half-truths, whole lies, and the doubts that remain.

Reprise: The clinic visit biopsy result was clear.

Warning: You may not like what I have to say.

The container I discovered had a September expiry date. The package at the gas station,  also had a September expiration date; just a handful of days later.

The chew wasn’t old and I wasn’t angry. I was astonished and livid. I went directly to the den where the tv was blaring. Jeff was sleeping, so I startled him awake by shouting his name. “What! What?” he came awake, swiveling his head in a panic.

“Here’s what!” I slapped my evidence into Jeff’s hand. “The expiration date.” I clipped. Not completely awake, Jeff stared at me.

“Within a week of Speedway.” I continued. Jeff continued to look puzzled.

“I took it to Speedway, Jeff! It’s NOT old!”

Shaking his head from side to side, he rolled his eyes, and very rhetorically and quite dejectedly, asked, “Why’d ya have to do that?”

My reply was a throw-back, “Why’d you have to?”.

“Don’t do it again, Jeff,” I warned him. I didn’t specifically define which one he shouldn’t do – lie or chew. I assumed he knew it was both.

I have a weird sort of smile on my face as I look back at this one. My warnings were weightless, useless, and void of consequence. If he did it again, it wouldn’t result in any drastic action. I wouldn’t stop loving him. I’d never leave him. It happened. Again, and again. I’d be angry and he’d be sad. He’d be sorry. I’d be forgiving. That’s how it went. Every time.

The thing is… I can’t just leave it on that loving note. That’s not how the story ends for me.

It was a mission trip discussion that clued me in. I have no proof. I’m the only eye-witness. Everything I know, leads to an unpleasant theory.

One of the ladies I evening coffee’d with began a conversation about smoking that revolved around a male member of our team. I mentioned how I’d bugged Jeff to quit smoking way before I think he was really ready to. I shared that the next step for him, in order to avoid smelling like smoke, was a clandestine move to chewing tobacco.

I reiterated the mouth cancer biopsy story and how that’d turned out. Then, went on to share that he never did quit and that it became a sore spot between us. One of my friends asked, “Even after the doctor said it was benign? He didn’t quit?”

“Nope.” I said. “He just couldn’t do it.” I don’t think that he didn’t try. I think he truly did. It just took me a few years to recognize it for what it was; an unbreakable addiction.

Hours later, I thought about the word ‘benign,’ and the fact that I’d never heard it.

1.     Jeff went to the desk, he said, “To ask a question.” I assumed it was about the wait.

2.     He insisted on going without me. “You stay here.”

4.     Body language: as far across the room as he could get from us, arms crossed, looking at his feet, lips pursed, seemingly annoyed. 

5.     The doctor, curtly reporting, “The results were clear.”

6.      He never told us in what way, or which manner, they were ‘clear.’

6.     Those few words used did not include: cancerous, non-cancerous nor benign.

7.     The abrupt end to our meeting. One sentence, and we were dismissed.

8.     I hear the attending’s voice in my head in a different tone, now. A warningly sarcastic parting shot. “Good luck to you, Sir.”

Two years after Jeff passed, on a bunk bed in Slidell, Louisiana, I put two and two together and came up woefully short. I no longer believe we dodged a bullet.

I wonder if Jeff told the clerk that he didn’t want the doctor to say it in front of me if he did have cancer. I wonder if he maybe said, “I don’t want my wife to know the results.” I wonder if he already knew the results before we even got there. I wonder about the doctor visits he went to with his father. I wonder if he confided in anyone. I wonder if it didn’t matter anyway; if he was already too ill for treatment, or if it was just too late.

If it wasn’t for 8 years of tobacco half-truths, little lies and bigger lies, I wouldn’t wonder.

 

Quote for the Week:   (ps. yes, that’s a real onion. made a pot roast.)2019 02 26 You don't know what you dont know jakorte

 

 

Expiration Dating

Dodging the bullet didn’t seem to have much of a lasting emotional effect on Jeff. He did slow it down, but he never quit.

I’d still find an occasional bottle stuffed under the computer desk. I’d find an empty chew container on a shelf. “Oh,” Jeff’d p’shaw. “Those are old.”

One time, he even blamed it on his father. “Oh, Dad must have left that behind,” he told me.

“Does your step-mom know your Dad chews?” I snipped. “Maybe I should call her and tell her so you can both detox together!” “No, no, don’t do that,” he pleaded. “It’s mine. Dad bought it for me…. but I haven’t had any for a real long time.”

“Did you tell your dad about the biopsies?” I asked. “Yeah, he knows,” Jeff mumbled.

“Then, why the hell would he buy it for you?” Jeff answered that question slowly. “Because… I asked him to…. I just wanted a little bit…”

He held out his hand to take it from me. I didn’t give it to him.

“I’ll get rid of it for you.” I told him. “Aw, don’t throw it away,” Jeff whined. “It’s almost new. I promise… it’ll be my last one. I won’t buy anymore.”

“It’s your last one,” I agreed. I walked out to the back porch and dumped the shredded contents behind the house.

“Aw, dang it.” I heard behind me. Jeff had followed me out.

He stopped me before I walked back in. “Let’s just sit out here for a bit,” he requested. “It’s a  nice night. We haven’t done this in a while.” So, we sat, talking about non-important things: tightly holding hands until the sun went down – a settling, comfortable reminiscence of ourselves and who we were, together.

After a few more and more frequent “those are old” excuses, I embarrassingly became very belatedly suspicious.

The next tin I found, I kept to myself, having decided I would take it with me to Jeff’s regular Speedway station. I wanted to know if they were truly all old misplaced remnants or if  he was truly lying to me. How was I planning to determine that? By expiration date.

The very next day, I dropped off my last van pool passenger and drove directly to the source. I stood in line feeling angry and sneaky, betrayed and betraying: wholly conflicted.

I didn’t want to catch Jeff lying, but I didn’t want him to make a fool of me, any longer, either. I also didn’t want to cause a scene in front of other customers. So, I took deep breaths, trying to make sure my voice would be calm.

When it was my turn, I pulled the recently found Skoal container from my purse and quietly asked, “Do you carry this brand?”

The clerk quickly turned away from the register and grabbed a matching green one from the dispenser behind the counter. “Anything else?” he asked.

“Oh, no. I don’t want to buy it…” I hurriedly explained. “I just want to know the expiration date.”

The clerk stared at me. “Seriously,” I prompted. “It’s important. I just need to know the expiration date.”

He picked it up, turned the little package over and around a few times. When he finally located it, he pointed to the dot matrix printed notation.

I nodded my thanks and left without a word. I had my answer.

Quote for the Week: 2019 02 17 hold hands meet in the now jakorte

Dodge and Clear

I worried and analyzed – our finances, our budget, our life-style which already wasn’t high on the hog. I researched mouth cancer and mouth cancer treatments.

Scouring the house, I angrily purged as many wayward rounds of chew as I could find. I already knew his favorite hiding places.

Bottles of spit hid under the computer desk. If a book looked out of place, I would likely find a tin behind it. In the laundry room, behind the soap. In the pantry, behind the home-canned vegetables. Under his recliner. Under the car seat.

Two weeks later, we were back in the waiting room. Jeff had told me he didn’t think I needed to come along. I told him we were a “we” therefore “we” needed to handle this together.

It was a weekday, so we got there early and waited for a little while. Not long enough for Jeff to be antsy, but he was. He got up and started to walk away.

“Where are you going?” I asked, adding, “They could call us soon.”

“I’m gonna go ask a question,” he said.

“It’s not that late,” I commented, “Only five minutes – wait a few more.”

“Nah…” Jeff took a step backwards. “ I’m gonna go ask.”

I started to gather up our things, and he flipped his hands at me. “Why don’t you wait here? Save my seat.” he suggested.

“Did you find out anything?” I asked when he returned. “Yeah,” he said, “we’re on the list.”

About a minute later, it was our turn. Jeff was sweating bullets. I was holding his hand.

The same clinic physician met us in the exam room. He came in, abruptly dropped a file on the desk and crossed to the other side of the room. Leaning against a counter with his arms crossed, the doctor blew out a breath. We waited, holding ours.

“I’m here to tell you that the results…. were… clear.”

Jeff let go an exhale, and dropped his head. Stunned I blurted out, “Are you sure?”

“What?” Jeff looked at me. “Did you want me to have cancer?”

“Of course, I didn’t!” I smacked Jeff’s arm. “It’s just … I’m surprised. He was so sure!” I pointed, stammering on.

“Believe me,” the MD quipped. “No one…. was more surprised than me.”

“So, that’s it?” I asked.

His answer was aimed directly at Jeff. “I don’t like those spots,” he said. “I recommend you stop chewing tobacco. Immediately.”

“Ok.” Jeff said.

“What about something to help him quit?” I wanted to know.

“There’s gum and lozenges. Most stores have them.” With a short shrug, he strode across the room, shook Jeff’s hand and said, “Good luck to you, sir.”

Clearly. We’d dodged a lethal bullet.

Quote for the Week:2019 02 12 Expect the worst jakorte.jpg

 

Snapping Turtle Spots

In his mind, he’d committed a grievous crime showing unusual temper. Per usual for Jeff, though, he found a humorous way to apologize.

Despite what the cute card said, his reaction wasn’t “for no good reason,” and the real crime wasn’t losing his temper.

Before we’d reached this point, before disability, and a long while after the honeymoon backseat-bottle incident, I saw a notice for a free mouth and throat cancer screening. 

I signed Jeff up. I was thinking ‘scared straight’ and ‘this is how much I care’ combined.

I’d already given him facts and articles. I’d already cajoled and nagged. I’d already yelled and cried. I was hoping a doctor could get him to quit, and offer a way to help him do that.

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite go that way.

He resisted, of course.

I insisted, of course.

We drove to Ann Arbor for the weekend clinic appointment. I accompanied him into the exam. When the doctor asked Jeff why he thought he’d need a screening, Jeff pointed. “It was her idea.”

I explained the chew and the diabetes and what I knew from internet-research. The doctor concurred, and said we could certainly talk about ways to quit after the exam.

The exam was brief. I mean, very brief. He asked Jeff how long he’d had dark spots on his gums, under his tongue and inside his lower lip. Jeff said he had no idea. There were many of them, but two in particular were large and concerning.

So concerning, that the doctor immediately halted his examination. He rolled away and bluntly reported: “I’m 99.9 percent sure what I’m looking at here is mouth cancer. You’ll likely have throat cancer, as well.”

We were stunned. He went on to explain that the only question was what type, which would determine the degree of aggressiveness. 

Turning to pull some supplies, he announced, “We’re going to biopsy those.”

“Now?” Jeff asked, echoing the panicked look I was aiming his way.  The answer was a firm, curt, business-like, “Yes. Right now. Is there a reason why you don’t want to do it now?”

“Nnnooooo,” Jeff drew out his answer, shaking his head.

He was advised to immediately stop tobacco use, and we were given a return appointment in 2 weeks. At that time, we would know what type of cancer Jeff had, and would be able discuss treatment options.

The timeline, itself, was an urgency marker – a 2-week turn-around. High priority. 

I drove us to a nearby restaurant, parked, took a deep breath and turned to Jeff in tears.

“Aw, might not be anything…” he waved it off. I stared at him in disbelief. “Did you not hear him?”

“You don’t know what you don’t know.” Jeff tried to reason with me.  “99.9% sure!” I countered, crying out. “Jeff! What are we going to do?”

“No sense in worrying about it for two weeks, yet.” Jeff turned his head away and looked out the window.

“Not gonna change anything…” he softly shrugged.

Quote for the Week:2019 02 05 Sometimes pushing a person to the edge jakorte2019 02 05 snapping turtle card jakorte

.

 

Cards, Stacked

There were obviously more cards from Jeff, but those were the ones I kept.

There were obviously cards going the other way, too – from me to Jeff.  Two at a time. Always, one funny and one serious.

When it came time to move out of our home, I pared down. I waded through our shared stacks. I discarded most of the me-to-him. My thought process was that he would never be reading them again, so there was no point in keeping them. However, I found two of them in the card box, amongst the him-to-me.

For our first anniversary, I handmade the serious one. It was just one simple sheet of plain red cardstock, plainly folded in half. The only embellishment added was a left-over gold foil, double-heart seal we’d used on our wedding invitations.

I wanted the message to stand on its own. The outside read, “I meant it when I said….” On the inside, I’d re-printed the vocal vows I made to Jeff on our wedding day.

I do not know which anniversary the second card was for. We only celebrated four of those, so it was either the second or the third or the fourth. Store-bought, it reminds me of the snowman card; same subject. Another way to answer to Jeff’s rote retort, “I don’t know why.”

The last two cards I saved from Jeff were life lessons for me. The subjects aren’t all that happy.

The first one came from an incident where I was once again harping about his health and bad habits and chewing tobacco. Jeff stood on one side of the bed; I was on the other side. “You must not love me very much,” I’d snarked.  “I’m trying,” he mumbled back. I shouted, “Stop TRYING and just do it!”

” I’M … TRYING…” he snapped back at ramped up volume. Stomping his feet and throwing his arms wide for exclamation, his eyes filled with frustration and failure.

That look broke my heart. He wasn’t a failure. He was just unfairly up against some highly stacked odds.  I knew no matter how much I nagged, Jeff quiting the killing tobacco wasn’t going to make him ‘get better.’

I just couldn’t understand why he’d choose to exacerbate and accelerate with vile chew. Hindsight, I know now it wouldn’t have mattered. We’d have argued a lot less if I’d realized that, then.

“Come sit with me,” I said. We sat on our bed, and held onto each other. “I don’t want you to die,” I whispered. “You wouldn’t be so lucky,” he teased, with quiet laugh. “I’m gonna live ’til I’m 80. You’ll see – I’m gonna be a grumpy ol’ man, just like my Dad.”

As unusual as it was for Jeff to have the last word in an argument, that was the end of that. He’d emphatically expressed he was trying, so I backed-off and let it drop.

Three days later, he handed me a card.

Quote for the Week:

2019 01 29 if someone says it better than you jakorte

That time when someone said it better; perfectly.

2019 01 29 if someone says it better than you slide 2 jakorte 01 28 2019