technology is not my BFF

Oh hai. Yes, it has been ages. I am currently typing this post w my two fat thumbs via my iPhone WordPress app cuz I am currently locked out and unable to access either my laptop or desktop login due to tech gremlins for this site’s admin page. Go eff’n figure. I’ve tried everything I know to do but nothing is allowing access. I will continue to work on what the hell the problem is but until then:

(1) Yesterday while waiting for my UBER a young gay man, early 20s, sashayed across my path long enough for me to note his bubble butt azz in shorty shorts, his military buzz cut, his PRADA sunwear, and his white Birkenstocks that, frankly looked a little girlie to my eye but who am I to judge?!

But nevermind: I’m judging. I have never hated someone so quickly. I hated his confidence to be all out and proud and in your face with the whole ball of “miss thing” razz-matazz. And I hated him for his raw sexuality. At my best, I danced at a club shirtless only once in my life. As I’m now in the Medicare crowd I’m mature enough to own my rampant jealousy. So there’s that.

(2) Midweek I picked up an Rx at the local Walgreen’s and noticed a young woman, early thirties, missing her left arm from just above the elbow. My mind raced with various scenarios: an Australian shark attack while surfing; a birth defect, perhaps. Or maybe it was a horrific dirt bike accident during her bachelorette weekend somewhere in Alabama hill country. I thought of her ghosted groom and a cancelled wedding. She seemed perfectly fine though while I pondered the countless times the ‘wrong shirt’ kept me at home for fear of being judged.

Life is for the living whether you’re sporting a big ass or a missing limb. Be happy with what you’ve got, I guess. I’m not sure if this post contains any deep meaning. And my thumbs are tired.

the frenemies among us

I am enjoying a $24 dollar cheeseburger and fries. Well, I will be. In about 46 minutes according to DoorDash.

Roughly 20 minutes ago I popped into my local convenience market, grabbed a basket, and prepared to hit the beer cooler when I saw her. My heart skipped a beat as I cocked my head and squinted my eyes to make certain that less than 20 feet away was someone I no longer speak with. Which is mutually fine with both parties; I’m very sure of that notion.

But it didn’t have to be this way. No.

She lives in the neighborhood and frankly I’m surprised I haven’t run into her more often. We used to be pretty tight but then fell out. And to this day I’m not really sure I know the reason for the demise of our friendship. Well, actually I know why I’m never going to speak to her again.

Because I did run into her a couple year’s ago; same supermarket. We exchanged pleasantries and polite conversation which, as we all know–is rarely either.

I finally just steeled myself and acted like an adult: “Joan, we used to be so tight. If I’ve done something that upset you, well, of course–you have my apologies.”

My frank question was met with a quizzical, scrunched up lip gesture and what I can only assume to be narrowing eyes behind her Jackie O designer sunglasses.

“Your friendship is off and on. You’re all in. And then you’re not. I don’t know…I don’t have a reason.”

I was dumbstruck as my brain rapidly processed two occasions that I came to her emotional rescue by simply being present and by showing up, as friends do for one another.

The only thing I could come up with was acknowledging my own war with depression. I owned my shit and agreed that perhaps I did have a tendency to come and go. My sincerity was met with:

“There’s medication for that. You’ve been dealing with it for years. Go get help.”

And there you have why I’m eating a $24 buck cheeseburger. She’s dead to me. And I don’t talk to ghosts.

girl talk

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I’m fascinated by the REELS content on Instagram. I read somewhere that Insta will be moving away from still imagery and focusing solely on video as that content performs best. Go figure. I’d hate to see Insta go in that direction as so many of the accounts I follow are image based. I mostly follow home interior accounts, the occasional celebrity, and a small circle of friends. I have 116 followers so that should give you a clear understanding of how active I am on Insta. I just don’t accept all the requests for follows as every once in awhile I’ll post some goofy video, under the spell of too many cocktails. Generally I’ll remove such content in the wee hours of the morning when I check in and flip out that I revealed too much of myself or, worse yet…sound like a girl.

Does anybody ever really like the sound of their own voice? Even in the heydays of home answering machines I never quite got my outgoing message to sound, well…masculine enough. I mean, in reality I’d record this:

“Hello. I’m not available at this time. Please leave a brief message and I’ll return your call as soon as possible. Thank you.”

But in my mind’s ear I aways heard:

“Heyyy gurly. Misssss thang is not available at this tiummm. Pleese leave a brief message, gurl, and I’ll return your call as sssssoon as possssible.” Insert that hissing gay ‘s’ sound until the cows come home.

Of course that is not at ALL what I sounded like. I was recently lamenting my frustration on curbing my online creativity via video content with a friend. Come to find out he adores me BECAUSE of my ‘girly voice.’ Sigh.

I think of author David Sedaris. And author Truman Capote. Not high up on the butch factor scale but still very successful people because of their voices. They share a tonality sheathed in southern charm that is beguiling while simultaneously delivering uncomfortable truth.

I wasn’t always so self conscious of my own voice. My awareness of how I ‘sound’ was made painfully aware on the very first day of a new school, in a new home room, in a new town. As the new kid I was asked to stand and tell my classmates my name, where I originally attended school, and where my family now lived. I thought I did rather well because, you know, all new school clothes. I’ve always used my wardrobe as a barrier.

“You talk like a girl” came from somewhere in the back of the classroom. I froze. Like, even typing this I am sucked back to that hot August room and the roars of laughter from strangers as I flushed full-body. My nemesis had a name: Billy Wagner will work here in this space. Yes.

Billy Wagner spent the next four years making my life a living hell. He was just a tall country kid who got lucky with a basketball and became the school favorite. Sort of the ‘big man on campus’ jock types who really do nothing, say nothing, create nothing…but shoot a ball through a hoop and dick around w car engines. His focus on me was relentless in gym class. My fellow classmates would toss balls to him during dodge ball days (or ‘murder ball’ to some) and he would rapid fire balls at me until I was down and out with leg burn spots.

Mother used to ask about all the soft purple bruising on my legs and to this day thinks I am blind and clumsy as I ran into a lot of desks in high school. Had she known the truth she was the type of parent who would have stormed the school and gone nuclear. Her intervention was never going to work in my favor.

The fall after high school graduation my mom rang my dorm room and asked “Did you go to school with a ‘Bill Wagner?’ Wasn’t he in your senior class?”

“Yes, he’s in my class. Look him up in my yearbook. Why?”

“Oh, he’s dead. The police chased him through Belleville Monday night and he rolled his jeeped and was thrown from it; out on Route three beyond Home Lumber Kitchen & Bath. Eighteen years old.”

Four days later I returned home to attend Bill’s visitation. As expected when a town’s young star jock dies the place was wall-to-wall with school teachers, parents, classmates; the pep squad were in uniform and letter jackets, sobbing.

While nobody expected me to pay my condolences I surely did. Bill tossed himself through barb wire fencing into a cattle field as the story went. And it was true because even in the soft pink lighting surrounding his open casket I could detect where his flesh ended and wax filler began. I don’t know if I settled any score that crisp fall evening but at the time it felt oddly victorious. Justice served.

Though not really. All these many years later and I’m still afraid of my own voice.

eye of the hurricane

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Apologies. It’s been awhile since I posted an update regarding the EXbf and his current condition.

I don’t even know where to begin. It seems like June was a blur of just doing stuff. And by “stuff” I mean getting him home from the hospital, coordinating the initial in-home care schedule, and all the other well-meaning marching orders that friends and neighbors suggested. Who knew that a 24/7 care person needs a place to sleep? So I ordered one of those roll away type beds. Actually I ordered two as the first order is still circling the USPS. But then a bed requires sheets. And I got those. And a bed requires a pillow; and I got that. Plus new towels for the EXbf and all new bedding for his bed. And then all new underwear. And disposable mattress pads

My AMAZON ‘recommended for you’ emails range from “here’s a great book about Palm Beach” to “still peeing yourself?” I kid. But then again nothing is funny anymore.

July has been stable. The in-home care hours have been adjusted solely based on my EXbf’s limited budget to pay for 24/7 care. Do you have ANY FUCKING IDEA just how expensive private pay in-home care is? I did not know any of this world. And now—having seen a bit of my own future, I can confidently state that I can pay for—say, a week’s worth of in-home care based on my savings. So a shoutout to whatever is silently growing inside of me: you need to kill me within a week otherwise I’ll be squatting beneath an underpass.

All of this ‘end stage terminal’ playing out has made me realize how completely unprepared I am for any semblance of retirement or medical emergency while maintaining a comfortable lifestyle. I am not an extravagant person by any definition contrary to the public persona I’ve created. I’m quite certain that many acquaintances in my orbit perceive me to be—what’s the expression,—oh, yes: loaded.

But I’ve not sprung (sprang?) from inherited wealth. I arrived in this big city with two suitcases and $350 cash in my wallet. And made a life. But I digress.

At this time the EXbf is stable and content with his home care schedule. He has good days and he has bad days. The bad days are those where his thoughts aren’t connecting and I have to repeat myself a few times or guess the word he’s trying to use during basic conversation.

A friend who knows my life’s baggage, grief, and peaks stated that I am not prepared for what lies ahead as it relates to stage four cancer. His death. Rationally I know there’s no ‘get well’ scenario playing out here; I understand that terminal means just that. I mean, my God—us gays have watched Bette Davis enough in “DARK VICTORY” to grasp “prognosis negative” and the outcome associated to such a term.

But it’s tough. Some days I’m fine. I feel like summer has been stolen from me as every other day I am phoned about this, that, or the other as it relates to my EXbf. His cousin calls; his financial advisor calls; the care facility calls. But if not me….who?

Many many years ago the EXbf attended a Halloween party dressed in a dashing ‘Prince Charming’ type of costume. He sported some sort of form-fitted jacket with gold braids, and knee high boots…you know, that Disney Prince look. I have that photo; it was before we were a couple so I have no clue as to where and when the photo was taken but somehow this pic landed in my memory box of “us.” He’s confident and, well, princely in the photo as he’s just been pronounced “most beautiful” as the award sash displayed across his chest clearly states in Magic Marker.

“Most beautiful.” And soon, in the weeks ahead, it will get ugly. I’m literally watching this man fade before my eyes. There’s no doubt about that fact. My mission is to do this right; to get this right. To make these days as good as possible as befits one deemed “most beautiful.”

cool ranch miss

Whoever invented ‘cool ranch’ DORITOS should get that Nobel Peace Price thang. Seriously. Tonight I grabbed a tall beer. What are those called? A “40?” …and a mini snack bag of cool ranch DORITOS. I’ve not had garbage junk snacks since forever. I started a long haul diet in mid-January.

The diet is essentially all about eating healthier. I am making better food choices. I don’t microwave anything processed. I buy chicken or salmon. No red meat; I ditched potatoes, rice, and bread. This spring I dropped the nightly glass of chardonnay. At this very moment I am down eleven pounds. Which, I know sounds like “hey everyone!!! grab a teacup and let’s bail out this TITANIC!!!!” But baby steps, my dears. Baby steps. I did not put on 30lbs extra overnight and its not going to drop off overnight either. Yes, yes… a good food poisoning or flu week is a surefire waist trimmer but been there and done that.

Tonight at the checkout counter while sliding my sad salad mix fixings, sad bottle of beer, and sad mini snack bag of DORITOS I noticed the tanned toes and pink nail beds on two male feet standing next in line. Trust I was not purposely staring at his feet but couldn’t help but notice the perfect pair while slowly sliding my debit card from that greedy fucking bank slot.

I admit I may have a thing for male feet. There. I’ve said it. It’s out in the open now. But I digress.

The young male was a neighborhood gay. One can always tell. A bit of insouciant matchy-match going on with the shorts and the PENGUIN polo; the must-have bead bracelet, and a Ferragamo wallet to nail down the subtle ‘go f*ck yourself’ vibe. In pivoting for my grocery bag I caught his eye just long enough to get his “not in a million years” old geezer wall of ice parting glance.

His summer golden face looked liked pale peach skin strained through ancient Chinese silk. He was strikingly handsome in that way only someone in their early twenties can own so effortlessly.

Not that it would have made one iota of difference in either of our life’s paths but I did momentarily catch myself. Or catch my tongue, rather: “Someday you’ll get here. If you’re lucky.”

The hours

Wish I had some lyrical style of expression that denotes the highs and lows of the past week. But I don’t. I have good days, well, good hours. Mostly good, so far. I attribute this to understanding that if I’m to manage and survive this curve ball of attending to my ex partner’s health crisis I need to be organized. Strategic in actions; demonstrative in abilities. Essentially it is time to keep a basic schedule because at any given moment my phone may ring to deliver more harsh realities associated to stage 4 cancer.

I’ve been religious about making my bed. There are no dishes in the sink. The toilet bowl is reasonably clean. I scoured the bathtub. I’ve Swiffered® myself into a dustless world of everything in its place and a place for everything. I need to see order. More importantly I need control in this one area of my life right now.

I spent an hour visiting the ex in hospital every night for the last six days; his release from hospital engaged a palliative care team, a social worker, and the coordination of an in-home 24/7 care agency. Part of my duties last week was to get the ex to accept that he now requires help, in-home, if he wished to return home. The alternative was not an option. They would have placed him into some rehab/assisted living center. And God knows where that might have been located and what level of care he might receive once there.

Thankfully a long-time career in advertising sales has left me the gift of communication. I presented the options, alternatives, and outlined the pros and cons to both. The ex came around and it was agreed that the in-home care agency was the plan.

Fast forward a bit. He’s home now. He’s happy.

Before that return home occurred, though, I made another visit to the condo with all new bedding. The works; new mattress pad, new pillow protectors, new sheet set, and a new duvet. I laundered everything and my goal was to just get in and get out. Too, I feel–at this point, while the ex is still capable of making decisions, that it was important to include him in my mission to freshen up his bed. I took pics of everything I purchased and shared them with him while he was still hospitalized. “It looked like your bed could use a freshening up. I got you these…is it okay for me to switch out all your sheets and comforter?” He was very appreciative and stated that he was fine with the new bedding.

I think that’s really important. For both of us, really. My entire career, to some degree, from pleasing cranky clients to managing a staff of 13, was to frame my actions in a ‘problem/solution’ forum. What is the problem? What is the solution I can provide? I’m still that person today.

As a people pleaser and a perfectionist—and as an adult raised by a narcissistic mother, keeping up appearances comes very naturally. Its very important to me. I have spent a lifetime of giving people what they need to see. What they need to hear. So my natural ‘charge the hill and open fire’ take control must take a back seat at this time. His bedroom needs far more upkeep than just some new bedding but that’s what I can do now. That’s all I should do now.

He was very happy to see his bed all neat, tidy, and clean. I was glad that I did that. The sheets that were on his bed while he was away in the hospital were heavily soiled. And I’m being kind here. There was no way I was having my ex return to that mess. One of the many things I can provide is just a simple sense of dignity.

During one of my hospital visits the ex had a procedure that required three nurses to manage. They assured me that it was fine for me to stay put but I joked that they would have another patient to attend to if I stuck around to witness anything remotely medical. I’ve been known to faint at my own blood tests so watching a fluid extraction was not anything I needed to witness. My skill set is fairly set in stone at this point in my life.

I left the room and stood in the outer hall. I heard the shuffling and positioning of the patient and the inquiries of “are you feeling that?” and “let us know if you feel any pressure, okay, you’re doing good.” I watched a post-surgical nurse team wheel someone into the next room over. I stared at the floor. I looked at the empty gurneys lining the spotless corridor and I thought: “You folks have no idea who you’re working on. This man…that man, was the most handsome man you could ever lay eyes on forty years ago.”

My eyes welled up—with undoubtedly, just a bit of the hopeless tears yet to flow.

“This is Dr. Myers…”

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“…and I’m calling Mr. XXXX regarding Mr. XXXX. Are you aware he has been hospitalized?”

This is how last Thursday afternoon began. A call from a palliative care doctor advising me that my EXbf was in hospital. He reviewed what brought XX into the ER and what his present care is. I was not aware of the depth of my ex partner’s diminishing wellness. I brought the doctor up to speed with what I had only learned a couple of months ago.

I called my ex a few week’s ago and as I wound down the usual pleasantries I asked “you’re okay; everything good?” That general polite inquiry was met with “I’m good. Everything is fine.”

We chatted a moment or two longer but the ex circled back with:

“I lied. I am not okay. They….last month…you know, my checkup ….they found that. You know, the spot.”

At this point you need to have the understanding that my ex has slight onset dementia. Age-related, of course. We’re all going to get there, right? So it was a bit challenging to pull from him what his current status was regarding “the spot.” I finally pulled from him that a doctor found a spot on his bladder and that it looked like this ‘spot’ had traveled to a couple other areas. But the ex assured me that he was enrolled in an oncology thing and expressed optimism that treatment would probably add a couple more years to his life.

Let’s not kid ourselves I thought upon hanging up. A ‘spot’ is cancer. And that cancer has spread already.

The past several weeks were challenging to reach the ex. He stopped answering his phone. I soon found out that I was his emergency contact and to that end I had a social worker, a house call-type nurse, and a physical therapist reach out to me with the same messaging: “I’m trying to reach Mr. XXXX and you’re listed as his emergency contact. Can you please try to contact him about our appointment this week?”

I dutifully called the ex and those calls went straight to voicemail. He was not answering calls even from me. It was frustrating enough for me to call his neighbors to verify that he was home and not in a hospital.

Mid-April I ran into one of our neighbors when the ex and I were partners; she still lives across the hall from the ex. We exchanged polite conversation but the topic turned to the ex. “I don’t know what XX has told you about his health.” I replied that I was aware of a spot on his bladder, that it had traveled, and that he was engaged in a treatment program. That was met with:

“It’s bad. The situation is bad.”

It was a warm spring day and I felt a chill rush through my body. I won’t forget that moment when maybe an inevitable outcome, his actual death, became my reality. The feeling didn’t last long. My inner chatter told me that medical miracles happen every day. And that cancer therapies literally change overnight. That’s what I told myself to keep a level head.

But last Thursday any facade of ‘this too shall pass’ was shattered. The man is dying. For 25 years we were inseparable until, of course, the ugly bitter parting due to his alcoholism. That’s an entirely other blog post but the short story is that he joined AA and turned his life around. He’s sober. He’s sane. I’m the one left holding the bag of drunken brawls, broken furniture, pissed bedding, blackouts, and lies. And that infidelity matter. But again…that’s another story.

My role today as his medical power of attorney is to advocate for his wellness. I have one shot at this. I need to do this right stripped of any emotional pulls from our past. I must be present and ready to face what surely lies ahead. To that end I’ve already spoken to an in-home 24/7 care agency; the hospital won’t release him until this is in place. He does not want this level of care and it is not covered by insurance. I understand his thinking but I also understand his plea to go home.

From what I understand today, the in-home 24/7 care will slide into hospice care. Having survived the AIDS era I do know about hospice care; they bring a hospital bed, porta-potty, oxygen, ….. all those things needed to make a patient as comfortable as possible in their own home during their final days.

The ex wanted his razor and phone charger brought to him in hospital. Yesterday I walked over to the condo and rang up the neighbor to buzz me up. We visited briefly and then walked next door. I’ve not stepped foot into ‘our’ condo since 2010. In a word: shocked. There’s the typical old folks stacks of mail, dust, clutter. A few of the things that I left behind are gone. Where did they go? Where did the crystal chandelier go? Was it so hated that it was removed? But I didn’t dally as I was on a mission to find what he requested. With the found items in hand I left the apartment and pledged then and there to leave ghosts alone.

So this is where I’m at. Sorry for the lag in posts. My desktop computer is so far behind in browser updates that WordPress does not format correctly so I’ve resorted to using a laptop.

It’s going to be a long, hot summer with stage 4 cancer. Or maybe not.