Living with Billy

May 23, 2002|

Living with Billy

Today Billy left for Ohio. After 92 days of supervision, Dr. Perales granted me my freedom to live by myself. I am healthy and competent enough to care for myself. Not that I haven’t been saying this for 91 days. But that’s OK that they are clued in now.

Living with Billy has been quite the adventure and learning experience. I really haven’t lived with the little guy for five years, so to see him in his current adult state was quite peculiar. For example, he is the master of the 30-minute shower. He has special shampoo and conditioner (no sharing, only his). He needs to let the conditioner stay in for at least 10 minutes in order for his hair to reach its peak of softness. He uses two loofas (aka poofs) in the shower. One is for his back, the other for the rest of his body. Special Herbal Essence body wash can only be used.

Now see here. I may wear pink shirts. I may wear baby blue shirts. I may even wear a pink and baby blue shirt, but I will never reach Billy’s standards of (in the words of middle brother Frank) prissiness. Living with him has taught me so. Why do I endure the taunts of being the high maintenance, ‘prissy’ one in the family? There is a much better candidate I discovered.

Light Sabers and Web Slingers

Episode II came out this past week. There was no way in heck I wasn’t going to go see it opening day. The combination of seeing the second prequel plus being in Manhattan plus seeing it with all of the other Star War geeks plus a sold out show was just too much. I brought a mask just in case- no worries moms.

Beforehand, though, I had to get in the mood. This wasn’t just any old movie, this was Star Wars: Episode II. We had grown up on Star Wars. We had all of the toys. We watched all of the movies. I had the Yoda Underroos. I remember having debates with playmates Chris and Preston Wells about the viability of Star Wars actually existing (my argument was that it happened a long, long time ago). I can even recall, at the tender age of five, waiting in line to see ‘The Return of the Jedi’ at the movie theaters. It was more than just a movie series- it was a part of ArtCanning-lore.

So last Thursday Billy and I packed our lunch and set forth to FAO Scwhartz. I needed to buy a light saber. Billy thought I was insane. Considering what I paid for it, I must have been insane. Sure it is just a toy, but I rationed a.) it is a reminder of my childhood, b.) it is symbolic of my current fight and c.) it is a REALLY cool toy. The light blade shoots out. It makes cracking noises when you hit something, like Billy. ‘Whap! Whap!’ And when it is just still it goes ‘wwwwooosh, wwwoosshh’ like a real light saber. Man it rocks.

But I didn’t just stop there. For the past three weeks I have had this (bad) habit of pushing in my two middle fingers and saying ‘Fwwwing! Fwwing!’ in replication of Spider-man’s web-slinging. ‘Man,’ I thought, ‘I would love to be able to shoot out webs like Spider-man!’ Well, dream it and it shall come. Or rather be made, into a toy. Yep, I couldn’t believe my eyes. A Spider-man wrist webslinger. You too could pretend to be Spider-man! You too could fight the evil Green Goblin and win Mary Jane’s heart! Oh man!

It truly is so cool too. You press in your two middle fingers on the plastic trigger and zoom! Silly string (or water, depending the cartridge you insert) flies out. Does life get any better than this -fighting evil with a Jedi light saber in one hand and a Spider-man web-slinger in another? Would anyone dare make fun of me now for wearing a pink shirt? A baby blue shirt? Even a pink and baby blue shirt? Ha!

Oh, Yeah, that Silly Health Thing

While not fighting crime and pastel-hating, non-fashion-knowing individuals, I have been a mild-mannered patient at Sloan Kettering. Rapidly Day 100 approaches. Next week at this time, I will finally be able to get off most of my medications, many of which hinder me on a day-to-day basis (a little nausea, sore throat, headaches, terrible acne). Yesterday, I had the first of many tests and scans to determine the benchmark of how much healing needs to be done. Billy’s cells actually don’t start working until after Day 100. That’s when the cancer cells start getting zapped, IF Billy’s cells aren’t too busy in the shower. (Hehe!) My appetite will also start to increase. I am down 27 pounds from my normal weight. Ugh! That’s a lot to gain back. Thankfully I do have all summer to work out, eat like a horse and get myself prepared to reenter the working world (doing what, when and where- I don’t know just yet- I’ll keep you posted). I will be staying in New York City, though. I am in the process of signing a lease with two other fellas for a house in Brooklyn. Yeah, a real house with garage, driveway, yard and all, can you believe it? That story is for another time though. Regretfully I need to get back to work. The streets of New York are pounding with activity and someone’s got to be there to keep the peace. ‘Wooosh! Whap!’ ‘Fwwing! Fwwing!’


Keep Your Shirt On! Wham!

May 14, 2002|

Keep Your Shirt On! Wham!

OK, I was being a little secretive. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to swing it. I mean Dr. Perales is one heck of a negotiator. My usual strategies didn’t work with him. I had to dig deep into my can of bull-crap. It was a WIN-win in the end. By the conclusion of our negotiation I had weaseled my way to going home to Ohio for the weekend.

The provision was that I had to drive home with youngest brother Billy. And I would have to have Billy live with me for the next few weeks at the Ronald McDonald House. I could live with that. He’s a twig and I could bully him around. Alright.

Wednesday afternoon we packed up and hopped in the car. The trip started with the usual shenanigans from Billy. ìAaaaahhhhh! Aaaaahhhhh! I’m eathing a salth packet! Aaaaahhhh!” See what happens when you drive and munch on fries out of the bag? Then hearing Billy sing along with Diana Krall and Elvis Costello, torturous, my friend, torturous. Then I bought a really watery slurpie. I didn’t want it, so I was hoping Billy would hold on to it until we made it to a rest stop. What did he do? He chucked it out the door! Litterbug! I have the immune system of a litterbug!

Our time in Youngstown was short. I had a lot of shopping and organizing to do. It’s getting hot in the City so I needed to bring back my summer gear. I apologize if I didn’t see you. It was a short trip. July, I’ll be back in July.

Anyway, the trip back was relatively calm. Thankfully my Spidey-sense kicked in and averted certain disaster. You see three years ago Billy and medium brother Frank were on a road trip to a Transformers (toy) Convention. Billy accidentally spilled his beverage all over his shirt while driving. Decisively he took the shirt off and continued to drive. Happening upon something refreshing, he drove the rest of the way to Fort Wayne with his shirt off. It was summertime, maybe it was acceptable. But now it has gotten absurd. Whenever he drives for long distances he takes his shirt off. The weather outside has no bearing. Have you seen Billy? With his shirt off? He is Axl Rose anorexic skinny. It is a sight to see Billy, shirtless, wearing his seatbelt driving. What kind of sight? I do not know. But it is a sight.

He knows I will punch him into oblivion if he takes his shirt off while driving. I don’t want to see no naked boy wearing a seat belt next to me. Gross. What would a state trooper say? What would we say to a state trooper? Sunday it was freezing and pouring rain.

So I started to fall asleep when my Spidey-sense alerted me to a disturbance in the car environment. I glanced over to see Billy trying to stealthily wean his way out of his shirt. I punched him to oblivion. He kept his shirt on.

The lesson in all of this? This is the guy I am getting my immune system from. This is the guy whose cells are going to save my life. Scary. The results are starting to show. I have hair on my knees now. I never had hair on my knees! Billy is already starting to take over starting with his overabundance of leg hair. Eeeeekk! If I start eating salt packets, littering along the highway and taking my shirt off while driving, it actually maybe a good thing though. Scary. I give thanks to Billy, heck I may live because of him…but I’ll still punch him into oblivion. Keep that shirt on. Road trips.

Isolation Part II

May 6, 2002|

Isolation Part II

Somewhere God is laughing. Hard. Mysteriously last week the Ronald McDonald House of New York City fell silent. The hallways usually filled with screaming and giggling kids were now silent. The playroom was locked. The dining room was empty. What was going on? The sign on the elevator said it all. Quarantine.

Some little rugrat came down with chicken pox last week. That is not a good thing. That actually could be a devastating thing to a hotel full of children (and one adult-me) with compromised immune systems. Children merely playing with each other could easily pass the virus along wrecking havoc on all in its way.

So the house management put us all under quarantine. All of the common areas are off limits. The dining room is virtually closed. No visitors allowed. Stay in your room.

If you think the little kids are having troubles obeying, you should see me. I can’t play my arcade games anymore. And where am I supposed to read, in my room? God has to have a sense of humor. I’ve moved from one bubble to another.

God always provides an out though. I have actually been given two outs- the weather and Starbucks. The weather has been beautiful so I have stayed outside as long as possible each day enjoying Central Park and getting my exercise (walking 2-4 miles a day!). And Starbucks. Their coffee stinks and is too strong but one lies on every corner on the upper East Side. Saved. Ahhh…the sweet smell of coffee beans signaling one’s freedom. Now if those little grimy kids would stay away from me…

Rules and Regulations

It seems lately the more time passes the more rules and regulations I have to abide by. The latest? Looking for an apartment. I briefly mentioned to my doctor that I needed to start looking for a place to live in the City. He goes on with a 5 minute long list of where I can and cannot live. ‘No basement apartments, nothing near construction, no mold nearby, preferably a 10-20 year old building, westward facing windows, doorman named Jose, adequate closet space…’ OK, The last three I made up. It only felt like I needed those though, as the list went on. Golly, where the heck am I going to find something like that in my price range? Florida?

This whole food restriction thing is taking its toll on me. Saturday I went to the Cloisters up in extreme northern Manhattan. I had just walked close to three miles to get there. I was hungry. There, like an oasis, stood the vendor. The intoxicating aroma of sauerkraut filled my nostrils. Like Pepe le Pew’s scent, I could visibly see the smell. Oh. Just one hot dog. It wouldn’t hurt. Oooohhh! Thankfully my companions pulled me away. 25 more days, 25 more days, 25 more days…

This is not to say that I haven’t broken a few rules here or there. I have I admit. I just won’t post them to the world. The scary thing about a web site is that everyone in the world can read it, including certain doctors, or rather a certain doctor…named Dr. Perales…who would be none so happy as read of my various bad behavior…

But all of this has got me thinking on a macro level. Psychologically, what we can’t have we typically want. What we aren’t allowed to do, we want to do. There is something inherent in our souls that values individual freedom of choice. Take that away and revolution occurs on an individual and later on a societal level. There are too many examples to count, ranging from the American Revolution to the Cabbage Patch craze of the 1980s.

Moreso lately I think of the Taliban regime. They had bazillions of rules, restrictions and regulations. One of the most intriguing things about the terrorists attacks occurred the night before, when these ‘devout’ Muslims spent the night at a strip joint. Correct me if I am mistaken, but isn’t that what they were fighting against? Were they not against American society and our freedom to go to such places? The Taliban surely would never allow such a joint to be opened in its territory and none of its leaders and ardent followers would ever frequent such a place, right? Wrong. The night before the attacks, the religious pinnacle of these guys’ lives, they are doing exactly what they shouldn’t be doing. The irony is incredible. I daresay on the whole, those who push their rules and regulations are usually the worst at following them!

I by no means am trying to link the Taliban to Dr. Perales, even though I would like to sometimes. Rather I am thinking more of the implications of how in our own lives it is easy to get caught up in the legalism of religion and culture. We think if we follow all the rules we will be happy, healthy and all will work out. But the flaws are obvious. None of us can, have or will follow all the rules of life. Our naturally psychology tells us to do otherwise, constantly. What we cant’ have we typically want. What we aren’t allowed to do, we want to do. Secondly, the only person to ever perfectly abide by those rules was executed 2,000 years ago by the very same people who were making up those rules. Thirdly, there are many who break all the rules and end up happy, healthy with everything working out for them.

So what’s the answer? Ultimately freedom to do as we please is the most satisfying alternative. Yet is not always the wisest. So maybe there is something more. Maybe it comes more from understanding the spirit of the law and its creation. My regulations are in place in order to decrease the chances of my catching an infection and ending up back in the hospital. They are for my good ultimately. An occasional break from the rules in order to fuel my emotional and mental state, under the right conditions (key!), will ultimately benefit me. The rules of life, that God has truly ordained, are here to decrease the chances of us being hurt in this life. An occasional break, in order to help fellow man (not ourselves), will ultimately benefit me, and humanity. There is a certain power in all of that. Having the freedom to exercise what you want, but yet restraining because it is not in the best interest of yourself and others. That is power. That is freedom. Isn’t that true love?

So I avoid eating hot dogs for another 25 days. I did go see a certain movie this past weekend featuring a certain guy wearing red and blue tights. Hearing the six year old in front of me yell “Gross! They’re kissing!” during that incredibly passionate rainy moment was priceless. The smile and internal chuckle still lingers to this moment, reminding me that it was ordained by a God who laughs with us and sometimes at us, all in the name of freedom and love.