Originally published: 01.04.16
Eating a creme filled donut brought home from the high school where my grandmother is the head cook, we take out positions. After wiggling out of her girdle and white polyester dress-uniform, placing the daily order with Ralph the butcher, and getting into her floral moo moo, grama Gen settles into her amber crushed velvet swivel rocker. I’m stretched out on grandpa Frank’s faux velvet recliner which is covered with cigarette burns, beer stained doilies and dirty hand towels. We are ready to begin the ritual.
Grama Gen reads a synopsis of medical show episodes from the TV Guide: “Young newly wed woman discusses with Dr. Welby how to tell her husband that a tumor the size of a peach pit is attached to her brain stem.”
“Adoptive girl with leukemia seeking her biological parents for spleen transplant. Will she survive?”
“A motorcycle collision on a busy Los Angeles highway leaves a young father of four paralyzed from the neck down. Will Dr. Gannon be able to save his life?”
It’s the shows that involve tumors, lumps, growths; sudden implosions of strange geometrical masses on and in the body that are most compelling to us; bond us in our shared hypochondriasis.
We aren’t interested in the organ transplants, the amputations, the accidental mishaps, or run of the mill head injuries. We love what sets us into panic; the doctor shows which create an immediate sense of danger and powerlessness over our bodies and minds. That feeling of being a helpless victim of the chaotic and unpredictable biochemical warfare that we are programmed to believe is the language and true nature of our bodies.
The body, from all I had been taught and entrained to believe through the various mechanisms of the download, is the site, the location for the full expression of original sin.
It is the priest, the doctor, most specifically, the male doctor and the scientist, who hold the key to the cure. Just as Jesus died for our sins, the male doctor and scientist lives for the cure. We cannot help but be indebted to him….always. For saving our life and the lives of our loved ones. We couldn’t live without Him.
I first discovered what I thought was a small lump on my neck within an hour after the Medical Center episode. Dr. Gannon successfully removed a tumor from the petite, demure, 3rd grade school teacher. It was cancer. But Dr. Gannon got it in time. Carved it out just in time for her to direct the children’s benefit Christmas Pageant.
I’m checking that same part of my neck in the bathroom mirror after the episode, right before Perry Mason, when I feel it; about the size of a pea; moving under the skin; just like Doris Crumps in the Medical Center episode.
I’m in panic; my heart races. I pace around my grandparents very tiny bathroom. I stand on the toilet to get closer to the mirror to do a more thorough exam. Grama Gen is yelling from her rocker. “What are you doing in there? You’ve been in there a long time?” I don’t answer. I don’t want to tell her. I have to tell her. It is part of our game.
She sees me rubbing and poking at my neck. “What’s wrong? You feel something….you got a lump? Your neck is all red.” Terror consumes me like lightening entering every cell of my body. She asks to feel it. I’m as good as dead. No future. No falling in love. No car. I pace through the house; my world spinning out into a morbid nothingness. I breathe. I remind myself we are playing a game.
Grama Gen slips her hand down the front of her moo-moo and checks her left breast. “Feel anything?” I ask. “Don’t be looking.” she snaps. I eat another donut. In grampa Frank’s bedroom I pull out the Boston Strangler which I’ve hidden in the closet behind a trunk of old shoes. I stop thinking about the lump, but imagine that there is a serial killer lurking near Marge Mulvihill’s house.
If I have a choice, which I apparently don’t in a random, mechanical, meaningless, unpredictable universe…..and body, I decide I would prefer the tumor over the serial killer.
Before going to sleep, I pat down my neck. The lump has disappeared. Oh my God? Where did it go? Did my prayers to Saint Jude, and Saint Teresa, and Saint Rita really work? Can we really heal ourselves?
I am as freaked out by its disappearance as I am by its appearance. There was a morbid comfort in the obsession and fear. I was soothed and cradled in a childlike fantasy that something else, someone else was deciding all this for me. Pacified in a morose belief that there was noting I could do; that the body is just a biomechanical factory genetically predisposed to passing on the same dismal story, the same invading disease, the same stupefying script generation after generation.
I was dancing naked in the mountains, near a fire, with Wyoma, when I accepted myself as my own personal savior.
The more I danced, the longer I stayed by the fire, the higher I climbed into the mountains, that gloomy, tragic view of life and the body dissolved, as if it never existed.
And the imagination, the inner magician, the high priestess of infinite spooking/speaking, that infinitely creative self who loves to imagine and conjure horrifying and beautiful and mystical images…..well, this I discovered, was who I was most afraid of. The writer, the artists, the creator. The one who propels herself into becoming and through the fusion of the inner and the outer can alter the atomic structure of DNA.
I am. You are. We are. The original DNA. Divine Novelty Ascending.
We are the original muses musing in spontaneous musicality. Synchopating endless Synchronizations of unlikely connections. Detonating chain reactions. Initiating revolutionary sanctions. Compelling radical actions in parallel universes.
We are the Stem Cell of the Galactic Center. Home Depot for the collective symphony. It is here, through Heart Center, where we are continuously absorbed into the light of blackness where all stories, all memories sleep and resurrect. Reflected back as wisdom in times of Great Change.
The Daly Woolf: An Uncanny Journal of Memoir, Poetry, and Cultural Analysis: I am a feminist writer/intermedia story artist and the executive director of Satori Instititute. I live in Boulder, Colorado. The Daly Woolf is an essay driven journal of memoir and cultural analysis. My twitter handle is rebecca9