Raw, adjective: 8. brutally harsh or unfair: a raw deal.

I've had Pops on the brain lately. That melancholy 5-year anniversary of his bodily absence is coming up this spring, and well, it sucks.

The suckage has changed over time, of course; the massive SUCK that defined the first six months morphed into a lower-grade but still barren underlying grey suck, which subsequently melted into a more muted ashy dull achy suck, which turned into a now-and-then-when-you-least-expect-a-reminder kind of suck. And the vicarious suckage comes up anew whenever someone else you love tackles the whole ugly "C-word," and all you want to do is wrap them up and squeeze them tight and say, don't listen, keep breathing, just move, just be here, stop regretting, don't wonder, it is, you are, it's enough.

If you read Salon on a regular basis, you might be aware that Cary Tennis, a long-time contributor with a penchant for literary psychoanalysis and existential rambling, has been fighting a doozy of a cancer battle himself. Tennis just went through the usual chemo-surgery-radiation rigamarole that many of us know too well. And now here on the other side of that, ostensibly tumor-less [why do they ever tell people they're cancer-free when it's such a cruel tease?], his vision has changed. Tennis writes a touching ode to the suddenly remarkable small miracles of post-surgery life, like taking trips to ACE Hardware, walking unaided up Guerrero St., and watching bad TV:
Oh, I could take it or leave it, life, I thought before this happened. What's so great about this beating heart, these heaving lungs, these eyes through which the world enters and signs its name? But threaten to take it away and see how I change: What pleasure in every heartbeat and every breath! What complexity in the color of a rain cloud! ....
So the body, temple and vehicle, again gains my gratitude. Me, lord and master, taken down a notch by the wisdom of disease. And driven to new reverence for photosynthesis and light! For the complex yellow of a squash and the red of an apple, the green of chard and the orange of an orange, the yellow of a lemon and the purple of a grape: These colors and their molecules will save me, I am sure. For what brought on that tumor? How have I allowed this deadly encroachment? I am not separate from my "body." I am not some absentee landlord: I was here, eating a bagel and cream cheese every morning for years. I was here ignoring the muted, dour warnings of high cholesterol; I was here, drinking coffee after coffee for the charge and the power, pretending the insane ups and downs didn't affect me. I kept getting warnings: a panic attack in 2004 that I thought was a full-blown heart attack; squamous cell skin cancer in 2008; and then this, the impossibly rare chordoma, a final warning for sure: Get well, my boy, live within biology's rules, with gratitude for the planet's cures; stop fucking around with your body.
Regrets acknowledged, he riffs. (And, oh god, how he riffs!):
Also the long, strange nights on sleepless painkillers gave me a new and welcome craziness, allowed me to enter the neglected dark realms, the realms of Rimbaud, the realms of Baudelaire forgotten in the cheesy daylight of good advice. I'm just riffing here: riffing for my life, riffing for the spirits that live within me, riffing to wake them up and wake myself up, riffing to turn me on again, riffing to find a language for my reverence and joy, riffing to revere the engine of language, hoping for maybe an answering cry. Yep, that's it: an answering cry: We holler into the abyss and hope for an answering cry.
Read the whole thing. Wonder why we all wait till the sickness hits to appreciate the absolute fucking miracles that are our bodies. Resolve to breathe more deeply into yours, see more clearly, move more consciously, rest more gratefully. It's really such a short little ride.

Having Cheated Death, I Feel Alive (Salon.com)


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