This is a punchline to a joke I heard 50-plus years ago during my adolescence. I never knew what the actual joke was, but somehow it was thought to be funny. And so too was it funny the other day, when preparing to take a shower at home, I noticed that the bar of soap waiting for me in the shower was razor-thin and insufficient for the task at hand. I then opened the bathroom vanity, where I knew I had back-up, and saw there was only one bar remaining. It was the last holdout of an eight-pack I had bought many months ago. As Maurice Chevalier sang in the movie "Gigi:" "Ah. I remember it well."
And remember it well, as I remember other similar bulk-type purchases. Sometimes, being diagnosed with a "terminal" form of cancer interferes in the most unusual way. When I buy things or make arrangements
when the use/benefit is in the future, I'll often wonder if I'll still be alive to actually derive the benefit from this day's commitment. As involves the soap; that day in the supermarket aisle, I was really looking for a two- or a three-pack, not an eight-pack, hesitating to over-buy when I may under-use. I suppose if I had plenty of money and fewer financial concerns than I do now, I wouldn't have given this soap purchase any thought at all. But I'm me, not somebody else.
And sometimes, I don't want to be me. I'd rather be somebody else. Somebody else who throws a bit more caution to the wind. Somebody who damns the torpedoes and goes full speed ahead. Somebody who's a bit fast and furious and less slowsky, if I can invoke metaphorical Comcast turtles into the conversation. Nevertheless, at the end of the day (at the beginning, too), I may not be Sammy Davis Jr., but "I Gotta Be Me."
And "me" is someone who doesn't throw caution anywhere, has never sworn at a torpedo and loves turtles, especially when they beat hares. My approach to this excruciating cancer ordeal is to keep my glass half full, compartmentalize, be positive about the negative and not "Live Like You Were Dying," as sung by Tim McGraw, but to live like I was living. Which to me has meant to live normally, as if I didn't have stage IV lung cancer, with no bucket list or urgency about anything; and to assimilate having cancer into my life as just another variable, like the weather or the Red Sox bullpen.
Unfortunately, and it might just be me (Oh, really), but this kind of soapy mundane minutiae does occupy (I'm not saying preoccupy though) my world. But it doesn't necessarily occupy it because I have cancer. It occupies it because I'm more like my mother than I am my father and cancer or not, it's what I do. And being exactly who I am in spite of my diagnosis is how I've rolled through these last 10-plus years. It's been a living for which I remain extraordinarily grateful, and to be honest about it: amazingly lucky.
Moreover, I make the same jokes, with or without punchlines, do the same impressions, invoke the same popular culture references and make decisions as I always have. In addition, I allocate resources, juggle funds and plan for the future, while being mindful of the present likewise, as I always have. My diagnosis certainly defines me, but I try not to let it control me. Still, its reality seeps into every decision I make, from soap to nuts. It's the elephant in the room and the pebble in my shoe (actually that's the neuropathy in my feet).
Still I have to take things in stride – or else. When I saw that last remaining bar of soap, it conjured memories of the tightrope I have to walk (Leon Russell not withstanding). And it gave me pause: Wow, I made it through that entire pack. Now what? Soap. No radio. And so it goes.