigorous portrayal.

As the days passed, I began to see the utter ridiculousness of my
situation.  I felt  lifeless after school, and began to wonder why I
maintained the effort; I had no foreseeable future in which I could
utilize the knowledge obtained in college, and my time and energy thus
spent gradually took on the guise of futility.  It was after two
occasions of pathetically wetting my nightgown (due to the fact that my
exhausted body did not heed the brain's warning of distress) that I
decided to accept defeat.  The demeaning situation described above
occurred only during sleep after school days, which, consequently,
were the days that caused the bulk of my exhaustion.

School was not a "given" in my life; it was a factor over which I had
control.  Initially, I felt I had no other alternative but to uphold a
charade of normalcy, for that gave my parents the right to hope and
feel, perhaps, that life for our family was somewhat akin to the
societal norm.  Although I had experienced deep tremors of anxiety
toward the thought of attending school during the summer months, I too,
deemed it best to carry on; I could not abide the image of myself as
an unproductive, and therefore, devalued member of the family.  Also
within me was the question of whether I could manage the demanding
pressures of school, and the need to somehow prove to myself that
I could, both mentally and physically, pass the test.  Though my
assignments were well accepted, my physical performance was far below
average; my will was strong, but my body could not keep up.  The
decision to drop all of my classes spelled defeat, for I disliked to
quit, but even more it meant relief and the freedom to entertain my
desires in a comfortable atmosphere without overly taxing myself.

My parents looked upon my action with more regret and pain, for it
brought the issue of my ill health to the forefront.  Now it could no
longer be concealed behind a wall of books or hours spent out of the
house, for I was home all day, every day.  My mom persisted in her
assertion that "if only you'd taken just one class. . ." it could have
added excitement and social interaction to my life.  Had I enjoyed
school as do habitual students, I might have followed her suggestion,
yet I found my free time to be an immense improvement and would forgo
none of it to sit in a stuffy classroom.  One need not attend a college
to expand his intellectual horizons, and I had no intention of falling
into illiteracy; I merely wanted to do what I wanted, when I  wanted.

Having scored highly on my first geography exam and completed the
English assignments successfully gave me the confidence that I so
needed, and further led me to believe that I would have otherwise been
a capable student; while I suffered a physical defeat, I had not failed.

With no obligations to fulfill, my life was rejuvenated with a
simplicity which could best be described as wonderful.  I truly reveled
in the autumn splendor and my spirit possessed a vitality which had
nearly been smothered by a mere four weeks' toil and stress.  My
general health improved markedly as I was no longer plunging all of my
energies into school's demands.  I now could heed my body's warning to
rest as needed, and thereby enjoy more fully the other areas in which
my interest thrived.  The thought that time was rapidly slipping by
gave way, once again, to the essence of quality which had, for a while,
escaped my grasp.

PAGE 243

Chapter 31

"It is essential to realize that no matter what type of adversity one
may have to face, the ultimate self is the inner self."



When a person is told he has a terminal illness, depression is a very
natural reaction.  Not only does the individual have to face a disease
which shall bring about weakness and failure of one's bodily functions,
but also he is obliged to acknowledge that the culmination of his life
waits on his very doorstep.

For myself, it was not the fear of death which brought about various
intervals of depression, but rather the realization that my dreams for
the future and the reality thereof would not coincide.  Occasionally,
as time passed, I would also become disheartened by the way in which
the cancer was transforming my body in a visual sense.  I had always
taken pride in maintaining my figure for my health and appearance, and
now I was helpless against the shape I was quickly becoming as the
cancer grew.  I was also aware of its effect internally, and exercise
gradually tapered off into nonexistence.  I found my lungs unable to
fully inflate, and my heart beat would hover around 100 beats per
minute with only mild exercise; fear would soar when I would, without
warning, desperately need a bathroom.

I did not hate my life, yet when I was afflicted with nausea for hours
in a day or forced to miss an anticipated outing because of diarrhea
and the need of a bathroom in close vicinity, my spirits could plummet
and make me wish that death was close at hand.  While those things I
most valued I still possessed, the magnitude of my physical condition
would surface when I would once again be harshly reminded that
"normalcy" was no longer credible, as if that state of being was a rug
which was being swept out from under my feet.

In addition to feeling inconvenienced by cancer, I also experienced a
sense of worthlessness, although of a different sense than that which
I felt upon my initial bout at age 13.  When I was younger, I placed
a great deal of importance upon physical attributes; consequently the
post-treatment loss of all my hair, necessitating the purchase of a
wig, resulted in the questioning of my parents affection.  I could not
understand how anyone could possibly care about a bald, rather
skeletal, daughter.

My later loss of self-worth centered more on my inability to perform
certain household chores, attend school or maintain employment.  I was
incapable of strenuous tasks and the fluctuations in my health were
such that a steady job would be unthinkable.  Since I no longer felt
that I acted the part of a "good citizen," guilt quickly crept into my
mind.  I was living under the wing of my parents as I watched friends
initiate themselves into the mainstream of societal expectations;
theirs were blooming lives, while I seemed stranded in a murky,
stagnant pool, simply taking up space.  I was eventually able to
resolve this self-inadequacy through interaction with my family and
friends who, I observed, did not think less of me as a person simply
because I did not conform to the standard ideal of accomplishment;
those with whom I had close association knew and accepted my
weaknesses, and sought my companionship despite any inconveniences they
might have had to endure because of my presence.  Moreover, and
possibly of foremost importance, was the fact that I finally accepted
my limitations and no longer attempted to prove to myself that I could
still do something for which my body was unfit; I admitted that
self-restriction, or at least careful government of my activities,
would allow me greater flexibility and opportunity in the long run of

It would be a lie to say that, having aged six years, I no longer fell
subject to self-devaluation through a loss of physical attributes.  As
my waistline disappeared and my stomach began to protrude (for lack of
anywhere else to go), I grew increasingly more self-conscious of my
figure.  Even at the outset, I considered my midsection enormous, and
purchased oversized shirts to conceal what I believed to be a horrible
deformity.  As the liver continued to expand, for which I had been
mentally prepared, I began outgrowing clothes, especially pants (due to
the waistline) shortly after they were purchased.  Soon I was giving
pants to my mother who wore a size 12; winter coats which did not
button were also handed to Mom who accepted the gifts as graciously as
the occasion permitted.  The waist which had measured 24 inches grew to
32; the stomach protruded far beyond my bosom, a ghastly 37 inches in
diameter.  People began to ask innocently, "when is it due?"  I could
not deny it, it followed me everywhere. . . glaring at me through each
piece of clothing.  It bid me "good morning" and packed me to bed at

Perhaps one of my most distressing fears was the idea of encountering a
school mate who was not aware of my health situation, and either be
labeled as "pregnant" or "stout."  Pregnancy out of wedlock was
completely unacceptable to me; while the lack of control which would
accompany mere weight gain was also a speck in my eye; I revolted
against both assumptions with similar distaste and simply hoped to
avoid familiar faces.  If such a meeting did occur, I would generally
explain my current state of affairs, although I also disliked
blackening one's day with news which was generally categorized as
traumatic and distressing.  When a person inquired into how I'd been
spending my time, I would have to subdue my urge to devalue myself due
to the impressive answers I failed to relate.  As a whole, reunions
were rather a blemish in my day.

As I came to identify myself not with my "deformity" or my
accomplishments, but instead with my personal character, I felt more
at ease in group situations.

It is essential to realize that no matter what type of adversity one
may have to face, the ultimate self is the inner self.  Deformities mar
the surface, but they need not devastate the interior; one's
personality needs to be projected beyond the body or the face, just as
it has to be expressed by the "normal" individual.   A pretty face does
not assure the observer of an equally beautiful personality.  There
will be those who will be uncomfortable in the presence of a stricken
individual, but those people should be given patience and
understanding; reactions are frequently simultaneous and the result of
shock or immeasurable pity, not incivility or rudeness.  Those few
individuals who are cruel and insensitive are not worth the anger they
provoke, for they are the children of ignorance and have not lived
through pain and strife; for some, empathy is not inherent, it must
be learned.

I also found it to my benefit if I would candidly mention my health
instead of trying to conceal it like an illegal drug; I discovered that
although it was difficult to hear of my misfortune, it was easier than
if the burden had actually been their own.

The pervasive sadness which can strike when one grasps the reality of
illness does not endure forever, unless in self-pity, one allows
himself to be drawn into such an utterly oppressive mental state.
Sadness is a part of life which makes joyous moments all the more
valued; man is an animal, and in so being, it is characteristic of his
make-up that he feel pain and pleasure.  To deny one's feelings, or so
dwell on one aspect, is to deny one's humanness and natural traits.

PAGE 246

Chapter 32
Basic Day

"Autumn. . .the world was filled with sound, a veritable grand finale
before the penetrating hush of winter."


A Basic Day

I loved autumn, a season both riotous and melancholy, and it was best
shared with those I loved.  Thus I spent a great amount of time with
Norm.  We shared a mutuality which spanned the insignificant to the
more complex modes of thought in such a way that neither of us felt
compelled, nor hindered, to speak.  As comfortable in each other's
company as we were alone, our relationship did not possess the usual
tensions and expectations so prevalent in most friendships.  That we
enjoyed each other was enough.

Through the week, Norm worked second shift as a custodian at a local
junior high school.  Since he didn't depart for work until 3:00 p.m.,
his daily routine at home usually consisted of leisurely activities,
lest he become too tired to properly do his work.

We shared the upstairs, which was divided into two separate rooms with
an accordian door, providing privacy that was sufficient, yet far from
sound proof.  Generally we would wake around the hour of 9:00 a.m.
Either the static notes of his clock radio or a rustling which attested
to his hastily making the bed would usher through the door, and harken
the beginning of another day, or I would rise first and find Norm
staring at the ceiling among an entangled mass of sheets.

The person who made it downstairs first was the one who, if Mom had
made some for herself and Dad, divided the morning "gruel."  Since the
family had recently acquired a microwave oven, the machine allowed a
quick and thorough heating of the cereal if one simply transferred the
contents of the pan into stoneware bowls.

Because several hours had passed between Mom's preparation of the
cereal and our reheating of the same, it usually molded itself into a
solid bulk shaped exactly to the pan's dimensions.  This made dividing
easier but deftness was needed to assure that each half found its way
into the bowl.  On one particular occasion Norm, spatula poised in
hand, was directing each slimy mass into its bowl when one half escaped
his control and proceeded to flop onto the counter, splat on the floor
and go skidding across the waxed tile.  I found this affair to be
thoroughly amusing as it was in the same scenario which I had starred
only a week before.  Perhaps it would not have been so humorous if the
cereal did not have such a nasty appearance, which in itself would seem
to ward off any potential consumer.  Moreover, hot cereal had quite a
lengthy history between Norm and me.

When I was in fifth grade, Norm was to see that I ate a decent
breakfast before setting off to school, since Mom had once again
decided to renew her teaching certificate and was employed as a
kindergarten teacher.  At the time I fairly detested the appearance and
taste of cereal, yet managed to choke down a moderate amount before my
taste buds rebelled, after which no promptings, no bribery, would make
me swallow another spoonful.  Norm, feeling it was his duty to inflict
some sort of punitive action upon my finicky tongue, would then lead me
into the bathroom, and make me watch as he poured the remaining oatmeal
into the toilet and flushed it away.  Although some people might have
found this treatment cruel and definitely unusual in nature, I was
struck by intense hilarity upon viewing the mottled gray food hitting
the water, looking and sounding like an enactment of the flu season.

A few years later I retaliated in kind by saying that the cornmeal mush
he was then eating looked like an exact replica of what I'd seen about
the floor of the cage in which the bears resided at Brookfield Zoo.
"You had to say it, didn't you?" he scowled as he looked at the yellow
meal still staring him in the face.  Although hot cereal had a
personality all its own, sporting a slightly different appearance each
day, certain mornings, it just didn't have the eye appeal to start the
taste buds rolling.

Eventually our bantering jokes collided with such frequency that they
lost all of their effect and we would continue eating, undaunted by the
grotesque conjurings which were sailing about the kitchen.  Though by
now a standard joke, oatmeal suffered no lack of humor; to us it was
inherently funny.  We did not tire of the commonplace and routine;
where there is love even the most insignificant of things has a spark.

Having eaten breakfast, whether hot cereal or an alternative, we would
often fall upon the task of washing and drying the morning dishes.
Neither of us minded chores.  I have often witnessed people who so
rebelled against performing a simple task that in the time they wasted
voicing their complaints the chore could have been accomplished
completely.  When one's mind is filled with happy thoughts, work takes
on an entirely different perspective, and mindless tasks give one time
to think.  I am not attempting to say that, with the proper attitude,
work is always entertaining and fun, yet protests only serve to
multiply the weight of a potentially simple task.

Helping with the chores at home also gave me a sense of usefulness and
made me glad that I was able to be productive in certain respects.  I
have no regard for those who will, in the name of ill health, sit idly
by and observe others do all the work, when they in fact are yet quite
capable of doing it themselves.  Laziness as a result of illness is in
itself a severe malady.  It is also an enormous character flaw which
speaks loudly of the one thus afflicted. . . more so, perhaps, than the
person realizes; slovenliness wins no friends.  I have also discovered
that laziness begets more laziness; it is a weed with far reaching
roots that thrives on itself and holds one imprisoned.  It is wise to
guard against this behavior, lest one be transformed into a useless
heap of flesh and blood, for its seeds lurk within even the most
industrious of people, and cheat them of life.  Thus, whether in unison
or alone, the dishes were done, thereby lessening Dad's workload to a
degree.  Dad's retirement moved him to exercise the household chores on
the main floor (although this did not include the preparation of
meals), while I maintained the upper.  Group cooperation helped
everyone, even though Mom could still be seen flitting about the house
on weekends, pushing this and poking that; her activity was compulsive.
Even her work as a teacher was better described as "full-time and a

Our mailman had the accuracy of a Swiss watch.  Each day, whether
glorious or gloomy, the telltale moan of the mailbox lid would resound
at exactly 9:30.  Then, if one was quick, he could be seen striding
away at a brisk pace, already two houses up the avenue.

Having developed a keen interest in stocks and futures, Norm generally
received the majority of the day's hoard, and the brokers barraged him
with a large round of literature and calculations proving that their
firm was where money could be made.  Unceremoniously sorting through
his various letters, he then would bound upstairs to read the Wall
Street Journal, disappearing, for all practical purposes, at least
an hour.

I also looked forward to the coming of the mail, although I didn't
receive much of interest aside from an occasional letter.  The
remainder of my mail, like that addressed to Norm, were attempts to
direct my money into the hands of others; while his letters requested
money for investment, mine were in the form of catalogs and most of
which could not be classified as an investment, but rather, an
accumulation of commodities to be purchased.  Junk mail, however, was
better than none.

The noon hour sent Norm downstairs again, and the three of us visited
for a while before again pursuing our own interests.  Afternoon would
find Dad bustling around the house, fixing one of the numerous
household maladies, peering under the hood of a car, or during outdoor
months, maintaining the yard.  Norm could usually be seen dozing in a
lawn chair, strategically positioned for the best view and the most
sunshine.  Even frigid temperatures would not keep him indoors if the
sun was poking its face out of the clouds, for he would don boots and a
snowsuit (or "Pepto-Bismol suit" in his opinion, since such attire
appeared to bloat the individual thus clad) and, lawn chair in tow,
trudge faithfully to his choice location in the snow.  He also managed
to take a daily stroll in the woods behind our house.  No season would
keep him away, whether the woodland carpet consisted of spring flowers
or newly shed leaves.  The contentment on his face was obvious;
the simple, honest life yielded remarkable returns.

I spent my newly acquired free time in much the same manner as did
Norm.  Although I never frequented the snow-covered landscape even in a
sedentary fashion, I did make the most of the other seasons, with
autumn topping the list.  I loved to watch the leaves cascade to the
ground, and listen to the eerie rustling of wind through the trees.  It
was as if the world was filled with sound, a veritable grand finale
before the penetrating hush of winter.

When the weather did not lend itself to lounging amongst the trees, I
entertained myself by scanning through photography or nature books.
Having parted only recently with the demanding curricular schedule of
college, I shunned literature for a time, electing instead subjects
which could easily be laid aside without risking an interruption of a
thinly-woven plot.

During the hours before Norm set off to work, I always made myself
accessible for conversation without being an imposition on his space or
freedom.  Anything I was doing could be finished later if he desired to
talk, and consequently, we often sat over a cup of tea and pursued
various topics of interest.  The subject itself never mattered, for the
companionship was the delight.  The atmosphere we shared was unlike all
others.  Receptive to the same mode of thought, the flow of
conversation was easy and unhindered.

Near 3:00 p.m. Norm would rise from his chair with an accompanying,
"Well, better shove off. . ." and grasping his lunch bucket, paced out
the door to his car.  After he had gone I did those things which our
conversation had delayed.  Chores and other functions always waited to
be done; dust is very patient, and can easily be put off for an hour
or two!

Despite Dad's flurry of activity around the yard and home, he always
found time to take me to lunch.  We ate at restaurants once or twice a
week, which pleased me to no end, as I had enjoyed dining out since I
was quite young.  Even though my lunch and stomach seldom tolerated
each other, it was worth the effort.  The food, at any rate, tasted
good on the way down.

Mom returned home from work usually between 4:00 and 4:30, although
5:00 p.m. stints became increasingly familiar as the years passed.  The
age-old thought that one's work is easier as the years unfold did not
seem to hold any truth with respect to Mom's career.  Her day never
came to an end, even after she dismissed the classroom.  Armed with at
least one tote bag, she would continue her work after supper and into
the evening, often falling asleep to attest to her fatigue.  She was
the only person I knew who could fall asleep and continue writing a
sentence, although admittedly the content of a sentence produced
through these means lacked all human sensibility and she would be
obliged to begin anew.

Depending largely on the state of my health, I would help with the
preparation of supper in varying degrees, sometimes fixing a large
portion of the meal and other times doing little more than setting the
table or peeling vegetables for the salad.  Apart from helping Mom,
meal preparation allowed us to catch up on the day's events, ranging
from my occasional outings to Mom's cantankerous and incorrigible
youth, of which there was always at least one per class.

When the dishes once again found their way into the cupboards, the day
had slowed to a quiet pace.  Dad would prop himself up in his recliner
behind a wall of newspaper and give an onlooker the impression that he
was avidly perusing the articles.  Only a steady puffing or an
occasional snort would indicate that the downcast eyes saw no more
words on that page than would the gaze of a blind man.  Mom remained
awake as long as she puttered about the house, but once seated, soon
acquired the visage of a woman drugged, weighted eyelids transforming
her eyes to slits.  At this point, I could leave the room entirely
unnoticed.  It was grand that we found each other so relaxing.  Perhaps
the moral of this paragraph is that no one falls asleep in the presence
of someone he does not trust.

My parents probably considered they had struggled enough to remain
awake, and  by 10:30 settled into bed; I did not do likewise until
after midnight.  Often I was still rustling about when Norm returned
home, and stationing myself on a kitchen chair, would oversee his hasty
reheating of the evening fare.  Observing Norm eat was no lengthy
ordeal, for an entire plate-full of food could vanish in minutes.
A food's aesthetic appeal held little importance as long as
the flavor was agreeable.

Despite the fact that I had no school or work to punctuate weekends,
they remained quite different from the rest of the week if only because
both Mom and Norm were home all day.  Saturday and Sunday were the only
days when they saw each other since their work schedules did not
coincide, and would therefore catch up on the latest tidbits of
information while Mom did the laundry.  Mom couldn't just sit and talk;
she had to be mending a sock, or sorting clothes or folding towels.
Her industriousness was not an exaggerated view of the work ethic
driven into her as a child. . . merely her nervous energy seeking an

Invariably weekends would bring at least one outing for Norm and me,
whether this consisted of a motorcycle ride, a drive in the car, a
walk, or a combination of many alternatives; a picnic was almost always
on our agenda.  With my decreasing tolerance for heat, fall was
especially wonderful.  The air once again attained a seasonal crispness
which beckoned us to bask in the sun or amble amongst the woodland's
profusion of color.  A feeling of serenity pervaded the entire
landscape, a scene transformed after the chaotic months of summer.  No
children's cries pierced the tranquility. . . no dirt bikes invaded
one's thoughts.

Toting KFC and a six-pack of beer, we would situate ourselves alongside
of the Mississippi or travel to a park and eat beneath the trees.
Lingering for hours in the cool breeze of autumn and then, perhaps,
hiking on a trail or country road for a stretch, was leisure at its
best, and life was most worthwhile.  These were the days I loved, yet
of more importance than the day was the person with whom I shared it,
for it is not the experience but rather the presence (or absence) of an
individual that truly raises life's moments above the mundane.  Never
had I encountered such utter compatibility; we thought in the same way.
Norm often said, "We might as well not talk at all," because certain
occasions would find us simultaneously blurting out identical thoughts
and then stopping our tongues in midair.  "Oh, well."  The end result
was obvious to both of us, so there was no purpose in voicing our
viewpoint or observation.

Norm seldom aired his feelings toward a person, for he was able to
demonstrate his tolerance and love for an individual through actions
and, not unlike many people, found it extremely difficult to verbalize
that which resided on tender ground.  When someone's love for another
is clear, words, though pleasant to the ear, merely add warmth to the
heart.  Rarity bestowed Norm's statements with more value; since the
words need not have been spoken to be understood, the words themselves
only clarified his feelings.

More than once, however, Norm asserted that he was not sure how he
could handle my death, for aside from our great companionship he
thought of me as his touchstone with the female sex.  There was not a
large array of women associated with his line of work, except for the
teachers who were yet in their rooms when he arrived, and he did not
wish conversation to become difficult simply through a lack of social
contact.  How well I understood his statement; a steadfast advocate
of personal "self-sufficiency," I feared dependence of any kind upon
habits or people.  That I so enjoyed Norm's company was, in itself,
a trifle unnerving because a loss of such magnitude would prove
devastating, yet Norm and death were two words which, in my eyes,
spanned the distance of one star to another.  It was unthinkable that
Norm would die before me.

Though Norm's words left me feeling worthwhile, nothing would alter the
course of their sincerity and eventual pain which he would feel simply
due to their actual existence in his mind.  "I just wish you'd start to
get better."  I just wished I could oblige.

PAGE 251

Chapter 33
Treatments / Hoax

"What if...?"


Treatments / Hoax

Amid the rising flood of new treatments and landmark cures which lapped
temptingly at our doorstep, I began to wonder if any supposed cure
really honored its name.  I was tired of the restrictions which cancer
had placed on me, and my interest toward alternative methods of
treatment grew as rapidly as the size of my liver.  I even questioned
whether a liver transplant was a possibility, but was forever wary of
the suffering involved; though I desired health, I would endure no
drastic measures toward that end, and knew also, that most
"possibilities" could never, for me, turn into a reality.

Though not actively pursuing articles, I would read or hear about the
progress of various treatments as discovered by my parents; I was never
surprised to learn that the drug or method in question was ineffective
with my type of cancer; characteristically a slow grower, a
leiomyosarcoma was also remarkably tough and resilient to the most
terrifying of chemicals.

Not easily persuaded into the acceptance of hopelessness, however, Mom
and Dad continued to inquire into the success of publicized drugs at
their source.  The more controversial forms of treatment were also
investigated, and naturally their administrators claimed to have
realized at least a modicum of success.  Admittedly, the thought of
undergoing treatment about which little was known seemed disconcerting,
and a mere description of certain treatments nearly made my gums
recede.  One such method which sounded horrifyingly barbaric called for
the boiling of one's blood; after it had been "purified," it would be
routed back into the system once more.  "If he lived..." I thought.
However, I had been on the research file while undergoing chemotherapy,
and it had been no delight either; no one of faltering strength could
long tolerate its effects, although some individuals have been known to
have received an injection on the day of their death.  When man
realigns his values, perhaps one day chemotherapy also will be thought
of as barbaric and indeed, inhumane.

After countless suggestions and subsequent dead ends, we were given a
new lead from a woman who worked at the church; a lead which, in her
opinion, sounded quite promising.  Quizzing her for every detail, my
father immediately fell to gathering phone numbers, including past
patients of the doctor and the number through which an appointment with
the doctor could be made.  A travel agency in California would set up
the time of departure and also take care of every detail of the stay,
from hotel accommodations to the treatment itself.  Incidentally, the
treatment was administered only in Greece.

Excitement pervaded the atmosphere at home as more information was
procured.  The treatment boasted rave reviews, stemming from renewed
vitality to complete cures, yet side effects and discomforts as a
result of the injections were few and insignificant; indeed, the method
used sounded the least objectionable and the most productive of all
those that my parents had pursued.

Once all readily available information about the treatment had come
into our possession, we phoned several former patients who lived in our
vicinity to interview them, so to speak, and obtain any additional
thoughts concerning the trip as a whole that might otherwise have
escaped our knowledge had we only read the pamphlet prepared by the
agency.  We wished to receive no surprises of the negative kind through
ignorance, especially in a foreign country.  Real or imagined, however,
the patients all expressed a degree of faith in their progress after
having undergone the series of intravenous shots; if nothing more,
perhaps this "doctor" administered high-priced hope.

We discussed the option of a trip to Greece as thoroughly as possible,
not only among ourselves but with friends.  Nearly everyone thought our
idea was quite splendid, and were happy that we were planning to try
it; they offered strength and support to our decision.  Only two
individuals, my brother and his wife, voiced overt objections to our
plan; they questioned the authenticity of the treatment, not wanting to
see us be taken by quackery and false claims.  We too were frightened
of that aspect, yet amid our uncertainty we thought that such a chance,
however questionable, should not be relinquished through skepticism
alone.  "What if. . .?" was also a question too great to overlook when
the decision involved life and death.

Housing slight reluctance, I agreed this new option was one that I
should try.  Quite conscious of the amount of money which the trip and
treatment would ingest, I felt the affair was an extravagance of which
I was not worthy, but my father insisted that he would spend his life's
savings if it would restore my health.  The money spent on the trip
would be an investment in happiness should it prove worthwhile, and the
risk incurred was an integral part of it... for we were dealing in
"futures."  The return we sought was not of the tangible sort; it
existed as yet only in our dreams.

Although I remained skeptical toward the validity of the treatment, I
could not suppress a glimmer of hope despite the hoard of fears that
took refuge in my restless mind.  When the word "treatment" was denoted
as a "cure," an involuntary spark of anger was kindled in my chest,
spurred from present doubt and past disappointment; I wished to shield
myself from the gloom of overridden hope due to an empty cure, and
therefore attempted to foster little actual hope for any development
related to the disappearance of current symptoms and health disorders.
I could not, however, deny my family their renewed hope by objecting to
travel to Greece; I envisioned an image of boundless joy which my
health would generate among the family and circulate through the homes
of friends.

A beam of hope infiltrated the confines of doubt in my mind also, and I
felt ready and rather anxious to accept this treatment as a means
toward the rebirth of health; this was one chance I could not pass by,
and perhaps there would no longer be a need for groping in the
obscurity of medical scams and hypocrisy if truly it was a cure.
I hoped the doctor was worthy of the trust which he had apparently
secured, for I was about to bestow upon him some of my own; if he
begrudged my lack of complete and unadulterated trust, so then it
must be, for such was the limit which my heart could withstand.

Although the journey would be no pleasure excursion, traveling to a
strange and distant continent with uncertain health, I understood the
expectancy and purpose behind the trip, and vowed to follow the
instructions given by the doctor carefully.  If the treatment
demonstrated no result, it would be through no fault of my own.

PAGE 254

Chapter 34
Journey to Greece

"Perhaps the sky is the sole glimpse of home that I have here in Athens
 . . . the sky is always a constant factor."


Journey To Greece

The day of our departure arrived amid a tidal wave of apprehension.
My excitement was not of the healthy, gleeful breed, but rather the
stomach-clenching variety that I would "wish away" if it was possible.
It was, once again, fear of the unknown that assailed my thoughts when
I should have been looking forward to new and interesting sights.
Making the diagnosis was simple; believing in it enough to admit the
silliness of my fear was not as easy. . . and nothing but
confrontation would smother that fear.

I stood in the airport lobby wishing I had already gone and returned.
As the gate opened, I decided to take one large jump and move through
the metal detector and on to the official waiting room, where I
proceeded to stare a hole through the floor.  Shortly before the plane
was to be boarded, a group of friends appeared to bid me farewell.  We
were separated by a railing, but their warmth passed over the barrier
and embraced me.  While the hugs and fair greetings did not dispell my
fear, I realized the amount of love which would be packed in my
suitcase for the month.  Norm, my Uncle Les and a couple from our
church had also seen us off; love would sustain and lend buoyancy
during the hard times.

I felt my stomach surge as the plane taxied near the gate and people in
the waiting room spilled out of their seats toward the doorway.  It was
time to go.  Sharon was traveling with us to Greece, inspired to go
through curiosity and concern about my health and the Greek doctor's
proclaimed cure.  She had always wanted to visit Greece, and when such
an opportunity presented itself, it seemed ridiculous to simply let it

I definitely was not traveling alone; the four of us formed our own
support group en route, exchanging conversation and smiles through the
dubious hours in which we flew over land and sea.  Despite my family's
presence, however, homesickness began to set in shortly after lift-off
and graduated as we progressed.  While the American top hits buzzed
happily through the headphones oblivious to the foreign space below, I
thought of home; when the snow capped Alps crossed our path, I thought
of Norm.  Home. . . Norm. . .  I knew they would be missed.  Frankly,
they already were.


Jan. 12 1983... Last night there was a party, as anticipated, for the
Americans; it consisted of numerous Grecian delights, such as bhaklava,
and various other pastries. . . many of which were laden with honey.
There were also filberts and almonds, as well as beautiful steaks for
those desiring to partake.  As for myself, I committed the
irretractable message that I was a "liver patient," and thereby was
denied the joy of a potentially ambrosiac steak.  Such is life,
(no luck at all).

Today I woke up at 6:30, as well as every hour on the hour throughout
the night!  I went to the clinic... with Mom, this time... I received
my shot.  The moment he administered the shot, the reaction began.  I
felt as if my entire body had been assaulted by a blow torch!  Several
minutes later, my face turned a lovely shade of red.  Also simultaneous
with the shot was a distinct flavor of salt.  I returned to the Akrion
and rested 'til 11:30, at which time I ate a breakfast of oatmeal with
honey and two pieces of toast (the latter of which I learned were
forbidden until after the 19th treatment.  Oh well, hopefully that will
be the least of my follies). After drinking nearly an entire carafe of
water, I returned to the room and slept until 6:00 p.m.  Following my
lengthy siesta, I ate a meager supper of greens, cucumbers and carrots
(salad) and a baked apple with honey and walnuts.

A terrific addition... I got diarrhea... (pew).  Must be because I'm
screwed up (times, meals, etc.).   Sorry to say, impinged on Sharon's
right to fresh air while she was showering...

The people, both patients and families and Greeks... all nice.

Jan 13, 14, 15, 16... Never have I felt so utterly depressed in a place
as I do here in Athens.  Perhaps it is due to the fact that I am here
for the purpose of cancer treatment, not merely diversion.  I have not
the energy nor the desire to do much sight-seeing.  My meals are
routine and boring, not to mention that they do not provide sufficient
energy.  Indeed, they are a hindrance to activity.  Breakfast is
oatmeal with honey and a baked apple.  Lunch is a salad and baked
apple, and dinner consists of a salad, apple and rice (if they have the
latter).  I was so worn down after the bus tour Saturday that I nearly
cried when the waiter said there was no rice to be had.  Nuts provide
energy, but too many of those can be a sickening experience.

The first two nights I nearly went without sleep.  Sharon snores
excessively while I, on the other hand, am quite a light sleeper (hear
all).  In addition, a hi-way passes close to the hotel with motorists
ravaging the noise level at all times of the day and night.  I began to
wonder if I'd sleep at all, so Mom and Sharon changed rooms.  I guess I
needed Mom's support much more than I knew.  She is quite mellow. . .
and I need all the relaxation I can possibly have.  Somehow, I couldn't
handle Sharon's intensity, and I became more and more on edge.

Yesterday I got too tired on the tour and broke down in the afternoon.
Once again I was glad Mom shared the room with me.  Never before have I
been so easily shattered as here.  I cannot seem to handle anything...
usually I never cry or get too terribly upset.  Traveling is usually a

I slept well last night... I didn't have a nap because by the time
I got hold of myself it was time for supper.  I got down to the
restaurant quite ready to eat, but when the food came I couldn't eat
much and nearly lost control of myself again.  We went back to the
rooms and I had another attack (with several more to follow) of
diarrhea.  Glorious!

We tried calling Norm but the line was either busy or kept ringing.
I called Jon but he wasn't there (at school) so I talked to both
of his parents.  Slept very well.

Jan. 18, 1983... Things are gradually becoming easier to handle,
although my desire to return home as soon as possible is yet a
prominent thought in my mind.  Today I had my 5th treatment; I didn't
seem as hot or as red as I had yesterday, although the taste of salt
still remained as usual.  My right arm is bruised due to some seepage
during the injection;  it is a small price to pay to allow my left arm
free for both the 6th injection and blood test.  I learned today that
if the blood count failed to drop at least two points, the doctor
dismissed you as a lost cause.  Diarrhea has accompanied each bowel
movement, which makes defecation less than a delight.  However, this
symptom often occurs among those being treated, so I settled into
accepting that my upcoming weeks would prove likewise.  I wonder if the
injection is made up at least partially of Vitamin C; large dosages
cause a red face and diarrhea... Time passes much more quickly than I
anticipated it would.  Hopefully the remaining weeks will be similar.

This afternoon I began to feel rather dizzy.  The room would swim when
my eyes were open, while I would be in a half-nightmare when my eyes
were closed.  I was tired, but didn't wish to sleep; closing my eyes
brought on imagery too strange to describe... I merely saw the other
hotel guests coming toward me, then falling away.  Open or closed eyes,
I remained rather dizzy.  When I got ready to go to the Tuesday night
party, my hands and forearms would get sporadic surges of numbness each
time I would grasp a certain way.  Scary.  I went down for a short
while but was soon escorted by Dad to my room due to dizziness... and I
had begun to cry!  Freaking out again.  I guess the shots work on the
nervous system.  What a fiasco this is.

Dad brought a tray of food to me.  Slept great... Mom had to turn off
the bathroom light and cover me!

Jan. 21, 1983... I have never seen such a day as this wherein the wind
whistled through the halls and rattled the windows yet ceased not once
throughout the day.  If storms be the wrath of God, winds surely must
be a prominent accomplice in the tumultuous siege.

I had my 8th treatment today and the final one of the week.  The doctor
had to stick me with the needle 2 times before striking a rich stream
of blood into which he could inject his serum.  I thanked good fortune
for the smaller needle as he delved into my wrist.

The afternoon brought on a dull ache in my I liver which gradually
subsided and disappeared after numerous excursions to the bathroom.
The diarrhea was still raging in full force.

Jan. 22, 1983... I spent most of the day employed in writing letters
which will be taken to the states and mailed via "Sharon express."
Norm called around 7:30.  We were all still in the restaurant finishing
our supper when Ullysses summoned me to the phone.  I was so happy to
hear from him... it was great that he called.

Jan. 23, 1983... Sharon left for home this morning around 7:30.  I was
unable to see her off due to a lack of cooperation from my bowels.
After several attacks, I made my way down to meet civilization.
Breakfast was the customary oatmeal with a side dish of peaches.
Feeling rather peaked, I ascended once more to my hermitage
on the 2nd floor.

More than slightly depressed, I had to escape to the bathroom for a
silent cry when Dad persisted to rattle the change in his pockets.
Somehow my nerves wouldn't take the incessant jingle, combined with the
knowledge that he was doing same out of sheer boredom and nervousness.
It would break his heart if he should know how nervous his action and
loud speech make me.  There is not one thing in this room to cushion
noise.  Dad would do anything for me if it would make my disease go
away.  Some things, as always, are better left unsaid.

Lunch brought a rather nice change and lifted my spirits considerably.
I was able to have fish, and although it is not customary for me,
I relished each morsel, along with a salad and peaches.

Weekends are more difficult to withstand than week days, often times.
I seem to fall into a depression and am susceptible to numerous
emotional tides.  Homesickness is a heavy load when one doesn't feel
well. I love to watch the clouds from my bed through the room window.
One lazily floats along while another totally overtakes its careless
rival.  Perhaps the sky is the sole glimpse of home that I have here in
Athens... the sky is always a constant factor.

Jan. 25, 1983... Monday and today found me in quite good health and
happily high spirited as well.  Sunday was a bleak day for me... it
seems that homesickness hits the hardest on weekends.  There is
definitely a lot to be said for a routine, especially in a situation
such as this.

Monday I spent much of the day in the lobby.  My desire to be sociable
and mingle with the others returns when I feel good.  The morning
dawned with rain, although the afternoon heat soon shooed the clouds
away to other parts.  I received the questions I had asked of Helen,
fully answered.

Breakfast was transformed into a veritable form of euphoria for me, as
I was able to add to my morning fare a delicious "bear claw" donut.
After a brief rest I descended upon humanity in good health and
spirits.  Aiding my good mood was the fact that we were able to change
our return flight date to the 9th of February and sign up for our seats.

Jan. 26, 1983... Hump day!  After my shot I feasted on 4 left-over
Greek donuts before ordering my regular breakfast.  I again ordered
oatmeal and a bear claw, but was forced to take half of the donut to my
room to eat later.  Lunch was much more than I was prepared for... had
fish, green beans, and a cabbage/carrot salad.  Needless to say, I
found myself happily full (altho' I wasn't nearly as full as last nite
at the party when I consumed salad, rice, nuts and 6 donuts)!

After lunch, I retired to my four walls to wash my hair.  That in itself
is an experience to behold.  One has two options, the first being to
utilize the sink, whose drain is in dire need of dran-o.  In this case,
one remains dry but runs the risk of accidentally flipping one's locks
down into the stench of the drain and thereby defeating the initial
purpose of washing the hair.  The second option is to bend over the
contraption which is in Greece, labeled "a shower."  This consists of a
porcelain base and a faucet with a hose and hand-held shower head.  One
selecting this means of shampooing the hair must lean over the base of
the shower and manipulate the shower head in such a fashion that will
allow the entire bathroom to remain as dry as possible.  Leg cramps, of
course, are an acute possibility in this prime position.  Another
hazard could be the wet floor, for it is always wet after having used
the shower.  To keep dry is a laughable impossibility with this device;
any articles of clothing should be placed in another room.  I proceeded
with the latter method and became quite damp.

My next operation to perform was the washing and drying of my nuts.  It
may sound crazy, this nut-washing ritual of mine, but I look at it this
way; the last thing I need during my stay is to get sick from eating
filthy nuts!  So, I wash them, because one never knows whose dirty
hands may have processed these nuts!

Another report I must make.!  I have had a firm bowel movement!  Joy of
joys!  It is the first since my arrival and the beginning of my

Mom suffered a hair-raising scare when she feared that her passport was
lost.  While madly searching through desk drawers and coat pockets, Dad
calmly assured her that if she did not find it, she would simply spend
the remainder of her days in Greece.  It was found, incidentally, in a
zippered compartment of her enormous purse from where, of course, it
had never strayed.

On their daily excursion, Mom and Dad disposed of the 3 cans of green
beans (purchased for my use) which were suspected to have an acute case
of botulism; the top of the can was bowed.  I took very kindly to their
effort and was careful to stay on their good side until the beans were
scattered on the hillside.

Jan. 28, 1983... Today wasn't as glorious as Friday's are built up
to be.  My blood test didn't drop into the 2's like I'd rather hoped
it would.  I was 3.I from 4.I, which was considered "good."  One must
realize, of course, that anything that happened around here is "good,"
whether it be a painful or uncomfortable reaction, a drastic blood
count drop, or feeling terrific.

There has been a considerable amount of conversation on the subject of
"how many shots" are enough.  Some people would take as many as the
doctor would willingly inject.  I cannot live from one shot to the
next.  I feel that if this stupendous serum is doing the job, I'll
know... the tumor will diminish in size.  If after 3 months, there
seems to be no "progress," why send blood.  I don't take much stock in
the blood tests anyway.  Moreover, one cannot even conduct his life
normally if he waits for test results.  I have to be able to just say
"enough" and live my life.  I can't always be waiting... life is too
uncertain to not give and take joy from each day.  Simply "being" in
existence is not, for me, what "living" is all about.  I'll have been
here a month when all is done and paid for, and 20 shots will have been
administered.  That's what I have figured upon, and what I am prepared
to have, but it's all I'll have.  You have to stop somewhere, and who's
to say that will be it.  One has to be able to let go... I let go a
year ago, and I can't hang on to shreds of hope.  That doesn't bring

Yesterday was a wonderful day aside from the shot.  The doctor had a
hard time finding my vein, and he doesn't seem to wait for it to
surface anymore without first probing for it.  After the shot, I
couldn't sit because too many non-patients were there.  Finally I dove
for an empty seat, almost on the verge of crying.

After breakfast, Tasos took Mom and me to downtown Athens to shop for
my fur coat.  It was rather strange, because Christos also drove his
rover with Donna and Margaret.  We'd asked for 1 driver; we looked at 2
furriers, the first of which was owned by one of Chris' friends.  He
had a motley selection of furs which were over-priced but poorly
constructed.  I was distressed after that shop, but we continued on,
stopping at a nice furrier who had well made coats but sold for more
than we could afford.  Our last stop was a furrier called Toronto Furs
where Mom had wanted to go all along because she knew they had decent
prices and furs.  That's where I got my coat... a dark mink tail,
finger-tip coat.  It's very pretty and cost $337.00!  I was pleased
with it, and it's something I'll have for many years  (bought with
money I'd been given from friends).

We went to an oceanside restaurant (Donna, Tasos, Mom and me)
afterwards.  It was a beautiful day, and the food was good.  It was the
first day I could have bread, and their's was great.  I felt as if it
didn't happen, it was so nice.  Mom offered to pay the bill, which was
a lot more than we'd anticipated for the size of the meal... (around
$26.00).  Then Mom paid Tasos 1000 drachma for taking us. . . it ended
up being a rather expensive day.  We didn't say anything about paying
Chris... why should we... we'd only asked for one driver.

I got a letter from Jon when I came back... it was really nice.

Jan. 29, 1983... We all got up early and went on the 1 day cruise on
the Aegean Sea.  I was tired, but I had a good time.  We didn't have
very long to look around each island, but it still was a good tour.
On the Island Aegina, we took a bus tour on the winding roads and
country-side to a site of ruins.  I took many pictures, and it was
quite a view from the top of the mountain.  The next island, Poros, we
had only a glimpse of because of the half hour time limit.  The last
island, Hydra, was nice and we were able to look at some shops.
I bought earrings and Mom a crocheted dress.  I finally got rid of a
rather pesty Tunisian who was following me around.  I'd met him on the
boat.  I wanted to look at the island, not him.  Norm and Jon called.

Jan. 30, 1983 (Sunday)... I woke up sick and had a temp of 101... it's
going around here, as everyone seems to be ailing.  Even in Athens.
Mom and Dad's church class called at 6:15 and a lot of them talked...
were so surprised and pleased.  It helped to have such support.

Feb. 3, 1983 (Thursday)... Dad was unfortunate enough to have caught
the malady that has seemed to have stricken our hotel.  Rumor has it
the whole of Athens has had the germ.  I also heard today that a new
group of Americans are to arrive this coming Sun. but that they will be
refused treatment.  The Travel Agency supposedly sends people over to
Greece despite warnings from Alivizatos to stop, because of the nice
profit they reap from each booking.  Alivizatos wants to work in his
labs for a time and to do so, he needs to have a break from patients.
He's now treating some 90 Americans, plus an unknown number of Greeks.
(He should be quite well-off.)

One of the white patients was talking to a black man in our group and
she remarked that it was in God's plan that white and black get along
well together.  Conversation then turned to the possibility of
rejection of the new patients coming and she stated, "Well, we were
just part of the plan and they're not part of God's plan."
The reasoning, to me, was incredulous.

Many of the guests are leaving Friday. . . tomorrow. . . for the U. S.
I'll really miss Connie and Ron.  At supper many pictures were taken.

Feb 4, 1983 (Friday)... It was a real zoo today.  Those leaving had
their shots first and then the remaining people were taxied rapidly to
and from the doctors.  At 9:00 they took the people to the airports,
all nearly having hernias, because the plane departs at 10:00 and it
takes 40 min. to get to the airport.  I'm glad we'll be taking a taxi.

Blood test today. . . he barely coaxed enough out to use.  It bubbled
and spurted so slowly, I was wondering if I'd get another stick.

I thought it might be appropriate if, at this time, I attempt to
describe our hotel room.  That which one first encounters is, of
course, the door.  It is equipped with a skeleton key lock which
usually tends to deny rapid entry or exits; if one persists, the door
will eventually open.  However, if one is besieged by a severe case of
diarrhea, it is advisable to think twice about locking the door.

Once unlocked, the door opens with a loud squeak, followed by a short
moan (a protest for having succeeded with the lock).  Shutting the door
quietly is a virtual impossibility, while a door left ajar is a prime
target for a thundering slam.

Once inside room 20, and upon inspection of the floor, one immediately
notices 2 very suspicious yellow splotches.  Ignore them; they'll be
there 20 years hence.  To the right are 3 doors, 2 of which open into a
closet housing a clothes rack and hanger.  The other boasts 2 drawers
and a shelf.  The drawers are where one hides the dishes from the
restaurant.  They are used for mid-day snacks; any empty dishes in the
room will promptly be swiped by the maid and returned to the kitchen.

To the right is the bathroom, having the obligatory sink and toilet, as
well as a showerhead.  There is no shower curtain.  The sink has been
on the verge of a clog for 2 weeks, while the toilet insists upon
running until extra attention is given to it.  The shower remains a
true experience which no coward would dare to operate.  Mom has used it
only once in the entire time we've been here, preferring the tried and
true sponge bath method.  The floor, which is of green marble, is quite
interesting, as one is able to imagine pictures in it's design while
contemplating upon the plastic toilet seat.

The main room is comfortably small (Dad's is uncomfortably small) and
contains 2 single beds complete with iron-hard pillows, sheets, 1 gray
blanket, and 1 two-tone brown blanket that Jon would surely approve of.
Bedside is a night stand supporting a dial-less telephone with a
nerve-shattering ring.  On the opposite wall stands a rickety desk, a
luggage stand, and a chair.  The third wall has 2 chairs and a set of
double doors which open onto a small balcony.  Outside shutters and
faced drapes provide the necessary shelter and privacy.

The floors, tiled in green, have 2 rugs, 1 beside each bed.  Both the
former and the latter are typically dust ridden, despite the maid's
honest attempt to maintain a degree of cleanliness; the hotel has no
vacuum cleaner, and no plugs if it did.

The walls are a shiny mint green; upon one wall is a picture of a
typical Greek village, and above the desk is a mirror and light.  There
are also lights over each bed and a swag dangles precariously over the
foot of my bed.

The view of Athens is spectacular, especially at night when the smog is
not evident.  Licensed drivers may only drive on alternate days to help
in the control of smog.  The sunsets are marvelous.  On a clear day one
may catch a glimpse of the Aegean Sea sparkling in the distance below
the many various mountain peaks.

Throughout the night one can hear the Greeks as they drive late
(customarily), cars, trucks, and motorcycles, battling the mountain
roads, and dogs barking..... between 12 - 3 A.M.  The roosters begin to
chime in early morning.  Noisy?  Yes, but one gets used to it, and if
tired enough, sleep cannot be kept away.

Feb. 5, 1983 (Saturday)... The trip to the heart of the Flea Mkt. was
cancelled unanimously by Mom and me.  The weather, in the morning being
lead gray skies shedding a sleet-like mist, became gradually more
severe as the day progressed.  By mid-morning, the sleet had
transformed into jumbo snowflakes and rapidly proceeded to blanket the
entire area in an unexpected cloud of white.  The Grecians were quite
delighted with the entire affair, as snow is rare in these parts; the
last blizzardy condition was 15 years ago and caused Athens to close
down.  The people are ill prepared to drive in such conditions and find
themselves at a loss in this type of weather; cars were strewn on all
sides of the road.

As for myself, I was also happy with the snow; my only protest would be
if it would hinder my departure on Wed.  Otherwise I reveled in the
beauty I was shown today.  I was on the verge of sinking down into the
bed to rest when Norm called... that was a nice addition to my day!
I went down and ate a small portion of green beans, rice and bread.

We had a party in which Mom and I had a part... at 7:30.  It consisted
of our Artist Game, Becky Pate's rhythm game and Donna's auction, the
proceeds of which went to the dishwasher at the hotel restaurant.
Refreshments ended up the fiesta. . . it was a nice break for a
Saturday nite.

Feb. 6, 1983 (Sunday)... I began my day by snapping several pictures
from my balcony.  Subject: snow-covered mtns.  I figured that I had
better record them on film before the sun's heat chased all of the snow
away.  I went to breakfast promptly at 9:00, ordering my usual morning
fare, oatmeal, honey, 2 toasts, and "red" Nescafe (the decaffeinated
kind).  Following breakfast Max invited Mom and me to a game of
Scrabble.  I nearly won point-wise, but Max cleared his slate of
letters first, thereby adding the total remaining letters from all of
our slates to his score.

Lunch was very good today. . . my fish was cooked to crispness, the way
I like it to be fixed.  Following that meal, I hastily made my way to
the Greek-English Dictionary to look up "crispy"; perhaps hereafter my
fish dinner can always be crispy!

My blood test results were favorable, as far as it counts.  I dropped
to 2.5.  The shot went well today, and I returned to have breakfast
before venturing to the Flea Market in downtown Athens.

We caught a cab on the road above the hotel.  It's a lot easier and
less tiring for me than if I'd have to ride the bus all the way
to Athens.

The Flea Mkt. can be described very simply as a low-brow, motley array
of shops, most of which carried a wide selection of goods which
repeated itself over and over through the area.  It was actually a
pitiable sight to see.  Few of the people had heaters in their shops,
and many appeared quite destitute.

The junk was over-priced; however, the merchants seemed unprepared for
much bartering.  I moseyed in and out of many shops without having been
offered one price reduction.  I ended up with 2 belts, one reduced from
120 drachmas to 110, and the other to 100.

After browsing awhile, Mom and I stopped and I got a pita bread to
munch on for energy.  Mom ate the sausage that came with it (38

I found my way into a shoe store on the edge of the market and bought
2 prs. of boots. . . one is a smooth red leather short boot, and the
other is a gold suede knee boot (1200 and 1800 dr.).

Lunch was at a corner restaurant.  I had cabbage/cucumber salad, rice,
and bread.

Cab... strange guy...

August, 1983... After last Diary Entry...

My last journal entry about Greece dwindled into nonexistence as home
became part of the foreseeable future, with broken phrases and words
serving as the one reminder of my excursion to the Flea Market and a
strange encounter with a Greek who had repeatedly asked, "You American?
You marry me?"

The following morning the three of us were packed on a jumbo jet amid a
screaming mob destined for New York, and thoughts of Greece had made
way for other, more prominent images.  The red pointed shoes from
Athens which were peaking out of my pant legs, the in-flight snacks,
the certainty that our plane would crash on the way home. . . I desired
to be home to such a great degree that paranoia became a plague, and
I fancied my emotions were similar to those who are threatened in a war
zone; in effect, if I was not killed in Greece, I would die on the way
home.  It was as if Fate was not an idea; it had taken shape and lived,
exuding a force that controlled relentlessly and completely.

Upon reaching New York, and transferring to a different and
considerably less crowded plane, my fear dissolved.  We had traveled
all day with the sun, and now it had overtaken us.  The lights of New
York twinkled like a brilliant network of gold on black velvet,
covering the city's filth with delicate grace.  I watched the points of
light stretching endlessly into the darkness, and knew I was home; no
foreign words rolled off the tongues surrounding me, yet a balanced
variety of creeds and colorings spread about the plane.

Chicago possessed the essence of the midwest; when we reached the city,
I was overcome with happiness and bought a bold red tee-shirt that read
"Chicago."  Mom noticed my purchase and questioned me; after all,
I was probably the only patient of the Greek doctor who had not acquired
a GREECE tee-shirt.  The way I saw it, tee-shirts made statements.
Some people wanted to express how they felt, others wanted everyone to
know where they had been.  I merely wanted to emphasize my gratitude
for being home, and red carried the message with adequate force.

One flight later, the three of us stumbled wearily off of the small
plane that had delivered us to Moline.  I had not slept in over 24
hours, but I still recognized familiar faces, and many greeted us as we
walked into the terminal.  Besides my aunt and uncle, a group from the
Circle C Class (Circle in Christ from our church) milled about, holding
a "WELCOME" poster and wearing great smiles.  It was a royal welcome to
be received by one such as I, and it assured Mom and Dad of the support
which rallied in their time of need.

PAGE 263

Chapter 35
In Limbo

"Friends were beginning their exodus to distant places . . . it meant
appraising my own life and facing, time after time, the stagnation
which it represented."


In Limbo

April 1, 1983... There is something left to be desired about living in
a state which can be described as "limbo."  I am neither happy nor
unhappy.  I cannot plan, because planning would only dig my sense of
"loss" to a deeper level.  I am unable to live my life in the ways in
which I like for fear of ruining the Alivizatos miracle cure and
because of my general lack of energy.  I think I can do something but
when I actually try, it fizzles into dust; I haven't the energy.
I sometimes feel a world apart from all else... in Greece I lost my
zest... or what zest I ever had... for living (in my sense of the
word). Perhaps I can look forward to normalcy only after the six months
period has come to an end.  At least then I'll know my verdict. . .
as I had before I went to Greece.

June 26, 1983... Today the bomb blew up that was ticking in my brain.
I guess one might say that emotional explosions are a rarity in my
case, however, I am lucky enough to realize when I've reached the point
of mental saturation.  It seemed of late, that all I heard were
complaints and conversations necessitating an obligatory response
of heartfelt sympathy.

I should never expect less than the truth when I ask "How are you?"
There is then a symphony of habitual ailments; I receive quite an
ear-full and the health report is consistently poor.

The next uplifting conversation was with Max, the master of
personality, and a virtual ball of fire, (I jest, of course).  His
lamentations include numerous health difficulties, among them his
artificial limb.  Undoubtedly he is far worse off, in my opinion,
than I.

However, I don't relish conversations riddled with bits and pieces of
Greek reminiscences; I prefer to forget the entire affair.  Moreover,
I battle to maintain somewhat of a conversation. . . silence can only
last so long before I become unsettled and feel nervous tremors pacing
through my stomach.  I am thoroughly exhausted once I am home.  I am so
tired of sob stories; they are no longer any good with me.  I wonder if
I lack tolerance for people who eternally lament their personal
plights.  Others also have problems, but muffle them to a far greater
degree.  Life's too short to taint other's lives with one's own
depressions and sorrows; talk but do not burden!  Perhaps, also, I have
no sympathy for people who completely deny death and cannot accept it
as a normal part of the life cycle itself.  I hope my mind can now
relax... I have twice today relieved it's pressure.  I can now, with
luck, bid my senses goodnight.

August,  1983... Is there really any sense to my life anymore?
Sometimes I hate my life.  I seem to be going nowhere... my pendulum
has come to a slow stand-still.  It seems that all the progress I had
made 2 years ago has left me empty-handed and stripped once more.
Selfworth is altogether laughable in context with my life.  What, after
all, is my purpose for being here?  I do no more than spend other's
money, take up space and burden my family with my lack of physical
attributes.  I feel that I could hold no job. . . I sometimes spend
hours in one day running to the toilet.  After eating, I always run the
risk of feeling enormously nauseous for the duration of several hours.
And stamina?  Sometimes I have it, sometimes I don't.

Marriage?  Who and how?  At times I can barely take care of myself.
Kids would be unthinkable, for reasons of conception as well as taking
good care of them.  What would you do while you were afflicted by runny
bowels?  And as far as a husband goes, he wouldn't exactly be getting
"prime stuff."  I'm a sight to look at... the type of body that
deserves a full wardrobe at all times.

I don't understand why my cancer has to grow so slowly.  Life can be
such a burden.  Some days I feel as if I've done nothing except eat,
sleep and feel sick.  And yet I feel guilty for not "pulling my weight."
I don't want to be a chronic complainer and ailing 'til death bids me
depart.  I feel like a pussyfoot. . . I need ice or I'll overheat or
sweat; I have my personal air-conditioner so I can survive the summer
headache free.  Sometimes I can't do much in the physical sense, and I
feel as if my body is going to the dump.  I have a whole sack or two in
the cubbyhole filled with slacks and jeans that my ego will not allow me
to throw away.  False hopes still contemplate "recovery" in a bland
sort of way.  I suppose with all sincerity, however, that such luck is
not to be mine.  In all likelihood, I'll live to a ripe old age
carrying an overgrown watermelon in my stomach, only to die by some
freak car accident.  Dream on, Laurie, for dreams carry no malignancy;
dreams can be kept alive or brought to nonexistence as the individual
mind sees fit.  They can nurture or destroy the dreamer simply by his
own desires.

Wisdom comes to an abrupt halt when one's ego considers himself to be
entirely wise.  The casual admittance of one's own ignorance, however,
carries the implications of true wisdom and intelligence.

Nor do the wise mock the ignorant, for wisdom is a learned state,
forever questioning and forever growing.  The wisest of all human beings
initially possessed a child's mind.

How happy I am that I do not feel compelled to uphold an image of a
person I desire to be.  Life, already appreciably complicated, need not
also pressure one to act out the role of a personage whose standards
are determined by a certain group in society.  I find utter humor in
watching the "necessary" actions of certain people, such as businessmen
in suited attire and professors with their obligatory beards and pipes.
I sometimes wonder if they would continue their hopeless charade
if they knew how comical they appeared to an impartial onlooker.

Even as a child I found it horribly ridiculous to do things solely to
please others.  The "others," as it is, could care less for you as an
individual anyway.  I felt as if I was not only cheating myself, but my
true friends also, if I was any less than my true self.  I remember
observing in agitated silence as fellow students would deliberately
trod on the less popular children to somehow augment their low sense
of esteem.  Though I was seldom bothered by their childish mockery, I
pitied the hapless recipients of their relentless derision and marveled
at the insensitive cruelty of their incessant gestures and remarks.
This, I suppose, led me to believe that man is not intrinsically good,
and that goodness is learned only as the result of the societal necessity
to survive.  If not for this stark realization, I truly wonder what
would become of man as a whole.  Would he be reduced to canine
barbarism or would there still be certain bands of people who would
break from this sheerly animalistic behavior to nurture a livable form
of existence, complete with an intricate set of moral ethics?

As seen in my entries following the Grecian trip, I became depressed
and frustrated as a rejoinder to the special diet.  I felt constrained
by hope, not freed by it, and was deeply relieved when six months had
passed, for then I was able to return to what I had come to know as
"normal."  It was obvious that the Greek doctor had done nothing to
cure my ailment, for the cancer continued its growth, manifested in my
shrinking wardrobe vs. an increasing waistline.  Because the waiting
was over, there was no need to spend more of my precious time engaged
in obligatory hope.  I would forge onward. . . and forget the cures.

If nothing else, the Greek diet developed an interest in food and its
preparation.  Indeed, I was so obsessed with food that I was plagued
by it; if a diet is so rigorous that it demands constant awareness to
succeed, I believe that success is far more difficult to attain.
Throughout the weeks of the diet, I baked with incomparable zest and
learned a wealth of information about cooking.  Bread baking was edible
chemistry; it became easy to respect chefs and their tempting creations
as I paged through cookbooks.  In no time at all, I had a hobby which
extended beyond the need to make natural food as specified by
the doctor.

One slightly irregular recipe came to me through a book by Euell
Gibbons; Violet Jelly.  Yes, flower preserves.  I'll never forget the
day Norm and I went to the park and I picked a quart of violet
blossoms.  To be honest, I tried it to see for myself whether the jelly
was as exquisite as he claimed.  It was a lovely lavender flavored ever
so delicately. . . and not objectionable to the palate.

Baking was not my sole enjoyment, of course.  I loved to photograph
wildlife and create still-life compositions. . . I enjoyed dining out
and traveling to places both foreign and familiar. . . shopping was
always a pleasure, with or without money... and the library, with its
hint of musty volumes and quiet dignity, was also a favorite haunt.
It was easy to be interested in many things, despite the fact that
my plans often failed to cooperate with my bodily functions.

August 29, 1983... I have spent a good deal of time tonight feeling
sick.  For a while there I was really beginning to wonder if my
Nutregrain would make a debut appearance in my clean toilet bowl
(it didn't) so I will leave further writing for tomorrow.
It is now 1:00 A.M.

I was used to feeling sick.  Actually, I had forgotten what it was like
to experience true health; stomach and intestinal difficulties had
become a way of life.  As time passed, however, I could not deny the
damage that cancer progressively wrought upon my strength and general
capabilities.  Daily walks ceased after bowel complications (i.e., the
immediate need for a bathroom) over-shadowed the enjoyment of the walk
itself.  Stress due to heat was also a great enemy that followed and
preceded every outing or event, and between the two impairments, I grew
increasingly more reluctant to pursue activities; I had to weigh the
importance of the activity against the possible complications that
might arise and thus spoil the engagement altogether.  No longer could
I say "yes" without mental hesitation; simple activities were not
simple any more.

The summer of 1983 was hot beyond belief; with record high temperatures
throughout, it was determined that life would be much more livable if I
could have an air conditioner in my room.  Shortly thereafter, another
was procured for use in the basement's T.V. room, which afforded me a
higher level of mobility.  My family enjoyed the cool air so much that
a third air conditioner was installed.  Even my dad found a place in
his heart for the electrical marvels and, I believe, appreciated them
more than he would have cared to admit.  A diary entry read:

August 29, 1983... I think Dad held out on buying A/C so long because
he liked the idea he could take it.

Under the same principle, perhaps, was his derision toward mosquito
repellant.  Dad withstood bugs with an air of stoicism that bordered
hard core.

Despite the heat, I managed to take several excursions through the
summer.  The first and longest was to California, where I helped a
friend settle into an apartment before embarking upon a career.  Many
friends were beginning their exodus to distant places and it was fun
to see where they would be located. . . even when it meant appraising
my own life and facing, time after time, the stagnation which it

Norm and I took our fourth annual trip to the Rockies during the
tourist season's heaviest crowds, yet we were lucky enough to stumble
upon and catch a cabin that had been dumped by previous patrons.  We
determined that Marion's establishment had certain irregularities
which, despite its underlying personality, we desired to forego; after
all, a basement unit with no scenic views or T.V. reception was rather
dreary on a rainy day.

As my health had begun to fail, I was obliged to remain near the more
populous areas of the park while Norm hiked to his satisfaction.  It
was not the same as the former trips for that reason, but I loved the
mountains, nevertheless, and loved the fact that I still had the
ability to see beauty in life when my own was not ideal.  I focused
myself on thought and photography, instead of those aspects of living
which no longer remained within my physical grasp.

For years we had spoken of renting mopeds to scour an area of the
mountains; so it was that we decided to break down and seek out the
adventure.  What fun it was!  At a maximum speed of 45 mph I felt as if
I was traveling at a tremendous pace.  More humorous than thrilling,
however, was the way I passed Norm on the hills; he appeared to be
standing still, his bulky coat billowing in the brisk morning air.  The
trek had been a product of procrastination for three years; when we
removed ourselves from the seats and turned in the mopeds, we were glad
that we had finally put forth the effort and money to try something new.
It was an indelible memory; it was also a memory that would never
repeat itself except in dreams. Later I realized how fortunate I had been
to capture the moment and make the memory; certain experiences are given
only one chance.

PAGE 267

Chapter 36

"I don't care for rainbow chasing. . . it's a long drive down the alley
of blind hope.  I prefer not living in the shadows."



AUGUST 25, 1983... I have decided to, once again, embark upon the habit
of keeping a diary.  Just having finished reading the entries in my
previously written diaries, I rediscovered many memories and
consequently, remembered how important it can be to retain a shred of
ones self... no matter how brief... for the sake of future reference.
Words tend to bridge gaps of time, and help to bring to rest troubled
minds.  I hope my words herein shall prove worthwhile. . . both to
myself, and to whosoever may one day be the keeper of these journals.

Today I began, also, to write the story of my life... in it I hope to
touch on experiences, trials, thoughts, both from past years and
present.  I wrote three pages concerning my earliest years thus far.

Nearly three years have passed since I wrote that diary entry, and much
in my life has changed.  Indeed, life is waning rapidly and there shall
be no clever cure or miracle.  For this reason, I shall simply use
journal entries to describe my life in many instances; writing, in
itself taxes my stamina.

What became of my relationship with my former boy friend?  Time changes
relationships as it does all things; so does circumstance.  My
recurrence of cancer exhumed a need for closeness, and what should have
been better than dating to answer such a need?  Because I knew I would
not establish a relationship given the constraints of my irreversible
disease, dating was not the threat it had been, and I was able to
maintain a relationship without becoming terrified of romance.
Romance would never be part of my life.

Sept. 8, 1983... I really had a hard night.  I was in the john for 3
hrs. with the feeling my intestines were infested with worms.  It is
almost worse than throwing up.  By ll:00 I could finally go to bed.
Mom undid my covers for me. . . she's such a good mom.

Sept. 16, 1983... Dad got the reply letter about a new experimental
treatment for "Big C."  It was on 20/20... they only give it to a
select group at Johns Hopkins in Maryland.  It's funny.  I'm scared to
get better. . . I might let everyone down if I'm not the superperson
(achiever).  That's stupid... I could always take the civil service
exam to try to be a postman... I would've liked doing that...

Knowing I had a bit of a melancholic streak in my blood, Norm used to
wonder if I simply did not wish to live.  "You take all of this so
well... I don't know if I could handle it like that."  "You just live
with it," I told him.  (I had often been depressed in high school and
at Sears).  After having cancer for three years, I woke up one sunny
morning and glanced about the upstairs. "I don't want to die" crossed
my mind like a flashing neon sign.  I was slightly stunned.  Though I
was prepared for death, that in itself will not stifle one's zest for
life as long as there is something to live for... one day at a time.
Perhaps in my battle for a normal life, bereft of hair-raising
treatments, I had merely thought, "I don't want to live if I can't do
so with quality."  Because life on any terms was not palatable did not
mean that I desired to die.  Never before had I truly contemplated
that idea!

Sept 21, 1983... I talked with Alene (Greece patient).  She is doing
well.  Max is going back for more treatments.  Jenny is taking chemo in
New York and Connie died.  Mom and Dad didn't tell me.  It doesn't make
me depressed... it is just the truth... death happens to people... even
patients of the revered Dr. Alivizatos.  It didn't help me... my waist
measures 31 1/2.

Sept 25, 1983... I called Jon utilizing the teleconnect service and we
had a nice 1/2 hour conversation.  He once again urged me to come out
before Christmas, saying he was unsure of his stay at his current apt.
and the rainy season begins in Nov.-March.  I seem to grapple with the
idea of flying there; I somehow hate to retain a relationship which
seemingly has no future.  I couldn't see myself living in Ca. with my
current situation.  It's always been difficult for me to visit Jon
when I haven't seen him in awhile.  Something always holds me back.

Sept 26, 1983... Dad called the Metabolic Treatment Cntr. in Chicago.
A foreign accented woman referred Dad to an affiliated cntr in Cicero,
II.  From there he called the Cancer Society in Davenport only to be
referred to an 800 number in New York.  He dialed this number
explaining the situation at Johns Hopkins.  (They called Fri. A.M.
I have the wrong type of cancer for their treatment).  The Metabolic
people are not doctors and their claims cannot be substantiated.  She
combined Alivizatos in the same category.  Mayo was right in their
answers.  Chemo... a treatment... not a cure.  Dad called the Clinic in
Cicero.  They had moved!  The main office didn't know that!  What a
fake!  They use a tape with a man's soothing voice to sell an empty
cure.  A discussion broke out between the 3 of us at home.  It endured
for the better part of 2 hours.  What scared me was the fact that Norm
was pushing the chemo option.  I guess my desire to live or to just
grasp each day isn't that desperate.

The Dark Pool

I am
That stagnant pool
Of life
Around which
A vibrant world
I watch
As friends
Are initiated
Into the expanse
Of change
Termed reality.
I stay
Imprisoned by webs
That do not break
Shaded by leaves
That never fall.
I wait
Aware of the options;
To grasp madly
A tattered shred
Of existence,
Or preserve all dignity for
The final breath.

Lauren Isaacson
September of 1983

Sept 28, 1983... Made reservations to go and see Jon. . . rates are
unbeatable at $329 round-trip fare from Moline to Frisco...
regularly $600

Sept 29, 1983... Drove to Dubuque in my parent's Citation...got sick
after lunch at the Ryan House. . . nausea endured a better part of the
afternoon.  Didn't go with Sharon and Galen to the church potluck.
...ate an English muffin and 2 eggs... nausea again...
normal around 9 P.M.

Oct. 2, 1983... Made waffles for Norm and me... did dishes... cancelled
KFC plans as the day became too warm for me.  Jon called; I was bummed
out for some reason.  I felt like crying.  I was thinking about the
years (a couple years ago) and how one takes feeling good for granted.
Then when Jon called, I remembered how soon I would be going to Frisco.
I wasn't emotionally prepared to go so soon.  I was flooded by
seemingly small fears, yet to me, the fears are so real they become
monsters.  I was scared about sweating for 3 hrs. on the plane, having
to go to the bathroom, getting tired, sick, etc.  I want to make my
trip as easy as possible, so I'm not taking a suitcase... just a couple
of flight bags.  It bothers me that I'll be waiting a maximum of 7 hrs.
for Jon in the Frisco airport.  I don't particularly relish that idea.
I'll probably be fine, however, I'm haunted by all of these fears

Oct. 4, 1983... I've been nervous for about 3 days now.  I keep
thinking the plane's going to crash or something will happen so I'll
never be home again.  I guess that says where I'm most comfortable.
Everything I eat sits in my stomach like so much lead.

I hemmed my black Lee jeans and my $15 Gitano jeans, packed one flight
bag with clothes and one more with my camera, magazine, book and such...
to take on board with me.  Mom and Dad took me to Bishops for dinner...
a so-long affair... washed my hair.  I wish I felt better about going.
Les sent me a card.  I thought it was a so-long and have a good trip one,
but it was a regular card with $50.  I was shocked!  I called him and
thanked him.  Well, it's goodnite for now.  I hope my bad feelings are
unfounded!  I don't exactly want to die in a plane crash.  What a long
way down.  (ugh)

Oct. 5, 1983... The day began for me at 4:45 A.M.  I figured I'd allow
ample time for my face to emerge and get a quick bite to eat, but I
figured wrong.  I departed in a flurry at 5:45 without having eaten.
Dad drove unusually slow, or so it seemed.  We got to the airport with
sufficient time for me to go to the bathroom and then some.  We weren't
rushed in the least.  Les came too, but I was too nervous to really
talk and feel "civil."

On board at 6:30 I was seated by the window in an MVA plane.  I spoke
with a man with a complete beard and moustache en route.  He asked for my
phone number.  I hesitatingly replied that I had no pen or paper but
that my parents were in the phone book.  "I really hope he won't
call... what would I need with a date?!"

Panic stricken, once again, when I reached O'Hare, I rushed excitedly
to my next gate of departure, and there spent 45 minutes of
anticipation.  After boarding, I endured 15 or more minutes of sheer
panic due to the stuffy atmosphere of the DC 8.  After take-off it
cooled down quickly. . . I was quite relieved.

Breakfast proved to be good; I rested a bit. . . I was fortunately
situated on the window seat, the middle seat was empty and the aisle seat
occupied by a slightly corpulent and very silent businessman.  (He, by
the way, finished his breakfast entirely.)

Upon landing I put both my bags in a locker... the wait proved to be 6
hours.  Jon came. . . he looked "real good."  It was a super and balmy
night. . . we walked to the Seasons restaurant.  Jon treated.

Oct. 6, 1983... Things got pretty emotional for a while as we tried to
sum up the situation between us.  Situations change and they will never
be the same again.  I love Jon, but neither of us are ready for a
relationship.  Marriage makes all things so dreadfully black and white.
My health is the foremost difficulty, as well as the miles that
separate us.  I sometimes don't feel capable of being a good wife, nor
do I feel that I'd be able to live so far away from my family... I need
the support.  I felt better, nevertheless, after our discussion....
at another time I had written down my thoughts concerning our
relationship.  (Just as one's mind cannot long remain inactive,
so also will our love (for each other) change as the years progress
toward eternity.  If love indeed be true, change can only enhance its
fullness, and this need never be feared, and must never be ignored.)
This kind of love, for us, could never be.

Oct. 8, 1983... A hazy day. . . headed for Yosemite. . . had enjoyed
Saratoga and a drive into the mountains the night before. . . had dinner
at a place with a Scottish atmosphere.  After taking pictures, hazy or
no, we started back. . . bought 2 pumpkins. . . during the week days I
spent my time reading... Jon did home work in the evenings... we had
dinner "in," at Wendy's, at a Chinese restaurant, at Marie Calendars...
I showed him how to hem his trousers. . . we carved our pumpkins. . .
mine looked like Foo Man Choo. . . his looked like a mask. . . they are
both neat.  I took pictures of them. . .

Oct. 12, 1983... Today's the day to go home... Jon came for me at
noon... we ate at McDonald's.  I read a bit of this diary to him en
route to the airport.  As usual, it was difficult to say goodbye.  I
have a 2 hour wait before boarding my plane... Dad picked me up and we
had a late snack at Perkin's. . . when Norm came home from his
night-shift we talked til 2:00 A.M.

Oct. 22, 1983... Was amazed to realize that some of my friends feel I'm
a prisoner in my own home!  It is definitely not the case...

Oct. 31, 1983... Happy Halloween!  After chores I went for a walk in
the woods with my camera equipment. . . wish I didn't get so out of
puff when I climb hills or just walk... took a nap... this is the 3rd
pumpkin I've carved this year!

Nov. 2, 1983... Got ready to go to the library But No!... my bowels did
not cooperate.  Norm has the laughable habit of setting the gummy caps
of toothpaste tubes on the sink, thereby leaving a characteristic green
ring.  After several days, the green rings gradually but steadily
accumulate and I break down and rinse away their interesting circular
design.  One day, while preparing to brush my teeth, I called Norm in
to observe my progressive "cap off, squeeze on brush, cap on" movement,
which allowed me to replace the cap without marring the sink top.
I laughed, he smiled, and the day passed with no further green rings
appearing upon the sink.  The following day I found 3 rings, made
doubtlessly, in quick succession and accompanied by a note saying,
"Old habits are difficult to overcome." I thought that was great!

Nov. 4, 1983... Upsetting is the relationship between Jon and me, for I
know it will go nowhere.  I feel more at ease here where I know I'll be
listened to and understood.  I feel as if the better part of myself
simply blows past Jon in my attempt to speak or read my thoughts.  He
misses my meaning completely.  I couldn't take living in an atmosphere
where talking proved only to be a one-way message, never to be received
and merely bouncing off the walls until it eventually buried itself in
its own silence.

I found a postcard that read. . . "If you love something... set it
free.  If it comes back... it is yours.  If it doesn't... it never
was."  I never sent the card.

Nov. 7, 1983... I had an odd sensation while drying the supper dishes.
Perhaps "disturbing" would better describe my fleeting emotion, for I
experienced a strongly chaotic urge to impale myself with a steak knife
while drying it.  The feeling was so brief, yet so very intense, that I
almost wonder why reflex action alone did not carry through with the
brain's message.  Self-preservation reigns first and foremost, perhaps,
even within the most morbid thoughts.

Nov. 9, 1983... The folks went to bed half-cocked at me this evening.
Mom started up the endless preaching on the irrevocable horrors of
alcohol and drugs, leaving one to stand alone in a flurry of statistics
and evil stories.  This led to the adolescent eccentricities and peer
pressure and curfew and all the topics on which they hold themselves as
authorities.  "I never had to break away when I was a kid. . .never."
Well, he (Dad) was given slack and choices and he chose abstinence and
church.  OK. So What?  But he still can't, nor can she... understand
the grip they held, and always will hold; that "I told you so" dangling
over your head when the party didn't live up to your expectations. . .
the solid 12:00 curfew, at which time the pumpkin would explode if one
wasn't home, let alone the knowledge that you weren't doing anything
BAD anyway, nor would you if you stayed out 'til 4:00 A.M.  Lack of
trust or what?  The inability to make one's own decisions can be a
painful blow to one who knows he's capable of making competent
decisions.  A little less questioning, a little more room to breathe,
that's all.  Perhaps I became so tense tonight because I sometimes feel
the walls closing in on me now... the way it had during those painful
times in high school.  I feel no longer I'm in control... I've somehow
relapsed into mommy's and daddy's little Laurie Annie.  Sometimes I need
backing... when I freak out or feel sick... but I'm supposed to be a
woman.  I can vote.  I can drink in my own state.  Very Big Deal.  And
a lot of good it does me now.  Rationalization:  Good thing I had the
ability to have fun with and around liquor before the bomb broke.  It
was fun, but I liked life fine without it, too.  It's no integral part
of existence, but it has it's place.  I only wish they would understand
that.  At least I can write without being reproached.  When this is
read, I won't be around to counter attack.

Nov. 16, 1983... A guy called asking about Greece.  His sister has
cancer. . . much of her face was removed, as well as other lymph nodes
near the neck; also one breast was removed.  She "eats" through a tube
in her nose.  Boy, have I ever got it good.  I'd kill myself before
resorting to that sort of butchery.  I told the guy straight truths as
I knew them; I didn't feel the treatment worked for me, but others
would bet money it helped them.  I advised to really consider before
going, as it was a difficult trip for even those of hearty stock.

Nov 17, 1983... I ate breakfast and shoved off around 8:30 for Dubuque.
It was a beautiful drive due to the mist-shrouded lowlands and the frost
which lay over all things, both alive and inanimate.  I saw a
particularly picturesque scene, complete with grazing horses amongst
the white grass, so I determined to pull off the highway and retrace the
road to the best point.  I had snapped two photos when a highway patrol
pulled over across the road from me.  I felt certain that I would defy
my potty-training for a moment.  "Is that your red car parked up
there?" to which I answered "Yes" and a hasty, "Is it OK to be here?"
He had thought perhaps I had engine trouble and he was going to help.
I thanked him and he replied that I could take as many pictures as I
wanted.  I have a deep fear of cops which has no real basis, especially
of late; I don't break the law by speeding.  Rest-at Sharon's. . .
attended a weaving open-house.

Nov. 18, 1983... Sharon and I drove to Mt. Horeb after breakfasting at
"Spikas."  Again there was heavy fog and Sharon pulled on the headlights;
I made a mental note of her action to avoid leaving the lights on for
the length of our spree.  Unfortunately, I misplaced the mental note,
and the lights were grinning at us upon our return an hour or so later.
The engine was "deader" than a frozen road apple; luckily we'd parked
along side of a gas station and the attendant promptly "jumped" us (or
rather, the engine).  It cost 2 bucks.  Big deal.  Sharon drove back
after our rather short spree... I'd hastily gotten sick after drinking
some tea.  I left for home around 3:00. . . experienced fair amount of
diarrhea once home... oh well ... we ate at Bishops for supper... it's
Friday, after all.

Dec. 21, 1983... I talked with Mom for a good amount of time. . . I
asked if she believed that I wished cancer on myself. . . I was past
my depression when I once again found out the bad news; moreover,
my depression subsided after some changes were made in my life. . .
quitting Sears and dropping a class I didn't like...
anorexic tendencies had dwindled as I made those changes.

Then I asked if she believed that one could cure ones self through the
desire to beat the disease.  Question 1: Why would a person who didn't
want a disease, contract one?  Question 2: Why wouldn't it work for
every one?  Or would one have to believe. . ."know." . . .that he would
be cured if he simply believed in such a thing?  It helps to talk of
such issues, for at times I do become confused.  I feel instead that I
have resigned myself to my problem realistically... I don't care for
rainbow chasing. . . it's a long drive down the alley of blind hope.
I prefer not living in the shadows.

Dec. 26, 1983... Although it was not easy to attain, I remember feeling
once that I had my life by the reins.  I could do anything, because I
felt I had control of myself.  If I failed at one thing, no matter. . .
I could do something else and succeed.  Now I feel trampled beneath that
stallion of life whose reins I so confidently held; I have no control.
Even my emotions, which before I prided myself in keeping so carefully
concealed, crash from my grip.  Jon, too, is no longer in my grasp.  He
has grown more confident and self-assured, and I like what I see... but
I feel as if he's no longer in my league... as if I'm trying to love a
diamond when I know full well that I can afford only glass.  It's never
easy to lose status.  I've lost so much that only a miracle of nature
could allow me to recover my low self-worth.  Jon deserves so much,
and he has "the right stuff."

I feel so much better seeing him at home.  I look as good as I can hope
to look because I am able to get the rest I need.  I felt like a shadow
of myself in San Jose. . . a wound-up toy that kept walking even after
the tension wore down.

Dec. 29, 1983... It's funny... Jon and I shared so much, yet somehow,
nothing ever came of it.  Perhaps the sorrow I feel is partially due to
the knowledge that nothing can possibly come of it given the current
situations. It's difficult to let go of the only lengthy and worthwhile
relationship I've ever had, knowing full well that it's the last. I
will never be in the situation to date... it's an added tension that I
probably do not need, nor would I have the opportunity to experience.
It would be like buying bald tires for your new car... I'm "spent."

I feel that all I can do is to enjoy the time I can spend with Jon
taking one day at a time in the same way I live each day as it presents
itself.  I can expect nothing, for to do so only makes shattered
expectations all the more trying.

Jan. 4, 1984... It's rather entertaining business, this autobiography;
it's fun to be able to sit back and remember the ways in which you saw
the world as a child.  Truthfully, my mind still thinks the way it did
then.  I've merely learned more, gained objectivity... but I'm
essentially the same.  Perhaps one changes more than he thinks,
however, it could be that, so gradual is the widening of that
perception, one is not really aware of the changes amassed in his
brain.  Nevertheless, I'm enjoying my writing, trying to include all
material which is of marked consequence.

Jan. 5, 1984... Today was rather a wasted day in that I was unable to
venture downtown due to the frequently repeated trips to the bathroom.
However, I did listen to the subliminal tape which Norm gave me for
Xmas.  It is composed of seashore sounds and is relaxing.  My tape is
entitled "Phsyconeuroimmunology...Beneficial Influence of the Mind on
Health," which was described as being helpful with regard to the immune
system.  Maybe it'll get rid of my "Big C"!  That's a long shot but one
can't just roll up the carpets and close shop.  At any rate, it's cheaper
than Greece and couldn't hurt.  I'll just have to be wary of any
cravings... if I suddenly get the indispensable urge to drink only
coke, perhaps the input is an advertisement Ha!

I can never quite go along with the idea that one gives oneself
diseases.  At 13, I didn't know what cancer was, death via a serious
illness was the farthest thing from my mind, much less my desire.  I
believe the reason I can... at times... accept my plight now is that
1.  I've had it before.
2.  I never really quite accepted the diagnosis that I was "cured."
3.  I've been sick to my stomach for years following my first
    operation. . . I was never leading a "normal" life.
4.  I've always felt "doomed" to a degree.
5.  I've tried chemo and it didn't work; since I hold American doctors
    in high esteem, I am not as readily accepting of other country's
    "cures," especially if there are no facts to back up their claims.
6.  I cannot live from one "cure" hope to the next.  Disappointments
    become unbearable if that is all one ever encounters.

I can't believe that I would want what I have, given all of the
suffering that I've endured.  Sometimes I wish it could all end, either
by my recovery or my death.  Living half-way becomes difficult when
one's prospects are bleak.  If only I could be healthy... feel
healthy... the things I'd want to do!!!

Jan. 12, 1984... I stopped at "Rags to Riches" and inquired whether they
bought clothes which were second-hand, since it was a second-hand
clothing shop.  (So intelligent a question, no?!)  She informed me they
work on consignment.  I have 16 prs. of pants that I intend to bring
in.  It is rather difficult to let go of those pants.  I guess
somewhere in my head, I hoped that I'd be cured and be able to fit them
again.  But the chances of that are slim.  My body doesn't seem to be
able to "get on" the road to recovery.  I'd be exceptionally healthy if
I wasn't such a physical wreck.

Jan. 15, 1984... I made breakfast for Norm and me... then we went to Wild
Cat Den... we took a good hike back into the park... it was snowy so
wore Mom's high boots.  I really did well, I thought; I felt good.
Going up the steep grades presented a bit of a problem, but otherwise
it went better than I had thought.  (Maybe the tape's working.)

My slides are good!  For my first attempt at still-life, I'd say I
really did well.

Jan. 22, 1984... I made breakfast for Norm and me, then after doing
dishes together, I got my camera equipment and we took off for Loud
Thunder, around to Muscatine, and back to Credit Island.  I used my
sunset and graduated filters.  We had lunch at Hardee's.  Les came for
supper.  Mom had a roast.  After everyone was in bed, Norm decided to
cook up that brown macaroni that I'd bought last year while on the
Alivizatos diet.  I'd never gotten up the nerve to cook it before. . .
curiosity got the best of Norm.  He put cheese in it to help the
flavor, but actually the stuff wasn't too bad.  It was more grainy
because it was never processed.  We watched "Funny Girl" on the late
show but gave it up.  It wouldn't end 'til 2:00 A.M.

PAGE 276

Chapter 37
Zenith of Grief

"I didn't associate God with loneliness; the two were separate, and to
bond them would have been inconceivable.  God did not forsake me.  I am
part of Nature. . .this is natural, as is my grief."


Zenith Of Grief

I am beginning this new journal several pages before the old one
expired!  Perhaps this is because it is rather a new beginning for me.
One must bridge countless mountains throughout his existence, and some
of those mountains are much more difficult to climb than others.
It has not yet hit me fully that Norm is dead, and this will be the
hardest truth I will ever bear.  It is through the selfish nature
of human beings that we suffer and mourn over a drastic loss, for the
deceased is no longer subjected to the routine pangs of life itself.
I derive comfort from the knowledge that Norm led the type of life he
desired, for so many individuals spend time involved in relationships
they despise, or in jobs they abhor.  Norm didn't worry about attaining
what so many casually label "success," that being a career that "looks"
right.  Success is having established a set of values and living by
them; realizing time is precious and therefore shouldn't be wasted
on petty grievances and concerns.  Moreover, a life having quality
is a life which is peaceful.  Norm led a quiet life, spending many
waking hours doing that which pleased him.  He was not selfish;
one must please himself before he can expect to treat others civilly.
He was easy to be with, and would let you be... he wasn't out to force
his opinions and desires on others.

I feel terrible now, but I know that my life was touched by a very
special person.  For that I shall always feel grateful.  It is better
to have had a beautiful relationship and have it end, than to never
have experienced it at all.  Norm was my mainstay in life.  When things
felt as if they were falling apart, it was always to him that I would
turn.  He was my companion and my best friend.  We could share so much
because we shared the same thought process.  Seldom does a person feel
completely at ease with another, and yet with Norm I was.  Conversation
wasn't necessary, but it was one of the finer parts of our relationship
because we so well understood each other.

My life will never be the same without Norm; of all people, I feel it
will be the hardest to be without him.  My thoughts are so displaced.
I feel dead.  He is at peace now, or at least I choose to think so.
One never knows of the after life until he himself has expired.
Superstition and blind hope forced me to pray that he would live and be
normal.  To be comatose or paralyzed would be worse than death.  It's
funny; he felt so strongly that his purpose in living had not yet been
fulfilled, and he had a zest for life to one day find that which would
(in his mind) fill that commitment to life.  I once again found that my
beliefs were true; prayer does not help those things over which we have
no control.  It is a formal way of hoping.

Strange as it may sound to individuals who cling so desperately to life
that they will torture themselves for one more breath, I wish I could
have died before anyone else in my family.  That, you see, is a
coward's way out of mental duress.  This is by far the worst blow ever
driven into me; if one was to sum up the worst possible occurrence to
give to me, fate couldn't have picked a riper apple.  It's not that I
don't care for others. . . but Norm was special to me.

I also hate to see Mom and Dad so terribly wracked with pain.  Not one
child has been left unscathed by bad luck, while some families live
a storybook life or screw up their lives out of their own stupidity.
There is no such thing as justice in life.  There is no equality or
fairness.  It is a fragile world, and so many seem bent on
self-destruction while Norm simply wanted to live in harmony.

Only yesterday I was lamenting my inability to do things alone.  I'm
scared to go on walks, etc. . . especially now that I feel at a rather
low ebb physically.  Now I must do things on my own or not do them at
all.  And it's not the doing, but the mutuality of sharing a joke,
a glance, or idle conversation.  He won't be there, and he will be
so horribly missed.  I hope you have found your ultimate peace, Norm.

I woke up this morning to the sound of harsh, uneven gasps of breath.
I thought Norm was having a bad dream, so I hurried to his room, only
to find him on the floor; his chest and waist were along his bed and
his legs were tangled in the bedsheets.  I shook him and yelled his
name, but no response was made.  After several sputtered expirations
of air, he seemed to attain an unearthly calm.  I suddenly thought,
"this may not be just a bad dream.". . . he wouldn't wake up.  I ran
downstairs at 6:20 A.M. and told Mom... she woke Dad and they went
upstairs.  He still was the same and I dashed for the phone and dialed
911 . . . they were here in five minutes.  I kept flicking the yard
light as they approached our house. . . a crew of two paramedics and
later two policemen.  All the while before they arrived, Mom and Dad
were administering CPR... they took him out on a stretcher, still in
the same state.  I believe that I witnessed his last breath.
I lost my touchstone.

Dad kept saying, "can you believe this?"  I was shaking violently,
still in my nightgown.  I felt as if my bowels wouldn't hold.  Mom was
so worried about covering him up as they left the house; he wore only
his bottom half of his sweats.  His arms were dangling over the side of
the stretcher as he was carried through the doorway... the paramedic
told Mom not to worry, that the main thing was to get him to the

As I was dressing I felt disgust within myself at my concern to put on
my make-up.  Why should I care what I look like?  We were taken to a
small room to wait, it was cooler.  I had to use the bathroom.  A woman
was there with us most of the time. . . to console us or help in case
we "went off the deep end."

I still hoped that with the technically high developments, they would
revive him.  They worked and worked; Dr. Murrell said it was very bad.
Later he came in again and said that he was gone.  I was thinking that
I'd be asking him how it felt to be gone and then revived.  What passed
through his mind?  I never got the chance.  I wonder if Norm knew I was
trying to wake him.  Perhaps that which comes after earthly existence
was so sweet that he chose not living.  Maybe it's that good.
I hope so.  For Norm.

I felt as if I had been reduced to a pulp after a calamitous beating,
yet I could walk, talk and seemed to answer in a relatively normal
fashion.  My insides felt like so much lead; I felt dead, bereft of all
poignant senses.  Weak-kneed, we headed toward the parking lot, leaving
Norm's body on the operating table.  There would be an autopsy. . .
none of us wished to see him again before they removed his corneas.
I didn't want a blue-lipped memory of Norm, color had drained
from his lips while he was at home.

Mom and Dad had to begin making arrangements for his cremation and his
memorial service.  I chose to remain at home and alone in the house.
I promptly sat down and wrote page after page of my feelings, needing
to express myself with a certain degree of permanence afforded by
written words.  It was as if I felt panic stricken that I might forget
a facet of Norm if I didn't capture everything now.  Finally, exhausted,
I decided to go upstairs.  Hesitant to relive the mornings events,
I climbed the stairs and looked about.  It seemed so empty, so utterly
lifeless. . . the sun was obscured by gray clouds which multiplied the
lonely effect.  Had Norm been alive, the place would have simply been
a room.  Now it took on a character of its own, as if a bloodless ghost
sought to haunt my mind with idiotic schemes.  Reality hits hardest
when loneliness sets in.  I didn't associate God with loneliness; the
two were separate, and to bond them would have been inconceivable.
God did not forsake me.  I am part of Nature... this is natural,
as is my grief.

I began to straighten the furniture which had been hurriedly displaced
to facilitate a wider exit with the stretcher.  Looking at the tangled
mass of bedsheets sprawling about the floor, I determined to change the
bedding, and thus save Mom some of the stress.  I felt like
a mechanical man, functioning precisely as I'd done countless
times before; doing menial tasks brought no comfort. . .
it only helped to pass the day.

My thoughts raced... I began to fantasize... would they think I was
guilty... would I be suspect as in a murder case... when they said he
was gone, I had felt relief, for I knew he had been without oxygen far
too long.  I thought about his corneas given to Iowa City... how would
he see... how ridiculous to think that...I thought about how safe I had
always been with Norm as my "guard" . . . now he was gone . . .
the daily excursions, the trips to Amana, Wild Cat Den, Loud Thunder,
Davenport, Credit Island, the boat races, sailing on the Mississippi,
even the winter picnics... all over now.

Norm was an ultra-sensitive person, not only self-sensitive, but caring
for others.  He had an acute awareness with regard to feelings,
and seemed to know when to simply let be.  It was a quality that few
possess. . . a quality that few understand.  It was this quality that
made Norm so easy to be around.  He didn't demand the full capacity of
one's attention; he was personable and low-key; he allowed one to relax.

Every facet of his life mirrored his goal of inner serenity.  He often
spent time alone, walking for miles to attain physical and mental calm.
Meditation was also becoming a valued discipline in his daily routine.

I am glad that I was given the opportunity to develop such a close
relationship with Norm through the passage of time in which I was
growing into the person I am now.  He played an integral part in my
life, and I feel somehow linked to him in an undefinable bond.  Our
sharing and understanding for one another spanned the seemingly trivial
nature of a common joke to the mind-searching questions for which there
are no answers.  To say that he could be replaced is mere folly.  Only
once in a lifetime can one share so much.  I am fortunate to possess
the memories; I only regret having to end the making of memories so
soon.  We were two loners with a common bond.
Now I am one loner, alone.

Jan. 24, 1984... I am fatigued... it took two hours to fall asleep.  I
was thinking, and I was scared that I'd have awful nightmares.  I kept
seeing him lying on the floor, and I was at first so certain that he
was only having a nightmare.  We could've had a stroke of luck like
that...I woke at 6:20 A.M., the time that yesterday morning I awoke so
lightening fast to the sound of uneven breathing.  I went to the
bathroom, then lay in bed until 8:00.  I didn't seem to have
much use for sleep.

So many people have come today with food and the plants are also
numerable.  Janet sent me a red rose, shortly afterward she appeared in
person.  Kristi even called from Cedar Rapids.  So many care.

Todd, Debbie and Sharon arrived near noon, before that time, I'd tried
on Norm's shirts and discovered they looked better than many of my own.
I will be keeping the newer or nicer ones.  It's a comfort to have his
things near me.  I changed the sheets on my bed because Sharon will be
in my room throughout the duration of the week.

The radio-tape player that Norm ordered arrived today (UPS).  I felt so
sorry for the delivery man.  He knew Norm.  Todd called the doctor who
performed the autopsy on Norm.  He said death was caused by a left
coronary occlusion, which is a heart attack via a blood clot.  Because
of the location. . . the upper left side of the heart. . . death occurs
suddenly.  Even if he had had a check-up it was not felt that the
problem would have been readily identifiable.  It was also something
that would have been fatal if he'd been in the hospital at the time it
occurred.  Death is final within one or two minutes of the initial
attack.  This was most likely a gradual situation which would not be
apparent to the afflicted individual.  Every indication is masked, so
gradual is the effect.  Norm's organs were said to be over the normal
weight due to amassed blood; the heart was not pumping efficiently
enough to flush out the blood and therefore it clung to the tissues of
the various organs.

I felt so relieved that an actual cause was found.  I kept thinking
rather accusingly of the Agoraphobia tapes.  I also wondered if he'd
had a dream in which he died, and then as a reaction to subconscious
thought, the body began the death process.  It's always been horrid for
me to remain without the facts.  I derive a sense of satisfaction from
knowing the truth, or at least the truth as best one knows it to be.

I feel, at last, that I have attained a certain degree of peacefulness.
Norm was and always will be a part of me, so great was our degree of
sharing and mutuality.  His companionship is gone forever, and yet the
feeling of oneness shall endure through time and into the furthest
reaches of eternity. Our being of opposing sexes enhanced the
relationship.  I lived for Norm and to be with him.  In myself,
I see him.  My actions. . . my thoughts. . . are not manifestations
of togetherness, but rather a singular uniqueness shared by us/we two.

Jan. 25, 1984... I carried the inner peace with me for the entirety of
the day.  After breakfast I fed the bird, and then shut myself up in my
old bedroom to write Norm's eulogy.  I had written approximately half
of it when Rev. Hess came.  He's a good guy, and easy to talk to.  He's
the first minister I've ever encountered who admitted that religion is
a personal thing with some people, and that one can accept other's
viewpoints without compromising his own beliefs or criticizing
conflicting views.  I read aloud the parts of my writing which I had
completed.  He will read my final copy on Saturday.  I elected not to
do so for dual reasons:  I am nervous in front of crowds, under the
circumstances, the nervousness would be worse.

After lunch, Steve and I went to Wild Cat Den.  There was a fresh cool
breeze blowing.  I missed Norm, yet memories were sweet.  It was good
to get out of the house and into the wind.  We dropped off my film
and mailed my photo entry.

Jan. 26, 1984... I think that too little time spent alone is taking its
toll.  I went upstairs and I listened to my tape and another album;
then I dug out the note which Norm wrote me when I was in Greece.

Jan. 27, 1984... So well do I recall the day in which we rode in black
limousines to the cemetery.  It seemed to me a ghastly promenade in the
midst of such grand January weather; I felt myself to be an actor
in some morbid sideshow in which I was to don my most lamentable
countenance so as to better give casual onlookers the expected
performance.  Instead, I chose to focus my eyes upon my knees, where
they remained riveted until we motored into the graveyard in our
stately, yet somber vehicle.

Everything within me screamed and rebelled when we once again were
instructed to issue into our allotted seat for the return trip.  The
entire essence of the black limousines seemed to me a gruesome ritual
of bygone ages.  My sorrow was not an emotion which I desired to splash
among the city streets with an air of pomp and circumstance; it was
grief as personal and private as those thoughts I shared exclusively
with Norm and my ever-true notebook.  To ride thus seemed to make a
mockery of that which was actually taking place, becoming an event
rather than the tribute to a deceased and beloved individual.

"God needed Norm in heaven with him," was a phrase spoken to attempt to
comfort us.  Some try to see a purpose in all things. . . a way to make
them less hurtful.  Others view death as the ultimate "bad thing" yet
need to justify God's love by saying that "it was all for the best."
Then there are those who say, "God gives you pain because He knows you
will grow stronger."  Boy, that makes me want to run to a church and
shout "Praise the Lord!"

It is difficult to know what to say to someone who has suffered a loss.
It is painful enough to visit, to witness the anguish.  It is more
difficult to bring comforting and meaningful words to the
grief-stricken.  Can one praise God for His kindness and love when the
situation is nothing but grim and senseless?  Statements must also be
chosen that do not somehow suggest the mourner is to blame, that had he
done something differently, the outcome would have been altogether
reversed.  Awareness of ones self and others helps immeasurably during
a confrontation with adversity, for among the numerous reactions to a
given situation, mutual respect is of foremost importance.  Everyone
reacts differently.

I hope Norm has found peace.  He certainly deserves a sojourn of
tranquility.  His tapes of Meditation and ESP came today in the mail.
Mom and Dad have received 120 cards so far!  It's unbelievable how many
are concerned and respond.

Jan. 28, 1984... It was rather a madhouse today, as a carload of
relatives popped in unexpectedly near lunch time.  I escaped to my
upstairs room before it was time to go to the Memorial Service.  I
couldn't bear the commotion on the main floor.  The limousine once
again brought us to the church.  It was hard to remain composed as I
walked into the church and found my way to the parlor.  I brushed my
hair in a nearby restroom and then returned to wait for the service to
begin.  I was scared for what the service might be, my only knowledge
of memorials being the bleak hopelessness so common to funerals.

Rev. Hess delivered the formalities in a manner far from depressing.
He read several scriptures including the congregation in one; there
were three hymns also sung with the congregation.  He read, also, the
poem "Birches" by Robert Frost, and then my contribution to the
service.  After the service we filed out, utilizing the center aisle
just as we had entered the sanctuary.

We formed a receiving line to greet those who were at the service.  It
was unbelievable to see the multitude of people who came to pay their
respects to Norm and the family.  It seemed as if the line would never
end.  Mrs. Griffin (Kathy) brought me two glasses of water during the
reception to keep me fairly cool.  Nevertheless, I sweated profusely;
by the end of the line, my hairline was soaked and I was thoroughly
fatigued.  It seemed that many found my writings meaningful; moreover,
doing so was quite beneficial to me.  Many desired a copy of it, so
Rev. Hess said he would make some copies and put them in the office.
I hope no one will use any part of the homily for another service;
I wrote that for Norm.

Steve was good to return to the church after taking Kim Segura home.
I rode to his house after the service, electing to forego the trip home
in the black limousine. Once home, I went to my "old" bedroom to lay
down.  I couldn't actually sleep, but the rest itself did some good.

The house was crawling with relatives until after supper.  Little by
little the crowd gradually dispersed, leaving the comparatively small
group of the Johnson's, Todd, Debbie, and Mom and Dad.  I once again
stayed up rather late.  We needed to talk.

Jan. 29, 1984... Today in the afternoon the Waterloo threesome (Todd,
Debbie and Bonnie, Debbie's mother, plus the canine, Bandit) were the
first to depart.  Todd drove my little red Swinger; I hope he will keep
it looking nice.  I must simply let go and guard my sanity; it is not
worth tearing yourself into emotional rages and tatters, however, I've
never been able to rationalize having nice things if one doesn't care
for them.  Sharon seemed to need to stay a while longer.  She was upset
over so many concerns accompanying a loss of such consequence.  I hope
she will be able to find peace within herself.  Perhaps it is easier
to do so in her own home.

Nights always bring out the spooks which I conjure up inside my brain.
I decided to lightly illuminate Norm's room to allow the shadows to
disappear.  We also decided to leave the door to the upstairs open;
I'm frightened of noises sounding like gasps or snorts of air, as they
remind me of the way in which I was alerted to Norm's predicament.
I'm not afraid of his spirit, but rather of the nightmares which might
evolve from the trauma of finding Norm and the inability to help.

Jan. 30, 1984... In the afternoon I ventured outside and mailed a few
thank you letters.  It had snowed about 6 inches last night and I woke
up to a beautiful landscape.  I walked down below the house a ways, not
going into the woods because I have difficulty climbing back up even in
the summer.  The new snow left a track which could easily be followed,
leading me to think that an individual could never truly be alone when
traversing a snow laden landscape; he could easily be detected even if
solitude was what he sought.  Once inside, I attempted to write a poem
about my thoughts, beginning with this.

A solitary foot path...

Solitary Footprints

A solitary foot path
Upon the fallen snow
Betrays the quiet secret
Of whither I might go.
Through spring's bouquet
His footsteps passed,
And summer's veil of green.
He watched the autumn leaves
Sail down
And winter skies
Shed cloaks of white.
His path, each day,
The snow betrayed
While strolling through
The woodland brush,
A hoard of prints
Which marked a man
Whose spirit melded
With the land.
Taken in the grasp of night,
The man no more
Will trod the snow.
I searched by day
To find his path,
So quickly did he steal away.
But nature masked
His many tracks,
As winter oft will do,
And I remain
To softly ponder
Whither he has gone.
The steadfast essence of the man
I carry in my soul,
But mine shall be the only prints
Upon the winter snow.

Lauren Isaacson
January 30, 1984

PAGE 284

Chapter 38
Personal Belief

"Why was it so necessary to nail down as truths those aspects of life
which had no answers?"

" . . . I did not even touch the vastness of Being and even less
the essence of nonexistence."


My Personal Belief

If through the very mysteriousness of life one is able to grasp a
sustaining faith, perhaps this alone is proof of an undeniable presence
in the heavens.  I am humbled by knowledge, and simply through that
which I shall not understand, I have developed the belief that
existence on earth is only a mere wisp of that existence which shall
follow one's death.  That I do not know what will occur after death
does not worry me; at best, I hope for a unity with an all-encompassing
entity, yet I would not reject the thought of eternal rest.  What peace
I have comes through hope and limitless possibilities; it does not rest
in an established faith.  If there was ever a working force to sway my
personal beliefs toward a more assured stance with respect to an
eternal life, it was after the death of my brother.  I was the only one
present at the moment of his death, and his long expiration was
followed only by peacefulness.  His face was that of a young man at
rest.  There was nothing to fear in that silent face, and my grief was
only for myself.

Two days passed, filled with anguish, when a quiet peace settled in my
chest and I realized that he never really left my inner being.  In me
he lived on.

Following weeks and months brought dreams of Norm, some of which were
given the quality of messages rather than mere conjurings of my own
mind.  Thoughts never before conceived in my conscious mind appeared in
my dreams concerning after life;  also within my dreams were those
subjects about which Norm had dreamed.  It was as if he was living
through me; in my actions, I saw through his eyes.

Many people think of death as the worst occurrence which they shall
have to bear, especially when their lives have been relatively without
pain.  Death is no menace to me in itself; the unpleasantness of ill
health or the grief of losing a loved one is that which, for me, evokes
the wary anticipation associated with death.

Given the basis of Christianity, it seems amazing to me that some of
its followers so desperately fight death.  They believe in a life
everlasting, where in heaven they shall reside, cleansed of sin,
forever with God.  Yet despite this promising array of unearthly
splendor, they seek to prolong life with vigor rather than celebrate
their nearing death.  If indeed, they are so certain of heavenly bliss,
there should be no need for fear and death should be more valued than

I do not truly consider myself to be of one established faith for I
detest labels, as it immediately implies their inherent limitations.
Moreover, my religion is a very personal thing, not bound to a certain
mode of thought; labeling would only provoke attention... some of which
is difficult to manage.

I recall several conversations centering on religion in which each of
my questions was countered with a quote from the Bible.  I soon felt as
if I was talking with a programmed robot rather than an intelligent,
capable human being.  They all seemed bereft of opinion.  "But what do
YOU think?"  I'd ask, agitated.  "It says in the Bible that..."  I knew
it was futile to continue.  They had been robbed by their own church
denomination; it seemed to me a terrible injustice.

I am unable to accept the Bible as the whole truth, for I feel
existence and its counterpart cannot so easily be explained.  While
there are those who profess to believe wholly and completely, I think
certain individuals find it easier to accept their religion's creeds as
truths to avoid the unanswerable questions brooding deep within their
minds.  This one problem of life is solved.  Perhaps, also, some
individuals are fearful of fostering doubt toward God and salvation,
lest they be turned away on judgment day.  To these people, thought is
sinful; yet I believe one is given an exquisite mind with which to
reason and evaluate stimuli; it is a natural function to be inquisitive.

It always bothered me when people would state as a fact that which was
only faith.  Why was it so necessary for them to nail down as truths
those aspects of life which had no answers?  Despite my thirst for
knowledge, I reveled in the endless possibilities, knowing that I did
not even touch the vastness of Being, and even less the essence of
nonexistence.  Since either belief or disbelief toward a given thought
could be one day proven entirely wrong, I found no malignancy in

I do not feel that living a "good life" should call for a reward in
after life; an indestructive and morally objective existence should be
a reward in itself and should not need the impetus of a reward to live
righteously, for that implies one would live in a lesser degree of
goodliness if he was certain no reward would come in a later form of

The thought of reincarnation into another earthly being after one's
death is, for me, an unpleasant thought.  I look upon each being as an
individual which is part of an ultimate whole, and in that belief,
reincarnation has no part.  The only indication which could be
attributed to reincarnation are those instances when a person speaks in
a foreign tongue and laments an historic occurrence; the spirit of
another speaking through a living person.  To a lesser degree, there is
the inexplicable, yet common feeling of de ja vu.  If a person has
never been in a place before, how could he feel that he has seen it in
another point in time?  As mysterious as these happenings are, I would
rather think of them as earthly contacts made by uneasy or tormented
spirits, rather than any sign of reincarnation.  Then I would hope that
there is nothing but rest after death, although the reality of this
wish certainly is not augmented by tales told of those who have, so to
speak, departed and then have later been revived.  I would be quite
annoyed if, after lapsing into a serene dreamland, I wake, only to find
myself deposited on earth in the form of an infant, destined to bridge
the tide of humanity once again...

PAGE 286

Chapter 39

"What man thinks of as solid "truths" could be obliterated once one has
passed from worldly existence . . . "

"one's beliefs, once established, remain a cane to lean upon throughout
those times of uncertainty and change."



I was reflecting how some people lump together instances which,
personally, I feel are complete opposites.  Case in point; the
dissimilarity, in my opinion between telling a person he has a piece of
cake on his chin and telling someone he has a pimple on his forehead.
I would be grateful to the person who would say, with discretion, that
food had somehow missed my mouth and had adhered to the skin
surrounding my mouth.  There is nothing more degrading than to have had
a lovely luncheon, followed by a shopping spree, only to discover upon
looking in the mirror at 5:30 p.m. that you'd been carrying a splotch
of cake on your face for the better part of the day.  In the event that
someone announces that you have a blemish on your face, however, I feel
nothing short of mild revulsion toward that individual for augmenting
an embarrassment which you've already acknowledged to yourself upon
awakening.  Chances are that you are fully aware of the exact longitude
and latitude of the facial offender which so hatefully appeared on your
face.  I simply feel that comments of that nature are unnecessary
because there is absolutely nothing you can do except to hope it exits
as rapidly as it made it's debut.  Unlike the piece of cake which can
be whisked away after its detection, the blemish remains until full
maturity and disappears only when it is quite prepared to do so!
Thus ends my dissertation on facial concerns.

Much of the fear that I now perceive deals with the question of where I
would go should I outlive Mom and Dad.  I feel so utterly dependant
upon them, especially given the condition of my health and my inability
to earn a living of my own.  I had depended on Norm in the event I
should have more years of life than my parents; we had said we could
live together, and my worries were somewhat allayed.  I hope I will die
before them, although I realize this would hurt them deeply.  Hidden
inside me is, perhaps, a coward which seeks the road of least
resistance.  Given my past degree of luck, however, I'm sure that my
wishes will not come true.  One must take those things in life which
are difficult to endure and attempt to grow with each new development.
Life seems unable to be a "no load" experience; perhaps it is
impossible to think that the sunshine and the rain maintain equal

Feb. 2, 1984... It was good to drive Norm's Chevette today.  It seemed
the barrier was broken and I was comforted; also to know that I could get
out, that I could drive the car with competence and at the same time,
I could feel close to Norm.  It's easier to shift than Dad's Chevy truck.

Feb.7, 1984... Some of the reason I felt so bad that awful Monday
and Tuesday was the feeling that it should've been me.  It was as if an
angel came to retrieve a soul at 5440 and got the wrong room.  Everyone
was expecting me to die, and it would have been a lot easier...

Feb. 11, 1984... It began to storm around 12:30 while I was still
down-stairs.  I've never experienced such a loud and brilliant display of
nature's fireworks at such an unlikely time of the year.  Upon hearing
the noise, I elected to turn off the T.V.in favor of listening to and
observing the lightning.  It was quite intense for a brief period of
ten minutes or thereabouts.  I wish it would continue to storm
throughout the passage of the night. . . it would effectively break
the monotony of sleep.

Feb. 12, 1984... Sunday's just aren't the same... it was a gray and misty
day, temperature of 52.  I guess the committee at Church went to the
Bishop to obtain a replacement for Rev. Hess.  I'll miss him...he was
the only minister with whom I felt at ease to express my true feelings.
With others, I was backed up against a wall.  I must believe as they
did. . .if God knowingly created man as imperfect beings which had to
attain greater knowledge through experience, how could He
simultaneously punish them for eternity simply because they doubted His
existence or some of His principles?  It would, in my opinion, be folly
for Him to place such a temptation as Knowledge (the apple) within
man's perception and then command him to shun it at all costs; an
all-knowing Being, God would have already been aware that man, yet a
child in mentality, couldn't resist such a command, just as a child
is unable to keep his hands in his pockets in a souvenir shop.

Man has a mind for a purpose; to think, to inquire into the unknown,
to rationalize the meaning of this complex universe.  If God had not
wanted man to think, he would have created man as an imbecile, and would
never have placed an apple tree in Eden.  I feel that through
questioning, one grows.  No man knows of that which comes after life on
earth.  One can only hope for serenity; the certainty of heaven is yet
a dream, to claim otherwise violates all sense of rationality.  What
man thinks of as solid "truths" could be obliterated once one has
passed from worldly existence; perhaps "truths" could just as rapidly
change through higher vision on earth.  The longer I live, the more I
realize that nothing is certain and binding.  One can simply hold beliefs
with the hope that they are at least true in part.  Knowledge can
undergo change as quickly as a new discovery is made which breaks a
former "law" of nature; one's beliefs, once established, remain a cane
to lean upon throughout those times of uncertainty and change.  If those
personal beliefs accommodate room for such change, one's growth is not
stunted; rather, one is able to rise above the poison and find fresh air
once again.

PAGE 288

Chapter 40
God, My View

"God is my inner sense of wholeness and peace, melding me with all

"God could be no less than infinitum."


GOD, My View

The wealth of unanswerable mysteries which Life presents has led me to
create a hoard of personal speculations as to their possible solutions.
Following are those insights which I maintain as "possibilities" and
those with which I heartily disagree.  Included also are the
possibilities with which my mind has struggled yet cannot truly "claim"
as my own beliefs because of their sheer incredibility.  Attempting to
rationalize that which is not an "absolute" has always been one of
man's delights and obsessions; my speculations have brought peace to my
mind in a chaotic world.  They are my own, with which I can live in
harmony through all of life's crises.

When I was young, I would listen to the Bible stories and sermons and
soon began conjuring an image of God in my mind; in essence, He was an
old, white-haired man, seated in the clouds in a brilliant robe at a
magnificent desk, holding in his large hands a mighty scroll of the
names of his earthly subjects.  As I learned more, and was given his
personality as if it was truly a simple, well-known fact, I began to
foster deep feelings of rebellion, yet I knew not the reason for my

Only years later did I realize I was not the pagan I had thought myself
to be.  I believed in an infinite creator, yet the problem I had with
established religion and church was my antipathy toward the restrictive
quality which language itself bestowed on God.  To give attributes to
God placed him within fathomable bounds and he could not be Everything,
as I so needed to believe if I was to believe in a creator.

I think of God not as a person, or a being to whom one communicates as
if to a friend, but rather as a core and ultimate unity of all
creation.  God is all things tangible and intangible...he is
Everything.  I do not worry over the question of whether God is the
sender of morality among humans, for the creation itself is enough of a
reason for me to justify a power which is to be awed.  Injecting within
an animal the capacity to love beyond himself, and mourn for more than
the loss of his own life further supports my heartfelt admiration.
I have never thought to blame God for wrongs and injustices because in
nature all is not fair; we, as all creation, are part of a life cycle,
an endless wave of being and nonexistence.  God is my inner sense of
wholeness and peace, melding me with all creation.

If one can accept the biblical statement, "God created man in his
image," as true, then perhaps there can be other speculations drawn
from that source.  Since man is generally capable of growing beyond
self-love, and, through life's observation and experiences, gaining
wisdom; it is possible that God, also, is growing, reaching ever
outward just as the universe itself is said to be expanding.
As humanly inconceivable as forever seems to be, I feel God could be
no less than infinitum.  There is not a wall but that something exists
on the other side; even within emptiness is the presence of nothing,
which in itself is something!!

No one will ever know the mind of God while trapped in the vessel of
human flesh...  No one will know how much he controls, indeed, how much
he is able to control.  Perhaps he can control suffering but does not,
or would control the pain but cannot.  We must live with the knowledge
that pain exists in the world for both the good and the heartless.

We are taught as children that if we behave we shall be amply rewarded.
Eat your vegetables and you'll get a cookie.  If one is an honest,
diligent worker, he will gain success and honor.  Religious teaching
also states that the righteous will prosper.  Attentively listening,
many ingest these tales of fortune and assume that their earthly reward
is forthcoming.  However, the world cannot live up to the story-tellers
"idealistic view" and we see with distress that our childhood tales had
severely bent realism.  A member of my church cheated on a test,
unobserved, and later received an A while another student who also
neglected to study received an F.  The former was not punished, nor did
the latter student, who honestly failed the exam, receive
acknowledgement for his honesty.

A drunken man slammed into an unsuspecting car housing a mother and two
children.  The drunk barely felt the impact, but the mother and one of
her children simultaneously cracked the windshield.  It was the third
offense, and again he merely paid a fine and the damages.  No one was
seriously injured, yet the man was not fairly punished for inflicting
undeserved wounds and mental anguish on innocent victims.

While instances like those illustrated above are numerous and quite
prominent in daily life, usually destroying the bulk of one's childhood
idealism, certain individuals cling to the "reward ethic" until evil
befalls their lives; it's difficult to completely shirk childhood
teaching, so firmly rooted in the recesses of the brain.  This is why,
I believe, there is a possibility for tension between ones self and his
religious stance upon facing unpleasant or shattering news.  "God was
supposed to be my shield from evil!" followed either by the conclusion,
"God is unjust," or "I must have done some great disservice to the

If I needed a reason for the existence of "evil" in life, this is the
most agreeable one that I could surmise.  For there to be freedom in
life, there must also be choice.  Choice necessitates at least two
possibilities, and perhaps it is here that good and evil come into
view.  If God is the ultimate creator of all things, He then knew that
existence would bring nonexistence, and all things would have its
natural counterpart.  Good without evil would allow no choice for
individuality and we would be reduced into mentally-bonded puppets.
Being the creator of all things would not necessitate his intervening
in all life, for within his framework, nature balances itself.  The
most calamitous effect on the natural world is when it becomes
off-balance; thus to control suffering would also place limits and
restrictions on humanity's freedom.  Mental freedom is better than
bondage, yet for freedom one must sometimes pay a great price.  God can
be everything without standing above humanity as a punitive figure;
though he may embrace life he does not necessarily have to control it.

When viewing "bad" occurrences in a more practical light, perhaps it
could be maintained that "badness" can only be so labeled by the one
who is placed under an immediate threat.  Surely a mouse dangling
precariously in an owl's vice-like talons would call his predicament
"bad," yet the owl would find only good in the circumstances at hand,
for through the mouse, he is able to sustain himself.  Consequently,
I feel there must be illness and old age, and ultimately death.  The
earth could not support its population of animal and human life if
there was not the presence of death.  Indeed, those of us who live
today would not have lived if there was not death; birth into a flooded
planet would be impossible.  Thus, nature controls itself; though
imperfect, it is an infinite miracle, ever growing and continuous.

Perhaps it is because I never believed in the story-book image of God
often presented to me from the outset, that I did not have to grapple
with the seeming contradictions which life gradually brought to my view
contesting either God's undying love or a person's goodness due to the
presence of suffering in the world.  When God is viewed as nature
itself, or at least the core of the natural world, injustice becomes
less of an issue regarding the distribution of pain among societal
members.  Each day in the wild, countless deaths make way for new
births and sustain those beings which, for the time, live on.  Life is
agonizing for the victim and sweet for the victor; yet the one who
survives may fall prey to the hunger of a greater beast. . .
and life continues.

PAGE 291

Chapter 41

"I have walked in the mountains and seen the beauty surrounding me.
I have heard the babble of a stream and the eerie hoot of an owl."

"I can see and hear. . . I've known what it is to feel
physically normal.  Some people never do."

". . . the core is intact despite the withering exterior.
 . . . that undefinable part of oneself that lives beyond
earthly existence."



Feb. 13, 1984... I have often thought, "If only I could make time stand
still.".. when I am involved in an enjoyable day.  I know that wish
could not possibly occur, but if it could, it would  most certainly be
a selfish desire.  In that same instant, perhaps another individual is
struggling with overwhelming sorrow, and an extension of that sorrow
would cause the individual many times more difficulty.  No, it is much
better that time continues.  The inconsistency of life necessitates the
seconds, minutes and hours which make up a day.  Life is, at times,
difficult to bear, and time passes, allowing one to rest and derive
solace from the bits of serenity found here and there along the way.
I would not elect to make a change (even if I could) in the system of
time unless I was able to better that particular moment for all

After Dr. Freeman stilled my paranoia and filled my cavity, I'm
conscious that my own worth (in silver) has escalated!  I sat outside
on the "stoop" (what a name). . . suddenly I was inspired to compose a
poem. . . I rushed inside for a piece of paper upon which I could
unleash my inspiration.  It was a beautiful day, complete with sunshine
and snowy clouds sailing rapidly by overhead.

The Truest Friend

The air is fresh
With the promise of Spring...
Sap flows to the treetops,
The chickadees sing
The insects respond
To the warmth of the sun
And the grass will stand tall
E'er the day is done.
Myriad clouds reign
A flawless blue sky...
Short-lived is their kingdom
Through which they fly
For springtime delivers
Their wealth to the earth
To nurture the land
With the newness of birth.
The time so quickly
Hastens by. . .
Soon spring is gone
And summer, nigh
(As after dawn,
The pearly morn)
Upon warm wings
The summer is borne.
Time goes on
Like an endless maze,
Melding seconds to hours
And hours to days.
The seasons reel onward,
Ever the same,
While humanity strains
Against winds of change.
It is well that time
Is beyond man's control
For to meddle therewith
Would but injure the soul.
Time, alone, is willing to share
Grief too great for one to bear,
For time will come
One misty dawn
When the mind has grown
And sorrow is gone.
Perhaps time
Is one's truest friend...
One's sole companion
'Til the very end.

Lauren Isaacson
February 13, 1984

Feb. 20, 1984... I had a brief cry in my room while holding my green
parakeet.  It seems to know Norm is gone.  I can just hear Norm saying,
"Even bird misses me!"... he used to get a rise out of me by saying how
good he was... "Even bird LOVES me!"... or looking in the mirror at his
reflection he'd say "Damn! I'm handsome!"  he would never get his hair
styled so he'd ask me if I liked his hair and when I'd just smile he'd
say, "Dummy!"... it was a standing joke...  I made Dad's birthday cake,
then sat outside for a time and wrote another poem about emptiness.

The Cure

It was not food I hungered for
Nor did I seek material gains...
I thirsted not for toxic drinks
Or pills to mask life's heartfelt pains...
I did not look for merry crowds
To fill my days with mirth;
I only sought totality
And peacefulness on earth.
Into this world, I came alone
And so, I must depart;
My life-long cure for emptiness
Was loving from the heart.

February 20, 1984
Lauren Isaacson

Mar. 19, 1984... I realize some people who keep diaries do not include
those things which would detract from their personalty.  However, I
feel that a journal cannot be complete without those embarrassments,
for they are a part of me and help me to improve myself.  I speak of
negligence and selfishness tonight. . . I came across 3 toggle buttons
in my sewing things which Norm had purchased months and months ago.
They were intended for his big sweater, and I'd volunteered to to sew
them on; I never did, and eventually. . . until now. . . forgot about
the job completely.  Now I regret my laziness with regard to
follow-through on projects.  It just seems so stupid of me, and I
wonder why I put it off.  It was not a big hassle... I just never got
to it.

Another thing of which I am ashamed is that since I can't eat
everything, I tend to be rather protective or hoggish over those
certain foods which seldom make me sick.  One such food is cake.  At
the steak supper the other night, they were selling baked goods.  We
bought some things, among them 6 creme-filled cupcakes.  They were
delicious, similar to Ding Dongs.  Anyway, I ate 3 of the 6, and then
tonight, Dad was going to have another. . . the last. . . and I was
silently upset.  Later Dad said I could have it, that he didn't really
want it.  I felt bad even though I hadn't mentioned anything aloud to
him about my wanting it. . . perhaps we foster a bit of selfishness
whether we will admit it or not.  I am disgusted with my own selfish
quirks which occasionally spill out, but at the same time I feel
fortunate that I am able to be aware of them.  Awareness leads to
overcoming faults.  Later I took pictures of a hibiscus and of birds
near the feeder using my 2 x extender.  I again embarked upon my quilt
project, sewing together more squares.  It seems that I have sad spells
whenever I sit down and reflect upon Norm, recalling our times
together.  Whenever I'm alone, I tend to break down.  I'm glad I can
release my emotions.  It seems incredible to me that Norm and I won't
be sharing Canada together.  I have no desire to go with any other
person, for it wouldn't be the same at all.  I hope it will work out
with Mom and Dad.  (I will have to remember my ear plugs, for both
snore!)  I'm sure I can enjoy the trip...I'll take books and my journal
to tide me over in the car.

Mar. 23, 1984... It seems, as yet, an impossibility that Norm and I
will no more share the lovely transformation of winter to spring, and
all those seasons to follow.  Perhaps my time is now best spent alone,
for in this way I shall be able to be with him in my mind and feel
within myself those qualities which we shared.


Skeletal remnants of autumns bygone
Habitate the woodland floor
As if, in silence, to assure
That through each death
New life will come.

And so it is that spring explodes,
A vibrant mass of color,
Flaunting the essence of life itself;
Thinking not of life long past
But only life forthcoming.

In the wake of smold'ring heat
Emerald cloaks a naked branch
And guards the fruit
Which bear the hope
That blossoms will not cease to bloom.

When golden overtakes the green
And shadows yawn 'fore noonday sun,
A message, though unspoken, blows
'cross weary field and aged grove
To beckon, as to timeless friends,
A sojourn shared 'neath winter snow.

And thus, a pod from which all life has flown
Must bid its earthly stance farewell
And harken to a chillwinds' call
To rest unto eternity.

Lauren Isaacson
March 28, 1984

April 1, 1984... April Fool's Day came and went without incident... it
was great to feel better!  The afternoon was well spent in a lawn chair
outdoors.  I thought of many things, and it was nice to be alone...
read some old poems and writings and then wrote a new poem about
hatred.  I really like it...

Fatal Emotion

A mind which houses
Naught but hate
Kindles eager flame
Which lick the doors
Of happiness
Until the one
Who lives within
Becomes engulfed
And is consumed.
A fire which feasts
Upon itself
Is not a means...
It is an end.

Lauren Isaacson
April 2, 1984

April 4, 1984... It's almost as if Norm never lived here now.  I've
always been very adaptable to my environment. . . I guess I've had
to be.  I've seen so much change, and if I didn't roll along, I could
never be able to stand everything.  I think a lot of Norm when I'm
alone, but when I'm busy I can let go of my problems.  I wouldn't be
writing so much if all was "quiet within."  I also realize that some of
this "buying binge" which I have been experiencing of late has to do
with my sense of loss.  I'm trying to restore that which has been taken
from me through material finds.  I seem to need to keep my mind
occupied. . . two things which satisfy me most are my photography and
my room. . . aside from my writing and being outside.  Hence, my
purchases for both of these "passions" of mine.  I would get the things
eventually, however, the need is here now. . . I am fortunate enough to
possess the "means" through the use of money I would have used for my
college education. . . I have not waited; after considerable thought,
I have made these purchases, and have found all to be very much to my
enjoyment.  Mom said, "It's good. . . there's so little you can do
now!"  I guess she's right. I'm limited physically...

April 5, 1984... Decided to simply relish the beautiful day!  I sat
outside in a lawn chair, photographed more flowers and then wrote a
poem.  I really enjoyed the afternoon!  Sherry (Syracuse, N.Y. pen pal)
called and we talked for quite a long while.  She's a good kid;
be coming around July 1st.


Though each day comes
But once each year
Nay, only once forever
I cannot block
My mind's dispute
That this day's twin
Has dawned before.
It seems as if
The time has lapsed
In naught but
Backward motion,
That long-lost day
E'er before the changes passed.
Perhaps through these
Reflective days,
The mirror
Of more carefree times,
One may rekindle
Tender sparks
Which in the darkness
Burst to flame
To guide and warm
The dismal heart.

Lauren Isaacson
April 5, 1984

April 14, 1984... Started our trip to the Smokies...had a good day.

April 16-19, 1984... Took pictures of forsythia, redbud and
rhododendron; the mountains are gorgeous!  It has been cold enough for
light snowfall in the higher elevation, adding to the beauty of the
deciduous trees as well as the pine.  Each day I'm having trouble with
my bowels... I had to go to a gas station... nearly had a nervous
breakdown... it was locked... when I finally got the key, I could
hardly get it open in time.  I was beside myself with anguish and
terror.  Shortly before, I had a similar experience with another
bathroom.  While in a park area, I was afflicted with the dire
necessity to "go."... it is difficult to make a nonchalant brisk
stride convincing as one hastens to the "john."  In Gatlinburg I had
yet another siege, but luckily we were at the motel.  I drove only
two times on the trip. . . sometimes we would have to stop within
a very short time... I was so scared! I  feel like a Class A Slob!

May 27, 1984... I'm off on another rampage concerning feelings and
other people's dogs!  I get so infuriated by careless dog owners who
believe that everybody ought to love dogs too, (as well as the
distasteful traits that go along with them).  Mom said that it is just
natural for a dog to mark it's territory, that it must be an
unchangeable characteristic.  I said it could be unlearned. . . did you
ever see a seeing-eye dog that paused to mark each tree?  The poor
blind person would not be able to make it down the street!  So much for
that subject!

Mom and Dad thought it in my best interest to re-furnish the up-stairs
room that had been Norm's.  I'll make it into a living room.

May 29, 1984... Death is the end of life on earth as the living
perceive it to be, however, man will forever derive solace from the
hope that death does not also herald the end of awareness.

Sometimes I wonder why an individual chooses to write at all, for I'm
quite certain that there is no thought written today which has not been
written previously.  It is astonishing to read the words of Plato and
his associates, for one discovers again how alike man's thoughts have
been throughout the ages.  Taken in this scope, it is truly egotistic
of someone to claim his ideas as unique at all.  We are born and
develop at varying rates, but even the highest of minds have no doubt
had their equal at some point in time.  Despite similarities, I write
for necessity rather than immodesty; I have little doubt that my sanity
would be thus intact if it were not for the scratches which I
frequently mark on a page.

May 30, 1984... I watched the partial eclipse of the sun through a
paper-punched hole!  Gary and I left for Wild Cat Den at noon.  I
drove... since Rt. 22 is "under destruction" I had to go on 61 through
Blue Grass.  We hiked on the trail and I snapped a few pictures.  Once
the moon passed away from the sun it was hot again; I became rather
overheated as we walked back on the road.

After I got back, I started feeling pretty rank.  I over-did and
overheated too.  It took me the rest of the day to get back to normal.
I always "hammer" myself out in the sun or when I do something.  It
makes me mad because it's an inconvenience.  I guess I'm always testing
myself or trying to prove I can still do some things.

May 31, 1984... I struggled with a poem about memories and how they
fade (but that's not all bad)!... photographed a yellow iris,
spiderwort, a daisey-like weed, and some chickadees. . . I again
grappled with the main elements of the poem, finally setting the whole
package aside to retain my sanity.  (It wasn't really that bad!)

Faded Memories

The mind records pictures
And fleeting sensations
Of life's precious moments
And futile concerns;
Images as random
As pieces of film,
Developed with care,
Preserved with love.

Yet, in time
One's pungent impressions
Of years gone by
Are obscured
By a fathomless haze;
The imprint
Of a radiant smile
And laughter,
Tender as the dew...
The image from a mountain top
And autumn's coral moon...
But also dark imaginings
And mornings
Bleak and gray
Are strewn among
The misty hoard
Which time
Has struggled to displace
And bury
'Neath a tranquil sea.

The unhealed wound
Evokes more pain
Than does the faded scar...
So should it be
With memories...
Fragments scattered
On life's path
To mingle with nostalgic dust
Should not besiege
The growing mind
With sorrow or despair...
For once dismissed,
The inner self
Can, with the whole,
Be joined as One.

Lauren Isaacson
May 31/June 1, 1984

First Impressions

There is a friendly countenance
That still my mind holds dear...
A face of striking character,
An aura sure and strong...
He seemed to own that innate spice
Which tender few possess...
Without trite conversation
I knew him as a friend.

Perhaps the passage of an hour
Would prove my image wrong...
Yet could it be that feelings
Speak more truthfully than words?

Lauren Isaacson
June 2, 1984

June 4, 1984... Sometimes it seems to me as if those afflicted with
long-term or chronic illnesses, whether physical or mental in nature
are often able to find and retain meaning in life.  It is rather
discouraging that many cannot shape their lives without such
catastrophic events, for all around there are reasons for contentment
and understanding if one is but openly aware, and perhaps, willing to
spend time alone, immersed in thought.

June 11, 1984... Mom came up because she knew I was upset. . . we
began talking and finally the hatch on my emotions gave way... then I
rampaged about how there was the notion that Mom and Dad were to blame
for all of our family's strange and various ailments.  "It had to be
something to do with their combination to make all their kids have such
odd disorders."  Well, I don't believe it.  Some people always have to
point a finger of blame for their own misfortunes.  Mom and Dad didn't
give me Big C.  I just will not buy that.  And to blame parents for
being screwed up in the head is not intelligent either, because it not
only is the parent but the way in which the kid deals with what his
parent says, that make or break problems.  People do the same thing at
work... it never has anything to do with their own personality... that
people have a hard time being around them... well, I got it out and
cried a bit and it really helped.  Mom was up here 'til 12:00!

June 12, 1984... Looked at a few slides in the morning... upstairs a
better part of the day. . . so tired. . . slept most of the afternoon.
Dad sold Norm's motor for the canoe. . . we sure had fun with that...
once a year was enough, but boy, what a riot.  I always think of our
late fall ride when we had KFC along and we bought some Grolsch beer
because I needed a bottle of it to draw for art class.  It was so
brisk, we needed to wear our "Pepto-Bismol Suits" (snowmobile suits).
It was also great in the summer to lean over the bow and let it bounce
over the waves.  I have so much time to sit and think, yet less control
over my emotions... weakness causes me to be upset concerning things
which I would otherwise forget about.  Now, all I can do is talk it out
or write it out!

June 14, 1984... I look into the star-filled sky and feel that there
must be a Creator; the galaxies continue beyond the farthest reaches of
man's telescopes, and so they must continue forever, for if there
should be an end... a wall ... then surely something must lie on the
other side; and thus, I am overwhelmed.

If only people would not be blind unto themselves!  If only they would
hear and understand. . . but then there would be no need to talk.

Life Song

A cool breeze filters
Through summer's last green,
The raiment grown weary of bygone heat,
Weaving with the insects' drone
An eerie, melancholic spell;
Forever crickets seem to chant
Amid their restless, aging cloak,
Singing through both day and night
As if their ever present trill
Will mask their own mortality.
So vigilant these singers are
Yet they are not aware
That those who never cease to sing
Their daily melody
Simply mirror common thoughts
(And mirrors but reflect the song
That Life is wont to sing.)
Beware the cricket and his song
Lest you, as he, be singing still
When autumn shadows yawn,
For never can one live again
the hours of singsong mindlessness
When one sought not that higher note
Which would embrace eternity;
The change which robs each creature's breath
Is deaf unto Life's steady chant
For what is Life
But numbered days
That march from countless decades passed
Unto the land beyond?

Lauren Isaacson
June 15, 1984

Sensory Dreams

My eyes yearn to see those things
Which I have never seen...
To scale the highest mountain peaks
That rule the evergreen...
My legs desire to trace the way
'Cross meadows, fields, and streams
And to traverse that narrow path
Where few footsteps have been.
I would love to feel the wind
Upon my flowing hair...
To hear the birds and smell the flow'res
And breathe the unspoiled air.
If stars were made for wishing,
And dreams made to come true
I'd conquer all my frailties
So these dreams I might pursue.

Lauren Isaacson
June 16, 1984

(Milkweed Pod/Man)

Borne through the air on silken shafts,
The product of a waning life
Is hastened on its windward course;
Imprisoned in its silver craft,
It journeys toward that fateful end
Where it shall rival life and death.

Man thrives upon the tender thought
That he is master of his life,
Remembering not the autumn seed
Whose dormancy is blessed with life
Through nature's will and circumstance;
Yet is not man as surely bound
Unto his birthright's soul and mind,
Entrapped upon the winds of time
And captive of the senses?

Lauren Isaacson
June 17, 1984


How I long
For a place beyond
Where land and sky are one
Where the beam
That will shine
Upon fruit and vine
Is a true, benevolent sun...

Where age and time
Are not maligned
Like sun obscured by cloud
And battle fields
To peace shall yield;
Old scars it will enshroud...

The unseen frights
Of moonless nights
Nowhere shall be found
And love will fall
On each and all
As rain upon the ground...

Here joy shall wind
Throughout the mind
As streams toward a pond
And I, to One,
As all, to One,
Eternally shall bond.

Lauren Isaacson
June 10, 1984 (1st and 2nd)
June 21, 1984 (finished)

Time spent immersed in thought is time best spent.  One can cleanse his
mind and clarify his beliefs, as well as open himself to the objective
definition of new ideas.  Some thoughts:  Marriage can be
self-inflicted punishment.  The habitual liar will bury himself alive.

Mom finished typing all of my poems dated from my time at Augie to the
present... they look nice.

July 1, 1984... I think my spending spree is quite similar to Norm's
after Tracy took off.  It's like you are trying to fill a void by
masking the same old place.  It keeps the mind occupied, too. . . but
no matter how occupied the mind becomes, trivial concerns never quite
do the job.  After all the money is gone, the emptiness still persists.
At least I can enjoy the mutuality of our relationship, and look
forward to great things in the future. . . long after I am released
from this "earthly bondage."... it must be worth any trials one need
endure previous to the journey into "the beyond."  I believe I shall
see Norm again, as I do now in my dreams.

July 3, 1984... I woke up and speedily dressed.  Hyman's was going to
deliver the furniture.  Les and Dad took my antiques upstairs before
they arrived.  Everything fits and I think it looks great.  It was
rather amusing... one of the topics we hit upon while the movers were
upstairs was the raft of old bottles (whiskey) I have displayed on the
console... (from the Thrift Shop).  One of the fellows said, "Women
shouldn't drink when they're pregnant."  I wasn't completely sure, but
I thought he was referring to me.  When I went down to get the check
for him, he said, "So when is it due?"  I said, "Don't feel bad, but
I'm not pregnant.  I have a liver problem... my liver's enlarged."
I felt sorry for him; how could he know?  He was just trying to be
friendly... maybe he had a family of his own.  I guess the episode did
make me realize that I don't exactly look like a "stick" anymore. . .
but it was rather funny.

July 7, 1984... haven't done much today... didn't feel too great... did
take Steve to The Dock for a late birthday celebration.  He likes that
place the best. I could just eat the salad, bread and Won-Tons.  We saw
a guy with a hole the size of Texas in the seat of his pants; he was
taking a woman to eat at The Dock!  I wonder how he'll feel when he
finally discovers why everyone is smiling at him?!!

We sat at the Moline Riverside Parkway for awhile, 'til the bugs drove
us out. . .there were millions of those "cheap bugs". . . what a waste!
They're built so cheap... all they can do is incubate, breed, shed
their skins all over people's cars, and then die!

July 10, 1984... This is the first day in, well, I'll bet a year or so,
that I didn't apply a speck of make-up on my eyes or elsewhere!  It was
another HOT day.  Mom and I worked on the rag rugs.  She cut the warp
thread to size and I strung three strands through a needle and
proceeded to tie the fringe on the rug.  Yesterday she unpacked all my
china from the storage boxes in the cubby holes; we put it in my
antique buffet.  It looks great!  It's fun to see it all again.

The Day

I watched from my bench
On the sun-dappled lawn
As the cool glow of morning
Aged to radiant noon.
From youth to prime
In naught but hours
With n'er so much
As a backward glance,
Disdainful of its hapless plight.
Scarcely had the Day begun
When shadows bent from earthly things,
Yet steadfast to its mission bound,
It envied not the youthful light
That shall tomorrow take its place,
But with unselfish wisdom
Shed its golden beam upon the earth;
And when the distant western sky
Let go the aged, fiery disk,
Whence, for hours, it reigned complete,
Precious little time remained
To cast upon the glistening haze
A brief reflection of the Day
Whose life had touched eternity.

Lauren Isaacson
August 23, 1984

"Of Butterflies"

In a shaft of yellow light
A monarch captures on her wings
An ambered, opalescent glow
While sailing on the Breeze of Life.
A seeming drunken path she weaves,
As if berefit of aim or goal,
For fields of flowers compose her world
And nectar sweet sustains her breath.
So high she flies
Yet sees no more
Than that which self-indulgence brings;
How glad am I
That through these eyes
I see more than the butterfly.

Lauren Isaacson
August 24, 1984

Aug 27, 1984... I had a tension headache tonight.  It finally went away
after talking with Mom.  Sometimes I wonder if I'll die the same way
Norm did... I have a bump on my thigh... who knows what it is!  Then I
was thinking how every time someone sleeps in the other room or near me
on trips, I wonder if they're "gonna die on me."  What a drag it was to
find Norm.  Strange how I always kept an ear peeled for Norm; sometimes
I wonder if we have a 6th sense that tells us things apart from the
conscious world.

Sept. 1, 1984... I'm such a turd sometimes; I hate myself.  I always
balk when someone starts to sing, no matter who it is; Mom loves to
sing, and with her it's also an emotional outlet.  Whenever she sings
though, I cringe and she stops.  Today she was going to sing a song
(that told a story).  I uttered a small protest.  She stopped,
apparently quite hurt.  After I did that, I felt like nothing, but
there was no way to recall my "ugh" once breathed into the air.  She
said, "I have feelings too," in answer to my, "I'm sorry, Mom!"  and
went downstairs.  When I'm writing I'm an intolerable creep to be
around.  I don't know why I didn't think first and be considerate.  She
always listens to my writings, no matter how trivial; why can't I abide
a few notes of song?  I wish I knew why song grates so heavily upon my
ears... it always has.  I most certainly have a terrible voice and use
it only on the rare "happy birthdays" and so forth.  I'm kind to
society in that regard, at least.  For now, I wish I could find a .45.

Mom came up and we talked.  I feel better now.  She felt sorry for
being too sensitive and what she called "uppity," and I expressed my
regrets too.  After a cry, we both felt better.  I guess we both felt
rather stupid!

Sept 6, 1984... Mayo Clinic sends out a form letter for its Statistic
Unit.  I wrote... "It has been nearly 3 years since my re-diagnosis of
cancer and I'm still alive to tell about it.  As the afflicted area is
my liver, I experience the symptoms generally associated with liver
diseases (so I am told), such as over-heating and water retention.  My
liver has expanded to such a degree that casual onlookers sometimes
mistake my appearance for that of a pregnant woman.  I was once asked
when I was "due"!  Perhaps I should've said, "I don't know... so far
I'm 36 months along."

So much for my reply to Mayo Clinic... I sometimes find it hard to
believe I've lasted so long; liver cancer is seldom smiled upon as a
long-time acquaintance.  If it weren't for Big C, I'd be real healthy!
I also stated that should some breakthrough be discovered for the
curing of leiomyosarcoma I'd appreciate notification. . . until then,
it is best to create one's happiness each day.  I worked more on my
story... it's fun to do actually.

The Miracle Of Chance

The spider spins her silver threads
Into a silken sheen
Deftly pouring forth her self
Unto the net which is her life.
Though possessed of marked skill
This artisan shall reap no wealth
Begotton of her grand design,
And yet the misty hand of dawn
Transforms her modest web of silk
Into a diamond-scattered orb,
Sparkling as a precious crown
Before the rising sun;
Thus wrapped in lace
She mans her snare,
Entrusting nature with her life.
The spider dangles weightless
From her wispy spinnerette,
As does all existence hang suspended
In the grasp of chance.
For each successive heartbeat
Froms the web which heralds every breath
And leases yet another moment
From the miracle called Life.

Lauren Isaacson
September 19, 1984


All things considered, I feel that I have had a beautiful life.  I have
loved, and been loved in return by a warm family, and developed a
once-in-a-lifetime closeness with one of my brothers.  I have been
blessed with a certain degree of intelligence, common sense, and
awareness.  My countenance is agreeable and unobtrusive, and I have a
pleasant, though realistic outlook on life.  I am adaptable to change
and strive for growth, not stagnancy of character.  I have walked in
the mountains, and seen the beauty surrounding me.  I have heard the
babble of a stream and the eerie hoot of an owl.

Though I am no longer able to actively pursue many of those diversions
which have so colored my memories, I yet possess their image in my
mind.  I once felt the pleasure of vitality and physical endurance
marked by an unblemished body, and though my body is no longer
beautiful to behold, nor functions as it once had, yet it sustains me.

I am fortunate to live in a comfortable style among furnishings and
sentimentalities I love, and have the option to be alone should that be
my need and desire.

I am thankful for my many blessings, for I have a good life.  Quality
cannot be marked by time, but rather, by the smiles along the way.


Oct. 5, 1984... When I dropped the film off yesterday, I was mentioning
that I wish I knew some practical use for the film canisters. The clerk
said, "Now that you're pregnant, maybe you can use them as rattles if
you fill them."  It always is a cold blow and it strikes me speechless.
I wonder what people think; I wear no rings... oh well, I know I'm
straight!  That's what counts.  I'm enjoying the sheepskin rug I
bought in Estes Park.  It's gorgeous!

Traces Of Autumn

Autumn plays no timid song
And wears no modest vestment,
Flourishing its last hurrah
Before a restful interlude.
Dying leaves fall to the ground,
Whispering in the gentle breeze
To haunt the heels of passers-by
And gossip to the cold north winds.
The sweetly reminiscent smell
Born of leaves now laid to rest
Permeates the autumn air
And bids the traveler raise his head
To breathe the singular perfume
Before the icy gales of winter
Rob all traces of this heady scent,
Left to linger only in the mind
With autumns passed and indistinct.

Lauren Isaacson
October 14, 1984

Oct. 19, 1984... I took a drive but was fearful of stopping to take
pictures while alone... what a chicken.  My Beauty Book order came.
Everything is nice; items will make perfect gifts.


Though autumn weaves its image
With an all-pervasive air,
Encompassing one's senses
in its splash of brilliant color
and the rustling of the leaves...
in the scent of drying foliage
blowing freely through the trees...
and the taste of ruby apples
and the crispness of the wind,
The barren months which lie ahead
Touch upon one's very soul;
The slanting sun sets trees aglow,
Their leaves a restless fire
Kept alive by northern winds until,
As embers blackened by the flames of yesterday,
They tumble to the ground...
Carpeting the well-clipped lawns
And waiting for the icy hand
That shall transform their shape to dust.
Like the child who aged beyond
A once-beloved bear,
Leaves--uniform as paper dolls
Cut by fingers deft and sure--
Casually are flung aside
As if their purpose has expired.
Quietly a funeral dirge
Mourns balefully amid the breeze,
Heard by all and yet ignored
As if death denied may not unfold.
So silently the coldness seeps
Into the autumn breeze
And birds fall mute before its touch
So one might think the very chill
Had robbed their throaty cries.
No more leaves cling to the trees,
Making idle chatter,
For winter siezed their quiet voice
And hid it deep, 'neath frosty snow.
Silence reigns ov'r one and all
While clouds converge in murky skies;
Death obscures ones vision
To a darkly shade of gray,
And yet in time, the clouds recede,
Rendering warm the gloom-filled heart
And purging sorrow from the mind.

Lauren Isaacson
October 21, 1984

Oct. 22, 1984... It was a great day, until after lunch.  I got
sick...it was extra discouraging when I realized the beautiful day was
passing me by.  I finally settled my stomach and Mom and I drove on
some rural roads.  Later, while in the safety of my home, I had the runs.
... Sometimes when I feel so sick, so lousy, I cry... but this time
I feel too sick to make the effort... so I just sit.

Oct. 24, 1984... Mom and I took a drive to Loud Thunder.  I took some
pictures... it was beautiful out.  There was a stick bug on me...
they're strange little creatures.  Later we drove to Petersen Park.
Mom suggested I write a poem about the man who was using one of those
metal detectors.  He was the inspiration; I did so, once home...I like
the poem.

Copper Pennies, Golden Leaves

An old man strolled through autumn leaves
Waving slowly 'fore his path
A wand to guide his watchful steps.
Were it not for earphones
Clapped upon his graying head
And a tiny garden spade
Warming in his gnarled hand,
I'd have thought the man was blind;
Yet blind this man might well have been
For all that he refused to see;
With eyes feasted on the ground,
He looked for copper, bronze, and gold.
A rusted bauble on a chain,
And perhaps, some pocket change
Lying 'neath the colored leaves
Was an afternoon's hoard...
And a splendid reward...
For several hours spent
With his back bent to the sun.
'Twas a shame he could not see
The wealth amid the shining trees...
The leaves turned golden by the sun
Falling near his outstretched wand
Yet of no value in his eyes.
After all his sightless quests
Are only shreds of memory,
This man shall have no hoard of wealth...
Only pennies in his hand.
The golden fragments in my mind
Are wealth beyond an earthly price;
For ten million copper pennies
I'd not trade a single thought.

Lauren Isaacson
October 24, 1984

Oct. 25, 1984... I made Mom and Dad's bed, but neither seemed to take
note.  That's OK, each probably thought the other did it!

Oct. 31, 1984... I love Halloween...  I carved two pumpkins after Dad
cleaned out the internals for me.  Sick, sick, sick after supper; I get
so depressed.  I decided to write a poem; I wanted to cry, but it
would've taken too much effort.  Time is better spent writing.

Yesterday's Dreams

My heart is filled with salty tears
My eyes shall never shed
And my mind reflects the many roads
These feet will never tread...
Forgotten and exhausted dreams
And those that cannot come to life
Are buried like the husband
Of a newly widowed wife;
So while the dreams of yesterday
Shall never be exhumed
Perhaps those of tomorrow
Shall defeat the moldering tomb.

Lauren Isaacson
October 31, 1984

I've been thinking about Halloween as I knew it.  I loved it so, even
though I didn't care much for the candy.  It wasn't such a worry then.
Now everyone's scared; afraid some weirdo will put a pin or poison in
the candy.  They even X-ray the treats.  Dear Abby feels "trick or
treat" is a threat!  Most kids wouldn't know how to trick someone. . .
when Dad was a kid they put entire hay wagons on top of barns or tipped
over the out-house. . . soaped windows and often were dunked by the
inhabitants of the house as they stood under an upstairs window pulling
their rat-a-tat-tats!  They deserved the cold soaking.

Nov. 1, 1984... My stand on immigration, abortion, and criminal justice
would probably classify me as nothing short of an inhumane and
prejudiced killer.  I have my reasons, however. I believe there must be
quality in life or life is simply existence.  Population growth hinders
peace within humanity, and chaos results, not happiness.  Abortion
saves children from neglect, inherited negative patterns of behavior
such as moral outlook and personality traits that would be given from
the mother and the erstwhile father.  Finally, one who violates or
murders another person does not deserve life, for he gave his subject
no choice; in innocence the victim lost his life.

Nov. 5, 1984... Mom and I enjoyed an amusing situation today while
running some errands.  Moline's 23rd Ave. is under construction, and a
truck hauling tar pulled in front of us.  A red light stopped us behind
the truck, it's exhaust chokingly black.  A workman was standing along
the curb, engaged in conversation; when the truck started up again, it
blew black smoke directly into his face.  He noted our sympathetic
amazement concerning his predicament and immediately stuck out his
tongue in the direction of the truck, thus portraying his disgust of
the entire affair!  Some of those little shared moments can "make the

Nov. 13, 1984... Sometimes I wonder if at least a good third of my life
has been spent sick. . . whether from Big C or other junk!

The Wings Of Time

Bourne upon the wings of time
Memories cloud my eyes today,
Masking o'er the tempting sights
Which seek dominion of my mind...
Childhood years that mocked
The very passing of the days,
Wishing time would hurry on
Quickly, as the setting sun.
I smile upon those early years,
Fueled by futuristic dreams,
For long I did not have to wait
'Ere time clipped short the youthful flame.
One need not beckon unto time,
Master of the endless hours
Both passed and yet to come...
When life is gone, time remains,
Ancient, yet forever young.
Passed moments and tomorrows
I live only in my dreams.
Today is all I truly have,
Bourne upon the wings of time.

Lauren Isaacson
November 24, 1984

I've thought so much about the "givers" and "takers" in a society.  It
is amazing to me that there are actually those who feel no obligation
whatsoever to help or to give to others.  Unbelievable!  Most people at
least feel a twinge of guilt about being so selfish.  If everyone was a
taker, the world would be nothing but "existers." Nothing would be
accomplished or invented.  Why is it that a taker must always be asked
to perform a duty?  Perhaps selfishness breeds laziness... let George
do it!

A child cannot give except with the knowledge that he will at a later
time be amply rewarded.  Maybe this trait cannot he overcome if the
awareness factor is not there to aid in "overcoming."

When one gives freely and without expectation, it is beneficial to both
self and others.  Givers do not hinder.

Why do takers think they are so special that they don't have to offer
conversation, aid, or show gratitude?  What contributes to their lack
of obligation?  A lack of conscience, or is it a lack of conscience

The lazy and the selfish will not put themselves under any strain...
neither will the inherently low-esteemed.  Perhaps a low self-image
combined with an inability to face that image leads to ingratitude...
gratitude would compliment the other, thereby raising his (the"others")
status. . . and lowering one's own.  No matter how old this kind of
person grows, he will never mature.  It inspired another poem...

Aged Child

Possessed of apathetic eyes
Which mirror only childish wants,
He kindles flames of disbelief
When thoughts bereft of rationale
Are thrown amid the unspoiled breeze.
The unrivaled child of woe
Amongst the realm of thinking man
Exerts naught but vehemence
Toward duty and concern.
Ill mannered and unkempt,
An animal regards itself
More frequently, indeed.
Demands spill forth,
Yet aid will never be returned.
The mind, developed, yet constrained
By ropes he will not cast away,
Displays a blatant haughty show
And retreats behind a stagnant pool...
A silent product of neglect.

Lauren Isaacson
November 25, 1984

Nov. 26, 1984... I put the lights and decorations on the Xmas tree.
It's nice to have the house look like Christmas.  Mom and I went to Dr.
M.  She had some growths burned off and I had some questions.  I feel
so stupid.  Nothing can he done.  My heart races, I have that bump on
my leg, swelling, nausea, the runs, heat problems, low lung capacity,
emotional weakness, tire easily, appetite fluctuates as does food
appeal, thirst, and water retention.  All that can be said is that my
case is very unique. . . questions really have no answers.

Nov. 30, 1984... I have another dissertation to expound upon. . . to
those needing to "find themselves," let me say this:  It cannot be done
by cheating on your spouse, or hitting the honky-tonk bars; rather, go
away in a remote wilderness or park, and all alone, spend time getting
to know who you are and what you believe in.  There is no turning
yourself away when you are alone. . . you must face who you are.

Should you find that you do not like who you see, trust your judgment.
Don't go running to a "shrink" to have him tell you "you're OK."
Chances are, your own opinion is right; take the traits you dislike
and try to improve your disposition.  Find the love you buried under
trivial matters.  Trying to improve is better than hiding behind a mask
you loathe and despise.

Dec. 18, 1984... Thoughts on my extensive reading:  Strive to attain
harmony with your beliefs, for the price of discord is bled from the
heart.  Attempting to rationalize that which cannot be rationalized
is a cruel and purposeless task that shall not be mastered; it is like
digging a foundation through unyielding stone with a paper shovel.
It cannot be done.

Feb. 25, 1985... I wrote again today; if I can keep a decent momentum,
I'll make progress.  After supper and a bout with diarrhea, I decided
to try to venture washing my hair in the shower.  Even a simple task
becomes a worry.  The shower is in the basement, the toilets are on
first and second floor; what if I should encounter another siege?

Feb. 27, 1985... I wrote more today, although it was rough going, words
weren't flowing.  I wish summer was not coming up again.  February flew
past, and my story is not half-way.  I get so tired, or sick,
interrupted or otherwise side-tracked.  When I can write, there's no
guarantee that I'll be able to get my brain jump-started.  I need a new
battery; perhaps I have "Writer's Retardation." . . . writer's cramps
aren't sufficient!

Feb. 28, 1985... Sharon came around noon.  I had one of those really
sick days.  Later in the afternoon I could sit outside; I wrote a poem

The Present

Do not forsake the present
Holding fast to yesterday;
Do not search for treasures
Buried deep and long decayed...
A moment lost cannot be won
For memories fade as the setting sun
And n'er will be regained.
'Tis best to think of what you are
And one day shall become.

Lauren Isaacson
February 28, 1985

Feb. 28, 1985... I got sick at night.  I hate it,
but I just have to sit it out.

Mar. 2, 1985... Afternoon sunshine brought me outdoors.  I was in a sad
and reflective mood; the poem follows...

Life's Dusty Road

On life's dusty road I tread
Alone, save for that inner peace
Which bears me 'long when spirits fall
From that which is and cannot be;
For sorrow is a grain of sand
Which festers in the open heart
And preys upon the tender mind
Which seeks the sun
Beneath the clouds.
I cannot claim a smoother trail;
Though faltering steps impede my way,
I travel on through misty glade
Past crossroads of a different hue
And onward, though deep shadows loom.
Footsteps mingle with my own
Yet on my path, I walk alone;
The dust I bear upon my feet
Attests that my road is unique.

Lauren Isaacson
March 2, 1985

Mar. 4, 1985... Mom gave me a permanent today.  I feel like Goldilocks!
It's fuzzy and appears to have been braided... but it's an improvement
over my limp hair.  The liver must have taken it's toll on my
"extremities."... hair, nails; I hope my teeth don't go!  It seems to
be better for me to eat throughout the day whenever I feel hungry.
It is truly March; the wind's a regular terror!

Mar. 7, 1985... Tomorrow Norm would have been 34.  It seems rather
strange.  I wrote a profound thought yesterday; "Does not the sunrise
from out of the Darkness?"

I finished re-reading the 2nd of the Tolkien trilogies
and began the 3rd.  I love those books.

My room and "living room" are so neat.  I just love having my "apt."
...it wouldn't be this way if it weren't for my Big C.  I'd be making
money somewhere and probably still live here, but as far as furniture
goes. . . well, who knows?  Maybe I'd have done this.  I know I'd also
have wanted to save and scrimp for a down payment on a house.  Strange
how a person's life can be so altered from that which one had desired.
Health means so much, yet few are thankful for it.  I remember how
great it was to climb in the mountains. . . now that is all I have...
memories of health long passed.  I suppose I didn't truly have health
since late grade school years.  Cancer had been with me for a long time
to have grown so large in my stomach.  But of course, cancer isn't my
foremost pain. . . that comes only from the death of Norm.  I used to
laugh far more often, for we were always joking around.  It was such
fun.  I'm lucky to have had such a relationship at all, for few do
in a lifetime.

Mar. 12, 1985... Needed to sort through my clothes.  So many I can
no longer wear.

Mar. 13, 1985... I wrote a letter to Jon.  One of the patients who
journeyed to Greece called.  Max (another patient) died yesterday.  I
tried to calligraph a card for his mother, but couldn't seem to control
the pen well today.  Whenever another of the group who went to Greece
dies, I wonder when I'll go,too.  Almost all of the ones I knew are now
dead.  Some cure!  It had, at the time, seemed rather promising.  Some
have said they didn't see why we went; if they had a loved one, they'd
probably be on the first plane!

Mar. 27, 1985... It was just 65 degrees; I sat outside in shorts and a
light top.  A balmy spring breeze is filtering through the still-barren
branches of the oak trees, and despite a slight chill in the air, the
sun obliterates any shiver which might otherwise have broken upon my

Mom persists in weeding, nurturing her plants, not heeding the
complaints of her aching back, while Dad rakes and resets the ground-
mole trap. . . "What could be more disturbing than a mole-infested
lawn?"  And I sit... and observe... and listen.  Across the hill, a
child chants a rhyme unperfected, to the hap-hazard beat of a jump
rope.  The adjacent hill delivers the sound of a tree-trimming crew
ripping the remnants of a tree to shreds.  The birds surround me with
a joyful chorus, assured that soon spring shall arrive, while a fly
attempts to sun itself on my knee and is foiled in its attempt.  A new
and unfamiliar bird joins in the chorus, while a rake scrapes the lawn
in a rhythmic pattern.  An incoming plane drones toward the distant
airport and is gone seconds later, only a minor disruption to the day's
overall serenity.

A can drops and hits the cement; the wind chimes attest to the steady
flow of the soft breeze.  A child hollers a rhyme.  I wish she would
shut up.  Ah, she has!  Or so the moment portends.

April 1, 1985... (April Fool's Day) I "got" Mom by telling her that
I flubbed on one of the posters I was making for the Salad Luncheon
publicity.  I finally finished reading "The Rosary"
a candy-sweet idealistic-love romance.

Mom has begun to clean my upstairs; it's so good of her to do it.  I
get so tired; I guess I have to give in, sometimes.

April 2, 1985... A good day!  Wow! I wrote a lot!

April 3, 1985... Mom is doing all the typing for me; I'm so weak,
I really don't feel like doing much.

April 7, 1985... I am having a good day!  What a change of pace.  I'm
re-reading Jon's old letters.  They bring back memories.  Mom and Dad
had a good day with the rest of the clan.  She brought back a lovely
lacey and beribboned egg to be used for a centerpiece.  Sharon sent a
tiny basket with pink flowers and a miniature rabbit for me.  She is
always lavishing me with demonstrations of love and affection.
Scott and Brad appeared to enjoy the books.

April 11, 1985... Problems again, but not so I couldn't enjoy the day.
It was in the 60's.  I wrote a poem about spring.


All that which
I cannot be
Is part of its
The hov'ring bee,
The blossom fair...
The youthful bird
Upon the air...
A burning sun
That buries snow
In shallow graves
From whence life grows;
Embracing both new seed
And breath
And shielding each
From thought of death.

Lauren Isaacson
April 11, 1985

April 21, 1985... I've been reading Sherry's old letters when I tire
of writing.  It's difficult to write about my first cancer experience;
reliving it is not easy.

April 22, 1985... I reminisced high school days; I remember a period
when I went through a swearing stage.  Crazy.  It doesn't exactly build
one's character, but for the time, it got one's point across.  This was
only between close friends, of course.  I never cared for public
vulgarity in any fashion.  It's crazy, too, how one word is considered
"vulgar" and another, meaning the same thing, is not.  Who decides
these things, I wonder?  The one that really cracked me up was that the
proper British had to come up with a past tense of the word "shit."...
in their speech, it is "shat."

May 6, 1985... I tried to write outside, but it was impossible.  Gnats
kept insisting on flying into my eyes.  Mosquitoes were buzzing around
my legs, although none seemed inclined to feast; perhaps they were
still too young to know what to do with a human.  When I used to be
able to do things outside, it was no problem; indoors bugs don't bite,
nothing seems an annoyance.  Once inside and in the comfort
of air-conditioning, I wrote a poem.

Seasons Of Life

One mirrors many seasons within his very life;
The lush bouquet of springtime, hoarding life, vitality.
From the verdant, yielding mind sparks, like tree sap,
Bubble through one's firm, yet supple limbs.
Unleashing youthful hopes and dreams for growth unhindered,
Unrestrained by roiling clouds and murky skies.

As the spring to summer fades, so also, does the life mature,
Observing as the inky clouds derived of haughty restlessness
Recede into one's memory, to live subdued and quiet lives
'Til time denies their former flame.
The waxing moon of summer skies illuminates high-flying clouds;
The vessels of one's dreams attained, and hopes of liquid silver.

As summer dies, glamour wanes, and silver dreams to gold transform;
Shade not the sun from aging hearts, but bask therein and mark the glow
Which glimmers deep on ancient joys and even where dark shadows fall.
Despair not in autumnal gold!
In holding fast to summer's hue, beauty passes by, unseen,
And spoils itself 'fore winter's grasp.

Crushing life with frigid hands, winter heeds no stricken gaze
Which kindles in the youthful eye whose untouched life is yet benign
Unto the last, eternal chill; yet fear, alone, cannot impair
The misty sight of spring's new hope;
And though one life the snow enshrouds, in other lives,
Breath rallies still depicting seasons, fair and strong,
And promising life shall go on.

Lauren Isaacson
May 6, 1985

May 9, 1985... Mom asked if I'd like to give Sharon my bike because
hers is so difficult to pedal.. I don't know...I hate to let go of it
just yet.  Some days I feel normal.  Stupid, I know; guess it's part of
my way of maintaining hope.  Another idiotic drama!  Yesterday I asked
Mom to get some angel donuts.  They were tarring the road, so she
brought two twists from Jewel.  I nearly began to cry.  I felt like
such a jerk; I have so few pleasures in food to look forward to;
it just hit me!

May 10, 1985... I calligraphed a Mother's Day card, put a $20 bill in
it along with a box of pretty soap for the big day.

May 11, 1985... I've read Jane Eyre, The Crucible, the four of
Tolkien's, Catch 22, The Stand, All Quiet on the Western Front;
most of them show human emotions in the raw.

May 12, 1985... We had a picnic; it was a beautiful today.  Les brought
me a dozen roses; they're beautiful, too!  Jon called, but I couldn't
talk long... problems, again.

May 16 1985... I wonder how much time, if any, I gained by having Chemo
the first time around.  I had no other choice, especially since it was
thought to be a cure.  I never would have it again. . . even if it did
slow the growth.  Living without sickness, caused by the treatment, is

May 17 1985... I get "down" in the mornings; physically, I'm at my
lowest ebb; it affects my emotional stability, too.

It's strange, but nice weather almost always makes me mad because I
feel obligated to get out in it.  But, I can't write on my book if I'm
outside; there are too many distractions, mostly in the form of bugs in
my eyes.  If I'm inside, I'm letting life pass me by, and yet,  I'm not
neglecting my writing.  It gets to me that I can't actually do much
anymore except sit around outside.  No walks, bike rides, or walking
down in the woods.  Oh, well.

I decided to get my camera and did get some shots of a great yellow
butterfly in the Beauty bush.  Hope it turns out well.

UPS delivered another of my Lillian Vernon orders.  I'll have a choice
as I give gifts.  I calligraphed a poem inside of a blank card for
Steve's graduation.  Then I took it and the Indian rug I bought him
over to Moore's.  We had a nice visit.

My legs are like lead stumps.  I've tried to cut out salt; why I'm so
plump way up to my knees, I don't know.

May 27, 1985... I just noticed the whistle hanging from my towel rack.
I put it there a few months ago in case I needed help. I was having
diarrhea so badly. I wondered how long I'd last. It's weird, but having
my death forecast is strangely comforting. So many things I won't and
don't need to worry about. I know and accept I'm going to die.  What is
hard is that I still enjoy certain things; I don't really want to die.

Everyone is frightened of dependence.  Loneliness is not a fear...
helplessness is another matter.

June 16, 1985... My legs look like Lincoln Logs.  Oh well, I'll create
a Father's Day card.

Black? ... White.
Wrong? ... Right.
Up? ... Down.
Smile? ... Frown.
In? ... Out.
Whisper? ... Shout.
Good? ... Bad.

June 22, 1985... Mom has been bringing up my meals.  It's so warm for
me to come downstairs.  The folks bought an insulated drapery to close
off my living room.  The bathroom and my room will remain cool.  Mom
also brought me three maternity tops.  She told me it was very
difficult for her to buy them.  I don't know whether I'll keep them or
not.  Vanity is a funny thing.  I keep hoping I can look good in
something, but it never ends up that way.  My clothes are dwindling in
number, and some are not too hot.  Mom also got me a purple nightie;
it's really pretty.

June 25, 1985... I'm glad I didn't have to go out and try on clothes.
I'll keep the things Mom brought me.  It would be hard to shop...
physically and emotionally.

July 9 thru 13... another bout with the "runs."  I was so down for
a time.  I get depressed from reliving the past.  Some things are
difficult to recall in such detail as I illustrate a part of my life
with the feelings I experienced at the time.  It's draining; topping it
all off is the fact that I don't have much I can do to alter my life
now.  I get sick of feeling sick, nausea, diarrhea, and weakness; the
daily scheme of events some days.  I get weak; I cry.  Well, I hope its
over for a time.  At least I'm not down for this entire day!

July 22, 1985... the day started out great. . . good mood. . . even sat
outside for a time.  After supper my heart started racing, palpitating
like a tick.  My normal beat is 110-120 which is rather high.  We tried
the breathing in a sack, holding the breath.  Nothing helped.  Mom
called the doctor and he prescribed valium.  The druggist said they
would call when it was ready.  They never did.  Finally Dad just went
over; there it was, just sitting on the shelf.

Man, my chest hurt so, I thought I was having a heart attack.  The
valium didn't help much.  That was 3 hours after the episode had begun.
Mom slept upstairs on the couch; it was a bad night. . . sweating,
aching, and of course, that rapid heart beat!  By 9:00 the next morning
it finally slowed to my normal fast rate.  What relief.  That was a 15
hour trauma!  I don't see how my heart can withstand it!

July 24, 1985... There isn't much that can be done for me, but it is
nice to be so relaxed.  I'll take the valium for awhile, especially
while I'm so weak.  Mom and Dad are a genuine godsend to me.  I don't
know what I'd do without them in times like this.  I look bad; white
face, dark eyes, I had best avoid mirrors!  I got a catalog of basket
kits.  I might send for some things.  Mom talked with the doctor about
the heart episode.  He said I should take the valium as soon as an
attack begins; if it persists after a 45 minute period I should go to
the hospital and be put on a heart monitor to see what is wrong.  I
hate not being able to take the valium.  I liked being "zoned out" for
awhile and so completely relaxed.  I can understand why people allow
themselves to get hooked on a tranquilizer; they afford a great deal of
peace and mental relaxation.

Another thing that spurred my agitation was the fact that I enjoyed
being pampered by Mom.  She'd wake me up, help me get cleaned up for
bed, and bring me trays for each meal.  It was so comforting, like the
feeling of well-being which is so prominent in one's youth, when
parents are the primary source of protection and the sustaining power
of life.

Well, I got over it.  I guess I just didn't feel like facing reality or
my life's idea of "normalcy" yet.

July 29, 1985... I had a great surprise... Jon sent 6 long stemmed
roses to me saying, "I hope you get better soon."  It was so nice and
so unexpected, especially since I've been feeling rather isolated
lately.  I wrote him a thank you letter.

Aug. 1, 1985... I got a letter from Jon; another nice surprise.  A
letter can be held and read over and over again; a phone call is soon
just a memory.  I have the "runs" again.  Mom brought tea and warm
bagels all day.  It helps a lot.

Aug. 11, 1985... I've decided to sell the Chevette and my Viscount
(bike); it's so stupid... they just sit there and I'm not going to get
any better.  I'm 39 inches around the middle.  The bike was $156 new
and it's in good condition.  I'm asking $75 for it.

Mom did a raft of typing this past week.  I sat on the front steps with
Mom and Dad in the afternoon.  It was 75 degrees and so beautiful.

Aug. 25, 1985... It's strange, but when Mom and Dad are gone all day,
like yesterday, I feel half mad when they return.  The truth is that
I'm not mad, I'm only in need of some conversation.  I need to tell
someone about my concerns, or at least have someone around.  I do want
them to go out; they need to get away.  I had the runs; I'm rather
amazed also, by my ever-growing shape. . . it's hideous!  And I have
tons of water retention.  Oh, well!  It wasn't my best day; I wrote all
day, anyway.

Sept. 11,1985... The Chevette has been sold.  I should get a refund on
my insurance, too.  The girl came with her boyfriend to pick up "her"
car last night.  Dad took a personal check for it; I wish he would have
said "NO" to it, but they are probably OK.  If not, I just sold my car
for $100. (Great)

I couldn't sleep for a while, because I was worried about the check.
So... I got up and clipped my toe nails!  (What therapy.)  (And it
didn't cost a cent.)

Today it is 70 degrees, sunny, a slight breeze, ah!  I also have the
check in my account.  Dad phoned to see how much of a refund I'd
receive on my insurance. . . it's just $50.  Not exactly half of what
I paid for the 6 months, but they're not giving up anything!

I found the 4th and 5th grade postcards I sent to Mom and Dad from my
camp.  They will go in my book.

Yesterday Margaret and I went to lunch.  At the cash register the guy
said, "Looks like it'll be in the winter."  I couldn't figure out what
he meant for a second, but then I realized that he thought I was
pregnant.  I said I had a "liver ailment" and that many made the same
assumption.  It never floors me at the time, but later I have to admit
that it bothers me.  I start thinking about it; I get mad at myself
because there's no way for me to look stylish.  I used to try to belt
big tops and "blouse" them over pants.  Now, it looks ridiculous.  I
never thought I could get this big; having to wear maternity clothes
and such. . . but then, I never thought a lot of things.  Swelling legs,
going from a 31-I/2 inch span (in my middle) in the fall of '83 to a 39
inch middle now.  (Normally I had a 24 inch waist... I thought I was
enormous then!)  It's funny, but it just keeps on going, and you have
to accept it.  At least my face is OK and I can enjoy some things.  I
can see and hear and am reasonably mobile. . .and I've known what it is
to feel physically normal.  Some people never do.

Sept. 13 through 15... Weather has been gorgeous!  I've been able to
sit outside.  It always inspires me to write poetry.  One is about how
life never really changes.


The tenth morn of December
I was severed from my mother's life,
Forced into a hostile world
And with a cry, drew my breath.
Christmas came, then New Year's Eve,
Yet nothing really changed.
Days passed by, and soon, years too.
My eyes focused on the world
Which offered more than it received.
I found love, and later, fear...
Then grief, and peace of mind;
I witnessed death and mourned for life. . .
Yet nothing really changed.
The world revolved and buried sorrow
In a mask of time.
Now I am weak,
The refuge of malignant death,
But still the seasons flicker on.
Leaves adrift, float to the ground,
While acorns burrow in the earth;
Remnants of life
And the hope thereof
Together meld as one.
When I depart,
Life slows not...
And nothing will really change.

Lauren Isaacson
September 15, 1985

Meditation On The Wind

In the trees, cool breezes sing,
Directing leaves with steady gusts
And urging forth pure harmony
From swaying, fully laden limbs.
No sweeter sound could ride the wind
Than gently rustling woodland brush;
I drink the soothing music
Playing lightly on the wind,
And instantly I feel refreshed,
For whispering leaves wipe cares away
And liberate imprisoned minds.

Lauren Isaacson
September 16, 1985

Sept. 29, 1985... I have been so swollen lately.  My middle hurts when
I lay too long; getting up helps.  I have the runs; couldn't go to
Dubuque for Mom's Sept. birthday; couldn't go to Margaret's to
celebrate her mother's birthday.  I finally spent 2 hours of the
afternoon just sleeping.  I finished a poem I was writing about Norm.
It follows...

Eternal Bond

Captured on a dismal morn
When winter's cloak
Concealed the sun,
My brother journeyed
From the earth,
Perhaps to grasp another time,
Or rest beneath the heaven's stars.
Perfect sorrow filtered deep
Within my mournful soul;
With sightless eyes
I scanned my mind,
Rendering memories whole. . .
And images, like broken shards,
I struggled to restore
Lest any trait be left behind
And thus, in death, forever die.
Crippling grief and grim despair
Withdrew its shadow from my heart,
For in myself, his life went on;
The steadfast and eternal bond
Which formed in life
Failed not in death.
We laughed, we smiled,
We understood,
And though I now must walk alone,
To loneliness I'll not succumb.

Lauren Isaacson
September 29, 1985

Oct. 17, 1985... It's great this time of year, although melancholic.  I
sat outside most of the day.  Then, as I watched this "mite" of a
squirrel, he struggled furiously to retain his grasp on a branch.  He
frantically succeeded in attaining a safer location; he was noticeably
upset.  It inspired a poem.  I wrote one the day before; I'm not overly
thrilled about it, but that's life.

Autumnal Essence

Splendor, bold and riotous,
Bespeaks the grand autumnal mood.
Blackbirds cackle unrestrained
Among the trembling golden wood
While agitated squirrels bury nutmeats
'Neath the fragrant turf.
Fruit trees, heavy-laden, bend
Their branches toward the earth,
Spilling wealth from fertile lands
Into eager, out-stretched hands.

Lauren Isaacson
October 16, 1985

Ascent To Reality

From beneath the autumn leaves
I watched a youthful, auburn squirrel
Leap cautionless from limb to limb.
With no rival but himself
To test his acrobatic feats,
He bethought he'd mastered all
And, bathing in a pool of pride,
Washed apprehension from his mind.
The tiny sprite performed his dance
From tree to wind-tossed tree,
Alive with joy and pure delight...
He knew no pain, no discontent,
And thus immersed, called life a dream.
But noonday warmth soon disappeared
And golden rays slashed through the trees.
The sun cast spotlights on the lawn
And made the trees let go their crown.
Darkness stole the crimson glow
And, as through his domain he flew,
The squirrel ran before the night,
Thinking he could out-wit time.
On agile feet, both swift and sure,
He sailed into the shadowed trees,
Yet missed his mark in failing light,
Betrayed by faulty, youthful pride.
Catapulting toward the earth,
The wind reached out and caught his pride
And blew a limb within his grasp
To buffer his naivete'.
Life was not a blissful dream;
He panted in unsteady breaths,
Drawing strength from wisdom gained
Through time and circumstance.
Ascending toward the lofty heights,
His vision was renewed. . .
The world became Reality
Both beautiful and cruel,
While he transformed to earthly size,
A minute parcel of himself
Yet elemental to the whole.

Lauren Isaacson
October 17, 1985


Today I reserve for dreaming,
For dismissing the hectic world,
For unleashing my burdens unto the wind
Where, no longer imprisoned,
They'll haunt me no more.
If only today, how high I shall fly!
Soaring amid the fragrant breeze,
Adrift with the blackbirds
And fluttering leaves,
My freedom will beckon me
Rise higher still
And my spirit, unshackled,
Will lounge on the clouds
To create wistful visions
Of heaven above.
But daydreams must end
With the red setting sun
And, like autumn leaves,
Succumb to decay.
For today, dreams exist, not for 'ever,
Sustaining when all else runs foul.
Dreams, alone, are the soul food of God. . .
The ambrosia of heaven on earth.

Lauren Isaacson
October 24, 1985

Oct. 27, 1985... Todd and Debbie came yesterday.  We had a wiener roast
for lunch; it was quite appropriate as the day was crisp and clear.

Today, after lunch, I asked Mom how long they would be staying; she
thought I was complaining and said, "sometimes I wish it was all over
for me so I wouldn't have to listen to all of this; everyone thinks
only of themselves, yes, everyone is so selfish." When I recovered
slightly I said that I hadn't meant it that way, but that I was scared
about getting too tired... I didn't want to say that, it sounded
selfish, too.

Too often I have experienced hurtful things when there is a visit;
while one can forgive and try to start anew with each visit, I find it
impossible to forget.  When hurtful statements are made, that person is
still the same; there is still that part lurking behind the individual
and it becomes difficult to know how "genuine" is their countenance.

Mom apologized for her earlier statement; she was tired and rather
depressed.  She said she "hurt" for so many people, she felt she was
falling apart.  I had been so afraid of hurting her with my
confidences, afraid I wouldn't have anyone to confide in; I felt
incredibly alone.  I was so happy she came up; I don't think I could
have handled such desperate loneliness.  It was great to have a hug.

Nov. 5, 1985... I've neglected this journal; Dad made a frame for my
pointalism of the Grand Canyon.  I have it behind the sofa on the south
wall; I really like it.  Other events: Mom and Dad replaced Lynn's
stone at the cemetery with a large stone for our entire family; Lynn,
Norm, Mom, Dad, and me. They had not told me before, but I've been
wondering; when they talk with me about death it is so different for it
is spoken with love and deep caring.

We made up a memorial service for me from my writings; I have to select
the poems I would like and then it will be complete.

Nov. 7, 1985... The "runs" again, but I was able to sit outside by
afternoon.  I wore the "Tahoe" sweatshirt Jon had sent some time ago
plus my corduroy coat.  It was about right.  I wrote a poem while
sitting there.

I wonder if I'll accomplish all that I truly wish to before I die. . .
My book is progressing; I keep writing poetry too, so I have a lot
done; a little at a time, and one day at a time!  I'd love to finish
the quilt and also calligraph some of my poems.

Whispering Pines

I heard the pine trees gossip
To the passing northern winds,
Disclosing facts quite true, yet low,
In hurried gusts and whispered blows.
"The hardwoods lost their haughty glow. . .
Amazing how fast glamour goes!
Now they're merely sapless sticks
Bereft of life, 'twould seem...
They look so gnarled, so thin and sick
Beside our evergreen!"

Lauren Isaacson
November 7, 1985

Nov. 22, 1985... The 17th I began to run a temp; it continued and by
Mon. eve was 103 degrees.  Mom tried giving me a cool bath.  It was a
"real thrill" trying to get down in the tub.  (I fell in, and barely
made it getting out... I have no strength in my arms or legs).  Mom has
been sleeping upstairs since I got sick.  Food "sticks" so that I would
welcome losing it. Mom has been serving me gingerale; it helps.
I've lost weight.  Noodles are the only food that appeals to me;
it's at least a start.

I've not worked on my book since Nov. 7th.  Many changes have taken
place; even with my weight loss I can no longer wear my beloved mink
coat; it's 2 and more like 3 inches from even touching right to left!
And to think I was once but 24 inches around the waist!  Sharon looks
good with her disciplined weight loss.  What emotional problems there
are to be reckoned with in this life!

Dec. 17, 1985... I didn't elaborate on my 24th birthday; I should fill
in the days.  There were 30 birthday cards in all. I hadn't expected
it, since 24 is a rather "blah" age, and also, I keep thinking the
cancer situation will become old hat.  I guess I was very wrong.
Thursday I walked with Mom to Bev's Xmas Coffee; just 4 houses away.
I got tired, then so hot; I could hardly walk home.  Mom had wanted
to take the car, but I would have felt like a fool for such a short
trip.  She was right; it was very tiring.

Saturday Mom had a special dinner planned so all could see the new
addition to the Isaacson clan.  It didn't work out so well;
the guest of honor left!

Dec. 23, 1985... We enjoyed a lovely dinner at Chet and Margaret's.
The nausea almost spoiled my evening, but it finally passed (whew!).
There were just the 3 of them, the 3 of us, and Les.  It's better
without all the weird things that happen when too many are invited!

Dec. 24, 1985... CHRISTMAS EVE DAY. . . I felt good today.  Jon came
over around 2:00 and stayed until 4:00.  We stayed downstairs by the
Christmas tree.  He wrapped up a 6-pack of orange-flavored mineral
water for me.  I had ordered a boomerang for him; and so ended our

The family Christmas was great, as usual.  Les came, too.  We had
Cornish Hens, potatoes, stuffing, bread and waldorf salad; excellent!

Afterwards, we read the Xmas story and a few other readings; then we
had our exchange.

Dec. 25, 1985... Todd and Debra came for today.  Our big meal was at
noon.  Mom fixed a turkey breast with all the trimmings.  We had our
gift exchange in the afternoon.  Todd got a kick out of his "reality
mug" and a Far Side daily calendar.

Dec. 27, 1985... I'm getting sick again, temp of 101... arhythmia heart
action lasted 12 hours.  This was an illness of long duration.
I stayed upstairs. . . I had to waken Mom, (she has been sleeping
up-stairs).  We tried the deep breathing, plus a few other things.
I finally took a valium and tried to relax.  Mom called the doctor as
early as she dared; he called in a prescription for a heart regulator.

Jan. 1, 1986... Mom made Cornish Hens again for just the 3 of us.
I enjoyed the dinner so.  We watched the Vienna concert at night.

Jan. 11, 1986... I stay upstairs now, coming down only to have Mom wash
my hair using the spray on the kitchen sink.  The steps are such a drag,
and I like being near all the things I need.  I'm so glad I have
the upstairs apartment.

I decided to get a color T.V.; Dad picked a 13 in. Sylvania with
remote control.  I love it.  Dad installed an aerial today.

I ordered a lambswool mattress cover; it will cushion these bones of
mine.  I also ordered a book on decorating, 2 pillows, and a seat for
my toilet that will raise me up about 5 inches.  (I'm aging fast!)

Margaret came over with a lovely bouquet of 5 red roses interlaced with
baby's breath.  I gave her 2 covered mugs for her birthday.  It's fun
to order all these gifts for others.  Scott wrote me a thank you letter
for his Far Side T-shirt.  I was so glad to get the mail.

I talked with Mom at night and blew out some more frustration.  I get
so angry when I think about people who try to restrict me through their
high pressure persuasiveness.  Just remembering past grievances evokes
terrific anger.  I feel so vulnerable and have such a lack of control
anymore that anyone's pressure is a direct violation of my inner self.
I don't have the strength to fight; I get bent out of shape because if
I did what they did, it wouldn't be so easily forgiven.  Why is it that
people feel sorry for those who continually screw up their lives.
"It just ain't fittin'!"

Jan. 24, 1986... I ordered a mini wash stand for outside of the
bathroom, a neat basket and also Mom and Dad are going to see what is
available in chairs and recliners as I'm having trouble getting out of
my old green velvet rocker. We have ordered an egg-crate mattress
for me; I hope it works.

Jan. 25, 1986... Mom and Dad went out and looked for a recliner;
they found a great one at Banworth and Udelhoven for about $400. They
brought home a photo and swatch to show me.  I decided it would be fine
and they went back in the Chevy truck to pick it up.  It looks great
in my room and is "Oh, so comfortable."  It's a wall-away and won't
need to be "out" so far in the room.

I wrote to Todd explaining why I have such a distaste for phones, and
do not wish to have one in my room, my desire to be alone more, and my
hope that he will not be so troubled over these things.  Sharon does
come, I know, but we have been close now for many years; Todd did not
come home but once or twice a year after finding work in other areas.
He gets so upset about my illness (its incurable nature); he calls
doctors all over the country to inquire concerning various treatments.
I hope this will help him to accept my situation.

Jan. 26, 1986... I had another dream about Norm; I recall I sat in his
lap and was worried I'd be too heavy.  I was so happy to see him.

I went to sleep with the T.V. on; I wakened at 4:00 a.m. and turned
it off.  I was down today; so tired and weak.  This contributes
to depression.  After crying a bit and talking to Mom I felt better.
More and more I need to be free of visitors.  Dad came up later
and we talked, which was real nice.

Jan. 27, 1986...The egg-crate mattress and the high toilet seat came

Feb. 4, 1986... I'm feeling pretty good these past few days.  It's a
welcome change.  My dreams are so horrible, though.  I almost wondered
if I'd screamed aloud.  One was about rodents that were attacking me
and biting my fingers.

I sent for an oak T.V. swivel; it works great.  I've chosen more of my
slides so Dad can take them in for more prints.

Mar. 5, 1986... I've written through my high school years and now I'm
in the anorexic stage and Black Hawk College.  It's so hard to work.
I'm either too tired or so uncomfortable.  My mid-section is huge.  It
hangs below my bikini underwear.  When I sit I must be so straight or
it's uncomfortable.  Sleeping has become more difficult, also.  I get
up twice or more most nights. . . sometimes to go the bathroom, other
times my hips hurt (I'm so thin), or my ears pound until I sit up and
swallow.  Sometimes I can't breathe and have to get up and position my
pillows on an incline so I can breathe easier.

Mom permed my hair again.  It gives it body.  I can use the curling
iron in the morning if it's needed.  I feel better about my looks when
it's this way.

I haven't written in my journal for so long.  Valentines were abundant.

The wall behind the sofa is complete; I've 4 photos ready to hang when
Dad gets the 9" x 12" photo of the shack in the Smokies.  I have
finished putting my other photos in an album; at least they are no
longer loose.

Mar 29, 1986... Dad and Mom installed the air conditioner in my room.
(It got up to 78 degrees!)  They're putting the other one in my living
room window.  For awhile, I was afraid Dad was against the idea and it
sort of choked me up because I began to think I'd be enclosed in one
room for the next five months.  It wasn't a great thought.  Last year I
could get outside and roam around.  Now, it's being upstairs and that's
about all.  I felt stupid; I cry about the least thing anymore.  I'm so
weak, I lose control easily.

I'm going to work on my quilt, so Mom set up the portable Singer on
Dad's high machine shop stool; I'll sit on the bed when I sew.

I've been taking Lasix 4 times a day; it seems to work better that way.
I take the Aldactone in between.  It's difficult to walk.  When I sit,
the water drains into the current position; when I get up, it feels
like my skin will rip.

I had problems sleeping until we put pillows under the egg-crate
mattress so I was propped up on a steep incline.
I couldn't breathe before.

Mar. 31, 1986... A great day, (AMAZlNGLY).  I worked on my quilt for a
little while.

May 5, 1986... It's been a long while since I last wrote herein.
I guess I didn't find the energy and the will to do it before now.
Days are often so much the same.

I had a few physical set-backs through the months; one "flu" episode
nearly had us digging my grave.  I really wondered if that would be it
for me and this world.  I had to get the elevated (frame-style) commode
from Bev Verstraete.  They had purchased it for her father.

It was awful.  I was so weak; I couldn't get up from the toilet; even
with my raised seat.  I tried and tried, but Mom had to help before I
made it.  Even with her help, getting up was nearly impossible.  I was
so scared.  It had been getting progressively more difficult; I guess
I saw it coming, but it's still a blow when it finally happens to you.
It's so demeaning.  I kept wondering what would've happened if I
couldn't get up and was alone; but then, of course, I'm not left alone

I lost a lot of weight; my face is just skeletal now.  Every time I get
a "bug" I lose more strength and can never fully regain it.
The thought of total incapacitation is rather horrifying.
It's bad enough now.

I have accidents in my undies, because sometimes I can't walk fast
enough to get there, and have no butt to pinch the rectum closed and
hold it back.  It's never major; just a spot, but I hate it just the
same.  I wear a pad for security now.

The 4 Lasix and 2 Aldacton daily don't really do the job.  By evening I
can hardly breathe, so I can no longer recline in my chair.  Dad has
made a high platform and secured it with screws so I can just turn from
my bed and sit down.  The porta-potty is across from it.  My world is
slowly closing in.  The water presses both my heart and lungs causing
my heart to flutter from the pressure.  Sleep has been difficult of
late, I have to sit up on the edge of my bed for a time; then I lay
down again. It's better by morning.

At least my foot is better; it was hurting like crazy... I must have
hurt it due to water retention (?).

Every time I lose more health it's like some big milestone has been
crossed.  First it was the overheating, then going to the bathroom
restricted the daily walks and other outings; then I had to remain
upstairs... then the toilet... and on and on.  Each time was such a
defeat.  I cried about having to stay upstairs because I wondered if I
was just "throwing in the towel."  Then I cried about not being able
to get up from the toilet because it scared me so!

May 19, 1986... Last night Mom and Dad brought pizza upstairs.  It was
nice.  Sharon came for a Saturday bus excursion to a shopping area near
Chicago.  Mom, Sharon and Rosalind all went.  Mom brought me a towel
for my wash stand and a nifty wall basket with a lid.

Sharon's going to be coming more often; I'm glad.  In some respects,
she's like a second mother, yet different too.  We share ideas and
interests and can talk well.

I've been awfully fatigued lately.  All day I can barely keep my eyes
open, and writing is an incredible chore.  I find myself nodding in the
middle of thoughts; it's very distressing when I consider the time
limit imposed on my effort drawing closer as the days fold away...
naturally, my life has a hesitant grasp on time; I do wish to finish my
literary endeavor.

Sleep at night is difficult, which does not sound logical after the
fact that I fight to stay awake during the day, but so be it.  It's not
mine to ask "why."...

June 24, 1986... Such indignities.  Dependency shouldn't have to be
one, yet it is.  And the strange thing is that I feel I am losing
myself... slowly... as life trickles from my body, but still, with all
that has been and will be lost, every so often I catch a glimmer of
myself... in a gesture, a smile, and realize that the core is intact
despite the withering exterior.  Perhaps the core is that undefinable
part of oneself that lives beyond earthly existence.

June 27, 1986... I'm beginning to understand the meaning of
intolerable.  Sometimes, any more, I feel like a person tottering on
sanity's limits.  As my weakness increases, my capabilities decrease;
I now not only have confined myself to my room, but to one small
quadrant thereof, in which I am surrounded by my bed, my chair, my T.V.
and (of course), my toilet.  At least my mind is still free.  Perhaps
it will remain so as long as I allow myself to cry and feel.
Last night was the first time I ever felt scared of life.

June 29, 1986... Tonight is loud with thunder... the deep, sharp
rumbling that shakes the house as if to remind the world that it is
alive.  It is not subtle, but in it's brazen clap, I can find a reason
to rejoice; I live in the shadows of a wondrous and beautiful world,
yet thunder is one element of nature from which I have not been
excluded, for it penetrates walls.

July 9, 1986... It seems that I cry every day now.  Overall, my life is
a discouraging mess.  I'm just too tired to write. . . and scared to
try to sleep.  Blast.

July 11, 1986... (Fri.)  Yesterday Sharon sent me a carnation flower
arrangement. . . 2 pink carnations, greens and baby's breath.  Real

It's been getting more and more difficult at home.  Last night Mom and
Dad had to lift my legs into bed; Mom is sleeping in my queen-size bed
right with me so that she can help me get back in after using the
toilet.  It's tough to sleep, and I'm afraid I won't be able to get out
of bed... my arms and legs are virtually useless.  They're like sticks.
We had some tough conversation.

(Mother's note). . . Laurie wanted me to call Hospice and arrange for
someone to come to the home and explain the various programs available.
I did so.  Laurel Anderson was willing to come on Saturday morning,
but I felt this was not within her scheduled working hours and deferred
the appointment to Monday morning at 11:00 A.M.

Laurel Anderson came promptly on July 14 and we climbed the stairs to
Laurie's hide-a-way.  There were many questions; if a contract was
signed, could the patient refuse food. . . would the "Concern for the
Dying" contract be respected in that no artificial means would be used
to keep the patient alive... would medication for pain be of the type
that would not sustain life. . . all of these must be answered before
Laurie would want to consider signing a contract with Hospice.  In the
conversation, answers were given, but always with one addition; it
would be hoped that the patient could return to her home.  HOPE was no
longer a part of Laurie's vocabulary.  Just a few short weeks ago, it
had been there.  She had not been wearing earrings for some time, and
noticed that one of the openings had begun to close.  She had asked for
my assistance in piercing it again.  Now she wanted an end to her
existence.  There was not one position in which she could be
comfortable; her desire was to find comfort in the hospital bed's

Satisfied that her wishes could be fulfilled, Laurie signed the
contract.  Her remaining fear was that Laurel Anderson and the hospital
staff would think her a wimp!

July 14, 1986... (her last entry)... I made the decision today... I am
going into Hospice.  No more fun... no more nuthin'

The ambulance service came at two o'clock.  Through all of this ordeal
it was a comfort to have Sharon, Laurie's older sister, with us.  The
two young men who brought Laurie downstairs were cheerful and so very
careful.  The stretcher had been fashioned into a chair position
because of the limited space going down the steps.  Upon arriving
outside, they positioned her so that she could remain seated, but with
legs extended.  Not having been outside since December, and not being
able to walk the distance to a window for many weeks, Laurie was
fascinated by the beauty of the warm summer day.

As I rode in the front with the driver he noted an unusual odor and
both men were quite concerned.  It was decided they not turn on the
siren and proceed at a faster pace because Sharon and Dad were
following in the family car; they didn't want to cause further trauma!
The ambulance made it to the hospital; it was found to be in need of a
"mechanical doctor," but it had fulfilled its mission.

The room was done in vivid color, not of the old vintage beige.  As
Laurie was helped into bed, she caught sight of her reflection in the
mirror; she had not visibly known how she looked for some time.  It
caused both disbelief and pain.  Now came the true test.  She was
manipulated into several positions; none seemed to help.  As the nurse
left the room, Laurie finally gave vent to tears.  During all of this,
she had been a true soldier.  It was too much!  She now felt she had
made a big mistake!  Could we bring her back home?  It was so little to
ask, and yet we knew we could not immediately ask to have her returned.
The hospital staff was in transition; the next shift was coming in.
This alone added to the confusion, but it also brought help.  A veteran
of Hospice entered; with a multitude of pillows, plus more manipulating,
she was able to bring the comfort Laurie had longed for!

Later in the evening, that same veteran came in to talk and to advise
Laurie that it would be best to accept liquids rather than no
nourishment at all.  We asked concerning the Lazy Boy and the porta-pot
from home.  Both would add to her comfort.  Sharon had left for Dubuque
before knowing that "bed comfort" had come to her sister, so I called
her as soon as I knew she was in her home.  It was very difficult to
leave the hospital that night, but I had grown so tired over the past
weeks; I selfishly did go home.

Les and Dad placed the Lazy Boy in close proximity to Laurie's bed.
It was a welcome change.  The staff informed me that Laurie had talked
most of the night.  She had been given a bath in a portable tub; quite
a contraption!  I had brought several photo albums as well as photo
files and a lovely volunteer was seated by Laurie as I left for my
11:00 appointment with the dentist.

After lunch, Laurie remarked that a tray had been brought with eggs and
bacon, a roll and fruit, but she had refused it.  It had looked so
tempting, but she was determined to follow her own plan.  The day
passed uneventfully.  That evening her cousin, Gary, stopped by for a
visit.  Upon his leaving, she kidded with him.  Later, I went to
another section of the hospital to fulfill her desire for frozen
bar-type fruit juice.  Dad and I left around 11:30.

July 16. . . Laurie was seated in the Lazy Boy when we arrived.  Her
breakfast tray had her requested liquid diet, untouched.  I wanted to
help her but she felt too nauseous.  She wanted to sit on the edge of
the bed.  We sat together for over twelve minutes; I, with my arm
around her back to brace her, she with her head leaning against mine.
She asked if I would help with just a sponge bath this time.  We had
agreed.  The nurse entered and wanted to begin preparing for her bath.
Laurie just shook her head and said that she felt too sick. She asked
to be seated in her chair; the nurse declined that wish.  She wanted to
have Laurie lie down.  We used the draw sheet and Dad and I lifted her
as far to the head of the bed as was possible.  She asked to be raised
to a sitting position.  Each time we pushed the controls she indicated
she wanted it higher.  As she reached the highest level she looked at
Dad and me and said, "Hey, you guys, I'm going!"
Seconds later she was gone.  It was what she wanted!
It was finally over!


written by
Todd Alan Isaacson

As a once beautiful young lady saw the torture of
her own body, and witnessed the relentless expansion
of a cruel weed that demanded to claim her life;
a new beauty could be seen through her determined spirit:

Soft, gentle eyes fully accepted the losing battle
of life on earth, and glowed a tired eternal
sweetness that transcended time itself.

The timeless beauty of Lauren, a spirit set free
to soar in the love of God forever;
this is the joyous gift that will bless us forever.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Through these Eyes - The courageous struggle to find meaning in a life stressed with cancer" ***

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