Sometimes very bad things happen to very good people

Not that I’m a very good person. At best, I’m an okay person who does what little best I can. I’m sure you could ask any 1000 people who know me and you would get three or four “spawn of Satan” comments, “Who is she?” and then one or two “I love here! She’s wonderful!”

A little better than Charles Manson, who has lots of people who think he is a dandy guy. My numbers don’t begin to match up. (I use Manson only because I worked with him for many years when I worked in prison. He is not sympathetic. He is not like the shooter in Aurora, suffering from what I think was a psychotic break of some terrible kind. Something in that man’s brain went way wrong, It won’t bring back his victims and I’m no expert but I think he was driven by some very scary stuff going on in his brain. Andrea Yates is another who comes to mind. She was not evil, although what she did was. Something went wrong in her head and she was isolated and powerless to stop it. That still means her babies are dead and it means that when she gets “well” she will have to live with her actions.

I think I can speak from some experience since I spent a decade working with heinous felons. Most of them did  their crime because there wasn’t anything on tv that looked good. There is a special place in Hell, over by where the Enron people are going to be and that’s where they’ll be. I’m a big believer in water seeking it’s own level, so these guys will spend eternity looking over their shoulders.

But today I’m going to just talk about myself. If you’ve read me much, you know I suffer from a brain dysfunction called cluster headaches. Relatively rare, it is incredibly painful. Worse than childbirth. Worse than being hit by a car. Worse than amputating your own limb. Most of the people I know who have this are dead, which is what I wish for on a daily basis.

My first severe incident was in October 1978. I honestly thought someone had shot me in the head. No such luck. I’ve gone for years without a single incident but in 2003, I made up for lost time. I have somewhere between 5 and 8 episodes a day, with a rare occasion when I have an totally pain free day. The feeling of not having a headache is so wonderful that it is doubly hard to have one the next time.

I’ve tried literally every drug on the market that has any kind of effect—none of them work. I spent two weeks hooked up to a DHE IV delivery system with a picc line. Didn’t help. What does help–not cure–just helps–is oxygen with a non re breather mask, Turidol, massive doses of Zofran (it’s the anti puke drug) and a lot of Diladid. A lot. When it starts working, I can tell immediately because I start to throw up. I have a great local clinic where I can get help but they aren’t open on the weekends. My local hospital (it is #10 of the WORST hospitals in the country. You are more likely to come out dead as not) offers hit or miss help. My records are there with what it is that I need but I sometimes will draw a doctor who thinks he knows better. Oxygen? The room is full of oxygen, so forget that. I need the drugs administered IV…he doesn’t believe in IV delivery. What he believes will work is BENYDRYL. So after hours of tests, I get one benydryl tablet and call my husband at home at 2 am so he can come pick me up. This particular hospital doesn’t even start the release paperwork until my ride is there. So it is just a giant circle jerk.

My doctor in San Francisco (I have three, but this one is the grand poo-bah) tells me that he can see exactly where the anomaly is and all it needs is a little shot of krazy glue and that would be the end of  it. unfortunately, it is too deep and too small to tend to with the super duper medical magic available now. Maybe in ten years. So even though I have really great insurance, it still costs us about $1000 a month out of pocket. Every month. Sometimes, I look at our balance sheet and I know for sure I am not worth that much.

So right now, I’m in the middle of a particularly bad patch. Six weeks so far. I figure there is another six weeks waiting for me before I start to feeling just plain crappy, instead of suicidal. The thing is, my head hurts so badly, I cannot for the life of me think clearly enough to figure out something that would put me out of my misery.

My family is pretty supportive, although I’m mainly in the way. None of us bargained for this. least of all me. Many of my friends are supportive too and will take me to the hospital and stay the hours it takes to get it all taken care of.

I had a FF whose idea of help was to tell me to “USE YOUR BRAIN! ” Try this, try that. maybe soy milk would help. She thought maybe it was an attention seeking behavior. When I complained about my picc line, she told me to tell them to move it. For anyone who has ever HAD a c-line or picc line, it’s not that easy and is such a big deal (it’s a surgical procedure) that just being uncomfortable isn’t a good enough reason.

Sometimes I will go in with my ID and no idea what my name is, who the President is, what month it is or anything else. Scary? Nope. My head hurts too much.

This FF, who had been a friend for about 44 years finally severed all relations. I miss who I thought she was. I don’t miss who she turned out to be and I guess, from talking to other friends, I had no idea who she was in the first place. Had I had all of that information 44 years ago, she would never had made my friend list. The leading reason, other than the fact that I had no idea who the heck she WAS, was that she thought I was some dyed in the wool pathological liar.

I’m a lot of things, but not that. Since she had bounced around doing different jobs, she didn’t have a good handle on what it was that I did…so she thought most of that was a lie, too. Most of what I did was super duper top secret and she didn’t need to know about it anyway. Heck, I didn’t even need to know about it because it gave me nightmares, but there you have it.

Life is too short to deal with people who don’t trust you. I regret spending one moment on her. I loved her mother, who I thought was a wonderful person. so funny and just the kind of adult non-parent I needed. Her daughter, my FF,  fell far from that tree. My Mama Serpa was exactly the kind of person I needed to help me navigate the mine field of adolescence and I think maybe it was that which kept me trying to be friends. It was a waste of time because the person I valued was not the FF, it was her mother, whom I miss more than I can say.

Which is not to say that FF wasn’t a good friend when it furthered her own agenda. I’m sure she has buckets of friends who are sophisticated and clever and talented and creative…all the things I’m not. Her dance card is probably full within minutes of arrival and I’m just me and would somehow hint at her real roots and real beginnings. I’m proud of where I came from, so it would have been hard to buy into her new life and eventually, I would have blown her carefully crafted story. So I was expendable. Understanding doesn’t make it easier. For a while, I tried to apologize, email, beg, telephone until one day I realized I could care less. She was going through whatever she was going through. Despite my original response (“what can I do? What do you need me to do to help?”), even that wasn’t enough. So, just like on the farm when you find a pet who had died, you dig a hole, wrap it in a pillowcase, cry a little and bury it. You remember the good parts of it;s little life and the little by little, you forget about it.

One of my long time pets just passed away—she was old but very much a part of our family. I read this somewhere once and thought about the words as I prepared her for her burial and said my last goodbyes. Any mis-rememberings are mine alone.

The Housecat

I’ve changed my ways a little, I can no longer
chase the dogs
except in a kind of dream, and you, if you dream a little
you see me there.
So leave a while the paw marks on the front door,
Where I used to scratch to come in or go out,
and you’d soon answer,

Leave on the kitchen floor
the marks of my drinking pan and my footprints

I cannot lie by your fire all evening
nor yet on the dining room chairs, waiting for an unsuspecting

dog to wander by
No, all the night through, I lie alone.
But your kind thoughts has laid me less than 6 feet
outside your window, where firelight so often plays,
and where you sit to read, and, I fear, often grieving for me-
every night your lamplight lies on my place.

You look for me when you see my jar of catnip or find one of my toys in the corner of the couch or inside the shower where I would lie during the long hot days of summer

You live so long,
it is hard to think of you ever dying!
A little cat would get tired, living so long.
I hope that when you are lying
under the ground like me, your life will appear
as good and joyful as mine. No, that’s too much hope…
you have not been as well cared for and loved as I have been,

You never knew the passionate, undivided
fidelities I knew. I can say I never wanted for food, water and you were never too busy to rub my head

or scratch my belly or try to read my mind to give me the small attentions I desired. I remember watching

you knit toys for me, knowing the joy
they would bring me. You bought the kind of catnip I loved the best and were generous with it.

I never knew heartbreak or worry and yet, I could recognize it in you and curl up beside you,

Giving you warmth and the purr which was all I had to give and yet, I gave it all and gladly.

For you have not been as well cared for as I have been,

You were never my master, but my friend.
Deep love endures to the end and long past the end…
If this is my end, I am not lonely. I am not afraid.
I am still yours.

When we are reunited, you will recognize me, for the Master, in His great wisdom has left me looking exactly the way you remember me.

You remain exactly the same as well. I can feel that small spot in your heart that I fit into exactly.

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