written by @Shantiom
I remember that night … that day well. I was on my way back from Mobile, AL, about an hour and thirty minutes from Atlanta when I got the call. It was Karen. When I asked her how she was doing, although she responded with her characteristic chuckle, I could hear in her voice all was not well. She exclaimed that she was in pain, and from the sound of her voice it was the panic inducing kind. She was afraid to go to the E.R. because of her breast. The worry was that the medical personnel would take one look at her breast, and her medical history and begin an interrogation. I told her that I could help, if she could just hold on.
I’d never intervened in a healing crisis that was quite so extreme but I gathered my wit and my tool bag and headed her way as soon as I touched home. When I arrived, she was doing her best to keep it together, but was wrestling with the kind of pain (all of it localized in her right breast) that makes a person alternate deliriously between pacing, rocking and any position that will provide comfort in between. In this moment, I struggle to remember all that I had grabbed in a hurry to take with me … my blood pressure cuff definitely … some frankincense oil … olive oil … magnesium oil … some other stuff again I don’t remember. She had a couple of different pain killers around that she was afraid to take but I knew they were necessary. Somehow I knew that this kind of pain crisis could take somebody out. We had to be strategic though. I took her blood pressure to make sure that it was stable before she took anything. She had one pain med that was prescribed routinely, and another as needed. We started off with the routine dose, and used the “as needed” medication for the breakthrough pain. I had her lie back in her recliner, and tried to make her as comfortable as possible. We put on some meditative music and I began to do foot reflexology on her, using the magnesium oil to relax her, frankincense for the pain and to address the cancer, coupled with olive oil as the carrier. That terrifying moment in time gave visual meaning to the verse “weeping may endure for a night … “.
While what she was going through reminded me of labor, it was worse than anything that I had ever seen at any birth that I had attended. All I could think of was getting her through the night. There were a few moments when fear tried to take hold of me. What if it was too much for me to handle? What if we ended up having to go to the emergency room anyway? I was watching a woman who I had never seen in any other way than dignified and with her shit together, writhe and cry in crippling agony. We continued with the medication regimen and the Reflexology throughout the night. Karen drifted between moans, in and out of consciousness, until she finally became still enough for me to release her feet without her noticing. I actually hovered over her for a minute to make sure she was breathing, and when convinced that she was, backed away slowly sinking into the lounge across from her.
I was tired but I dared not indulge in any rest other than a deep relaxation. There would be no sleep for me until this night was over. Karen awoke with the sunrise, grateful but extremely bewildered. She kept asking with tears in her eyes, “what happened to me?”; distraught from being unable to remember the details of the treacherous night before. I tried my best to explain what I had witnessed but what mattered most was that we had crossed over. We both wrestled with death that night, and lived to tell about it.”
I learned what a dickie was from him. It looked like a turtle neck but when he took off his jacket it was just the neck part and what looked like a baby bib. I found it odd. No sleeves. No nothing. Like something you would put on your Barbie or Ken doll. Not something a man would actually wear. But he did. He was well dressed and always smelled like how I imagined the men in suits on soap operas would smell. Or maybe the Old Spice commercial. But it was always strong. Real strong. I wanted to hold my nose sometimes when he got close. But I didn’t.
I sat in the same chair the only chair in the room. My mother’s room. The only other place to sit was the bed. It is from this chair that he would undress me. Slowly. First he took off my blouse. I lifted my hands like most children do when someone is assisting them with their blouse or dress. Then he unbuttomed and unzipped my pants. I didn’t stand up though. He knelt on the floor and slowly took off my pants with what seemed like care. He wiggled and slid them off. Such precision. He never checked the time. He knew what time Mama would be home. He was her boyfriend though I never remember him being introduced to me by that title. (And we never called him “Uncle” like the others. Just Andy. ) And he had already send my brother out to play so time was ll he seemed to have. Except that one time my brother came back earlier than expected. That’s for another story.
In the meantime my mind was elsewhere. I wanted to play hop skotch with my friends up the block,jump double dutch with the extra clothes line that my friend had. (we used clothes line for rope). I stayed in my world of happiness and hop skotch as I sat there and waited for this now regular ritual to be over so I could go play. I found a comfortable space in my mind to wonder in. He would always let me go out and play afterwards.
Last was my panties. I sat there totally naked. He then sat me on the bed. Sometimes he would carry me or just gently lead me to the middle of the bed where I sat. He moved slow and well paced. Never rushing. Clearly he had a well designed plan in his mind. He would such the tiny little nipples I had. Then he would part my legs. I would automatically resist. He would softly Ask me to open up and say he would never hurt me. He would rub his middle finger around my vagina after dipping it Vaseline. Sometimes he would kneel and peak in as he rubbed. He seemed satisfied. He would begin the ritual of removing his clothes. First his leather belt then his creased pin stripe pants. He would lay them delicately on the ironing board. He wore bikini type underwear. Then he would remove his button up shirt. That’s when I saw the dickie. It seemed weird. He removed the dickie and folded up the way I see the Chinese people fold their clothes at the chinese laundry.”