Chapter 16: My Childhood in a Nutshell
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Note: This chapter is one of the many reasons that I’m eager to rewrite this story.
I cannot stress how amazing it had felt to drive again. The open road and I shared a minor affair this past week as my visitation with the family continued; it felt as though I was an author on a book tour. The distance between my Mom’s, my Dad’s, and to my Aunt’s; they never felt so short.
Except now, this book tour was soon coming to an end; I was set to return to Bangor by the end of the week. Wow, four days flew by already?
I spent my last day bouncing around my friends’ houses. First, we went to my Mitch’s house, where his father, Ron, had recently renovated the basement. We played pool on their new table. Make way for the pro… I thought I was a hotshot having played for the past month or so almost every day.
I was only slightly better as Ron effortlessly schooled me. I was definitely talking up my game to intimidate. It also didn’t help that the table was smaller… and the sun was in my eyes… in a basement. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
It was weird being with my buddies again. We didn’t talk about the treatment or the hospital experience much – most of it had already been well-discussed – except for the nurses. The guys were insistent on asking me if I had any hot nurses every chance they could. I’d tell them the truth, a few of them were pretty attractive, but I wasn’t going to be a perv about it.
I did, however, mention the nursing students though… My God. Girls my age! Whoo!
It’s funny… the first night I was in the hospital, I had prayed to God to not die a virgin. What a trivial thing to worry about. It was almost a dark, depressing sequel to American Pie.
Every time I conjured that thought, I was met with an equal, overwhelming sense of shame. What a stupid thing to think about at a time like this, especially since I didn’t even have a girlfriend yet– No one to stay by my side and lift me up… in that way. Of course, I had my parents and friends. But this feeling was different, even back then I knew that.
Then I’d think about the kids; the ones who lost their own battles and would never reach even their first kisses. These kids missed life in such momentous ways that so many “firsts,” life lessons, and beautiful experiences, were elements of life these poor kids would go unrealized.
This was the first time I felt guilty for my “luck,” and I wasn’t even out of the woods yet. And to think of all the things that I would have missed…
Ever since I was five, when the students in our class would chase one another and kiss their captive on the cheek, I somehow knew that I wanted to be “in a relationship.” Undoubtedly there was some latent psychological reasoning behind this (at least in part), considering I was in a broken home at the time.
My parents would drink and fight, but when us kids fought, we’d get in trouble, often times with harsher punishments than we deserved– but hey, that came with the drinking territory.
Soon, by third grade, they had divorced and my brother and I spiraled into a string of foster homes, both together at first, then individually when my brother and I incessantly fought. Most of these homes were with family members, but soon we began to stay with “strangers.” The first time I had been left with someone I didn’t know, was when I was sent to a house in St. John.
The ride to this “stranger’s” house was a quiet one, as I had no idea where I was being taken. When I had arrived, I began a game of twenty questions asking things like “When can I see my brother again?” “How about my parents, friends?” And the one that broke me: “Will I still be able to go to my school?”
“No. You won’t go to Wallagrass Elementary anymore. You’ll instead be headed to Fort Kent Elementary.”
That was all it took. I wailed for hours on end. They tried to calm me, they tried to coerce me to be happy, but I wasn’t having it. In the midst of the nuclear turmoil my family was experiencing, the very last straw was my stable school career. To strip me from that final strand of my dignity was something that I would not allow.
Eventually, after supper and some discussion, the family and the counselor decided it would be best for me to return home at my Aunt Norma’s and Uncle Dick’s. And then soon after that, I was reunited with Travis for the first time.
Travis was luckier. He had gone to a house in the same school system three months prior. Lori and Todd were his foster parents and these people too became family members; important people in our lives, but this all started with that broken home.
Subconsciously, I was hooked with being in a relationship, and on the surface as well, I assumed that was what you should have been doing during the elementary school years.
My first kiss was at the back of a bus with my friend, Jenn. We were in second grade, and while it was innocent, it rekindled my desire for such a commitment. My first “girlfriend” was that year too– Danielle. It lasted for only a day, but that feeling of being “with” someone made me feel unstoppable.
Eventually, by fourth grade, I acquired fixations– crushes. I would craft “love notes” to them expressing my feelings. I’d try to get creative in ways that prevented them to deduce the author. One time I wrote with my right hand (I’m a proud Leftist), and I had overheard the girl saying she didn’t recognize the handwriting.
Then as I got older, my notes got more intricate. Each year seemingly came with a new “victim” for my affection. It may have been obsessive, but never harmful. Aww hell, looking back on it made me think I was crazy. I felt like apologizing to them in some way, I even wrote sorry to them in our senior yearbook – each with their initials – and hoped that they got the message.
In the end, it was still on my mind, having never been in a relationship up until this point, and definitely NOT having sex before. That wasn’t in the cards for me, cancer was, and here I was: fighting with every last breath to take it down.
But now was my chance to eschew that battle for one more night. I was on vacation like a Naval officer on shore leave.
Later in the evening, we went to my cousin Jason’s house. As soon as we entered his room, I noticed he had a webcam, so we made some stupid videos.
I hadn’t been this happy in a while, especially surrounded by my friends and family. It was remarkable how I took these people for granted, and not in an overt way, in a more ancillary light. I assumed that they would always be around, and I hadn’t imagined a moment where I couldn’t visit them at the drop of a hat.
My imprisonment at the hospital would resume, and I wouldn’t have this opportunity often. So our videos were dumb, but they were crucial to my mental catharsis.
The next morning, I set out to the car. My Mom and Gary drove me back for Round Three of chemotherapy. I envied the other cancer patients who had close proximity to the hospital during these treatments. If I lived in Bangor, or in a nearby town, then I too could go home and visit my friends and family on a more regular basis. But I’d be back, and I was going to make damn sure of it.
We first stopped by the Ronald McDonald house so Mom and Gary could check in. I decided to go in and see where they had been staying. It was a nice location– like a communal farmhouse vibe. I met the managers of this establishment, Pat and Jerry, were one of the nicest couples ever brought together by love, and they made sure to share that love with their guests. Also, Jerry looked like a balding Santa Claus, and that was oddly comforting.
How fitting that they stayed at the Ronald McDonald house… To reiterate, I had visited their Fort Kent namesake ten times since I went home.
I sat at the registration desk, waiting for Gary and Mom to admit me. It felt like an airplane terminal, even though I had never been on an airplane before, let alone visited a terminal; that analysis was solely based on films.
We took the elevator upstairs to Grant 8. As soon as we walked through the doors, I expected to just drop my stuff off in 851 like always, but once again, there was another kid holed up in there. I was upset, but not as upset as I had been before. Instead, I approached the desk and “checked in.”
Instead, I was presented with room 864 on the backside of the floor. It was the first room on that side, and it was pretty cozy– a tad smaller, but Oh My God the view. The River! I finally had sight of that illustrious river.
It felt reminiscent of that moment I first stepped into a “stranger” foster parent’s home. A new, startling venue, but this time I met it with optimism. It was my chance to try something different (not like I had a choice in the matter). It was here that I decided that Room 864 was my new home.
My return home was reinvigorating but also depressing. I was back at the hospital and couldn’t see my family as much… It sucked. But I was going to make the best of it.
I threw my bags down as the nurses greeted me and asked about my trip home. We conversed as my reentry vitals were taken. Blood pressure and blood work went great, but oh damn. I had gained ten pounds. McDonald’s is pretty bad for you, huh?
No shit… but this time, weight gain was a welcomed result. It was the armor that I would use to go into battle once more.
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.