Alison Music: Oh, I’d better learn how to face it

The light has gone out

Friend: Sorry to call. We’re all just worried about you. (pause) Ridiculous question but: How are you?
Me: Drunk and heartbroken. You?
Him: It’s 10AM.
Me: I like to get an early start on things.

Teddy Roosevelt made a few appearances in this blog in the past. The entry I wrote about Xenophen wanting to die with his feet facing home, is one of my favourites and that picture is a statue of Roosevelt.

And I wrote another entry with a quote from him about daring greatly.

Always had an affinity for Teddy, but I’m hoping that it’s not because we will share similar fates.

See, Roosevelt was a New Yorker, like me. He lived walking distance to my pad, not too far from where I went to law school.

He was 25 and in Albany when he heard that his wife Alice gave birth to his daughter. So he rushed home – partly to see his daughter, and partly because his mom was sick.

By the time he got home to 6 West 57th Street, it was too late. His mom had died.

But the sick twist is that his wife died just 11 hours later from a completely unforeseen kidney issue. She was only 22.

Teddy kept a diary where he simply wrote a large black X and a single sentence: The light has gone out of my life.

I remember hearing that story as a kid and it affected me enough that I remembered it. But not so much that I truly appreciated what it must have meant to Teddy.

He couldn’t handle it. He gave his daughter to his sister to raise, put away everything that reminded him of Alice, and moved to North Dakota.

And he never spoke of Alice again and wouldn’t allow those around him to mention her name again. She didn’t even appear in his autobiography.

While that’s a bit much, I understand it.

After seeing my dad, spent the last week putting away as much of her things as possible; donating and tossing what I can. There are pictures and reminders of her everywhere.

They’re like constant papercuts over my shattered self.

Soon, everything will have been put away. And at some point, I’ll have to put Alison away.

Partly because, in the back of my mind, I worry that my other atomic bomb will go off. Mainly because my kid and my dad need me. Won’t be able to function if I don’t and they need me to function.

But, unlike Teddy, I’d never put Alison away completely.

Because, she was the best part of me and I need to give Nate the best of me. So that means keeping her here for him.

I just need a little time.

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Location: in front of some rum
Mood: the same
Music: Now I can see love’s taken her toll on me
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No rest

You’re kidding me, right?

Me: Hi, dad. How’re you feeling?
Him: (tearing up) I’m so, so sorry.

Alison’s mother finally went home the other day. She came here with such joy, expecting to stay only a few days. She left heartbroken almost two years later. I grieve for myself, for Alison, for Nate, for her family, and for her.

I just grieve in general. But I don’t even have time to do that properly.

See, she took Nate with her for a week because I needed to attend to a completely new catastrophe.

It’s about time to tell you about one of the other two atomic bombs in my life: My father has Stage 4 Lung Cancer.

Do you read me and think: You’re kidding me, right?

Cause that’s pretty much how I’ve been going through life the past five years. Wake up and think: You’re kidding me, right?

The kicker’s that he’s never smoked a day in his life. Just like Alison didn’t fit the profile of a glioblastoma. These two tragedies hit us from far outta nowhere.

And there was a third atomic bomb I’ve still not told you about.

In any case, it was him I went to see in the ER last week while Alison lay dying. Saw him again yesterday.

My heart gets no rest.

Couldn’t stay long. Can’t bear being in hospitals anymore. Spent too many goddamn days and nights in them these past two years.

It’s a good thing that my brother’s in town – he came to see my dad and check in on Alison. He was here when she passed.

He’s here right now and staying over most nights, I suspect to keep an eye on me. Don’t blame him. If I were in his shoes, I’d do the same.

Then again, life seems determined to break me. I won’t let it. Can’t let it.

At least my brother provides some much-needed levity from time-to-time.

Mom: For Nate, you need to find help you can trust.
Him: (to me) Well, all that time you spent looking for untrustworthy help was a complete waste.

 

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Location: in bed for the first time in over a year-and-a-half
Mood: heartbroken
Music: Hopped on the metro and I make my way home
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Why she was my person

She was perfect for me

This is probably my favorite picture of her.

It was taken the day we got married. That’s what she wore. It perfectly encapsulates what our marriage was all about.

She didn’t wear white. There was no ceremony, we just got hitched in the local courthouse. She’s holding her phone because there was some last-minute thing at work she had to answer. She was always helping others.

We took the money that her parents and my parents gave us for the wedding and invested it in Facebook instead.

Similarly, when we got engaged, I bought her an engagement ring but it wasn’t a diamond. Instead, she told me to put the money I woulda spent on a diamond towards our mortgage.

I never wore my wedding band but she never had a problem with that.

Said it before, love is two people looking at the world the same way.

She was my person and I was hers because we were always more interested in doing stuff that was actually important to us rather than all the stuff that was supposed to be important to us.

What was important to us was each other and each other’s happiness. That was it. It was us versus the world.

Me: We’re team McCarthy-Lo – see, I gave you top billing.
Her: (laughing) You and me against the world.

As an aside, that investment in Facebook and mortgage payment came in handy when everything went to hell.

In any case, we had dinner together almost every night the entire time we were together. I think that’s why she never cared about the wedding band.

Because she knew that, at the end of the day, there was no place I’d rather be and no one I’d rather be with than at the dinner table with her. And I knew the same was true of her.

We didn’t care about any symbols or metaphors about relationships, we only cared about the relationship itself.

That’s the truth and the truth is a powerful thing.

The only thing missing from our idyllic life was the kid. When he came, we thought it was finally our time. But it never was.

At some point, I know that I’ll have dinner every night with only 2/3 of my family once again.

She’ll never have dinner with us again.

The thought of it is almost too much to bear.

Son: (smiles)
Me: (gently) It’s you and me, man. Us versus the world. We gotta take care of each other.
Him: (laughs)

 

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Location: at the foot of her bed
Mood: agony
Music: say why don’t you and I get together? Fly to the moon and straight on to heaven
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I’m here

Our first date, revisited


We went on our first date together almost nine years ago today.

Went on other dates that week, but I don’t remember them. I remember Alison’s in particular because she was late.

She emailed me to tell me she was going to be late because she was working to get a generator for a village in Africa – which wasn’t an excuse I’d ever heard before.

She worked at Helen Keller, you see. She spent almost her entire professional career trying to help other people.

She set herself apart from the beginning.

With her education, she coulda gone anywhere. But instead she worked long hours for little pay trying to help others. She was always flying to Africa or Washington to try and make a difference.

She made such a difference in my life as well.

Just one of a million reasons why the world and I are better because she was in it.

That night…

Her: Hey, I’m here.
Me: (laughing) You were getting a generator?
Her: Yes – I was waiting for the donor to confirm.
Me: Did you get it?
Her: (beaming) Yep!
Me: Great, let’s drink to that.
Her: You’ll drink to anything.
Me: (nodding) This is true.

Last week…

Me: (waking up in the dark) Are you ok?
Her: (weakly opens and closes her right hand)
Me: (takes her right hand and sits beside her) I’m here.
Her: (squeezes my hand)
Me: I’m here.
Her: (squeezes my hand again)

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Location: at the foot of her bed
Mood: numb
Music: Don’t like reality, it’s way too clear to me
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Fancy meeting you here

It was supposed to be someone else

When I ran into my wife outside years ago and asked if I could take her picture.

Years ago…

Her: (smiling) Hey!
Me: Hey, pretty lady! Fancy meeting you here.

Every once in a while, I’ll see someone that looks a little like Alison walking outside. She was always perfectly put together.

Some of the happiest moments in my entire life was when I bumped into her and she’d smile the most beautiful smile at me.

That that will never happen again is enough to make me cry in a subway station by my lonesome. It’s so goddamn painful.


Alison’s been sleeping all day and night. She’s only awake for a few minutes a day now.

On the other hand, I’ve not been getting any sleep. The unfairness of it all keeps me up.

The thing is that horrifies me is what should horrify you: It wasn’t supposed to be us.

It’s never supposed to be us. It’s always supposed to be someone else.

  • I wanted three kids, she wanted two.
  • I wanted to stay in Manhattan, she wanted to live with green grass and shade.

That was pretty much the extent of our major disagreements.

We were supposed to have time to work those things out, to have a life together. She was supposed to finally be able to have her own family.

She was athletic. She ran almost every day. Played soccer for years. She ate healthfully. Took care of herself. Didn’t smoke. Rarely drank.

It’s never supposed to be us.

It’s always supposed to be someone else.

And now – like that story Button, Button – we’ve become your someone else.

Me: (quietly, by her bed) Hey, pretty lady. Fancy meeting you here.
Her: …
Me: (nodding)

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Location: at the foot of her bed
Mood: still broken
Music: been searching a long time for someone exactly like you
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Mother’s Day 2017

Thank you Mrs. McCarthy


Went to yet another hospital ER room this past weekend – and it wasn’t even for Alison. One of my other two atomic bombs went off again.

This was on top of another indescribable weekend. There’s not much to do but bear it.

I’d like to say that this was Alison’s second Mother’s Day as a mother but it really wasn’t. She barely registered anything.

Bought her this card months ago, hoping to give it to her. Never got a chance to. Doesn’t make it any less true though.

Alison is nothing if not extra-ordinary. Sometimes, though, I wish she was just ordinary. Perhaps then, she’d be able to stay with me.

I’d give anything if she could just stay.

Speaking of extra-ordinary – I haven’t really mentioned it because I try to keep as much of the lives of those around me as private as possible – I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that, during the past 18 months, Alison’s mother has been here with me almost every single day and night to take care of her and the kid.

She came here with four days worth of clothes right when Alison gave birth so that she could help out for the first few days. And then everything went to hell.

And she just stayed. There is no way that I could have possibly taken care of Alison and Nate without her. And she has been far stronger than I, which humbles me.

Whereas my pain is deep, I cannot imagine the pain of a mother watching his/her child go through what Alison has gone through. Wouldn’t want to. But she has, somehow. Stoically.

Alison’s parents are a major reason I married her.

Cause, when you marry someone, you don’t just marry them, you marry their family. And these are people I’m truly honored to call family.

Despite my losing so much money and being as old and broken as I am, they have never been anything but wonderful to me.

While this may reflect badly on their own parenting skills, I’ll take what I can get.

When Alison and I got married, I promised them that she would be safe. Part of why I’m so heartbroken is because I feel I’ve failed them. Yet they never say anything negative about anything I’ve done, even though I constantly doubt every decision I’ve made.

Alison’s mother asked if I would keep them in Nate’s life in the future, a question I found very strange.

Me: Are you serious? You’re the only family he’s known for the past 18 months.
Her mother: Things change over time.
Me: (shaking head) I want Nate to know his mother. By knowing you two, he’ll know her. That’s what she’d want. That’s what I want.

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Location: at the foot of her bed
Mood: so very broken
Music: I’m fragile. I try not to be
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Alison Music: Her Diamonds

Can’t take no more


Essentially, the entirety of this song lays out what last month has been like.

Can usually make it to the part that goes: “She tried her best and now she can’t win” before I have to stop playing it.

Everything we do now, we do with the goals of (a) providing Alison some comfort and (b) fulfilling what she would want most if she couldn’t make it.

For the latter, it’s to make sure that Nate is going to be ok.

As I mentioned to you in the last entry, between the theft, the fertility treatments, and the past 18 months of expenses, the donations you’ve provided for her will also help me raise him the way she would have wanted.

That’s all we can do now.

She’s been sleeping almost all day these days. So we – her mother and I – sit and wait with her.

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Location: at the foot of her bed
Mood: dazed
Music: I sit down and I cry too, but don’t let her see
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Cary, Carey, Kari

Some more of the story

A shocking number of my friends and family have never met Alison, or met her only once.

We gave a million reasons why. But the whole story starts like this: A decade ago, a family friend stole my life savings.

When I met Alison, was still struggling to get my life back together again. But she loved me anyway.

She could have had anyone and she chose me.

That’s part of why I was so busy. Was trying to make back 30 years of savings first. But she was busy too.

After we got married, we immediately tried to start a family. And failed. Repeatedly.

Ultimately, we went to several specialists and spent a huge chunk of our savings, including what I had saved up since the theft, trying to have a kid.

She was essentially pregnant for four years straight. And she lost six pregnancies. Six.

People are often crushed with one. You cannot imagine the heartache that comes with six. In a row.

Four were miscarriages. Two were ectopics. If a miscarriage is traumatic, an ectopic is devastating. With an ectopic, you’re in the horrifying position of praying for a miscarriage.

This is after sticking herself with needles every single goddamn night for years.

But it got worse. As I said in an entry I wrote about our very last loss, there’s always room for more down. That loss almost destroyed us because we heard a strong heartbeat only to lose it a few days later.

And the close friend in this entry was Alison. She had to have surgery due to another failed pregnancy.

Whenever we did go out, people would inevitably ask, “Are you planning on having kids?” And what do you say to that? When she actually was pregnant and she didn’t drink, people would always ask annoying questions.

We were tired of it all. So we either turned down all invitations or she just stayed home and I went out. This was for four years.

It’s funny but I have three good friends named Cary, Carey, and Kari; one has never met her and the others only met her once or twice in a all these years.

We never told anyone. Because we just kept hoping that someday, we’d have a family.

When she finally gave birth to Nate, we thought it was over. All the heartbreak, fear, dashed hopes, and loneliness. What we got instead was much, much worse. So much worse than our worst nightmares.

She deserved so much better than this. Her birthday is in a few days.

You wanna know the craziest thing? That’s not even everything. There’s more. But I don’t even think our story up to now is believable.

Her: We were finally supposed to get a good Christmas.
Me: (quietly) I know. I’m so sorry.

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Location: at the foot of her bed
Mood: Guess
Music: Go to the ends of the Earth for you
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Are you a religious man?

I’d rather it be the other way around

New York City church
Alison’s more confused and vomiting constantly. We decided to keep her home for as long as possible.

Oddly, ran into someone from the hospital the other day while I was out running an errand.

Him: Mr. McCarthy, how is your wife?
Me: The same. (thinking) Worse.
Him: (pause) I’m sorry. We talk about you two, you know.
Me: You’re all surprised she’s still alive.
Him: (sighing) Yes, that’s true. But also that you both keep fighting.
Me: She keeps fighting. I’m just support staff.
Him: I’ve been doing this over 20 years. Seen a lot of men just put their wives into hospice and move on.
Me: Why would anyone marry anyone if they weren’t in for the full deal?
Him: I dunno, people do. (later) Are you a religious man?
Me: Once thought about being a pastor. A fleeting thought. But I went to and volunteered for church for years.
Him: So you believe in God. You have that to lean on.
Me: I do believe in God, this is true. (pause) I just don’t think he likes my family very much.
Him: (long pause) I don’t know what to say about that.
Me: Nothing to say. My wife’s not even the only one dying. I had two others in my family with terminal illnesses. And that’s not even everything.
Him: (sighing) It’s like Job. (hopefully) He survived.
Me: Yeah. His family didn’t. I’d rather it be other way around. I’m sure he woulda too.

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Location: with my family
Mood: gutted
Music: Stay alive, here we go
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A distinction without a difference

Living in willful ignorance

Hospital Scheduling Woman: April or May?

We had some more bad news a month ago. Didn’t tell you about it because we needed to process it all.

They found yet another spot on her MRI. The doc told us to wait and see if it’s actually cancer or if it’s the treatments doing their thing.

For those of you keeping score, that’s four spots of cancer: Two confirmed from the original cancer, one from January, and this new one they found last month.

We had the option of another MRI this past Monday but we decided to wait until May.

There are a number of things that the people that know me in real life hear me constantly say.

Such as: That’s a distinction without a difference.

This is a both a legal term and a logical fallacy where someone points something out that has no bearing on the issue at hand.

For example, right now, everyone’s talking about the United Airlines passenger that was violently dragged off a plane.

Now some news outlets are saying he had a criminal past. But this is a distinction without a difference; it has no bearing on the fact that he was violently dragged off a plane.

Suppose that’s another post for another time.

Getting back to our situation, I’m always anxious these days. I wanna know what’s going on in Alison’s head. Literally.

Yet, knowing – at this point – is worse than not knowing.

Because we might change course when we should give all the things we’re doing time to work.

And, really, we don’t have too many options right now. Knowing if it’s more cancer won’t change the job that needs to be done. So we wait and hope.

Me: May.
Hospital Scheduling Woman: OK. (pause) Are you sure?
Me: No. But that’s a distinction without a difference. We’ll come in May.

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Location: Anxiety City
Mood: anxious
Music: Every one a tragedy
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