Not to be morbid in the least – or self-indulgent in the most (last week's column, "Something or Nothing" notwithstanding), but recently I've had cause to hear about the future and be more concerned about the present.
I have a homeowner problem that, like all such problems, is way beyond my limited skills: a crack in the concrete slab which "porches" our house, apparently caused by a very large and old tree growing way too close to this slab.
This is not a water-leaking-into-the-house problem. This is a structural-type problem identified by a home appraiser whom I've paid for – but not bought – to process a mortgage refinance.
Given the two-week time-frame during which I was expecting to schedule this assessment – considering the time-sensitivity of these applications – I was flabbergasted to learn that my expectations were totally unreasonable. Two weeks! I might as well have been asking for two months, which is what I ended up getting.
After hearing the nearly identical appointment-unavailability story multiple times, and getting increasingly frustrated and impatient at the unlikely timely resolution of my problem – in my lifetime (no joke) – I finally heard from a company that was able to schedule an appointment, which they did so with an apparent straight face (as much as I could glean over the phone): "I can have someone to your house on Oct. 25." I snickered.
"October 25! That's two months," I said. ("I could be dead by then," I said to myself.) To the woman I said, "No. I need someone sooner, in the next week or so. Good-bye." (I made this call on Aug. 21.)
When I hung up the phone I started laughing at what I didn't say and why I hadn't said it. Being that I have stage IV lung cancer, I am not exactly on firm footing.
I didn't say to the woman that I could be dead by then, because those words were, figuratively speaking, a bit too close to my literal reality. It was a case of fiction being a bit too close to fact and my mouth actually being able to cash that check.
In addition to providing fodder for this column, my calls to miscellaneous home improvement/concrete/foundation repair companies left me not high, still dry, but totally unrequited. I needed help. I put myself out there and received practically nothing in return. It is a lesson I'll take to the grave.
I don't want to sound unreasonable, because I still think I'm of sound mind (not so much sound body), but being diagnosed with cancer does, at least in my experience, move up your timeline, so to speak. There's a certain amount of patience and accommodation that is totally ripped from your subconscious.
When your life is in jeopardy, dealing with the daily double: life and death, becomes extraordinarily difficult, regardless of whether your answers are in the form of questions. The uncertainty of it all is very off-putting. Sometimes, you don't know whether you’re coming or going.
Trying to live a "normal" life under these kinds of constraints – and restraints – can make Jack a very dull boy. And very often this dullness manifests itself in one's inflexibility.
When your life is at stake, it's nearly impossible to act as if it isn't. Your brain seemingly gets rewired and re-purposed. As much as you attempt to retain your old and familiar self, this newer cancer-affected version slowly takes over.
You're not exactly in "The Twilight Zone," but "imagine if you will" at age 54 and a half, expecting to live into your mid-80s as both your parents did, instead being told that you have "13 months to two years" to live?
Though I've taken it mostly in stride and lived way beyond my oncologist's expectations, to say one's stride is not changed by the experience is to give naiveté a whole new meaning. (Not to mention the fact that the neuropathy in both my feet makes walking extremely difficult.) Nevertheless, life goes on.
As such, as much as I want to plan for the future, sometimes, it's the present for which I need to plan.