Tuesday, September 26, 2017


I’m a bad Jew.

I should have gone to Med School, or Law School so I wouldn’t feel so helpless and powerless. Probably I wouldn’t qualify for Med School and what’s the dif, anyway: these doctors can’t make Ebony’s cancer go away. There’s no cure. At least if I was a lawyer maybe I could intimidate the doctors with the threat of being sued by the angriest Irish malpractice attorney in the Great State of New York. I’d be recognizable, too, because of my annoying commercials.

I’d put on a strong New Yawk accent to go with my tailored suits and French cuffs.

“Are yoo tyuh-d of visiting yoouh loved ones in the hospital and being ignored by slippery doctors who spend more time playing golf than attending to patients? I’m Mick Stingley, and I sue doctors. I can a get yoo a lotta money, too. For whatever. ‘Cuz that’s what I do. Call me at 1-800- FUCK-YOU.”

Who I am kidding, though? If I was a lawyer, I’d more likely end up as an attorney for the mob, just for the dinners.

I finally heard from the doctor on Saturday. He called me. Be careful what you wish for.

It seems that Ebony’s tumor is worse than I was really aware of. They found recurrence over the summer and started her back on Chemo. She was going in for bloodwork and MRIs pretty regularly, without me, due to my schedule at ABC.  She was having Chemo and driving herself home, and never let on.

The doctor said that they tried two different Chemo treatments but weren’t seeing results. He tried to get into some clinical trials, but the nature of the tumor is such that there wasn’t a trial to accommodate her. So, when presented with Immunotherapy, a treatment not proven for brain tumors but that they were excited about, she went for it.

And now here we are.

I didn’t see Ebony on Sunday. I feel incredibly guilty about this. With her mother coming Wednesday, I had to clean the apartment and needed at least a day to do so. I was up late Saturday and slept in, at last; but then I had to toss this place like a crime scene and I’m still not done. Took care of the common areas, living room with the TV and sofa bed, kitchen, bathroom and hallway. Bought more toilet paper, paper towels, Windex. Picked up a copy of the latest Essence to put on the coffee table with the latest Vanity Fair, which I subscribe to. Tried to make it like a hotel as much as I could. Put out the menus for the good Chinese restaurant and the great pizza place. I just want her Mom to be comfortable and I really don’t know her, so I’m winging it.

I still have to do laundry and lots of it. Sheets, towels, the little Williams-Sonoma hand towels I have in the kitchen that my Mom got us.

I had to work today. I’ve been out for almost a week. I’m crying wreck of a person but I can’t afford to miss another day. Just the shit you end up spending money on when you’re back and forth to the hospital, and when you’re there, adds up.

I know the two guys I work with have been putting in extra hours and I wanted to thank them in some way beyond just words. Usually about an hour in, they get hungry and grab some dinner or have it delivered to ABC. I thought I’d get some sandwiches from Fine & Schapiro on 72nd, bring them dinner on my way in. I called over and asked if they do take out and if they take credit cards. The guy was predictably blasé.

“Of course, of course.”

How much lead time do you need when I call with the order, I asked.

“Maybe fifteen, maybe twenty minutes. Depends what you order.”

I laid out my plan. I just need everything to be bagged separately so I can hand them out.

“Oh, sure. What were you thinking of ordering? If it’s sandwiches, that’s pretty fast, but bigger orders for hot plates will take longer.”

No, I said, “I was thinking pastrami sandwiches, pickles, cole slaw, maybe a couple of small orders of chicken soup. Chips I got. But maybe, I don’t know, cream sodas or I those celery sodas? Not sure which would be better.”

“Well you can’t go wrong with either. The Cel-Ray is maybe a little more Jewish.” He laughed.

“Well, the Cel-Ray, then. So I call that in maybe half an hour before I go to work and I can pick ‘em up?”

“Sure. You know, we deliver, too. We’re on GrubHub.”

Didn’t know that. I can do that. “I might do that if I’m running late.”

“You’re a good Jew.”

Pretty sure he was laughing when he hung up. Funny.

I went to see Ebony. I went shuffling down to the subway listening to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack because I needed something upbeat and different. It just depressed me. I should have thought about it. Hearing songs like “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” “More Than A Woman” and “If I Can’t Have You” are not exactly the songs you want to hear to take your mind off of worrying about the woman you love being treated for cancer in the hospital. I should have listened to Motorhead.

I got to “Disco Inferno” when I reached Lex and jumped in a cab and headed to Weill Cornell. That song has been stuck in my ever since.

Ebony’s eyes lit up when she saw me and you’d think I was the Red Cross arriving at the refugee camp. Heartbreaking, but she reached up her arms to hug me from the bed. She was so weak, I could tell it was difficult for her, but I leaned in and kissed her and hugged her so tightly. I told myself I was not going to cry around her because I don’t want to upset her but I was fighting back tears.

She looked beautiful, in spite of everything. I had stopped at the little shop in the lobby and got her some magazines. Ebony, Elle, Marie Claire, The New Yorker. Funny, except the New Yorker, all of the covers featured black people. Total coincidence, but they have pretty pictures for her to look at since she’s not really up to reading, and I added The New Yorker because I don’t want anyone coming in the room judging her. She’s getting a new roommate today and I think it’s important to mark your territory, first impressions and all. No idea who’s coming in, but if it’s another one of these Upper East Side Stage 3 dowagers and their overly annoying friends and family, if they do any spying and see the mags, they can harrumph quietly and say, “Well, she reads the New Yorker.” Oh? Does she? Well then.

I think all of this time I’ve been spending at the hospital has made me suspicious of everyone and quick to judge. Not suspicious like, “They’re all Lizard People!” But cautious. They told me over the weekend that they want to get Ebony into Acute Care Rehab for physical and behavioral therapy. They came at me like English seagulls. Just a little too hot to get me to agree. It’s the best thing for her, but each of them made sure to tell me a different, positive, personal story about “a friend of mine” who spent two weeks there and had a miraculous turnaround. It all felt so fake. Like they were trying to lift my spirits. Because what are they going to tell me -- “This won’t help anything.” – obviously they can’t do that, can they? Of course not.

Ebony’s dinner came around 5:30. It comes with a menu to fill out for the following day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. She’s not been filling them out so they’ve been rotating items on the list, which is fine, but I went through the menu with Ebony while she ate. Her meal was penne and meatballs, with roast chicken and mashed potatoes. Kinda weird. They did include a small plastic tub with balls of mozzarella and cherry tomoates and basil. Came with a side of olive oil and balsamic. I thought that was cool. Ebony wasn’t interested, which is curious because she loves mozzarella.

She moved in slow motion, reaching for the penne with her fork, getting one or two with some sauce and bringing it to her mouth. It was like watching Neo and Trinity dodge bullets. I filled a cup with ice water and added a flexi straw and asked her if she wanted anything else.

She looked at me, like a child. “Coke?”

There has never been, nor will there ever be, a greater endorsement for Coca-Cola. I told her I’d get her one, but Weill Cornell doesn’t carry Coke products, or Pepsi for that matter. Oh, they have Diet Pepsi and their other garbage products like Mountain Dew, but I was told, “Too much sugar.” They have no problem dispensing candy from the vending machines, but God forbid they sell sugary soft drinks. You know, because: logic.

So I went outside to one of the hot dog vendors and bought a Coke and came back and she was still working on her penne. She was all about the Coke, though. So that made her happy and she smiled after the first sip. Dear Coca-Cola, enough with the polar bears, I have your next commercial.

I got back to the menu with her but she kept shrugging her shoulders, so I ordered her an omlette and turkey sausage patty, with a blueberry muffin and some tea for breakfast; a hamburger (her choice!) for lunch, and a chicken Caesar wrap for dinner, both with salads and veg.

By 7 I had to get ready to leave for work but didn’t want to leave. My first day back I wanted to be early. One of my responsibilities is to recap and cut audio for Dancing with the Stars. I actually get paid for this, but it’s a big deal because it’s an ABC property that generates huge ratings and revenue, as it’s so incredibly popular. So I wanted to get in and fire up the machines and sort myself out before the show starts.

But I couldn’t leave. She finished her dinner and I took her tray away, packed up the caprese salad to take with me since she didn’t want it and looked at the clock. 7:15.

“I have to go.”

She looked so sad.

I reached out to hug her and she closed her eyes and pursed her lips to kiss me. I kissed her back and started to cry. Just sniffling and hot tears, but as I pulled back to wipe my nose, she touched my face and gently wiped my tears away, her eyes wide and mournful, trying to comprehend my sadness.

“I have to go to work, baby. But I’ll be back tomorrow, I promise.”

“Okay.” She gave me a smile.

“And I’ll bring you a Coke!”

Her face lit up again. So I leaned in and just hugged her forever. I could tell she was getting tired, so I told her to rest up for me. I kissed her a few more times, lingering; and as I stood up, she saluted me. She has never saluted me. I laughed.

She smiled and I kissed her one more time and then I had to go.

I went to the nurses’ station to tell them I was leaving and gave them the menu for tomorrow. Told them I’d be back tomorrow, just to telegraph my involvement. They’re nice. “She’ll be fine.”

I got to work on time but got chatty with the guys, bringing them up to speed on my situation. They were so understanding, but I completely forgot to order from Fine & Schapiro. DWTS starts at 8, runs two hours, and there’s a lot to cover. By the time I was done it was coming up on 11 and I had other things to do. I blew it.

Bad Deadpool.

Maybe tomorrow or later this week. I don’t know. It’ll probably be the 9th of Av by the time I get around to it. I don’t even know how things are going to go when her mother gets here. I’m so overwhelmed and I worry that I’m overlooking something. I just don’t want to be like Neeson at the end of Schindler’s List, going, “I could have done more.”

All I know is that I have to get up early in the morning and I can’t sleep and I just need to vent a little and all of a sudden it’s almost 6 a.m. I set the alarm for 10.

There’s not enough hours in the day and I want more time with Ebony. I hope I’m doing enough.