My single Christmas gift this year. From someone who has not known me long, but who clearly knows me.
This morning I awoke at three, with the slightest of red wine hangovers. Damn. That wine was almost $7.50 a bottle. I thought it was worth investing that much to get the good stuff. The remaining half bottle can go into cooking. I drank a half litre of mineral water to rehydrate.
The night was warm. I was hot and sticky. Since I had to wander down to the ablution block anyway, I took a towel with me and enjoyed a cold shower. I didn’t want to wear my sweaty nightclothes after getting clean, so I walked back to the camp with my towel wrapped around my waist. This gave me some pride, because not too long ago, that towel would not reach around my waist, let alone overlap enough to be worn.
Back in the cabin, I sorted through the pile of clean laundry, which I still had not folded and put away, for something to wear. I can see my home, and my life, is a shambles. I decided today would be a day for the Doing of Things and the beginning of a New Attitude.
Today, Things must be Done. The Doing of Things must be undertaken with alacrity and determination. It is time to tidy up the physical aspects of my life and put new rules into effect.
- If it does not have a suitable permanent place, it must go.
- It must be stored away when not being used
- If it does not serve a useful or essential function, or bring me joy, it must go.
- If it makes me sad, it must go.
- If it is not being used, and is not a necessary contingency item such as a tool or tow rope, it must go.
- if it might come in handy some day, but I can’t specify under which reasonably likely circumstances, it must go
- Before anything new comes in, something must go
- I live alone. If it is a duplicate, and surplus to requirements, it must go. Exception: two spare sets of cutlery, crockery, glasses. In case any of my few remaining friends turn up.
Rubbish shall go in the bin. Items that may be of use to someone shall go to either the Dogs charity shop, or the Hospice charity shop. I reject the Sallies because of their medieval attitude towards gays, and the Vinnies because they are pawns of the greatest criminal organisation in the world, that has the resources and power to end world hunger, poverty and overpopulation in a heartbeat. But won’t.
Having made that decision, I went back to bed and slept until ten. After coffee and brunch, I shall get started.
Now that I’ve had a nap, and a glass of wine with my dinner, my reflections on today have given me some insights. It was indeed embarrassing; both for the GP with an unnecessarily concerned patient, and for the patient.
I too quickly leapt to a conclusion. When I received the previous call back, I made the appointment by phone, and asked for a hint of what the doctor wanted to discuss. Of course the receptionist was not falling for that one. This time, I didn’t ring, but just booked via the booking app. If I had rung, no doubt some confusion and distress might have been avoided. Or perhaps not.
No harm, no foul. A lesson learned.
My own (over)reaction ranged from considering the simple possibility that I was just going to lose a bit more of my arm, to the increasingly more sinister implications of chemo, radiation, drastic surgery and a short and painful prognosis. I missed the one I should have considered first; it’s probably nothing serious.
I also thought about where I was right now. From a medical standpoint, possibly the best possible place in the world. I have free medical treatment in a country well equipped and experienced with skin cancer.
I am between 2,500 and 3,600 km away from my closest friends and relatives in any direction. I’m paying the price of having been too far for too long from my immediate and extended family. I explored some time ago the possibility of returning to NZ. My visit only confirmed you can’t go back. Even returning would have to be a going forward. I couldn’t see the way.
My local support group consists of two very kind new acquaintances. I have one person with whom I have regular long distance telephone conversations, a friend who has experience with basal cell carcinoma. It used to be we only had dogs, emus and cooking as common interests. I’d have preferred to stick to that.
Today was, therefore, a reminder of what it is to be alone and ageing. As if I needed one.
A massive chunk excised from my left arm today. Eleven stitches to close the wound. My new personal best. Hopefully we got the whole thing. The bad news is there is another one to do tomorrow. Another positive biopsy result. The good doctor had to shuffle some appointments for me. I appreciate his sense of urgency.
I thought, having made it to 67, I was probably immune to cancer and it would be something else that took me out. Maybe it will be still, but the odds are changing. One thing I have already decided. After looking after my friend Jeff for his last couple of months, I determined then and there I would not be going quietly and meekly if it happened to me. The man suffered. I suffered with him. There shall have to be a plan B. B prepared.
I got the melanomas
Melanomas in my skin
I got melanomas, yeah
Melanomas in my skin
So I went to the doctor
He started slicing straight in.
Said we gotta cut them out man
Before they get too strong
Said we gotta cut ‘em, yeah,
Before they get too strong
‘Cos iffen we don’t cut ‘em
Man you ain’t got long.’ *
I got the melanoma blues,
From knocking around in Sunshine City
Where the ozone layer’s thinner
And the UV rays are stronger in the air
I had SPF to use – but I didn’t use it, that’s a pity
And those bloody melanomas
Are popping up everywhere.
* Poetic licence. He’s Persian, and does not talk like that.
If you actually listen to the Blues, you’ll know a lot of the songs are considerably worse than this one.
Today was a day in which I learned, or was reminded of, several important things. It was intended to be a quiet day sorting out the van and disposing of things that are no longer needful, or that do not bring me joy. I am decluttering with a ruthlessness that would make David finally proud of me.
Having swum ninety minutes every day this week I thought I’d take a break, but then, in a fit of energy, and procrastination, I rationalised that I may not be able to swim for a while after the surgery tomorrow. So I should definitely go today. The truth is, I am becoming a swim junkie. I need my fix of weightless, fluid, pain-free motion with good music, the cool silky feel of water flowing over my skin.
Also I had spotted in the Target catalogue, a cheap, small microwave oven that looked as if it might fit into the space created for one in the caravan, a space currently filled with sauce bottles and assorted condiments that do not require refrigeration. I decided I need a microwave, now that I am on mains power semi permanently.
I measured the space and recorded the dimensions on my phone. Then went for a swim. I forgot my walking stick. Emerging from the pool and feeling the return of gravity, I regretted my decision not to go back for it. I decided I need three. One always in the car, one in the bike trailer, and one at home. It is getting hard to do without it.
After my swim, I showered, changed and headed for Target. I stopped into the bargain shop first to pick up an extra walking stick.
In Target I found the oven I was interested in, pulled out my tape measure, and checked the dimensions of the front of the oven. It would fit. I picked up a boxed oven from the shelf below the display and headed for the checkout. By the time I got there, I knew I had made a serious mistake. The shooting pains in my legs and the grinding sounds from my knees told me both they and my back were buggered from this weightlifting exercise. It was only a small oven!
I left it by the checkout and went in search of a trolley. I had not limped far at all before I needed a rest. I leaned on my stick in the forward leaning pose that seems to give me relief. A young woman, who had been at the checkout behind me, came up to me, pointed at a bench and told me to sit there while she found me a trolley. She then headed down to Woolworths at the other end of the mall, returning with a trolley.
What a sweetheart. Her name is Tara. I felt so old. Especially when she patted me on the shoulder and told me that like me, her grandma was always trying to do more than she was now capable of. Hey, I’m father material, not grandad. But of course, I was her age when my grandad was my age.
Such people are the treasures of humanity as much as any great Nobel laureate.
Once I had a trolley to lean on, I was fine. I collected the oven and transferred it to the cruiser. Back at the caravan I unboxed it and carefully, if painfully, carried it inside. Of course it did not fit into the space available. Only the face had the right dimensions, and even then, only just. A short existential crisis until I realised I could remove the top of the cupboard, insert the oven and put the top back. A quick gathering of tools and the step-stool I call the standy on-thing.
First, I put insect screen over the ventilation hole through the wall of the caravan. That should keep out the ants and insects that might otherwise colonise the back of the oven.
It did fit though the cupboard top does not quite go back as snugly as before. I then reheated some cold coffee in a mug. No more reheating in a saucepan on the gas stove and forgetting it.
But I now need to find somewhere to put all the sauce bottles and assorted condiments that do not require refrigeration.
I wondered at the marvellous technology before me that cost only $68. I remembered my first microwave and how expensive it was. This thing cost little more than a packet of 40 cigarettes, or an hour of my wages, back when I was earning them.
That made me think of all the man hours and material that went into manufacturing it. If the retail price is so low, how much do those who do the real work get? Then I felt guilty. This is why the world is in crisis.
It was an auspicious omen.
The letterbox was cheap, and my favourite colour.
I have marked my territory.