Music of the night.
“I wouldn’t leave you in times of trouble We never could have come this far I took the good times; I’ll take the bad times I’ll take you just the way you are”—Billy Joel
It was one of those cool September nights. The light hadn’t totally disappeared by nine. I sat on the deck in the backyard by the pool with the pool pump shut off and there was a lovely quiet that came over our little park-like yard. I had brought some wine with me and plugged in the CD player we used outside when we had parties during the height of summer and put on Billy Joel’s CD. This song, “Just The Way You Are” came on, and it struck me how the words had a special meaning for me.
Joanie was inside watching something on the television, and probably talking on the phone to one of her girl friends. Muffin would be stretched out on her lap, and to the outside viewer it would look like a pleasant evening in a small, two bedroom house in a quiet neighborhood in a quiet midwestern city. It was, or at least it was for a couple of months heading into the new year.
We were approaching the ten year anniversary, in May, 2006, of her diagnosis, and as I reflected on everything that had transpired since that day, the words of Joel’s song floated across the still water of the pool and seemed to circle back and come to rest at the table where I sat, smoking a cigarette and enjoying a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. As I listened to the words of the whole song, I couldn’t help but wish I would have had the gift to put those words to song, but then I realized Joel had done it for me.
Joanie was doing really well, all things considered. Her hair had, long ago, returned to its full, dark, rich glory, something I enjoyed running my fingers through when we kissed. She had continued to amaze all of her friends and others who knew of her trials on the way she handled every adversity over the years with grace and courage, and a sense of style that said to all, “I will beat this.” I loved her just the way she was.
As I sat there, I was trying to assess where we were, and what might be waiting around the bend as we got into January and February. The business of the shortness of breath and the pain in her back was troublesome to me. The hadn’t done a thoracentisis yet, so the question of whether or not the fluid was malignant was still up in the air.
We weren’t scheduled to see Dr. Carson until late January, and until then there was kind of an unspoken bond, neither one of us would talk about what might be, what could be or when we might know anything. Her approach, which was the right one, was to go about living, enjoying the time we had before we were forced to worry about something, enjoy the holidays, and enjoy each other’s company. There would be plenty of time to think about things over which we had no control next year.
The only thing that bothered her was Karen’s situation. At first she wouldn’t talk about it, but as time went on, she would ask what I had heard from Wayne. She cared deeply about Karen, and was praying for her. She knew how serious it was, and true to her nature, was more worried about her than she was about herself.
By now, it was getting dark, and a little cooler. The music had stopped, the wine was gone, and I was ready to go in. I put the CD player back in the garage where it would wait until the next time, and went into the house. Joanie was in the bathroom taking care of the Miami pouch, and when she was done, she came out and I helped her clean up what needed cleaning.
She asked me what I’d been doing outside. I ran my fingers through her hair, and told her I was just listening to some music and thinking about her.
She didn’t believe me, but it was true.