Other than to tell you about his predilection for shrieking "Galaxy Quest" quotes, I've never really introduced my little hamster, have I?
How remiss of me!
As you may have surmised by now, yes I have a tiny little furry rodent who lives in my brain and keeps me up at night. More often than not, it's after I've had the evening cup of coffee, or pounded a Coke Icee at the movies, but even without Demon Caffeine to poke the hamster, he's a bit of a night owl. He's the one who has to hash and re-hash, over and over all those skeletons banging about in my mental closet, muttering commentary in my ear on things that cannot be changed.
It's really annoying, and usually, just a sign I need to stop drinking coffee at night, or (eek) deal with the real stress factors, because let's face it - my ruined love life in 5th grade really isn't the problem in the here and now - it's just a well worn groove of "Should-a Could-a Would-a"** that's easier to traverse than the actual crap keeping me up at night. I think, I worry - it's what I do.
But lately,I'm overwhelmed by a darkness that sends my little hamster into hiding. This darkness follows me, blocking my view of the ever-hopeful sun, wringing out my joy by the gut-twist-fuls. I know it's name, I know I have no power over it, and that, I think, is what pushes me to the edge.
Four states away my aunt is dying of esophageal cancer. A year after her surgery, the cancer is back, and there is very little that can be done for her, hovering at a near-skeletal 80 pounds. They can't do chemotherapy, because she's too weak, and she can't seem to gain weight or strength.
I wanted to go and see her while I was up in Pennsylvania this past June, not knowing just how bad off she was, but my father pooh-poohed the idea and we didn't go. Now I'm kicking myself for listening to Mr. Ambivalent, and wondering if I'll ever get to see her once more, if only to say goodbye. I'm afraid of being a selfish jerk, wanting to hover at her bedside just to net myself some closure. I wonder - do the dying really want us to come and cry at their bedside? Does that help them? It seems sort of gruesome, to mourn someone's death before they've even passed on. I'm not sure what consolation I can offer my cousins - life hasn't exactly handed them a fair deal (genetic bullshit with a name I can never remember, but it boils down to them all having ticking time bombs in their heads, and its a gift that keeps on giving, from one generation to the next.) and now they have to lose their mother, their rock? It isn't fair and there's no "moving in mysterious ways" that's going to make it any more reasonable.
To further complicate the scenario,the two families are not particularly close, the causes being schismatic differences in religion, lifestyle, geographic location, and let's not forget the ever present legacy of my grandmother - ambivalence. But I love my aunt, and I enjoy her company, whether we believe in the same dogma or not. I see pieces of myself in her, albeit arranged differently, and I will feel an emptiness in my life when she's not there anymore.
You can see why my hamster is in hiding, can't you?
I made a decision, after talking to my dearest husband and my beloved Bea, and making a few phone calls. I'm taking the trip to go see my aunt, to spend a little time with her, and my cousins. I need to have that chance as my sage friend Ms. Q so eloquently put it, to say, "You have made a difference in my life, and I love you'". To spend a little time together, so I can maybe let go a little more gracefully when I must.
And the hamster begins his laps again, on the squeaky, creaky wheel in my head...
** a Peter Case song - I love that NY boy!