A member of the family.

February 1, 2009 at 1:44 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

No, I’m not related to him. He’s a big cheerful guy who is most comfortable in the outdoors on a boat, fishing or not, or even the occasional hunting trip.

He’s also a Star Wars geek, and a carpenter… and he still calls me ‘Cuzz.’

He was my cousin’s husband, the cousin that always felt like my sister, before she passed away after a seven year long fight against complications of diabetes, she ended up with both visual and mobility impairment…It was a long difficult time for both of them.

In late 1991 they came to our house for pizza. Black humor often takes center stage when you feel overwhelmed by the fight your body is fighting.

My cousin Tiffany said, “Hey, do you *believe* how many separate diseases are in this room?”

My late husband, never one to shirk at odd conversation said, laughing, “Let’s make a list! ” He said, “Hmm, I’ll start. Hemophilia and AIDS.”

I took the next round. “Cerebral Palsy, Asthma and Cancer…”

Tiffany was next…”Diabetes, sarcodosis, glaucoma, kidney failure…”

And her husband said, “Hey!…I feel kinda left out!”

We couldn’t stop laughing for ten minutes.

It’s very clear that we’ve kept the connection because somehow, I don’t know why, he has a small obligation somewhere in his head that we should keep in touch and that he should look out for me in an appropriately small way.

One of my most profound regrets is that I didn’t spend as much time with them as I think I should have when her illnesses accelerated. I could mealymouth around it, but the cold hard truth is: after just finishing myself and the spouse’s long nightmare with my cancer and his terminal illness in 1993, my selfish want was that I *never* had to see another loved one suffer up close, never again…and so out of pure selfishness and fear, I was never close enough for very long. I did rejoice with them both and visited for longer stretches after she had a kidney transplant that freed her from the extreme discomfort of dialysis.

Near the end in 1998 I visited her in the hospital and tried to tell her who I was by sign, since she was blind and most of her hearing had eroded…I think she knew, because she smiled.

At the cemetery, he and I were crying. We looked at each other and moved into this huge hug that many misinterpreted…they thought he and I would be the ‘rebound’ sort of thing for each other…It wasn’t like that at all.

We’d both seen spouses through unspeakable things, and had part of our own innards pulled out emotionally in order that we support them as they needed.

He is the one person who understands as much of the entire scope of what I went through as an outsider can… and he believes, I think, that I am the same for him. Comrades in arms, in a way.

He remarried this decade and she’s been great both to him and for him, and …we get along well.

And after all the **** that his life has had in it….

He lost his job in December.

He has no health insurance.

He has no money (and by that I don’t mean even 500 a month. I. mean. none. zero.) He’s applied for SSDI Medicaid, Welfare, food stamps but those things take time.

His wife cannot work.

His electric, cable, phone have been shut off.

They’re repossesing his car next week.

And his landlord has indicated that unless the rent is paid in two weeks they will start proceedings against him. (When I heard this piece last night, I googled Ohio’s legal-aid website, gave him the number, and told him to call from his brothers phone, so they can stop the landlord from trying to evict him…I can’t do much from here, but by God, I owe him at least an effort to keep a roof over his head. )

But, he won’t be home this week anyway…

Because they’ve found throat cancer. The hospital he’s going into for the first round of 96 hours of chemo+radiation is helping him with an indigent program intended to ‘tide him over,’ until the benefits kick in.

There are two, single, very bright spots in all this.

One, from exploratory results, the cancer has not, metasisized. It is confined to a single source only.

and Two…the hospital he’s in…is the same Bigshot Hospital that saved my ass from cancer back in 91-92.

So, they’ll nail the cancer, I’m certain of it. He’ll walk out of there cancer free sometime in the future just like I did.

He’s chosen to be my family, and I’ve chosen to be his…

It’s interesting….because some parents or family members of person’s with disabilities can show ambivalence or negative emotion that they have this person in their lives…a relative…that they believe has made them work harder as a parent or family member than they would have had to do if the person was temporarily able-bodied.

I love my genetic family, but honestly, sometimes…

I love my friends, my family-of-choice a tiny bit more.

Because there are the occasional fights, the disagreements…the drifting away…

But not ambivalence. They want to hang out with me knowing (by this time, my sometimes difficult nature). They take me as is, where I am…no questions.

So I’m praying for my Cuzz today.

And I wish to any-gods-that-ever-were that the Congress would suck it up for health’s sake and *pass something,* so that he can have a *job* when he recovers.


  1. Attila the Mom said,

    Holy crap. What a nightmare! Sending all my best wishes his way.


  2. Imee said,

    I feel sad for your Cuzz. But then again I love how you put humor into things despite the situation. Well, just keep holding on. Bills are slowly being passed now. Slow, yes, but nonetheless passed. It’ll take a little bit of time before everything falls into place and he’ll have a job before you know it šŸ˜‰

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