A Scrap of Land and 2 Dollars in a Coffee Can

Stephanie’s Old Man’s parents, Nancy and Brian, are in town this week doing home repairs. They’re amazing. They’re replumbing and rewiring the whole house. Last night, Nancy and Stephanie took acetone and sandpaper to all the cabinets in the little kitchen to prep them for new paint and new doors.

Today I came home to see Nancy finishing up the paint. I went to the worn, stained old sink to wash my dishes and found that.. the sink was white. “Holy shit,” I said. “How the hell did you get that out? This sink was *brown*! I thought they’d have to replace the whole thing!”

The lighting and medicine cabinet have been yanked out of the wall in the bathroom. Brian’s adding a much-needed outlet in the kitchen.

I came home early, after my ultrasound appointment, feeling surly and sorry for myself, raging at all the weight gain, my out of control body, angry at lab techs who can’t tell me anything, just push and prod and pat me on the head and send me on my way until they write up a “report” in “two or three days.” I was angry at my credit card debt, my reliance on others. I was angry at the fuckhats at the temp agency who refuse to negotiate my contract. Angry, full of despair, sorry for myself.

I came home and saw the house re-ordered, all this great work being done, life going on. Life going on, regardless. Life. Beautiful, exquisite life.

“When Stephanie gets home,” Brian said, “we’ll go to Home Depot and pick up some new light fixtures for the bathroom.”

Real light fixtures in the bathroom. That work.

Stephanie came home not long after, and Nancy spoke with her in the kitchen, updated her on the work, and Stephanie wandered through the house, marveling at the changes.

A few minutes later, Stephanie came to the door of my room, red-faced and teary-eyed, and said, “I’m sorry, I’m feeling really sappy right now. Can I tell you I love you and give you a hug?”

And, me being me, thinking this is some new disaster, I say, “Oh gawd, are you OK?”

“Oh yes,” she said, “I was just driving home in the car after a crappy day at work, and this song came on, you know, this song where this guy talks about how much he hates his stupid job and hates life and things really suck and then he says, `but I have this scrap of land and a couple dollars in a coffee can,’ and says how lucky he is to have these things, just these little things. And then I started to think about my diabetic roommate and my husband who’s allergic to air and I come home and my in-laws are here fixing my house out of the goodness of their heart, and I own a house, and I have this stupid dog, and I just got so happy, and I felt so lucky, and I want to give you all a hug because I’m stupid and sappy.”

And, god help me, I started getting teary-eyed too, and I gave her a hug.

We have so much. We are so goddamn lucky. Because the other thing I thought about, again, on the way back from the hospital, was mortality. How I keep hanging on. How I still want more. More of this. Of the scrap of land and the house repairs and the stupid job negotiations and words to write and slapfights to get into. I want so much more of it.

And I know, everyday, how lucky I am for every one of these moments, whether I’m fat or thin or dying of ovarian cancer or diabetes or whatever. I have a sappy friend from highschool and her husband who’s allergic to air, and their bad dog and their hugely kind-hearted, generous relatives, and words and words and words. I love my job. I love my books. I love the people in my life. Even the ones who are far away. And I want so much more of it.

Perhaps that’s where all of my frustration comes from with the continuing health issues, the constant fight for one more breath of air, one more shot. Sometimes I wonder if I’m fighting for more than my share. I keep thinking that my continued existence is somehow tempting fate, fucking god, swearing in the face of death. Every minute more I fight for feels like one minute more I didn’t deserve.

And I want it nonetheless.

It’s just all so beautiful.

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