It was Sunday on this date 11 years ago. The crew from Savannah spent the morning and early afternoon with us, and when Mike was tired and needed a nap, they headed back south.
I took the opportunity to soak in the hot tub for a bit with two friends who were helping Mike plan his memorial service. He didn’t want to leave anything to chance. That service would reflect his desires for a funeral he’d be sorry to miss.
As we came back into the house, there was an insistent knock on the door, as though someone wanted to deliver an urgent message. When I opened the door, there was a woman I’d seen drive by a couple times, but I didn’t know her. She was tastefully dressed, a little overweight, had an unnatural shade of blonde hair and way too much makeup.
“What the hell are you doing parking all these cars on my street!” she demanded. “People have to drive here, you know. You don’t own the street and I’m getting tired of dodging all these party cars! I don’t know how long you’ve lived here, but you should know we don’t put up with that in this neighborhood …”
She ranted on for a minute or two and when she finally stopped to take a breath, I spoke.
“First of all, this is not your street. My taxes pay for as much of it as yours do,” I said.
She opened her mouth to speak again, her face still angry. I held up my hand.
“Nope,” I said, “I’m not done. These cars belong to friends of my son. They’ve come to say goodbye. He’ll be dead in a few days and then you can have your road back.”
I started to close the door and she put up her hand to stop me.
“Wait! Oh my god! Is there anything I can do?”
“Yes,” I said sweetly, “you can drive carefully so none of these people has to the add the burden of car repairs to that of the grief of losing a friend.”
And I closed the door.
Even 11 years ago, some people were mean-spirited by nature and not afraid to show everyone they encountered that they wanted people to do everything their way.
Later another neighbor would see me outside and ask, “I saw a lot of cars over the last week or so. I know it’s not always a good thing, so I just said a quick prayer that everything’s OK.”
Now, that’s the way to ask why there are so many cars parked on the street.
The nasty neighbor has never spoken to me again.
Mike woke up a little while after the angry neighbor left, and I told him what had happened. He had a good laugh over that.
“Oh, I wish I could have seen her face,” he said. “I’ll bet she was horrified. Good for you, Mom. Good play.”
It would be our final Cancer Card moment, his final belly laugh.
In 48 hours, he would be gone and I would never hear that laugh again.
When people tell me we should fix health care gradually so businesses and the economy don’t get hurt, I ask why they want to put the welfare of corrupt insurance companies and Big Pharma over that of the 35 million Americans who still don’t have access to health care, plus another 12 million or so whose insurance has such high co-pays and deductibles that they can’t afford to use it. That, after all, is the very basis of fascism — money over people, the good of corporations above the welfare of human beings.
Some 30,000-plus people are dying every year the same way my son did. and we have done almost nothing.
Yes, insurance companies can’t deny people with pre-existing conditions insurance anymore. In states where Medicaid has been expanded, poor people finally have real access to care.
But Big Insurance and Big Pharma don’t want these changes to stand and they’re paying out huge amounts of money to walk back what little ground we have gained.
Every day we don’t fix this, people die unnecessarily. Every damn day, more family members and friends go through the hell my family and I have gone through. In fact, about three times every hour, another American dies of lack of access to care, just they way my precious son did.
As I count down these days again every year, I spend a good part of my time in tears.
Why can’t we see that people shouldn’t be dying like this when it would actually be cheaper to take care of them — both economically and morally? I tried to explain this to someone yesterday who just said, “I don’t believe you. We can’t afford it,” and turned her back, completely unwilling to listen to anything not sanctioned by the liars at Fox News. I wanted to scream, to call her a fucking fascist, but I walked away instead.
On this beautiful spring day 11 years ago, I so desperately wanted to hold onto him. I still wish I could go back and get him. I think I’d want to take him along on the coming cross-country road trip with my pregnant granddaughter. I can’t even imagine what an adventure that would have been.
I tried to soak up all I could of him during these final days.
On this Sunday 11 years ago, everybody cleared out. James, Mike’s closest friend, and Janet, who still loved Mike and who was still adored by him, went back to pick up mail and check in with their bosses. Janet’s boss would fire her for not coming in on Monday; James’s boss told him to take whatever time he needed. They were both planning on returning Wednesday. Mike would not be here to greet them.
On this beautiful Sunday 11 years ago, we would have just two days left with Mike.