My mom was totally blind, so it seems kind of weird that she loved Halloween passionately. She always wanted to be the one to answer the door and hand out treats, asking kids as they placed their bags under her hand, "what are you?" She had a little counter and kept careful track of each bag she filled, then she'd call Kath or me and tell us with glee what a fine and busy Halloween she'd had. Some years, she's have more than 100 and I'd have only five or six at my apartment. She's gone now and I've become her. I LOVE opening the door to the little ghouls and dollies. And I count. Then I pester my siblings with the magic number, like it's a personal accomplishment. Dave, I tell my brother, it's not quite 7 o'clock and I've had 54. Woops, gotta go. Tell Kath. I'm in the right place for this pursuit. Our house is sort of by itself between neighborhood clusters. You'd think we wouldn't get much monster action, but it's the opposite. We're the house that all clusters cross. Tonight, we scored big, more than 300 little beasties weaving their way past the decorations Beaux put up. It's a blatantly Halloween-friendly house and the kids and their parents flock to get our candy. Mom would have loved it. And perhaps that's why I love it so much. More than any other day, this is the one where I honor my mom, Mary Collins.
I used to think there was no upside to needing a liver. I'd be lying if I said the prospect of Beaux having a transplant doesn't scare me to death, although I can't wait for it to happen so that he'll feel better. The pessimist part of me worries about the details and how we'll pay for the medications and all that good stuff. I'm absolutely convinced God will provide, but I wish He'd show me His plans. The drugs are going to be astronomical, and Beaux's now getting sick enough that I don't suppose it will be too long before he can't work until he's on the other side of this organ transaction. And I make a pretty decent salary, but not enough to pay everything on my own. It's not like he's worked so hard all these years to buy pretty clothes for all of us. Add to that the fact that I am A) a world-class worrier and B) a journalist -- and reading an actual newspaper doesn't seem to be America's favorite hobby right now -- and you kind of get the idea that my freak-out may not be so far-fetched. What I know, absolutely, is that I will work three jobs if that's what it takes to give Beaux a new shot. I've learned a lot more about him during the seven months since we were told he's dying than I did in the last 12 years of marriage. Who knew that he was so damned funny? Or that he'd adopt some off-the-wall hobbies for entertainment and amuse the heck out of the entire household. Anyway, the good news just keeps on coming. His psoriasis, which has long bothered him a lot, has gotten to the point where it may be dangerous. It sometimes even bleeds and he's already prone to infections because of the liver disease. Today, we went to see the dermatologist -- who's actually one of the world leaders in terms of psoriasis. Beaux's definitely been planted in the right garden, here in Salt Lake. And here's where we make lemonade. We'd like to get the psoriasis cleared before a transplant so that he's more comfortable and we reduce the risk that an infection will knock him off the list temporarily. So we talked today about all these options, most very expensive and all uncomfortable. Although it wouldn't be the first time I gave Beaux weekly shots. We've done that once before. The the doc dropped the bomb and I can't seem to stop smiling. A transplant, it turns out, is a real good cure for psoriasis. The most popular anti-rejection drug is almost magical in its ability to kick the pegs out from under the hyperactive skin disease. Cool. Anybody want a lemonade?
When you're part of a big, boisterous family, it's pretty easy to overlook the petty jealousies that may smoulder beneath the surface. And it's tempting to think that we're all pretty much the same, when clearly we aren't. Holly and Lucy had a minor spat tonight. Holly was cuddled on my lap, munching a carrot, when Lucy tried to nudge him out of the way. When it didn't work, Lucy got huffy and grabbed Holly's carrot, then sauntered off with it. Holly looked like he didn't know whether to cry or ignore it. I'm trying, though, to teach the kids to play nice. So I'm afraid I spoke a little sharply to Lucy. I happen to know she doesn't even like vegetables. Looking guilty, she forced herself to eat it. Then sulked for another 20 minutes. I hate it when the labrador and the guinea pig can't get along.
I've been working on a writing project with a dear friend for a while and my professional world has been peopled with folks in their 90s and even 100s. I'm quite charmed by all of them, but walk away from each encounter feeling like my mom was ripped off. Born blind, a remarkable woman in all ways, and forced to wind down without her sense of self. I can only hope she was in a happier place than my siblings and I were as we watched her go through Alzheimer's. Looking back, nearly four years after her death at age 80, I have been thinking not of the tragedy of the disease, but of some of the joyous moments that come if you just go with it and stop fighting it. One day, as we sat in the small anteroom in the Alzheimer's unit in Ogden, the sound of restless spirits wailing and grunting and shouting in various rooms around us, she told me it was the dullest convention she'd ever attended, "but I'm no quitter. Maybe it will get better." She didn't have anything in common with the other conventioneers and the speakers were just unbelievably uninspiring, she said. The day they finally got a piano, she tinkered and even played. I'd always suspected that playing piano, which she started doing as a prodigy of age 5, would be the last thing to go. She didn't disappoint. But after a few pieces, she told me she was sorry sometimes she'd made it so big in music. "These tours are grueling." No doubt. The Keeper Moment of my life came the day this lovely, beloved woman I'd come to view as Fake Mom, since she no longer even knew who I was, said unexpectedly, "You know who you'd like? My baby, Loie. She's a keeper." You can't buy that kind of testimonial. And the day she told me that she'd been talking to her brother, Don, who died in 1976, I believed her without question. And was glad. I didn't even want to know what they talked about. I was just glad he'd finally gotten in touch.