I never know what to say to you on this day. It’s by no means a birthday, just the opposite. I guess it’s an anniversary, though not nearly as celebratory; “happy” belongs nowhere near this sentiment.
Yet, here is today. It’s hard to believe we’ve been together 18 years. We’re legal! Well, to vote and crack skulls in the name of country. We’ll have to wait another three to commemorate our skull crackery with a beer.
It’s been a helluva year, but I’m glad to report your kidney and pancreas remain in the dutiful service of Life, the only religion I know.
Every time I go to the doctors, they’re impressed with our union. One told me that medicine didn’t really begin pancreas transplants in earnest until 2008! That makes us guinea pigs of sorts. They even have trouble finding the scar.
I met a man on Christmas Day that made me think of you. Not in appearance or lifestyle: He kept all of his belongings in a shopping cart, which was amiably guarded by the thickest pit bull you’ve ever seen. The man, too, was thick as a sequoia.
But, like his companion, he wasn’t nearly as fearsome as he appeared. In fact, we shared a brief Christmas Day conversation. He barely spoke English, but I could at least make out that he was fatigued. The real world had clearly gotten to him.
The more we tried to communicate, the more I saw the weight of Things on his shoulders, like the faded gray and orange backpack he carried. Even though the day was cloudy, he never took off his cheap Ray-Bans, dollar store shades with neon orange temples (he must like that color). But when I gave him some money, he reached under the glasses to wipe his tears. Then he began to sob.
Then I did. So there we were, weeping outside a 7-Eleven like 12-year-olds who’d just seen The Beatles but were trying to play it cool. Where’s Hallmark when you need them?
We shook hands, and he and his buddy trundled on, shaken but unbroken.
We had a brief scare with sepsis this year. Confession: I haven’t been that nervous on the gurney since we met. Yet, every time I go in, every time a doc tells me what we’ll undergo, the thought of you brings me a peace. I know that two will face This, not one. There’s gotta be strength in numbers, right?
In fact (confession #2), I even use our tandem to bullshit. Whenever someone asks me whether I’m nervous or frightened about something, I love to respond, “Motherfucker, I carry the dead.”
Yet other than that first word, every one that follows is a lie. Including the bravado: I probably am nervous or frightened about something.
But I find sure footing. Because you carry the living.
See you tomorrow.