O- bitch- uary
Another crumpled up piece of paper flies across the room to land in a landslide that has accumulated around a small trash can over the past few hours. Clearly I need a larger trash can. How can this be so hard? The lowest paid journalists do it every day for God’s sake. How do you write an obituary? Did they study it in school, Obit 101: How to crush a life into a paragraph? The thought makes me chuckle. But this is more than that; how do you write your own obituary? How do you take the memories and special moments of your existence and reduce them to a small blurb in the local paper? I vaguely remember being assigned to do this very thing when I was in high school. It was the “what do you plan to accomplish before you die” assignment. You know the one where all the guys died in bed with a super model at the Playboy mansion with Hugh Hefner in the next room. That was a wet dream on paper; this is real and not nearly as wet. Have I done any of the things that I wrote about for that assignment? Did I do that assignment? I always hated Mrs. Formby’s class. Who, in their right mind, tells their class that they could earn an extra 100 points in the grade book if they ever notice her wearing the same outfit twice within the school year? How is that important? I did, however, earn that extra 100 points…and I needed it.
Just a matter of months ago, writing an obituary would have never crossed my mind, but then again I thought I was going to live forever. Well, at least older than 42. It’s amazing how you wake up like any other morning, throwing your obnoxious alarm clock across the room, but within a few hours everything changes. Things that seemed important aren’t. Where is the rewind button? Where is the script writer for my life? Can we make some changes to my story line? Like, can we say, let me live longer and why did it have to be at the gynecologist’s office? That is an embarrassing moment that each woman must endure multiple times in their lives and it sucks, so to have him find the God damn lumps just makes it that much worse. I would have preferred it if it were my friggin’ dentist or podiatrist. Hell, make it the bratty kid who picks his nose three doors down, but not the gyno! To top it off, he is HOT! Just shoot me now. This man has had to touch me in very intimate ways and now it will forever be ruined because of two things the size of nickels. Nickels…not nipples. I know what you were thinkin’.
I guess it might actually help you understand what I am bitching about, and why I am putting these words down on paper, if I tell you the whole story. I must warn you that I tend to have a bit of a snarky attitude and speak my mind. Hey, but what woman doesn’t? So, to you, or to the great wide nothingness here is my life (or was). Let’s start where it started.
* * * * *
“Mrs. Carpenter, did you happen to notice the lump under your left breast?”
“Well, Doc, I checked under the right breast too and felt one there, so I figured if it was on both sides it was normal.” You know how that is. When you get to be a certain age and you notice stuff with your body, as long as it is a matching set, you didn’t sweat it. Little did I know, neither was supposed to be there. With a quick check of my right breast, in a matter of one minute, I went from having a lump to having a set. One lump or two…get it? Sugar? Oh never mind. Dr. “Way- too- Hot” took a step back and rubbed his chin, all the while staring at my boobs. Yes, look at them. They are lovely, or they were until they were, invaded by the lump twins.
“Mrs. Carpenter, you are going to need to have a mammogram.”
“Look, Dr. “Hunk-a-licious,” I had a mammogram less than a month ago and no one called to tell me that there may be a problem.” I thought I said that in an accusatory manner. I may have even offered up some eye rolling and a smirk, but who cares?
“The issue is this, Doc, there is no way my crappy insurance is going to cover another mammogram and I cannot afford to pay for one out of my own pocket, unless you take gum and lint, and I don’t think I have any gum.” ‘Stick that in your pipe and smoke it,’ my inner bitch screamed and stuck out her tongue like a petulant child.
“Mrs. Carpenter, I will get a copy of your films sent over. I will have my office contact your insurance company to explain why another mammogram is needed. Mrs. Carpenter, you have two lumps that should not be there. Do you understand what I am trying to say?” He said that with what appeared to be actual concern. Maybe I was getting a little nervous now.
“Okay. Um… then …I guess you’ll call me when you have everything set, right? Once the insurance is straightened out I mean, good luck with that, and you have a chance to look at the films?” I had just noticed that the gown didn’t feel like it covered enough skin. I couldn’t seem to pull it tight enough around me. I was shivered; I must have been cold. I just wanted to put my clothes on, layer upon layer, and get the hell out of there.
Taking my hand, Dr. “Bedroom Eyes” said, “As soon as I know, I will give you a call, and we will go from there. We will get you to a specialist, if that’s what it calls for. This isn’t something that we should wait on. The sooner we get a look the better. Okay?”
I gave an automatic nod and saw the nurse in the corner for the first time. When the hell did she come in? Had she been there the whole time? I didn’t need her looking at me like that, I didn’t need your pity, and she really needed back off the red lipstick lady. It was not your color.
“Can I go now?” I begged more than asked while staring at the ugly linoleum floor.
“Yeah, we will get in contact with you as soon as we have some answers,” he nodded and dismissed himself from the room.
Nurse Lipstick patted my leg and said, “Take as much time as you need, sweetie.”
Take as much time as I need? To do what, crochet a blanket? Sweetie? That was not very professional; I had a name you know. It was on the chart she holding in her hand.
Okay, Olivia, pull yourself together girl and breathe. So you have a couple of lumps. You have survived your life so far. What are a few lumps on top of it? You got this.
I threw on my clothes as fast as I could. As I left, it felt like the walk of shame, like I had just been caught by the roommate leaving his buddy’s bedroom after a night of sheet tangling. This walk wasn’t worth it in the least. The embarrassment and the events preceding it were not nearly as fun.
I didn’t know how long I sat in my little Versa in the parking lot. Sitting on the Dock of the Bay was coming through the speakers when I finally came to my senses. What now? Do I tell Tom? Do I tell our girls? I didn’t have any answers. I didn’t even have questions to get answers too, yet. I didn’t even have a diagnosis, so maybe I should just keep it to myself for now. No reason to worry them, right? Man I needed a drink. What time is it?
“Crap! I’m late!” I was supposed to meet my friends at Flannigan’s for “dip-n-drinks.” I grabbed my phone and called Trish.
“Hey, Liv, where you at?” chirped Trish.
Trish and I had been friends for about six years. We had worked together at two different companies both of which decided that we were too powerful to keep on board. I bet they thought we were gonna take over. Well, that was my plan anyway. We both tended to land on our feet and we have each other’s backs. Hearing her voice took a bit of the panic rising and shoved it to the back of my mind, for now.
“Sorry, babe, I got held up at an appointment. I’m on my way. Has Alyssa made it yet? Order me a mojito and don’t eat all the damn dip!”
“Alyssa called and said she will be here in like five minutes. You sayin’ I’m a dip hoe?”
“Yup, that’s what I’m sayin’. You be a dip hoe. I’ll see you in a few. K?”
I took a deep breath and shifted into first to try to leave this experience behind in the dark shadows of the parking lot. The problem was I couldn’t leave the evidence behind. The lumps got to go with me, everywhere. Live and Let Die was wrapping around me like a whisper through the speakers. I cranked it up and try to let The Beatles wash away this afternoon’s sour notes.
I had no idea how I got to Flannigan’s. I guess auto-pilot took over. I pulled up next to Trish’s black Altima. God, didn’t that woman know how to wash a car? Someone had begged her in the dirt of her back window to please do just that. Her response was a resounding “Fuck You!” scrawled underneath the plea. Hell, if you wanted Trish’s car clean then she thought that you should be the one to do it, cuz she wouldn’t. That woman cracked me up.
Alyssa was new to our craziness, but she seemed to be the missing piece we never knew was lost. Trish was the “in your face, don’t judge me” piece of the puzzle. I was the “backer.” I would have your back, even if you are wrong. Alyssa was our voice of reason. She was a bit younger than I and Trish, but had her shit together. She had a way of calming Trish to prevent arguments causing all of us to get kicked out of restaurants and bars. Sadly, yes that had happened. Somehow we are banned for life from a local Pizza Hut. That’s okay cuz I preferred Dough Boy’s anyway. So it was no great loss as far as I’m concerned.
Alyssa pulled up just as I was getting out of my car. She waved from behind the windshield. She was beaming.
“Hey, I thought you would be here already,” I said with a hidden question lingering. Alyssa was never late and what was the deal with the school girl grin?
“Sorry, I was talking to someone and lost track of time.” I thought I heard a giggle in her voice. Something was up and I was going to find out just what that was.
“And…” I nudged for some answers.
“You can’t tell Trish! I mean it!” The alarm in her eyes was enough for me to agree.
“K? What gives girl?” This has got to be good if I had to keep a secret from Trish.
“I met someone,” Alyssa whispered with a shy smile slipping across her lips.
“OMG!” I just about burst.
“Shit, sorry. Who, where, when, who…spill,” I salivated.
“Later. We can’t leave Trish in there by herself or she will drink our drinks and eat all the dip, again. She really is a dip hoe.” Alyssa was avoiding my insistent look to once again show that she was the reasonable one.
“Ugh, fine, but I want all the details, all of them. Not a PG13 version, k?” Man I was such a whiner.
“Of course, Liv, I will spill.” Alyssa rolled her eyes at me, and then gave me a quick reprieve with a quick giggle.
We linked arms and bounced to the door of the restaurant like two teenagers that just found out a boy likes one of us. Trish was sitting in the bar area facing the door with the sole purpose of seeing us when we came in.
“What the hell took you guys so long? I almost ate all the dip,” Trish admitted while a chip dripping with spinach artichoke dip was hanging in front of her mouth as we bounded through the door.
Looking at each other we both said, “Traffic”. Secretive grins crossed our faces as we took our seats at the table. Realizing that we were going to need more dip, I waved to get the waitress’s attention. They knew us here, all too well. We had been having “dip-n-drinks” night once a week for nearly a year now. With a swirl of my hand over the dip platter, I mouth “more” and I knew the order was in.
“So, what’s up in the wild world of Trish?” I threw out there, knowing that she would keep the focus on her and off me and Alyssa, at least for a little while. “How was the job interview?”
“Hell, I rocked it!” Trish divulged reaching for a beer. “You know how it is. I get nearly every job I interview for. My problem is keeping it.”
It’s true; she interviewed well, but couldn’t seem to hang on to a position longer than a year. She was on her best behavior for a few weeks and then the outspoken, can’t – keep – her – opinion- to- herself side would creep out and bite the first person it saw. Normally it is the person who has told her to do something that she thinks is below her skill level. She doesn’t understand the concept of making an effort. Nope, she sees it as; I was hired to do “ABC” not “XYZ.” If it wasn’t in her job description then it was not her job to do. Therefore, she was let go to find a position best suited to her personality.
Through crunches of chips, Trish sputtered, “I should hear something in the next three days, or so.”
“What was the interview for?” Alyssa asked as she reached for a chip before Trish could get to it, hovering it into her mouth with a smirk aimed at Trish.
“Bitch,” Trish sneered. “It’s a phone bank for a car insurance company, basically it’s questions about claims and shit.”
“Well, that sounds…boring as hell. But it beats not working,” I offered with a muted laugh. “I haven’t worked in a little over a year.”
Alyssa looked at me with support in her eyes. “True, but you are in school to get your college degree. It can only help when you are out there looking again.”
“I can hope for the best but you have to remember, I am 42 and you’re 31. Big difference when a company considers hiring someone. The older I get the harder it will be to find a good job that I will love.”
“Ain’t that the truth.” Trish said while spinning her beer bottle in front of her. “I am older than Liv and I am still looking for that one job that’ll see how awesome I am and look past everything else,” I could see that this whole work thing bugged her. I knew better than trying to tell her why she couldn’t seem to hold onto a job. She took it as an attack and not as a friend trying to help.
“Then why don’t you start that business you’ve been talking about for the past five frickin’ years. You have dreamt of having your own travel agency, what the heck is holding you back? You are smart, motivated, and snarky enough to pull it off,” I stated as the fresh batch of dip arrived. Yummy, it was steamy, bubbly, and screaming for me to dig in. Oh, did I mention that it is frickin’ HOT?
“Holy crap, holy crap, holy crap!” I sputtered as I was dumb enough to have scooped up scalding hot dip and dropped it into my mouth. I proceeded to suck down half my mojito in the attempt to cool my tongue, letting an ice cube soothe the burn.
“You do that every time. When are you going to learn? If it is steaming and hot to the touch, then you don’t shove it in your face,” explained Alyssa, in the “I am talking to a five year old” voice while she attempted to stifle a laugh.
“I was just trying to make sure that I got some before Trish moves in on it,” I whined while sticking my tongue out in hopes that the cool air would help. It didn’t.
“Shut up, it’s not like I was circling it like a pack of wolves, or should I say hoes,” Trish whimpered with her lower lip stuck out in a mock pout, raising her eyebrows in my direction.
Our fun loving taunts went on for another hour and a half before we declared the conclusion of this week’s “dip-n-drinks” night. I wish I could say that the reality of what was literally sitting in my chest left my mind, but it would be a lie. I felt comfortable lying to myself, at least for a little while. It was time for us to return to our respective lives. We settled up the bill as we usually did. We each threw down twenty-five bucks, knowing that the balance was well below the $75 lying on the table. This offered our waitress/waiter a good tip for putting up with us. I thought that’s why none of them treated us poorly. They knew who ever was lucky enough to get us; we would make it well worth their effort. As we said our “good-byes” with quick hugs in the parking lot, I knew that Trish was on her way home to her husband and twin boys; I was on my way home to Tom and my girls, and Alyssa was headed home to her dog and maybe this new Mr. Mysterious, which I must find out more about. As I hugged Alyssa I reminded her that she had some spilling to do and that I would be calling. With final waves as we got into our vehicles, we were off, each going in different directions. I loved these nights.
I felt good about my decision to not say anything about my doctor’s appointment to Trish and Alyssa. Trish would have gone ape shit crazy and Alyssa would have tried to reassure me that there was nothing to worry about. All the while we would have had to calm Trish down. Instead, it was an hour and a half of not focusing on the “what if’s”. The question then was did I tell my family? I was thinkin’, no. I thought I should wait until I had something to actually tell them. Right then, I had nothing more than a few questions and two lumps. Maybe I should have named the little fuckers so that they didn’t seem so menacing, “Thing One” and “Thing Two” or “Righty” and “Lefty” or “Chunk” and “Lumpy?” I felt a small smile slowly creep across my face and I willingly let it take over. As I pulled into my driveway I decided that it was nothing to worry about until it was something to worry about.
“Hey, babe, how were the twin tornadoes,” Tom asked with a smile and a kiss.
“Ya know, one of these days I am gonna tell ’em that you call ‘em that,” I smiled as I poked him in the ribs. “They are fine. Trish had another job interview, but that’s pretty normal.” I love this man. Have I mentioned that yet? I do.
I tossed my purse onto the entry was table and asked, “Did you and girls eat or do you need me to make you something?”
“Lily is around here somewhere, but Shelley got called in to work,” he mumbled with his head in the refrigerator.
“That’s nice, but you didn’t answer my question. Do you want me to make you something?”
“If you want to, I won’t talk you out of it,” he responded with his best cheesy grin.
“Sliders good or do you want something else?”
“Oh no, sliders would be awesome. How about some coleslaw to go on top and baked beans and…” he stopped as he saw the look of annoyance on my face. “What? You asked me what I wanted.”
“You’re right. I did. So, sliders and all the trappings it is. Can you see if Lily wants some too, please?”
As I started to gather up the ingredients for dinner I heard Tom yell up the stairs, “Hey, Lil, you want sliders for dinner or what?”
A few seconds later, Tom was leaning on the island with an ice tea. “It looks like we are having sliders with the kid.”
“Sounds good, can you help? Here, cut up the onions while I start the burgers.”
“How about I do the burgers and you do the onions,” he quipped.
What is it with guys? They can kill and gut a fish but refuse to cut up vegetables.
“Fine, if that will make you feel manlier then go for it.”
A look of satisfaction spread across his face, like he won something. I didn’t know what he thought he won cuz if he messed up the burgers then I got to pick on him every time he wanted to grill something, and I would.
The unmistakable sound of a teenager bounded down the stairs reached my ears as Lily rounded the corner into the kitchen.
“Sup, female parental unit,” she asked with a peck to my cheek and snagged a soda from the refrigerator.
“Sup? Now I know why your English grades were what they were,” I teased as I smiled into those beautiful brown eyes.
Lily was one of a kind and she would tell you so without thinking twice. She was a self-proclaimed “weirdy,” artsy and quirky and sweet to a fault. Her long dark hair and deep brown eyes just pulled you in. She had a dark beauty that she got from me. She guarded herself from outsiders but once you broke through the barriers, she was loyal to a fault. I worried about her sometimes. I feared that someone would see that wonderful, loving and trusting heart and destroy it without knowing it. She was pretty, but didn’t see it for herself, smart as a whip, when she tried and had the ability to make you laugh no matter how bad your day has been. I had been blessed to be her mom.
“What are you up to, young lady?” I queried as I slice onions while trying not to cry.
“The ‘boy toy’, as you so like to call him, will be here in a little while and we are going to study for an English test. I guess I should put my best stuff on it since you think my grammar sucks. Oh, wait second. Didn’t I just graduate from high school? So bringing up grades really doesn’t matter anymore.”
“I guess you’re right but at least I can say whatever I want knowing that I passed English. Thank you very much. Grab the bag of coleslaw for me and a can of the baked beans from the pantry.”
“Yes, mother,” she said in its most proper form. I’m amazed she didn’t slap a little English accent on it. “I passed English too. A ‘D’ is a passing grade. Darrin is just coming over to hang out for a while. We will probably watch a movie or something”
“Well, that sounds…not very thrilling at all.”
Dropping the items I asked for on the island, Lily proceeded to help me make dinner. Bowls and spoons, mayo and seasonings piled up as we created our masterpiece. I looked out the window overlooking the deck where I saw Tom removing the burgers from the grill.
“Lil, is it me or do those slider burgers look a little dark?”
“Crap on a stick, Dad!”
“What,” Tom puzzled as he pushed open the door. “Here’s the burgers.”
“Burger’s, those look more like rejected hockey pucks. What the heck did you do to them, use a flame thrower?” I taunted as I gathered the buns and all the trimmings to make the sliders. Of course, they were burnt, really, really burnt.
“Hey, I was just making sure that they are safe for my family to eat. I wouldn’t want you to end up with mad cow disease or something.”
“We appreciate your undying devotion to your family.” Lily spewed with an over aggregated bow. “I am so sorry we are such a hardship and a burden for you to bear, oh great and wondrous father of mine.”
“That’s right, and you all would do well to remember that,” with a satisfied grin on his face and arms crossed over his chest, Tom nodded in agreement.
“Alright, we get it. Now set the table, will ya? Does anyone know when Shelley is due home?” I wondered out loud. “Will she be home for dinner?”
“Why yes, I will be home for dinner,” Shelley sang as she walked through the back door. “Did you miss me? I know you did. What’s for dinner and what is that God offal smell?”
“That would be Dad’s poor attempt at sliders,” Lily snorted.
Shelley admonished her dad as she offered him a hug, “Aw, Tubs, you ruined the sliders? It is a sad, sad day in the Carpenter house for sure.”
“Okay, Uggo, I‘d like to see you do better.”
“I work at Burger King. Duh Tubs,” Shelley quipped as she stuck out her tongue at her dad.
“Okay, guys, dinner is on the table. We can torment your dad while we eat his charcoal burgers. I guess you should have sliced the onions like I offered to begin with.” I winked at Tom. I knew he tried, but he missed, and I would never let him forget it.
We all took our seats and within seconds Shelley was regaling us with tales of her work antics and that of her co-workers and the ridiculous rudeness of customers. She was such an animated character. She opened all her stories with, “So get this,” and barely took a breath until it was done. You had to be clear here, she was not asking for advice in anything she said. She just wanted to share the activities of her day. She was our 16-year-old spit fire. She was so active she ran in her sleep. Shelley was the polar opposite of Lily in every way, blonde, blue eyed, vivacious, and as strong as they come. Be warned, if you looked anywhere but her eyes while you were talking to her, she WOULD rip your face off without blinking twice. The only real thing I worried about with Shelley was making sure we had enough money set aside for bail. She was something else. She was yet another blessing to count in my world.
“I asked my supervisor for more hours over the summer. I told him to call me first if someone calls off or doesn’t show, so I can buy my own car. I am sick of having to share,” Shelley snipped. “I hate having to schedule when I can or cannot have the car, especially when I don’t know if I’m gonna get called in to work.”
“Sounds good to me; that just means that I get the car all to myself,” Lily smirked between bites.
Leaning back in his chair and taking a deep breath, Tom questioned the situation. “Hold the phone there, girls. Lil, what makes you think that you would get free rein of the car if Shelley buys her own? I don’t think that sounds very fair.”
Pointing out the facts, Lily stated, “Hey, she’s the one who wants to get her own car. I’m cool with the way things are.”
“That also would mean that you couldn’t leach off of the gas I put in the car. When was the last time you paid for gas, Lil?”
With a chuckle and smirk, Lily rolled out, “Sucks to be you. Why should I put gas in the car if you are more than willing to do it, Duh?”
Watching my family joke and ague about such minor things made me fear how they may handle something big, really big. Like, lumpy big. The discussion ended as dinner did, with no real resolution. We all gathered up the leftovers and fixin’s and carried them back into the kitchen to be put away. We cleaned up the mess and loaded the dishwasher in a matter of minutes. Making short work of the job, and then scattered to the four winds or at least the four corners of the house. Lily was with Darrin, the boy toy, in the rec room, Shelley was texting everyone in the known universe, Tom was flipping channels in the living room and I escaped into the shower.
Climbing into the shower I felt the hot cascade of water roll over my head and shoulders. I selected the shampoo and began the ritual of washing my hair then I worked my way down. I felt them. How could I have ignored them for so long? How could I have pushed aside the events of the day? I ran my hand over one lump then the other. They were nothing, right? They were just some extra bits of me, right? Kind of like the cellulite that is attached to my ass, literally, or that unexplainable goat hair that kept creeping out of my chin. Just a couple more flaws, that was all they were. Why couldn’t I stop touching them then? Then the door opened.
Tom entered pulling the curtain open with a flourish that would one day ripped down the vinyl curtain. “Hey, baby,” he addressed me with a wink and his fists on his hips. Turning his head to the side and puffing out his chest like you see on the cover of some sappy romance novel he announced the purpose of his visit: “I’m just checking to see if you need any help washing those hard to reach places. You know quality control and all.” With bouncing eyebrows and a twinkle he eyes me from my toes to my nose.
“I’m pretty sure I have it under control, but thanks for the offer.”
“You sure? I’m a body man after all. I could feel for imperfections in your chasses.”
“Imperfections?!” I shrieked, “Wow, how does that foot taste? You sure stuck it in your mouth pretty damn quick.”
“Shit, that means I get to go watch TV doesn’t it?”
I nodded my head as I reached for the soap. Tom left in a sulk that I knew wasn’t real, but whiney none the less. I quickly washed the rest of me; I ran a quick razor over the areas that called for it, all the while making sure to avoid the two things that were hard to miss. I got out of the shower and wrapped a big fluffy Gain-scented towel around my body and twisted one turban style around my head. Pulling my pajamas from the drawer I sat on the edge of the bed and lost myself in a daze of nothingness. No thoughts, just staring at some unseen spot on the wall.
“Hello again, wife, how’s you?”
“Hello husband,” I blinked into awareness, “I is good, you?”
Flopping back onto the bed and resting his head on the palm of a bent arm, Tom shared, “Not bad, not bad at all. What great adventures did you go on today?”
“Same shit, different day. You know, I ran to the grocery store, post office, bank, doctor’s appointment and took Oliver to the vet.” I shrugged my shoulders as if to say it was all no big deal. I rattled it all off trying to skim over my doctor’s visit as if it were an afterthought.
Perking up a bit, he asks, “What’s up with the Lolly Monster?”
Wow, he heard vet but not doctor. Should I be offended? “Nothing, he was just due for his shots and a physical. Hey, speaking of Oliver, can you tell Lily that it is her turn to take care of the litter box,” I asked as I was bent over buffing my head with a towel.
“Why me?” He whined. “You know she is gonna pop a cork when I tell her. I don’t wanna,” he sniveled and stomped his feet like a child.
With my jaw hanging slack, I stared at him in disbelief. “Good Lord, man, how old are you?”
“Twelve, and if you ever wonder in the future, I am perpetually twelve.”
“You definitely know how to act twelve.”
He exited the room to go torment our daughter with chores as I finish climbing into my pj’s. Throwing on a robe I strolled out to the living room to stare at the idiot box for a little while. Yeah, Teen Wolf was on. At least I was guaranteed an hour of thought-free entertainment. After an hour or so, I decided to give it up and go to bed. I hoped to just collapse into sleep the moment I climbed into bed and luckily I did. I couldn’t say it was a restful sleep, but it was sleep none the less.