I'm a retiree in his seventies. That may not be significant to many, since there is a bunch of us Baby Boomers around. However, in the year 2,000, when I received a diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma, I expected to be dead in three to five years.
This, from one of my fellow bloggers, reminds me of how much we can miss our routines from the pre-coronavirus times. No matter how exciting or uneventful our lives might have been, the virus has disrupted it. The future seems even more unknown.
If you’ve been a follower of my blogs or have read any of them, you probably know that I’m a person who lives with cancer. I won’t bore you with a lot of details here, because I’ve laid the specifics out before. Suffice it to say, I have what’s called Multiple Myeloma. Some really bad stuff that’s estimated to take the lives of 12,930 people in the United States this year, according to the American Cancer Society. The overall five-year survival rate is about 30%. I’m one of the blessed ones. I’m a twenty-plus-year survivor. My journey has been one of fear, tears, boisterous laughter, faith, love, thankfulness…whatever emotional and mental dynamic of which you could possibly imagine.
Tomorrow starts a new decade. What does that mean? I’ll tell you. I was diagnosed with this disease twenty years ago, March 12, 2,000. So, it’s been twenty years and four months for me that I’ve lived with this burden. I emphasize, live. I can recall when I received word of my diagnosis. As you can imagine, it hit me like a proverbial ton of bricks. And I must admit, I did go through some emotional trauma at the bottom of that dark pit that one can find themselves in at certain stages of life. If you’ve experienced receiving some heart-stopping news before, you know what I’m talking about. Not only does it seem as if your heart stops, but also the world around you.
If you’ve been doing the math, you probably are already asking yourself what in tarnation am I talking about; March 12, 2020 was twenty years since diagnosis; therefore, the new decade started four months ago. That’s true, and I’m praying that I will live another twenty years with this disease, even better than that, I’m hopeful that a cure will be found soon. That’s not the new decade to which I’m referring. Tomorrow will be my seventieth birthday.
Looking back, I didn’t expect to be here pecking out some of my thoughts on a laptop, preparing to share them with my small number of followers. I’m grateful for each of you, and especially for the times you’ve given me feedback. I’ve been able to see my three kids grow into adulthood, and I now have six grandkids and one great grandchild. I love them all, and I think that’s quite the God-given legacy to leave behind. Of course, I’m not ready to go just yet. They, along with my dedicated and loving wife, Chris, have provided much of what I consider the reason I’m still here. I know medical science has played a huge role, but one must have a reason to live. God gave them to me, and He has blessed me with the gift of being around to be a part of something that will stretch out for years to come. Thank God for seventy! We’re about six hours away from tomorrow, but I’m confident I’ll make it.
I’ve been giving a considerable amount of thought about how I could pay the proper homage to you. You came into my life continually some fifty years or so ago. Before that time, you were an occasional visitor. I really didn’t need you as much then; however, the short forays I made into the comfort zones you provided gave me an enjoyable respite each time. There was a time, during my early childhood to young adult years when I barely gave thought to you. Others, more privileged, had the joy of your company at those times when your comfort was most needed. Of course, being raised in a poor family, who could barely survive hand to mouth, you were one of those dreams I would conjure whenever I indulged in fantasies of a better life.
I was raised during a time when the people in the community to which I belonged couldn’t appreciate you. As a matter of fact, many thought you were an unnatural additive to the formula of life. These folks could just as well live life without you. They weren’t brought up with you in their lives; therefore, acclimation to you never occurred. I can even remember my grandfather saying on more than one occasion that he could stand you but for a short while. He was always anxious to quickly rid himself of your presence whenever you would saunter into his life. I couldn’t quite understand his sentiment, but I never argued with him. Kids back then never argued with their elders. We were brought up that way. Being a grandparent now, I often wonder what it would be like to have grand kids, and kids for that matter, who demonstrated those kinds of respectful attitudes, regardless of how out of touch I might appear at times.
Excuse my diversion into the generational dynamics that don’t occur anymore. Let me get back to discussing this friend of mine, who has become an important companion in my life. Reverting to the second person manner of speaking, it’s obvious that you have had a rather interesting developmental history, with many milestones along the way. You started to share your blessings on more folks during the decade of the 1940’s. Once I realized that, I began to understand why my grandparents-accounting for them being poor-couldn’t appreciate you.
We’re going through a time now, when the Coronavirus is brutally capturing all news headlines. I can’t turn on CNN, MSNBC, NPR of any other news outlet, local or national, without hearing horrible statistics about the devastation being visited upon the world by Covid-19. But you, my friend, are there with me 24/7, making the absurd amount of time I’m having to spend at home all the more bearable. Without you, living in the southern part of the United States during this time of year would be tortuous. From the weather forecast for the next ten days, your contribution to my enjoying a comfortable life is most welcomed. I even find myself praying for your continued operational health. You make being cocooned in my humble abode a comfortable, cool, and welcomed experience. Without reservation, I pay unfettered homage to you, my faithful air conditioner. I trust you to be with me in the miserable heat and humidity of Arkansas from now through the end of September. Of course, there have been times when you have been needed well into October.
I’m old and blessed (@ 95° Fahrenheit/35° Celsius) …hope you will be too.
Chris and I went to a wedding this past Friday. This is the first ceremony of its kind I’ve attended since the Coronavirus took hold of things in March. I felt I had to attend this since it was the nuptials of our niece. I have multiple chronic health conditions; therefore, I’ve been hesitant about going to any kind of social gathering. This was our niece and I didn’t want to be a disappointment to anyone. It was made clear when the invitation was extended that there would be no more than twenty people at the ceremony, and that there would be abundant room for social distancing. With that assurance, how could I choose not to go. The ceremony was shown over some social media platform, so anyone who wanted to see it could.
When we arrived at the church parking lot, we immediately noticed that there weren’t very many cars. The church was a large building, indicating that the sanctuary must have been capable of accommodating several hundred individuals. As we approached the front entrance, we noticed decorations in the foyer in the colors we had been told would be the thematic colors of the event. It did seem somehow strange to see decorations, a guest sign-in book and no people. This was the first time I had been in a church in almost four months. Normally, whenever I enter my local congregation’s house of worship, there are people everywhere, greeting each other and slowly meandering into the sanctuary for the weekly service, the mid-week Bible study or whatever event taking place. A desolate sanctuary in a church…strange to say the least.
Instead of going directly into the sanctuary, we decided to checkout an area adjacent to the foyer. There, we found our niece’s brother, who had come into town from Atlanta. He was there to give our niece away. Her mother died almost three years ago from kidney disease, and her dad is a resident in a nursing facility, battling the effects of Alzheimer’s. It seemed somehow unfair that she wouldn’t have either of them present at a time when she was making a commitment that would change the course of the rest of her life.
I hadn’t seen my nephew in quite some time. There was a bit of time before the ceremony began, so we talked a bit. Our conversation consisted of the normal topics to facilitate catching up on things. Out of all that he said to me, the thing that resonated the most was him saying, “We’re all getting used to the new normal.” My immediate response to him was, “What’s new about it?” Psychologist normally say that it takes about ninety days to change a habit. I know we can have debate about whether the habit is new. I prefer to think that if it’s part of your normal way of doing things, it’s set in stone. Whether it’s new or not is immaterial. Chris and I have been attending virtual church, sitting in on virtual meetings, wearing masks when we go to the store, and practicing social distancing for almost four months now. This stuff has become habitual. We’ve been doing it for longer than ninety days. New normal or not?