Reading now the posts I wrote about dealing with breast cancer two (short) years ago, a few things jump out: the willingness to keep my fears at bay through rationalization; the unashamed request for support and a desire to process what was happening through writing. Most of all, though, what transpires is a request not to be seen as a victim, as sick or damaged. I was holding on tightly to the sense of who I believed myself to be.
We said goodbye as if it were the end of school: email addresses exchanged, and the vague promise, most likely not kept, to see each other again.
J, who exudes altruism from every pore, brought gift bags for each and one of us. P, who professes not to cook, tried to keep us healthy with a kale salad, a mission I destroyed with my sinful cake. Both joy and sadness filled our pockets.
[…] Iris would sometimes think, about marriage: it was only a boat, too. A wooden boat, difficult to build, even more difficult to maintain, whose beauty derived at least in part from its unlikelihood. Long ago the pragmatic justifications for both marriage and wooden-boat building had been lost or superseded. Why invest countless hours, years, and dollars in planing and carving, gluing and fastening, caulking and fairing, when a fiberglass boat can be had at a fraction of the cost? Why struggle to maintain love and commitment over decades when there were far easier ways to live, ones that required no effort or attention to prevent corrosion and rot? Why continue to pour your heart into these obsolete arts? Because their beauty, the way they connect you to history and to the living world, justifies your efforts. A long marriage, like a classic wooden boat, could be a thing of grace, but only if great effort was devoted to its maintenance. At first your notions of your life with another were no more substantial than a pattern laid down in plywood. Then year by year you constructed the frame around the form, and began layering memories, griefs, and small triumphs like strips of veneer planking bent around the hull of everyday routine. You sanded down the rough edges, patched the misunderstandings, fared the petty betrayals. Sometimes you sprung a leak. You fell apart in rough weather or were smashed on devouring rocks. But then, as now, in the teeth of a storm, when it seemed like all was lost, the timber swelled, the leak sealed up, and you found that your craft was, after all, sea-kindly.
The text message was long and detailed, and caught me by surprise on Saturday morning, right when I woke up. A childhood friend who lives in Italy was letting me know her companion of 20 years had suddenly left. The news saddened me because I knew the range of emotions she was going through – I also knew the next few months weren’t going to be easy and there was precious little I, or her friends closer to home, could do to lessen the burden.
Graziella Arcovito, 78 years old
Some boyfriends come with better accessories than others. My relationship with Giovanni lasted about five years – and, while it’s not unusual that our friendship endured to this day, what is a tad strange is that my friendship with his mother is still going.