Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bitter Life

I took Coco for a walk on a gloriously sunny morning in July. She had the daily walk down as the highlight of her days. I was more than happy to indulge her, as I enjoyed our hour-long trek immensely myself.

We came home sweaty and thirsty. There was a message blinking on the machine. I pressed the button and untied Coco from her harness, but stopped in mid motion. Rachel’s voice was weak and slow. She was hospitalized two weeks ago for acute hepatitis, and now she needed a liver transplant. She wanted to talk to me one more time, and said she didn’t know if she could still see me again…and her sentence was cut short by her sobbing.

The beautiful sunshine turned into a gloomy gray full of muted fear and shock. How can this be happening--my mind screamed? She had health issues such as hypertension, high cholesterol, etc., but nothing like a liver transplant. I called her at once and promised her I would go visit her soon. There’s hope, I said, otherwise the doctors wouldn’t be bothering with all the tests and preparations to get her ready for the transplant. Her spirits were lifted by my optimism, and she thanked me tearfully. My words made me feel better as well.

A week and half later I was sitting in her family room. Joey, her husband, told me on our ride from the airport to their house that she was very impatient. I didn’t think much of it. She was very sick. Of course she’s going to be a little short fused.

Two days later I realized what he was trying to tell me. Rachel had turned into a tyrant, and it started years ago when her liver was fine. Joey and their adopted daughter have been living in a never ending nightmare. She was constantly angry, always berating those two on every single thing they do. They had to tiptoe around her, and held their tongues when being scolded to avoid severe confrontations. Joey’s appearances had confused me at the airport, as he appeared aged, thin and tired -- not the man I remembered at all. Now I knew what caused it. The only thing I could say to him was to see a mental health specialist, and learn how to cope with the stressful situation at home.

Rachel always tells me I have a bitter life. She’s probably very proud of her achievements, and wants me to be envious. I think she has it reversed. She has a husband who’s completely devoted to her and the family. She has a daughter she always wanted. She has been mostly a housewife during her married years. Their houses (yes, more than one) are beautiful. Yet she appreciates none of these good fortunes, and enjoys them even less. Now she lost her health while waiting in a long line for an organ transplant, barely has the energy to sit up for ten minutes at a time, still she didn’t forget to remind me that I had a bitter life.

I think her life is a thousand times more bitter than mine.


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