tagNon-EroticThe Painting

The Painting

byJayDiver©

This story is non-erotic. There is no sex in it, not even a mention. It's a story about a man who got a kick in the teeth from life. How he reacted to that, and a path that he found back. The big C is a real bitch, and some of us have had to find a way to put things back together. Or to deal with the loss of our loved ones. In a way this is a story for all the people who've had Cancer and found their own way back to life.

There's very little dialogue in this story, it's all in the mind of one man. The hunt for his path.

I hope you enjoy.

*****

On Face Book one day, I found out that a good friend of mine had died. At least he'd been a good friend at one time. We'd done a lot of climbing hard rock, drinking beer and lived a lot of life together. In all told about fifteen years worth. I guess I'd lost him with all the other parts of my life, when everything fell apart on me. It had been almost two weeks since he'd passed away, when I'd found out about it. I might even have a death announcement in that pile of junk mail, bills, and stuff I'm avoiding. Part of why I missed finding out about his death was his age. He's about ten years younger than I am. Way too young for me to even think about him dying, let alone looking for it. I guess medical problems and the big C respect no one.

I've sure had firsthand knowledge of that fact! It's part of the reason that I'm in this cave of my life. The big C for me too, the loss of my mobility. The loss of my job, the loss of my wife. Hell it feels like there's not much of me left.

Both Dennis and I were alike in many ways. We took care of ourselves; no one did that for us. We took care of our own too, and we're proud of it. To go back to Mom or Dad for help, or to friends. No way, you did your own work. If you went hungry, well you did, until you fixed it. After high school, you got your own place, paid your own bills. You paid your own way through school too. If you didn't have enough money to pay for next semester, well you skipped that one and hit the next. You made your own choices too. Dug yourself out of whatever mess you might have caused. Now I can't and it chaps my ass.

To say we were fiercely independent was an understatement. That's also part of the reason that I lost track of him too. When my troubles started, that's when I pulled into this cave of mine. There's only room for one in this hibernation hole I've dug for myself, only room for one in my pity party. I think that I might have broadcast that fact to everyone around me. I know that my then wife, now ex-wife heard it loud and clear. I know that Dennis would never have brought his troubles to anyone else's door either. I bet not too many people knew of his illness either.

Dennis and I were alike in most other ways too. We couldn't have gone all mountain man, just wasn't practical to live like that now days. Jobs, wives, all the accoutrements life has for us in this day in age. We'd have probably been those mountain men in earlier times. I think both of us were the happiest when we were outside, moving and doing something. Hard rock climbing, ice climbing, running, mountain biking, downhill skiing, anything that had a high adrenaline factor. We even made up our own sport, a version of Parkour or Free running, it was just in the forest. Running boulder to boulder across rivers or streams, up cliffs, up trees, jumping between trees. Running logs, sometime in windfall areas stacked five or ten feet deep. Anything outside in the mountains and the fresh air. Now I'm tied to this F#&**G wheelchair and this cubbyhole apartment!

Some fancy name for bone cancer. Surgery on my legs, chemotherapy, and radiation. More surgery, pieces taken out of my legs. More chemo, more radiation, more surgery. I guess I'm still alive and above ground, maybe I'm still alive. As I said, not much left of me. Nothing left of the group that we were.

I think that our wives might have been as close or maybe even closer than the three of us. Dennis, Kevin and me, Jake. The wives went along with us most of the time. However, they just couldn't keep up, not in the physical stuff, and I suppose that they didn't really even try.

Jokingly we called them the Three Musketeers, and they certainly did more things together than we did. I don't think a day went by that one or the other wasn't on the phone. I don't know why they just didn't set up a conference call. First Cat would talk to Mary, and then call Julie to tell her what Mary had said. Back and forth they'd go.

Us guy's would play hard, or work hard, then go back to our lives. If the weather didn't cooperate, it might be two or three weeks or more, before the three of us would get together. As I said, with the girls, it was an almost everyday occurrence. However, I think that's just the natural difference between men and women. Men don't have to live in each other's pocket to be tight. Women want too, they need that constant contact. While we all ran together, it really worked. We were all D.I.N.K's, dual income, no kids. We each had a great job that we liked doing, and earned respect doing it.

Julie was Dennis' wife. She worked in retail, but that's the easy way of saying it. The largest shopping mall in our area, a very high-end women's wear store with three floors. She was the manager; I heard tell that she was the boss too. I'd heard that it ran with just short of a hundred twenty employees. Mary and my ex Cat were both in health care. They both started low on the totem pole.

At LPN, then worked their way up through school, up to RN. Somewhere in there we'd met up, Kevin with Mary, me with Cat. Just not in the same city, at the same period. Last word that I'd heard was that Mary had worked her way up to Director of Nursing. I would hate to try to guess the number of nurses Mary supervised. Cat was always one of the smarter ones, PA, Physician Assistant. We'd jokingly call her adoc, almost a doctor. She works with a heart care clinic that has several cardiac specialists, at the same hospital Mary works at.

Dennis ran the fleet, his family's fleet of trucks. Freight semi's, the long haul kind, in all 48 states. Wheat haulers, from farm to port of Seattle and others. Logging trucks in most of the Pacific Northwest. As I said, Dennis and I were both independent cusses. He didn't start with his family's company. He started in the rail yards at night while he went to school for mechanical engineering.

After college, he tried working for a mechanical design company, but he left to get outside and work with his hands. If it had pieces and parts, Dennis could fix it. His dad had to court him, wine and dine him, to get him back into the family company. Then they almost got into fistfights whenever he tried to keep Dennis out of the repair shops. Dennis would still get his hands greasy occasionally.

Kevin loves the land and the water. Geological Engineer, if it had to do with land and water. That was what he wanted to do. Everything from studies for water reclamation projects, to dam analysis, and building foundation studies. Sometimes Kevin was the one who was hard to get together with. Not because he didn't want to do the things, we did. He was just the one of us that had to do the most traveling for his work. Because of this fact, many times it was just Dennis and I.

First time that I met Kevin was in college. We were both in engineering, as I said geological for Kevin. I was in Mechanical Engineering. I wouldn't say that we'd became good friends in college. It was more like two students that had a lot of the same courses, interests, and dislikes. It was more likely for me to run into Kevin up in the woods than at a frat party. Kevin was a year behind me, after I graduated, I lost track of him.

Dennis and I met at that mechanical design company; we both had just started working for. There we became good friends. Even though we were ten years apart in age. We were in the same place in life, new to the company. Both just starting out in our married life. Julie and Cat became great friends too. Julie had already started in with that women's wear company. Cat had always loved clothes; I know that the love of clothes caused problems in many marriages. Master card problems, Visa, American Express accounts all tapped out. However, I have to admit that Cat never let it get away from her. Some of that I'll give Julie the credit for. She taught Cat how to find the best clothes at the best price, also the benefit of great quality over fashionable trends.

We had several good years at that design company. It was there that Dennis and I both started our serious rock climbing, and downhill skiing. I guess being younger allowed Dennis to switch careers easier. Moreover, I think that he fell deeper into that love for the outdoors then I did, at least at that time he did. In addition, his family came a courting, and he left the company. I know that I felt a greater sense of responsibility for married life, and had a harder time cutting loose from that big paycheck. Nevertheless, Cat had seen that I wasn't happy there after Dennis left. We stayed there a couple more years before she talked me into moving on.

She and Julie had kept in close contact. Then when we decided to pull the trigger on my career change. Julie had already made contact for us in several companies. The health care field is usually easy to change locations in, and Cat had very little trouble changing jobs. Julie really did right by me; she introduced me to the right people in three different companies. One job was the Director of Maintenance, at the hospital Cat would start working for. The second was a fabrication company as a design engineer. The third was at a wood products manufacturing company.

As attractive as it would be, Cat and I working for the same hospital. I had an inane dislike for, 'putting all your eggs in one basket.' The fabrication company job would leave me tied to a computer. So I chose the wood products company. I felt that it had a lot more variety in the work environment. They had a Pulp Paper plant, a timber and lumber facility, a plywood plant, and an engineered wood manufacturing plant. These were all within the same general area. Where I would be working was in the head office, in the same city as Dennis and Julie. As I said, Julie really did right by us.

It was in that first winter when Dennis and I ran into Kevin. It was a deep powder, early morning, on top of a black diamond drop chute. Dennis and I were discussing the best descent, when a solitary skier slid up next to us. It was because of the stocking hat, goggles, and neoprene facemask that I didn't recognize him. Nevertheless, we all dropped down that chute and spent the rest of the day skiing together. It wasn't until we started stripping off gear at the Last Run Bar, that we recognized each other. When we got together with our wives, I wouldn't even call it, 'adding Mary in'. She just fit from the first day, the Three Musketeers from that day on.

They didn't look like the Three Musketeers; each was a type all on her own. Cat, my Irish Rose, tiny, with those bright...oh so bright green eyes. All five foot of her, fresh out of the shower with all her clothes on, maybe... a hundred pounds. Long fire down her back, that red-orange hair clear to her...

Julie, we had an acronym for her, TBTBELB. Tall, big tits, blue eyes, little butt, and she was that. Tible we sometimes called her. Put her in that power business suit, high heels, headed down an aisle in her store. Walking tall, powerful, heels clacking, on a mission. People just naturally cleared the way for her, without even knowing that they did. Alpha female just walked her own path.

Mary was neither, you just knew that some where later in life. She was going to be someone's comfortable grandmother. Hot chocolate chip cookies and milk. When we started running together, she was just a beautiful young woman. With a woman's shape, dark almost black hair and ice blue eyes. However, Mary was always that comfortable person. Maybe that's why she was such a top-flight nurse. Put that incredible mind with that soft comfortable personality, and a large dose of empathy. The only way that you could spell that was...nurse.

The three of us alpha males never did look as interesting as the women did. All within an inch or two of six foot, all between 175 to 195 pounds. Hair color, eye color, features told anyone that we weren't brothers. Nevertheless, by body type, we could have all come from the same casting lot, same mold.

The Three Musketeers all had memberships at the same gym. It was as much social as workout, but nevertheless they all stayed fit and trim. No membership for the men, hard work on hard jobs, play hard, packing any extra weight was useless. Most of it was in the playing hard, high adrenaline tends to burn calories and builds muscle.

Things started falling apart in the most unusual way. When Kevin and Mary moved into the city, they'd bought a very nice home. They started talking about having a child. Dennis and Julie decided to build their dream home. Remember how independent Dennis and I are? He had to build it himself. Sure Kevin and I were allowed to help some, but it was their home. A lot of the work was done in the evening and weekends. I wouldn't say that they pulled away from the rest of us. Their focus just shifted, Tible looks good in a tool belt as well as a business suit.

It wasn't being a copycat because we'd already been talking with Dennis and Julie about home building. Nevertheless, Cat and I decided to start ours too. I had some very definite ideas about what I wanted to build. After I showed the type of building to Cat, she loved it. She looks great in a tool belt too.

Timber frame, building as they did in olden days. Like the Dutch barns are in New England. Large posts and beams, mortise and tendon joinery, carved embellishments, all hammered together with wooden pegs. So our focus changed too. Kevin was pulled in on a huge project, and ended up traveling a lot. The group just drifted apart.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning when my world fell apart. I was cutting the joint on a ten by twelve inch main post. I needed to pick up one end just a little, move it over on the sawhorse, and then turn it over. Working with heavy timber, you need to keep everything centered on sawhorses, or they tip over. I knew this, and it didn't tip over. As I lifted the post just that little bit, my leg broke. The post was in no way too heavy for me. I didn't turn, twist, or fall. I'd used proper lifting techniques. It just broke. I'd already lifted that same post three times that morning. My leg just broke. Hours later in the hospital was when I heard the word...Cancer. That was the end of my world.

To say that I didn't handle the change in my life very well...

All the time we'd spent up in the mountains, I'd never seen a wounded bear crawl into a cave. But I sure could imitate one, and it could prove just as dangerous to come after me. I tried for a little while to put up the brave front. But the farther into the medical treatment, it went. The angrier I got, the more people tried to help me, the more my anger grew. The more that I could see people's sympathy, the more I became incensed. The less that I could do for myself, the more depressed I became. The more my depression grew the more intensity my anger had.

At the second round of surgery, the spiral was tight, hard, and fast. Depression followed by anger, sympathy/anger, dependence/anger. Flowers were out the door, followed by running visitors and then by nurses, broken glass in the hallway. Followed by another vase full, and another. It took Mary to get close enough to sedate me. A lot of the rest of that hospital stay just settled into a fog of drugs. My anger settled into white-hot coals, banked by layer after layer of ash, never cooling. However, it never boiled over again. After the drugs cleared and I left the hospital, it was cold ash over white-hot coals.

In some strange way, I think Dennis knew what I was going through. He also knew the why of how I was reacting, I sure didn't. I only saw him for a couple of minutes, late in that hospital stay. Everyone else had fled long before, and the nurses came by only when they had to. Hell, I even chased Cat out whenever she came. So when Dennis walked in, I just watched him in shock. He held his hand out for me to shake. Because of the restraints, I couldn't. Nevertheless, he reached for my hand and gave it a little shake. He continued to hold it.

"Sorry for the shit storm that's hitting you buddy." He shook my hand again. Still holding it.

"We'll get together later, when you can...OK?" I nodded; he shook my hand again and left.

That was the last time that I saw Dennis.

Verbally I buried Cat under a wagonload of shit. Metaphorically, it was a big black club and the deepest black hole I could find. However, it was the divorce papers that finally made her leave me alone. Yeah, numaro uno, supreme asshole of the world. But the wounded old bear finally got what he wanted.

A health care nurse twice a week, I don't even know her name. A volunteer assistant to call if I need help, I don't call. After a while, he doesn't call me either. A cleaning service for a one bedroom, 400 square foot, cubbyhole apartment. A wheelchair and a handicap van, that is driven maybe twice a month, just to the store for food and back.

On Face Book one day, I found out that a good friend of mine had died...

I don't think that my eyes moved off that page for at least ten minutes. Sometimes your life can flash before your eyes and mine just did. I know that I didn't realize it at the time, but your life can take a turn at a very small trigger event. Mine just did, but being male and a wounded old bear. I didn't realize all that was going on in my heart. All my hot black heartfelt was... sorrow.

OH...Tible, Julie what must you be going through.

Again being male and a wounded old bear. It was quite a while before I realized that this was the first thought. Since that, Saturday morning that I'd thought of anyone but my own pain. Now it was the guilt I felt. Guilt I felt when I remembered that it's been four years since I'd last seen Dennis. He'd said that we'd get together later, when I was ready. Now we never would, I'd made sure of that!

Julie was all that strong, alpha female. But I knew that was all wound up in Dennis too. They really had been that two parts of a whole. Tible in a business suit, Dennis with greasy hands fixing everything. She'd learned to depend on him, and it had made her stronger for doing so. But weaker too. They had been those two vines that twine together racing for the sun and sky. Supporting each other, they didn't need a trellis, a climbing post, or a wall. They had each other. Now Dennis was gone, and Julie stands alone. Even the group wasn't there for her, it was broken too.

I was the one who had broken it.

I didn't know what this crippled up old bear could do. Nevertheless, I had to do something. I also knew that it had to be something that I could do from this chair. That knocks out a great many things. Flowers might give a small moment of comfort, but they're not my style. Here today, gone tomorrow. Money would be insulting, even if it were given to a charity in his name. It had to be something that I could do.

It took me quite a while, quite a remembrance down into the path of my life. Before I remembered my artwork in college. Everyone had thought it quite the unusual combination of majors. The major being Mechanical Engineering, the minor in Classical Fine Art. Not any of the graphic arts or computer driven art, Fine Art. Like the study of the old masters paintings. DaVinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, those types of old masters. Classes in figure drawing, materials, and techniques, art history. However, I'd put all of that old stuff away.

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byJayDiver© 14 comments/ 7538 views/ 15 favorites

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