“You Can’t Go Home Again.” In his novel of that title, published posthumously in 1940, Thomas Wolfe exposed a community that shunned its hometown author. Taken in a different context, this message certainly is one I didn’t want to hear in the last few months.
So what has it been like to re-enter earth with a sense of normalcy?
When I returned home from my last treatment I was greeted by the flowering plum tree in my front yard. It’s a welcoming sight, one of hope for the future. The tree was a sign that I needed to take care of my house, purchased last September, because I was going to live there for some time. So while adjusting to the side effects of treatment, I am taking care of some “honey-do” items. Some of these tasks I can tackle myself, such as unclogging drains and oiling locks. But others require the expertise of the professionals.
A guy who installs blinds came in to give my house a sense of privacy. How the previous owners could live without any coverings on any windows is beyond me.
The cable TV guy connected up my new flatscreen, allowing me to enjoy TV after over thirty years without it. The thrill of watching Downton Abbey has not escaped me.
Then a specialist came around to make my garage door as easy as possible for me to open and close. It gives me a sense of order to have the house secure, yet accessible.
Tomorrow I expect a handyman, recommended by a friend, to take care of a variety of tasks that ordinarily would be handled by a spouse. We’ll see how many he can take on and what he has to leave for a contractor specialist.
I try to focus on the hope of living in this new abode as I manage my symptoms: becoming cold as the afternoon wears on, tingling in hands and feet, and a general fatigue and achiness that can’t really be described. Food isn’t as enjoyable as it once was; in fact, my taste buds are quite fussy about what goes down the hatch. I also don’t experience hunger. It’s strange not to get body signals that alert me to the need for sustenance. I have to rely on the clock.
I’m also taking care of needed professional services like eye exams, dental cleanings, tax preparation, and trust planning. All sensible, and collectively reflecting a cautious optimism for the future. I was relieved to discover this week that I don’t have glaucoma; I’m just a glaucoma suspect. Would that I were just a cancer suspect, too, but the diagnosis has gone way beyond suspicious.
The latest plans I am making are for my cremation. My rationale is that my family doesn’t need to worry about funeral details when they are grieving. Not that I plan to go away any time soon, but it’s good to get it out of the way.
As Thomas Wolfe said in his novel, “Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going. Don’t freeze up.” I certainly make mistakes and take chances. Don’t we all? And I look silly sometimes, for example when I forgetfully wore my night hat to the dentist instead of my wig. But I don’t plan to freeze up. I accept social and church invitations and extend my own as much as I can. In fact, not only can I go home again, but, as the songs go, “ You’ll never walk alone ” and “ I’ll never walk alone .” And I know I won’t.