Thursday, December 13, 2007

On the Santa Train

Last weekend I took a ride a short way up the Hudson River with my sister, her daughter, and my niece’s three young daughters. The MTA event involved a festively decorated commuter train, goody bags for the kids, and a Santa Claus and elves who made their way through the train cars to talk with all the children. The trip started in Grand Central Terminal and ended up back there in less than an hour. The anticipation beforehand was very exciting for my grand-nieces, and the actual trip was a lot of fun.

Now, I realize that Santa is not everyone’s cup of tea because the myth doesn't square with all belief systems. But I long ago stopped seeing Christmas as a religious holiday. More than anything else, it's an extended commercial ploy to enforce giving, and buying. I find the commercialism and crowds of the season nearly intolerable; all the hoopla makes me quite cranky.

Apart from my humbug air, however, it's still absolutely magical to be able to accept that one man can make his way around the world delivering gifts to all children in a single night. It’s only for the young, and what a delight it is to see through the eyes of those young believers. In fact, after six months of dealing with cancer, I long for my own Santa Claus!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

My cat

I glanced over from the exercise machine this morning and saw my cat slinking through shadows in another part of the basement. When I finished working out, I sat on the couch to watch the end of the DVD I use as a treat to get myself on the exercise machine in the first place. I noticed the furry, speckled ball curled up on the next cushion and reached out to pet her.

Problem is, my Kitty's been dead since last April. The ball of fur sitting next to me was a hat I’d been wearing to warm my bald head before I started exercising.

Now, this was not a grim-reaper-and-a-bright-white-light moment. I’ve been sensing my cat’s presence for the past eight months. It doesn’t surprise me that my house has absorbed her rhythms and plays them back to me on occasion. She was a deaf, forgetful, old lady the last few years of her life, but she filled my home and my heart.

I could always count on a loud scolding from her when I walked into the house after being away. And there were frequent signs that she romped and cavorted, even when I wasn’t home. She loved to curl up in my lap… along with my laptop, or perch on top of the printer while I worked, or doze in one of the many baskets she loved as much as I do. She sat in a window and watched every step I took to the mailbox and back. She never ate table food… except for ice cream which she licked daintily from a spoon. And she always slept in my bed.

She was my friend, my soul mate, for nearly nineteen years. I was with her when she died and it was one of the saddest moments of my life.

Good heavens, I miss that cat!

Friday, December 7, 2007

If you see something, say something

Several years ago, when my daughter was in junior high school, I confronted a couple of boys fighting on the street in our small, upscale, suburban town. A circle of kids surrounded the two as one pushed the other, goading him to action. Both were big for their age, nearly six feet tall, bulky and flabby and not yet comfortable with the size they’d expanded to. They were still, truly, boys.

I walked up to the one doing the pushing, stamped my foot, and shouted as sternly as I could, “Stop it!” They were startled, gave a “who me?” look, and pretended there was nothing really going on. My daughter, in the group of onlookers, was mortified.

That incident didn’t scare me. I never felt at risk. I was simply a mother, doing my motherly thing. And that was, after all, Chappaqua.

This evening, as I followed the heavy crowd of rush-hour commuters to a waiting subway shuttle, a young man in front of me and walking faster than the rest of us, dropped something. It sounded like a phone, so I bent down to pick it up for him. It wasn’t a phone. It was a knife. And just as I recognized it as such, he turned back, swooped down, and picked it up himself.

I was in Times Square, where there are, thankfully, many people, including many police officers. I walked up to the nearest pair of transit cops and told them what I’d seen. One of them went off to confront the young man, who by this time was on the next platform.

Then I got scared.

This man had a similar, young-for-his-size air; big, burly, his pants in danger of losing the struggle with gravity. And he stared right at me from across the tracks as I pointed him out to the officers. There is only one shuttle at a time between Times Square and Grand Central, and as I boarded, I started having visions of him waiting for me at the other end of the line... with his knife.

This incident worked out okay for me, a false alarm. I’m on a train, on my way home to my safe suburban haven. For the most part, I’m not fearful in New York, although that hasn’t always been so. But this incident hit me in a vulnerable spot. It reminded me that no matter how protected I feel in my own skin and environment, I can’t account for the unwholesome impulses of others.

Not to sound paranoid, but no matter how smoothly things seem to be going, there really can be dangers lurking in the shadows.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Nearly two weeks ago, a couple of days after my last Abraxane infusion, my skin was very tender to the touch, particularly on top of my head. It was a symptom I remembered from the earlier treatment cycles, and I took it as a sign that my scalp was preparing to give up its recent crop of newly grown hair. But it didn’t happen.

I met with my doctor this morning and mentioned that I still have hair. Her reaction amounted to “Go figure.” She told me that another of her patients just went through his entire first cycle without losing his hair. Another medical mystery, and from my point of view, not an unwelcome one. It was easy getting used to having hair again.

Tonight I sat down to my computer and noticed short white hairs all over the keyboard. I tugged at locks and they came out in my hand. Oh well. Once again, I’ll be bald by the end of the week.