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  • Holly Winter Huppert

Little Annoyances



My sister Heather called at 7:00 AM to see if I was awake. I was. She was off to Poughkeepsie to buy that camera that they didn't have in Kingston store last night when we shopped after Thanksgiving. I didn't want to go with her this morning; I was waiting for the doctor's office to call with the test results. I wanted to be alone when I got the call.


Either there would be good news and my test results would show that I had a simple case of pleurisy, (Yay) or there would be bad news that a big disease like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or something else used pleurisy as a welcome message.


I was ready to know. I was terrified to know. What if I had to take medication every day? Medicine has a history of making me sicker than whatever it tries to heal. What if my symptoms were even worse than the current pain?


I'd done a good job putting the test results out of my mind during yesterday's Thanksgiving feast. I cooked the turkey and made a big salad and my favorite maple cranberry sauce. I coordinated with my nephew, EH, and got to the firehouse early to help set up tables and get the ovens lit and organize the food as it came in.


My family rents out the firehouse for all parties/holidays as there are too many of us to fit comfortably into someone's house. We've done this for over 40 years. It's a large space with a full kitchen and plenty of tables and chairs and room for the kids to run around at full speed.


I played cards with H and EH, 21,with me as the dealer. I won so many times that I wished we were betting for money.(They probably had more money than I had in my pockets. A lost opportunity right there.) I ate firsts (turkey, lamb, salad, cranberry sauce, asparagus, tiny potatoes, and pumpkin soup), then seconds (More of everything. Because.) and picked at the desserts before it was time.


I forgot to bring all of the parts to my whipped cream machine, so I put the cream in a jar and we passed it around, each shaking the heck out of it. The cream became frothy, then thickened a bit. EH and another nephew tried to force the gas into the machine without the red holder, but it wouldn't work. I called them "MacGyver", then asked if they knew who MacGyver was. They said they did, but I wonder. We gave up on the cream and ate our weights in sweets of every possible flavor, sans whipped cream.


After dessert I held the open whipped cream machine upside-down to prove the cream had thickened. At first my theory proved correct--the cream had so thickened by us shaking it, that it sat trapped in the jar. But not for long....The whole lot of cream fell out in a fast splat. On me. On the table. On the floor.


The floor was slicked with thick, white cream, like a creamy--Thanksgiving slip-and-slide. Everyone laughed at me. I laughed at me, then got to work. I washed it, then soaped it, then rinsed it until I felt my 80-year-old mother could walk on it without falling.


We cleaned and cleaned then turned down the heat and ushered everyone out into the cold night. Yes, yes. Kiss on cheek. Happy Thanksgiving. Kiss on cheek, Happy Thanksgiving.


Heather and I drove to mom's house to help her unload her car and get the food into the fridge, then we drove into Kingston to shop.


In Wal-mart the Black Friday deals were such a draw on Thanksgiving eve, that the noise level of the store was that of a football stadium. There were so many people inside talking, reaching, pushing their way towards the sales. I could care less about shopping for deals, but have gone with my sister before because I find the mayhem interesting to watch. Who is out shopping? What are they buying? How are they dressed?


Heather insisted I get a coffee maker ($20) for when the girls come over. "Some of them like coffee." she said, in her understated way. She also insisted I get a foamy-thick carpet ($5) to lay in my meditation area, which was just what I needed. As commanded I bought what she suggested. Normally I can't stand to shop where there are massive, loud crowds. She bought presents for that next holiday that will be here in a few weeks.


We went to Best Buy and she insisted I get an SD card for my camera ($19) because they were $25 off. She called a computer expert to my side and insisted I talk to him about the computer of my dreams.


He said that the newer hard drives didn't have a lot of storage. He talked fast and I listened. He insisted on ordering a computer into the store for me to look at and try out. OK. Order it in. Then he let me know that I had to pay for it first, then I could always send it back if I didn't like it. ($825)


OK. OK. Well? OK.


I bought the computer, but felt badly about it. How could I test the keyboard without trying it out? How could I tell it was any good without doing research first? I didn't feel good about paying for a computer I never tried out.


This morning I carried the phone around the house, waiting for the call from the nurse. Nothing Nothing. Nothing. As soon as I thought the doctor's office would be open, I called to get my test results. Why wait for the nurse to call if I could call first? I gave my full name and asked to talk to my nurse for my test results regarding pleurisy.


The secretary said the doctors were not in the office today.


I told her I knew that the doctors were not in, but the nurse said she would be there and that I could call for my results.


The secretary said that if I needed treatment I could go to the other doctor's office, the one that I don't like.


Wait. Are you saying....


It wasn't the secretary. It was the answering service.


Again?


I exhaled loudly. "Why do you do that?" I asked. "Make me answer a lot of questions that are none of your business? Why don't you tell me up front that you are the answering service?"


She apologized in a sticky-sweet way that let me know she would do whatever she wanted to do every single day for the rest of her life which is why she had a job answering phones to begin with.


This morning I returned the computer. That's two computers I've returned to Best Buy in the last few weeks. The man at the counter said it might take up to three days for me to get my money back. (My last return took five days for me to get the money back. Remind me to never shop for large ticket items at Best Buy again.)


I went to the Daily Freeman to sort out mom's newspaper. They called me and tried to push me into giving my credit card information over the phone, something mom complained about them doing every few weeks. That's why I gave them my phone number, so they wouldn't bother her.


The woman on the phone tried to make me give her my credit card number. I reminded her that she already had it. She started talking fast and I found myself grasping for words. Wait, what was she saying? I had to do what?


Finally I told her that I never give out my information over the phone, which is what I told my mother to say when they pestered her.


The woman talked fast, again and I couldn't follow what she was saying.


I insisted she mail the information to me, then hung up the phone.


I drove to the Daily Freeman office and talked to the guy in charge of circulation. He said that I was already auto-renewed and that I had paid five days ago.


"Then why are they calling me?" I asked him.


"Why are they calling you?" he asked the ceiling.


My day had so many annoyances.


I'd been studying foods that are good for reversing inflammation. Some articles said yogurt added inflammation, others stated it diminished it. Who to believe? I decided to buy some sheep's yogurt to mix with the leftover cranberry sauce, my favorite post-holiday treat.


I kept checking my phone, when would the nurse call? She specifically told me she would be in, even if the doctors weren't in.


Heck with it--I drove to Port Ewen and parked in front of the doctor's office. I walked up the front steps and went to open the front door. Locked. Lights off.


The office was closed.


I sighed deeply. Though I knew they didn't close the office just to keep from having to tell me bad news, the thought occurred to me.


No test results today. They would probably be too busy to call on Monday morning.


I wondered if the nurse would call and leave a message, as asked to do, or if the nurse would call and say the doctor needed to tell me in person.


That's happened before. Once a doctor's office made me make an appointment in the middle of the day, so I had to take a full day off of work, so he could tell me the news in person.


I had type-4 melanoma. Thing is, I knew it was the big C, that's why I had them test it. Years before I had a birthmark removed from my ankle. The surgeon told me that if I ever saw that color on my body, I must rush to the doctor right away and have it tested: it would be considered type 4 melanoma.


So I found the spot and went to the doctor, who was mad at me for making them test something as small as a freckle. They said they normally waited until a growth was the size of a pencil eraser.


Why wait?


When I got to that doctor's office to talk about the freckle, he perched on the edge of the bed in the examining room. He told me I had to get my affairs in order, which at first made me think he was accusing me of dating a married man.


Affairs in order?


He gave me 8 weeks to live.


It was hard to understand his words. I was going to die, from a freckle?


It took me 4 weeks to get an appointment with the next doctor,a dermatologist (which was exactly half of my expected 8 week life span, like making a woman wait 35 years to get a doctor's appointment.)


When I met doctor #2, he sat on a tall stool in the examining room and asked me what foods I ate.


Oh, wow. Was he asking because he was giving a list to the hospice workers for my end of life plan? I was a little nervous as I told him about leafy greens and broccoli and salmon and berries. He kept prompting me for more information. My favorite treat: whole-milk, plain yogurt with a bit of maple syrup. I made my own soups and ate them and froze the leftovers. I ate a lot of organic foods.


The doctor sat there with his head down writing every word I said. In the end he waved the list in front of me and said that this menu was what his family would be eating for now on.


I couldn't connect what he was saying with why I was in his office. I had the big C, yet he found me the picture of perfect health?


"Why?" I asked.


He said that my body was so healthy that the melanoma wouldn't grow. The tissue around the freckle was so healthy it kept the cancer from growing.


I thought this meant that my cancer was deformed and I was on the edge of tears. Deformed cancer cells? What's next?


The doctor caught my expression and said that cancer that won't grow is no longer cancer. I had cancer, but it wouldn't risk my life.


So I had a new form of cancer?


He laughed out loud and told me I was in remission. That all he had to do was remove the freckle's surrounding flesh and skin and that I could leave his office and resume my life.


Was it more of a shock to hear that I had melanoma or that I had 8 weeks to live or that my cancer wouldn't grow or that my body was so healthy that the cancer couldn't spread if it wanted to?


I let him remove the flesh around the freckle and went home to celebrate with a bowl of broccoli.


I've had so many of these calls in the past. You'd think I'd get used to them. Used to the uncertainty of waiting for the call or getting the call or hearing good news or bad news. I wish I could say that I've learned to be present while waiting for a phone call such as this. But I haven't learned anything.


Waiting for this call registers as pain in my body. I want to crouch down and protect my head from incoming disasters. What if? What if? What are the chances that I have nothing? What if I have two different diseases at the same time? On and on, my sanity plays croquet with possibilities.


I started arguing with the doctor in my head. "It's my information. I want it as a message on my phone. Today. Now."


After I lost the imaginary argument, I went home and started boiling the leftover turkey bones.


That's what I have to do with all of the annoyances, boil them to death to remove the nutrients and break apart the tough bits.


Then I can drink the liquid and feel fortified while I wait for the call.