Surviving October

october1October is usually my most favorite month. I love the vibrant colors of the trees and the pumpkins and other squashes. I love the wind making the leaves twirl and dance. I love the look of harvested fields. I love the sunshine highlighting the brilliant autumn colors, but I also love the drama of the thick dark clouds behind the trees. I love the chill in the mornings. I love wearing jeans and sweatshirts. October is beautiful.

But this October kind of sucked.

October 10th is the anniversary of the day–in 2013–that we took JJ to the doctor and learned that he had a mass. A couple of days later–October 12th–he had surgery to remove the mass and we learned that it was cancerous. This year JJ had his followup appointments with his oncologist in early October, just a few days before his cancer anniversaries. As various cancer anniversaries and medical appointments approach, JJ gets more stressed. He is afraid his cancer will return. He tends to lash out. Not fun.

Since JJ is now an adult, I figure it’s up to him to choose whether he wants us to go into the exam room with him. This year he chose to go alone while EJ and I waited in the reception area. After his appointment, he said that the oncologist said that everything is looking good, but he wants JJ to return in four months for another appointment, and then return again four months after that. JJ also needs to have a blood draw and chest x-ray before each appointment. JJ didn’t ask why he needed to return after such short intervals. By now we had expected that the intervals between appointment would be lengthened, not shortened. It’s a bit worrying. We try not to worry but…before cancer, we never really imagined that it would happen to any of us. I mean, part of us knows that bad things can happen, but it’s an abstract thing that happens to other people, not to us, and certainly not to our teenaged son. After cancer, we know that it can happen to us, and it did happen to us, and sometimes cancer can return.

Another difficulty involves emotional abuse. After years of trying to understand and deal with my abusive family and toxic friends, and after years of educating myself about emotional abuse, and after years of hearing many victims’ stories, I have learned a thing or two about abuse, including how abusers tend to behave. They are very predictable. It’s as if there is an Abuser’s Bible filled with abusive strategies and tactics that every abuser reads and follows. It’s almost funny that if one victim tells her story in a victims’ group or forum, the other victims will declare, “Wow! You could have been telling MY story.” They are that similar. So earlier in the summer, I predicted EJ’s family’s next move if they were, indeed, following the Abuser’s Bible. I would have preferred to have been wrong but I wasn’t. Being right just makes my heart ache. And it makes me tired because…here we go again.

And also our cat Tesla died this October, and this last week EJ hurt his finger, which I will get to in a moment.

There have been good things about this October. Like my birthday. I always ask EJ to give me the gift of a memory, which includes going on a drive to enjoy the beautiful trees. We usually go either the weekend before or after my birthday–whenever the colors are most beautiful and we can get away. Most of the trees in our area are still mostly green, however, so we haven’t yet gone on our color drive. However, the day after my birthday, on the way home from the oncologist, we stopped at a restaurant called Cousin Jenny’s for some delicious pasties. And that weekend we drove to thrift stores and found three lovely pictures. One is of a beautiful house set in the transition between autumn and winter with some leaves still on the trees and snow on the ground. We hung it in our bedroom where we have other beautiful pictures of houses. The other two were impressionist pictures of gardens. We hung them in the living room where they complement the other impressionist garden pictures. I think impressionist paintings are my favorite–especially those of a rainy autumn day.

Michigan Puzzle
Michigan Puzzle

Also for my birthday, JJ gave me a $25 gift card. I spent some happy hours browsing through Amazon. I ordered several books and then had the fun anticipation of waiting for them to arrive in the mail. I think I got the last book yesterday. And a good friend gave me an awesome puzzle about Michigan. Since most of the places depicted in the puzzle are places I’ve been to, it’s actually a puzzle of memories. My friend also gave me a bag of turkish coffee that many people in Israel enjoy. It’s also called “Jerusalem mud”–and we can understand why because the grounds remain in the bottom of the cup like mud. It sounds sort of gross but it’s very tasty. Because it is such special coffee, we have one cup every Shabbat. That way we can savor it and make it last.

We have been busy preparing for winter. We have a ton of things we want to do. EJ finished fixing the leak in the master bathroom. He still has to finish putting up drywall because he had had to tear open the wall in the master bedroom to get to the leak and then we have to paint the bedroom wall–and maybe we can also paint the master bathroom. We put away the outdoor furniture. EJ has put up posts along one side of our driveway so we can find our driveway during the heavy winter snow. He has to put up posts along the other side as well, I think, and then put up the snow fence? When the nights started getting cooler, we brought my house plants inside and I spent a happy time finding places for them all. We need to protect our fruit trees from winter-hungry deer. We have to get the propane tank filled. We are waiting for Lowes to install a few new windows. Apparently everyone and their brother are getting new windows installed in their homes before winter. I just hope our windows get in before the winter storms arrive. I imagine guys trying to put in windows during a raging blizzard.

Now that we have six ducks, they don’t all fit in the plastic dog house that we were using as their coop. EJ was going to try to get coops built, but then we remembered that the previous owner left behind two very sturdy wooden dog houses that are bigger than the plastic doghouse so we decided to replace the plastic dog house in the garage with a wooden one. Danny never uses the doghouses. EJ would have moved them, but he has enough stuff to do so I decided that I could manage on my own. It was quite a chore moving the dog house because they are so well-built and very heavy and I could hardly even budge them. EJ has a large piece of heavy plastic, which I suspect might have once been a truck bed liner, that we have been using as “sleds” to move heavy items. I managed to tilt the dog house and JJ slid the sled under it. Once we had the dog house on the sled, I found a thick branch and I stuck one end under the “sled” and then pulled up on it, which inched the sled forward. Then I repeated the process, slowly inching the doghouse down the hill. Once I reached the driveway, the method didn’t work so well–I think because the stick slid across the gravel rather than dig into the ground for leverage. So I found a rope, looped it around the sled, and then pulled. Because the doghouse was so heavy, the rope cut into my hands and I couldn’t pull very fast or for very long. However, I was determined and I was able to move the dog house little by little. I had to unfasten part of the fence to get the doghouse into the pen. I wasn’t able to take the doghouse into the garage from the duck side because of a post, so I had to take it through the chicken side. This involved unfastening a portion of the fence dividing the duck and chicken pens, pulling the doghouse into the chicken side while also not allowing the chickens and ducks to mingle. Then I had to reassemble the dividing fence, pull the dog house into the garage, and position the coops so that everything fit, the coop doorways were facing the right way, and so that I could latch various gates.

The coops. (That's not an egg in the coop. It's the light hitting the bedding just so.)
The coops. (That’s not an egg in the coop. It’s the light reflecting off the pine shavings.)

I had had short sections of fencing running alongside the top of the coop, but I saw that the chickens loved sitting on the coop roof and they couldn’t perch so easily with the fencing fixed at the apex of the coop–also, they were able to get through the fencing. So I found a length of very tall fencing which I placed beside the coops rather than on top of them. The fencing reaches from floor to ceiling to better keep the chickens on their side of the garage. It also enables them to sit on top of the roofs of the coops. I think some of the chickens now sleep on top of the coop roof at night.

I didn’t fully reassemble the outside fencing because I’d first like to move the other dog house into the outside pen before I permanently refasten everything. I’m not sure whether to put the second dog house on the duck side or the chicken side. And after all my effort, I was tired and needed a break for a bit. We would like to eventually get the coops out of the garage, but we have to be able to protect the chickens and ducks from predators. It’s not going to happen this year.

The door of the sturdy wooden dog house was too high up for the ducks to get into so EJ needed to build them a ramp. He didn’t have a single piece of wood wide or long enough for the ramp, so he cut two triangles and planned to attach long slim boards to make slats. He was using his bandsaw to cut the long boards into the proper length when he accidentally sawed his finger. I thought he had sawed off his finger.

I have always been so empathetic that I “felt” suffering and often fainted–or came to it–whenever I saw, read, or heard about it. I struggled in science classes, couldn’t watch medical shows, and found it difficult to visit people in the hospital. When I was in my mid-20s, I went to a behavioral specialist to learn techniques in how to deal with it. The techniques involved learning how to relax my body and distract my mind. They really worked and I did really well for years. I could visit people in the hospital, I endured medical procedures and surgeries and even had a couple of blood transfusions. However, when JJ was diagnosed with cancer, my empathetic sensitivity returned–and, it seems to me, even increased. During our first visit with the oncologist in 2013, when the oncologist told us how bad JJ’s cancer was, I almost fainted and he made JJ get off the exam table so I could lie down, which was very embarrassing–but it became something we could laugh about and JJ and I made bets about whether or not I would faint at each new procedure we had to face. I almost fainted (but didn’t) when we went to “chemo class” to learn about what to expect when JJ had chemo. I had to leave the infusion room each time JJ was hooked up to the IV’s. EJ stayed with him and I returned after the needles had been inserted. And when I first saw JJ after he had surgery to remove a cancerous lymph node, he looked so white and vulnerable that I felt faint so I walked into the hallway, leaned against the wall, and slid to the floor. I was able to rejoin him after I regained consciousness because I was more prepared.

EJ's finger
EJ’s finger

Since JJ’s cancer, I’ve been more sensitized to all suffering and have to be careful about what I see, hear, watch, or read. Aware of this, EJ wouldn’t let me see his cut finger and he insisted that I stay home while JJ accompanied him to the hospital. I would have gone with him. The hospital put a splint on EJ’s finger, gave him a tetanus shot and antibiotics, and sent him home. EJ said his finger didn’t even hurt all that much. I wasn’t sure how he would be able to work with the huge bandage on his finger, but he seems to manage ok. Whew. Every time I think of him sawing his finger, I feel light-headed and sick to my stomach.

The ducks really wanted into their new doghouse coop, so until EJ’s finger heals and he can finish the ramp, I got attached a piece of wainscoting onto the unfinished part of the ramp. The ducks are able to get into the new coop easily now.

So…the first half of October has kind of sucked this year, and I’m just hoping to survive the second half.

5 Comments on “Surviving October

  1. Hopefully the second half of the month will come with beauty, healing and peace for all of you. You are right in the middle of red and gold country with the fall colors starting to bust out down here you will have a beautiful birthday ride for your special day. Did E.J. have to have stitches? We love you guys and pray for your healing and peace, sending you a group hug full of joy. Linda


    • EJ didn’t have to have stitches, but he needs to have his regular doctor look at his finger to make sure everything is ok.

      The trees are getting more colorful everyday. Are you going to be able to go on a drive to enjoy them?


  2. Glad no stitches now may he heal well. Hopefully we can get away, it seems life has a way with all of us, today another friends funeral. Hopefully soon we can go for color and will head your way.


      • Thank you TJ she was 91 young, until the last 3 wks of her life she lived on her own, and a real testament of love and caring for her family and friends. We were blessed to call her friend.

        Liked by 1 person

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