Today is My Birthday; Life Expectancy, Biopsies


Today is my birthday. Whenever I hear someone say it’s their birthday, I am reminded of Jerry Seinfeld’s quip in response to an audience member who announced it was her birthday. He said, “Congratulations and Happy Birthday. How old are you?” And she said something unintelligible and he said instantly, “Oh, so you want attention, but not too much attention.” The crowd roared.

I am 45 today. I don’t care if people know. I have never regarded my age as some secret thing. Sometimes, depending on the light I look my age, other times not at all. I see myself as being on my 45-yard line. Meaning that I’m heading in the right direction, but I still have a ways to go.

I wasn’t planning on writing today. My friend from high school and I remark about my prolificivity (I made up that word) with the writing. He often reminds me of what Faulkner said, something along the lines of writers having to write because we can’t not write.

I have a nice day planned: some yoga in about an hour and then I’m gonna row a bit around noon. But I was walking The Murph, as I endeavor to do every morning after dropping the kids at their educave, and thoughts came to my mind.

The number-one thought is that I’m a lucky person. I am blessed with a wonderful family; my brothers are great people and their wives are terrific. My parents are still alive and getting by. My husband’s family is amazing, truly — you should meet these people — and I have my health. I squandered my youth when I was still stupid and young enough to do it and now I get to look back and caution my children to not err the way I did. I survived; someone up there’s got it in for me.

There is a middle-eastern woman in my ‘hood whom I see every morning and I have a distant fondness for: she wears her headdress, but no long gown-y stuff. She wears a bright-colored sweat suit (usually velour) and is usually on her phone; hands free but no headset. She’s in very good shape, walking at a good clip. How she carries her phone endears me to her still: she places it between her head scarf and her ear and I guess the tension of the wrap keeps it in place. My friend RICK! and I always marvel at her habit of doing this. She smiles and keeps going… I’m thinking in my head as I smile and say hello, “We’re all in this together, sister.”

When my mother was 45 it was 1979. We were still in Buffalo and completely unaware of the changes that would befall us 2 years hence. We moved on her 47th birthday to Virginia. Here’s the post I wrote about some of those days… I’m not going to unearth anything new on this post, so if you’re curious about me, just query “Buffalo, NY” in the search field and that should tell you a fair amount.

I woke up today (yay!) grateful for all the shit that’s come my way. I have no sage advice to share. I have seen many friendships come and go. I used to think that was an indication of some character flaw in myself: that I was unstable, that my expectations were unreasonable and that people have the same friendships all their lives. I accept, with glee actually, that that is not true. I have learned a lot about myself, and my at-times utopian world view, from every single one of those now dust-covered relationships and I’m really good with it. The thing is: what’s theirs is theirs and not mine. I feel intuitively anyhow, maybe it’s a 45-thing, much stronger and ready to own what’s appropriately ‘mine.’  Denial and projection do no good for anyone.

My health is sound, I work hard for it. I realize I have more blessings than others in this department and I am completely grateful.

Two weeks ago I took my oldest son in for a look-see at the dermatologist. I saw a funky mole on his shin. It turned out that what concerned the derm was not the “blue nevus” which is a common and benign mole but two larger and asymmetrical moles on his thigh. When we first got to the practice, I offered my son his options: I can stay in the room and shield my eyes or he can go it alone with the doc and his nurse and if they need me, they’ll call me. He took the prize behind door #2. I sat in my upholstered, itchy and hard chair in the waiting room amidst the onslaught of dermovitabrasion ads blaring from the flat screens. The walls were peppered with images of impossibly beautiful people with no laugh lines thanks to lineliminate. I was flanked by “take one” pamphlets hawking similar concoctions. I tried the vitadroxyliftabeautibrasions lotions a few years ago and I realized: I am not one for the “do every night and don’t forget the sunscreen and wear a hat every day” regimen required of these products to ensure success. I’m cool with that. I dig my laugh lines.

As I waited I started reading Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night — DON’T DO THAT IN A WAITING ROOM on my Kindle. The play is a deeply dramatic depiction of a family in severe dysfunction from addiction, parsimony, anger, repressed emotions and physical illness. It’s utterly amazing, astounding and fantastically deep and reflective, but woah. I was tapped on the shoulder by a nurse and asked to come back to the room. They found something on my son.

I cheerfully stood up, eagerly followed the assistant and chirped, “Hey Bud!” to my son in his paper gown on the cold vinyl chair as I entered his exam room. His expression said, “What’s going on?” His voice said, “Hey, mom. They want you to sign something.” “OK, I’m in!” I chirped again, swallowing and sitting on the edge of the chair behind me.

My head flooded with blood. Saline was trying to pump its way out of my eyes and my throat tightened. The doctor came in, he’s Russian and I adore him because he is “Wery pohkir fazed. He dells yew nudding with heez eyez or voyze. Da.”

They needed me to sign consent to remove for biopsy two moles that “Eye… dun’t lyke. I dew nut know eef dey are beeg becuz he ees a beeg bouy naow und haz gruwn so fazt or…” and I interrupted him and said, I understand. Should I have brought him last year; you said every two years. I was on time. But my eyes were welling up and my lip began to tremble.

“No. Dis is nut dat, Mom. I am takink precushion. Bayzeline. And I meant tew yearz,” he said, I sighed.

I signed. He numbed my son and removed the moles.

The whole time I’m thinking, “GAME FACE, GAME FACE.” I kept it together. My son, also very new to this biopsy stuff said, “What do you mean, biopsy?” and the doctor started to explain that it was a test to look at the cellular nature of the samples and my son said, “No, I’m in honors biology at school, I know what a ‘biopsy‘ is. Why are you taking them…?”

I interrupted and said, “Because it’s what good doctors do. He’s not sure if they’ve stretched out because you’ve grown so fast or if these moles are suspicious. The biopsy, as you know, will tell him what he needs to know, and then we go from there.” I pressed my lips together and looked down at my sneakers. They were dirty.

“Oh,” said my son.

“Ok?” said the doc.

“Ok,” said my son.

The whole way home after that I’m keeping it together. My son kept it together but was openly resentful that I didn’t ask enough questions. I knew that was coming. I didn’t ask “enough” questions because I wasn’t sure of the responses and I wanted the doctor to speak freely and not in front of my son. I fully intended to follow up with a call the next day. My son said to me, “If it’s bad news, you’ll tell me, right?” And I said, “Totally. I would never keep anything like that from you.” (Lie?)

The whole time I’m driving, I’m thinking, “Today’s drive and wait in the office could have been the last normal hour I had with my son. We might be in for a total shift in a week. Right now, all I know is that he’s here…”

I am not one given to histrionics. I am not a drama-seeker. I hate that shit. So I did a good job of staying pretty calm even though I was totally preoccupied. Be the adult and the leader. My son picked up on my cues and stayed focused on what he knew, which was that he has a conservative and careful doctor and that a scar from a biopsy is a hell of a lot better than not having the scar. Moments after we pulled in the driveway, my husband came home and I lost it in front of him while our son was jamming to some Led Zepplin on his electric guitar upstairs in his room.

“You’re overreacting. You don’t know anything. Why didn’t you ask the questions?” I wanted to shove him through a wall. He walked out. He came back a few moments later and I said to him, “I need a soft place to fall. I need that to be you. I need you to deal with my fractured emotional state right now because I have been keeping my shit together since I had to put down my Kindle in the waiting room.”

He silently nodded and agreed, he wasn’t being my soft place to fall. He allowed me to crumble into his arms. I heaved. I cried like a baby. Then I bootstrapped and moved on, we gently high-fived. Not kidding.

A week later, the call came: he’s OK. The moles are benign, but one needs further removal because it’s “atypical” but not “abnormal” and not “precancerous.” I told my son that we have to go back tomorrow, actually, and he said, “OK. Good because I want it all gone; no sense in having it there if it’s not safe.”

My son is just one of my heroes. Going forward, my life expectancy is to just have a good time, not make waves if at all possible and continue to write, share, learn from my upcoming and guaranteed mistakes. This “life” stuff is good though. It is.

So I’m off to yoga and then the water. Have a great day. I will too.

Happy birthday to me.

Thank you.

About Grass Oil by Molly Field

follow me on twitter @mollyfieldtweet. i'm working on a memoir and i've written two books thus unpublished because i'm a scaredy cat. i hail from a Eugene O'Neill play and an Augusten Burroughs novel but i'm a married, sober straight mom. i write about parenting, mindfulness, irony, personal growth and other mysteries vividly with a bit of humor. "Grass Oil" comes from my son's description of dinner i made one night. the content of the blog is random, simple, funny and clever. stop by, it would be nice to get to know you. :)

10 responses »

  1. So glad to hear that your terrible scary trip to the derm ended up being a false alarm. Happy Birthday to you my dear friend, I hope you spend it on the water and in some unimaginable yoga pose for as long as you can stand it. xoxo

  2. What a scary experience that must have been for you. I’ve been there. You should know that even when its not ok, its ok. Awesome that you have Dan the Rock. I never ever thought that we’d be ok after Julian’s diagnosis and we’re more than ok. Happy Happy Birthday.

  3. Molly…..your writing is incredible! I could feel everything you were saying. As moms we kind of have that unspeakable bond. No matter what we always have that in common. And that part about you telling your husband that you needed him to be your soft place to land really hit home. Sometimes you don’t need judgement, or more questions, you just Ned to let it all out….then move on. I’m very glad that your oldest is okay. I hope you have the best birthday….many many best birthdays. I sincerely believe in my heart you deserve all the best in everything. Please don’t take this the wrong way but I think you are so cool! Doesn’t that sound so juvenile? Anyway, great read!!!

    • Tracy, it does NOT sound juvenile. If it does, then I’m juvenile too because I say those things too. I appreciate your support and encouragement more than you could imagine, and it’s words like yours that keep me going. I really mean it. So thank you. The bond we have with our kids is unbreakable, hard to understand but true and real. It’s hard to break. Nearly impossible, short of a horrid betrayal, so yeah, I get all that you’re saying. Thank you so much, Tracy. -Mol

  4. That news that the biopsy was negative must have been the best birthday present you could have hoped for. What a relief! I’m so happy for that news. I hope you had a great day!

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