I moved around a lot as a kid.
Something like twenty-one times before I graduated high school, and no, my father was not in the witness protection program. At least, I don’t think he was? Though that would explain a great deal. Anyway, the point is I was always the new kid. Every year a new town, a new school, new names to be called, a new set of wedgies to be endured.
It was not fun, which I guess is why as an adult I tend to cling to the familiar. Sure I like to visit new places, try new restaurants, buy new clothes… I just don’t do it very often. I find myself drawn to the “known.” I eat at the local steak house about once a week. I find comfort in knowing that the bartender knows my drink, the hostess knows my favorite booth, the waiters and waitresses ask if I’m having the “usual.” In my defense, for a kid who grew up year after year having to navigate yet another elementary school lunchroom full of strangers… having a “usual” is a big deal.
I just never thought that “usual” would extend to my life as a cancer patient. Having walked this road for over three plus years now, I am a regular in the halls of USC’s Cancer Community. No longer an outsider, my longevity has made me one of the lucky ones, the cool kids. Yes, it’s a little different. Instead of my favorite cocktail down at SC they know I am partial to red jello over green, my right arm for blood draw not my left and I prefer to keep my pants ON… thank you very much.
On Friday I went in to the surgical wing for my pre-op physical and it was like I was back at high school for Homecoming. “Ah, Mr. Rhymer, welcome back.” “Hey, Mr. Rhymer, weren’t you just here a few months ago?” “Oh, Mr. Rhymer, where’s your wife? Didn’t she bring cookies last time?” A repeat customer, one of the local “regulars” with six surgeries in three years under my belt, apparently I am now only four surgeries away from getting a free oil change and colonoscopy. Something to look forward to, I guess.
It’s strange the situations you can find yourself getting used to. The foreign becomes old hat, the nerve-wracking becomes business as usual, the truly scary becomes the familiar.
So tomorrow we go in for surgery number six. My wife will be at my side, never leaving until they force her back downstairs to the waiting room. Happy and smiling, pretending to be calm and unafraid. They will take my pants, they will give me purple socks, and just before I go under… my wife will reach out her hand and take my wedding ring, which she will put on a chain around her neck and keep for me until we meet up later in the hospital room.
Sorry for being so overly dramatic. The surgery is not that intense, it’s really not. In fact it’s basically the “usual.”
And a lot less scary than trying to find a seat in any elementary school lunchroom I’ve ever eaten in.