Months To Years Spring 2018 Months To Years Spring 2018 - Page 33

unknown was marriage, itself. At our wedding in the Peace this night there was no existential practice, simply exhaust- Garden I wore a black dress, which seems strangely, and ed resignation. As I went to step through the doorway, I horribly, prescient now. Brien and I—both from families swayed blearily and hit the jamb squarely with my left eye. fractured by abuse and addiction—held hands and shook My cranium screamed and I was so adrenalized that the as we took vows that included “until death do us part.” rest of the night I thrashed next to Brien. When I uttered the words “my husband” for the first time, my heart plummeted toward my feet as the awareness of his potential death hit me squarely between the eyes. I could be a widow now. _____________________________________________________________ I winced into the mirror the following morning, fingering my inflamed eye socket and the red gash above it. I need- ed that like a hole in the head! I thought. Literally. What I needed was for nothing else “bad” to happen. To either of us. The worst was already underway, and I When Brien got the cancer diagnos is we didn’t frame it needed all of my physical and emotional resources to prop as a battle. But by the end—seeing his stiletto-thin body up my husband as he started whole brain radiation the wrapped in a shroud—the brutal toll was undeniable. After following week. nearly three years of taking it on the throat, the lungs, the liver, the brain—and all those bones—the little that re- mained of his physical form was decimated. Brien wanted to tread lightly on the earth, even after death. So, his un-embalmed body was lowered into a vault-less hole in the frozen ground—to be tendrilled by boneset and nightshade come summer.  Once we had tossed dirt into the grave, where he rested deep down in the earth, I could collapse. Which I wasted no time in doing. Dropping to my knees into a snow drift, I wailed at the top of my lungs, “FUCKing cancer!” _________________________________________________________________ J ust the other day, wearing cheaters to pluck my eyebrows, I noticed the ropy white scar. Among all the lines scored into my face during Brien’s illness, this one carries a mem- ory I’d forgotten.  A brain tumor was the latest in a series of setbacks. I still refused to call it a battle. __________________________________________________________________ Brien made an epic comeback from the brain metastasis. He had taken “early retirement” in March and by late summer he was feeling well enough to take bike rides by the river, practice his mandolin and go to a Spoon concert.  When he’d gotten the terminal diagnosis the year before, he’d told me, “I really don’t have a bucket list. All I ever wanted was to be in love...truly and deeply...and I have that with you, Milissa.” There was something though, that we’d talked about for years. Taking a trip to Ireland—land of the O’Brien and O’Connell clans—was a dream we hadn’t been able to manifest for Brien’s 50th birthday. So, I channeled every bit of the haggard energy I had left, after months of tak- ing Brien to chemo and radiation appointments. I updat- ed my passport, held a fundraiser, booked the reservations and got us over to the homeland to celebrate our 25th anniversary in September. One night, while Brien tossed and turned from the steroids in his chemo cocktail, I was awakened by a full bladder. My lower back groaned as I rolled out of bed. Every cell longed for deeper sleep than I’d experienced in many months, so I hoped to get in and out of the bathroom quickly. Sometimes I felt grateful that I’d faced my fears of death on those menopausal trips to the bathroom. On Brien was well enough to take short hikes along verdant waterfalls, and to tap his foot to Celtic tunes he’d learned to play on his mandolin. Lifting a pint and toasting, “Slainte! To your health!” he exuded robustness. In addition to hanging out in pubs listening to trad music sessions, our itinerary centered around visiting holy wells to 33