The music of the road.
It was almost noon on Sunday when we pulled out onto I-94 heading east. As we came up to speed, there were no calls to anyone and nothing said to me as she stared out the side window at the green, seemingly endless prairie, seeing it but not seeing it, lost in thought about what lay in store for her at the end of this trip.
We had made this drive many times since the early ‘80s, and as usual, the soothing sounds of Chuck Mangione’s, “Bellavia” poured out of the speakers. It is the kind of song that wraps you in musical colors and a tempo that leaves you thinking that life is good, which, loosely translated, the word bellavia means. It was one of Joanie’s favorite songs, but I’m not sure she heard it today. She seemed lost in thought about what was happening in her body. Lost in thought about leaving home for six weeks and lost in thought about whether this treatment was going to work or not. I didn’t want to break the spell, and left her to her thoughts as the miles rolled by.
The view through the windshield and the miles of road ahead gives time to think about the uncertainty she faced. The questions that run through your mind are all centered on one thing, the result of the treatment. Will it work? What will the affect be on the course of the disease? How will Joanie tolerate the radiation? Will there be any permanent side effects? And, most importantly what will be the emotional toll on her?
Over the weekend we had talked about the radiation treatment schedule she was about to begin. She wasn’t looking forward to being gone from home, her job and her kitties for six weeks, but knew this was something that had to be done. The one thing that gave her some solace was the fact she would be staying at Ginny and Ed’s home in St. Paul, and wouldn’t be alone.
I knew how much this whole thing was bothering her, and while she would be in St. Paul and I would be in Bismarck, I told her it was only a little over six hours for me to get down there if she needed me. I would also be down on some weekends, and would be there for the hospital stays when she had the radiation implants. I don’t think it really helped, but she nodded in agreement.
I loved our Sunday mornings together. They were a quiet time in both our lives that began with my going to pick up the paper, mainly because Joanie wanted the ad inserts, especially the Target ad, then having coffee, bagels, cream cheese and bacon for a late breakfast. Joanie would then spend her time going through the advertising inserts from the paper, followed by a nap with Muffin on her lap.
This Sunday, however was different. I picked up the paper for her to read on the way down. We skipped the bagels, cream cheese and bacon, and we waited to pick up coffee on our way out of town.
She was quiet, showered longer than usual, fussed with her hair more than usual, fretted about what she would wear for the trip more than usual and went about the morning as if she delayed long enough she wouldn’t have to leave.
We had packed the suitcases with most of the clothes she would need for the next six weeks. All that remained was what she would wear on Sunday, and her books and notebooks. The car was gassed up and ready to go.
“Treats,” she would shout, as she rattled the bag of cat treats, and Muffin and Peaches our two Siamese came running. They came running so they could get treats and she could say good bye. Misty-eyed, Joanie reached down to give each one of her furry friends a fanny scratch, rub their heads and pet them. She was going to miss them, especially Muffin, who was her constant lap cat.
A note had been left for Ann, her sister, about the cats and their food. As I watched her gather up her purse and bag of books, and look around at the house she was leaving, a sad look came to her face, and it hurt to see it. Then she looked at me with those usually bright, blue eyes that seemed to have lost their sparkle and told me she was ready to leave.
We pulled out of the driveway, picked up some coffee for me and diet coke for her and headed for the Interstate. It would be a long drive today, and tomorrow was going to be the start of a longer, more intense summer.
Even the sound of “Bellavia” wasn’t making it any easier.