I bought a condo.
I didn’t expect to until summer but on February 28, 2020, my partner and I sat in Sotheby’s International Realty office and signed a whole stack of papers allowing me to become a homeowner for the first time in my life. He’s old hat. They gave us a gift box with two Tiffany crystal wine glasses, a gold coin to get a bottle out of the champagne vending machine, and most importantly, a set of shining silver keys to the doors of our new home.
It is not lost on me that I moved into my current apartment in the wake of steep tragedy and I will move out of my apartment in the weight of impending tragedy.
On April 29, 2013, I got the call that my beautiful loft apartment had been destroyed by accidental fire and almost everything I owned, including my cat, was gone. What survived were the things that mattered most- my handwritten scripts and notebooks, my pictures- and a free-standing kitchen island that was too heavy for my herniated back to carry up three flights of stairs. I spent the next two weeks sleeping at friends’ houses, shuttling back and forth to work in my car filled with donated clothing, toiletries, and food. What little else was left stunk up a storage unit in Northeast Minneapolis. If you’ve ever smelled a house fire, you never forget that stench.
I continued work because I had nowhere else to go and we were literally three weeks from the end of a years long project to replace the software that assigns all the rooms to all the classes at the university. It still stands as the biggest project I have ever worked on. My loft burnt April 29. I had to move out of it (pick through the wreckage) April 30. And I walked into my current apartment on May 11, 2013 with a garbage bag of clothes, a paper bag of canned goods, an alarm clock, a cot, and a waste basket. On May 21, our software had a successful ‘go live’ in spite of everything.
My back was still herniated, and I was able to finally schedule my surgery for July 11. But sometime between my fire in April and my surgery in July, my mom was handed a stage-4 cancer of the tongue diagnosis. She didn’t tell me, thinking that I had enough stress in my life. But she chose to tell me the day of my surgery, within hours of leaving the hospital at the height of my relief and happiness at my ability to walk pain free for the first time in ten months. It killed the only joy I would experience that year.
She had delayed getting the sore in her mouth tested in January because her house, my childhood home, had burned in an accidental fire. And by the time she was tested and diagnosed, it had migrated through the lymph nodes and into her body. Surgery and radiation followed, and she was declared ‘cancer free’ a year or two later. But one of the risks of radiation is developing MDS within ten years.
Mom was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) in June 2018. It is a blood cancer, commonly referred to as ‘preleukemia’ or ‘smoldering leukemia’ because it often progresses to AML. As of February 24, 2020, she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) and was told she has “weeks to live”.
And so, I write this post at my free-standing kitchen island which has become the center of my home, surrounded by disarray and empty shelves, boxes half full, boxes taped and labeled for the movers who will come March 17. I am packing up the sanctuary of my single life, my harbor during the worst year of my life, the birthplace of my cycling passion, my public performances, and this very blog. I will clean it, turn over my keys to my landlord, and unpack a little March 18-19. Then I will leave my partner, my cats, and my new home to make my way to my mother to attend to her final days and final affairs. I told her, “Mom, you’ve got to hang on until spring!” The Vernal Equinox is March 20. She assured me she intends to.
But I could get the call tomorrow because viruses have no calendar. No agenda other than survival. They find their hosts and ravage their bodies and move onto the next. Whether the host survives or not is irrelevant. It’s not personal. We are currently witnessing public hysteria over COVID-19. But it turns out that the old flu is just as deadly as this new flu. Respiratory illnesses kill the elderly and infirm every single day.
And there is a 75% chance that my mom will die of pulmonary or systemic infection. Pneumonia. Otherwise there is a 25% chance she will die of hemorrhaging. She has too few white blood cells to fight disease and too few platelets to stop bleeding. That’s what leukemia does. Blood becomes red water. So, in the midst of my great joy of owning my first home and starting a new great adventure with my partner, I will bury my mother.
And here is life, in all its excitement and sorrow. It is all passing. All of the good. All of the bad. All of the time.
-Copyright C.M. Mounts, March 2020