A shaky little cabin in the middle of a field of wheat, the skies are overcast, the clouds drifting thru as the chill of the October winds, blew through, my jacket and shirt, chilling me to the bone at times. That old rickety, broken down cabin is now only a hundred feet away, as the wheat blows left and right in the winds. What will be there I wonder, it’s been decades since I last came here, to investigate and look around. This old cabin used to be my hiding place as a child, when all else got the best of me I would come here to recover and rest. Gain my equilibrium so to say and get my feet back under me, I think everyone does the same time and again, at least in my world.
I remember as a child chasing brown rabbits across this field in the wind and rain, and never catching one, fast little furry things they are, Are there any still here as I stop and look around under the greying skies, the sun barely peaking around the clouds. The wheat is barely moving today in the field, but straining my vision as hard as I can, I see nothing in the field, except that old cabin, just like decades before. It’s all greyed now the wood is rotted on places, yet it still stands. I wonder to myself as I stare at it, did anyone ever really live here ever and what was it doing out here all alone, all these decades? Did anyone else ever come find it and if so what did they think? I guess, I will never know, I think as I slowly plod my way through the wheat field closer and closer to the cabin.
What memories of I have of this cabin, when nothing would go right at home, or in my family or at school, I would come here and hide and play alone for hours at a time. As I got older I would come to make decisions on friends and girlfriends, things a young man thinks about, if you know what I mean. I would bring my old nine volt transistor radio, and sit on the porch of the cabin, listening and singing to tunes on an old am radio station. No one would be around for miles as I sang country songs to the radio and the woods out here, back then. I find it simply amazing the cabin is still here. It’s been nearly forty five years, since I last laid eyes on the place. Amazingly to me, it doesn’t seem to have changed in anyway, other than the rotting of some boards and the color that went and greyed out over time. I plop down on the old rickety step on the porch and rest now, looking out over the expansive wheat field, I can still remember chasing rabbits, squirrels and watching chipmunks. It’s amazing how Mother Nature filled this field when I was younger, I think to myself, now all is quiet here, peace reigns in its own right. Pleasant yes, but also bleak and lonely it seems to me, but that is why I came here to be alone and think now.
I can think back on all the ones, I cared about who are now gone, taken from me earlier in my life by that deadly disease, and remember back when it first came into my vision hitting the first one I loved dearly. Ah, so many years ago now is 1971, I was still a kid back then, still in High School starting my second year when I found out he was gone. That the disease had taken my grandfather away from us, a man who, we kids, there were five of us, all loved and cared for, and who always loved us. Sadly, 15 is very young to lose a loved one like that and in one way it was good I was young, mom never told me till later he was gone. But Grandpa would be only the beginning of the story when it came to the disease it would hound me, by attacking those around me who I cared for, liked or loved, and still does today. I sit and lean back on the porch now, looking off into the skies, as my hair gets blown around some by the slight winds and my races back in time to the first time I heard of that disease and prayed then as I do now, I would never hear about it again. Life has mysterious ways about it and so does fate and destiny and in my case, there was never going to be a time when I would escape the disease, in one way or another it will stay with me till my dying day too, I am sure.
Taking a breath of chilly October air, I look around studying the old trees and wheat, and sigh a contented sigh my life has been long so far but how much longer can I go on, my fifty-sixth birthday just passed this year. I feel my age as my back aches from my herniated discs and my throat gets a little sore from the chilly air. Fifty six years I have been around, I think, I am lucky for sure I never believed I would live beyond forty, but here I am, outliving many of those who I grew up with and around. My seniors have been gone now for well over twenty years now, every now and then I stop by their graves and think about them, when I do and say hello. It’s amazing, what will flash through your mind as you’re visiting a family member’s grave and staring at their headstones. For some you remember the good times and the laughter, for others the bad times and the tears, but all we experience ourselves, is what makes us who we are through the years. But that is just a passing thought as I sit here and try to review and guess where the disease came from how it got so many of the people I loved and why, and what it all means!.
Like I said the disease first raised its ugly and nasty head in 1971 when my grandpa died and it was the first time I ever heard that word. I was young but knew it was a deadly word and disease, but I was also so young I was a bit careless about hearing it in my family. Youth does that to you, you know, you’re in such a hurry to experience things, and so young you don’t understand everything and time slips on by.
By, 1975 four years later, my High School Years were over and I had decisions to make on what to do with my life for sure, What kind of a job could I find, what should I do in my life came up? And of course, when your one year removed from high school, you have friends and girlfriends too, that effect your decisions, almost as much as your family. So you stop then and think, of what to do next, asking family and friend and evaluate it all, for your own good. It is what we all do, believe me, I think and it is what I had to do. Then the disease raised its ugly head once more in a female friend of mine, not a girlfriend but a good female friend. Her health would go down and come back up, and she survives today, barely, but the disease ravages all it hits doesn’t it. Amazingly, she was diagnosed with the disease at 18, fresh out of high school and still lives today at 57, but her life was never the same, nor can it ever be. That’s the way the disease hurts people, and damages their personalities and overall well-being a little at a time, or sometimes as fast as a racing car at a hundred miles an hour it can run you down and end it. You never see it coming and it does get you in the end unless you’re extremely lucky.
Taking a deep breath now I stand back up and look around once more, the chilly air brushing my hair under the edges of my ball cap around, my nose a little cold. I take a deep breath and turn towards the door to the cabin, staring at it for a moment lost in thought. Then I slowly push the door open and wait a second to see if anything falls or happens, nope, same old cabin still strong enough to stand and hold up some. It’s dark inside, I can’t see a thing, but I am sure, everything is as I left it so many decades before. I light a lighter and look around some the old made up desk, I put together decades ago is still here. Flat wooden top on a few old crates. Funny how some things, last longer than us humans do, I think. I grab the old candle on the desk top and light it and the warm glow spreads throughout the little shed of a cabin. Looking around I find the old chair I found decades ago in the woods, it is only springs for a seat now, but still one can sit on it and I do, whistling to myself at the sight of this cabin still here. I relax and take a breath, enjoying the clear air, but disliking the smell in the little cabin. Yet I know I will stay here a while now, the time has come to rest and leave behind the world if I can. To think over all who have been lost or damaged by the disease in my life, the ones I loved and cared for, the ones who survived and what it all means in the balance of life. Rest in the chair I get warmer now and cover up with my jacket, slowly dozing off now and again, I feel tired now and worn down. Slowly my eyes close, and pop back open and close again, in the in and out of twilight before falling to sleep I think, soon I shall just sleep for a while, I am sure.
Next thing I know, I awaken it is a new day the sun is rising outside as I shiver, and look for a way to get warmer. Up I go and out the door, the sun is bright this morning and the air is fresh, the clouds of yesterday have dispersed and disappeared, it is clear baby blue up there today. Still the cold makes me find branches and wood to build a morning fire, I dig a small hole and make sure nothing is close around it now, piling the wood just so as I enjoy the air and breathe deeply. Lighting the kindling with my old Zippo lighter, I find a rock and sit down next to the fire, warming myself as the flames grow and I feed it more wood. Thinking of what to do out here today, I know I will search for what I buried here many times before in different locations around the cabin site. The writings of mine explaining the attack of the disease on my family and friends and how some survived and others died, they are here I am sure.
Warming myself I grow hungry, and know I need to look for food, I know the area well there are berries and small animals around. I will set a trap or two and then pick berries and gather what I can so, I can eat and keep going. But no matter what, I know being here; I am here to try to avoid the disease that ravaged so many. Whether I can avoid it, or it is already with me is so far unknown, yet I am sure, very sure soon I will know.
Time is a precise thing and we all need to honor it and enjoy it as we can while on this planet. The birds and animals know it too, as well as the fish in the sea I think. They rush each day to hunt and forage and gather and mate, and to do what nature tells us all to do, before we end up gone. Time is indeed, not only precise, it is precious to all living things, we rush through life so fast and somehow, someway, our biological needs make us mate and have children to leave behind a part of us. Funny how, no matter what you do, a straight sexual human has the same drive as all the animals do. Instinct keeps us going, doesn’t it? Yes indeed, it seems no matter what, disease or no disease mankind survives and time marches on. Well, soon I must start my search for the items I hid here so many years ago. I know where they are I just need the energy to go dig them up, they are all childhood memories of course, and I just want them here in the cabin with me. Little treasures I buried as a kid, that I thought important to me, toys, items like a yo yo, and other small things. Little toy soldiers that probably have rotted away, but I will look anyway; it is a way to pass the time, as I think of those ravaged by the disease.
I remember after my grandpa died of the disease, the sadness of my mother and her siblings. How we all, spent time thinking of grandpa and all he meant to us all, and my mother smiling at her childhood memories of him and telling the stories.
Then as time slowly passed on and moved along faster, we all of us as a family, stopped thinking of the disease and what it did to grandpa and moved on ourselves. Funny how that happens isn’t it, someone is dead and gone, you grieve for a while and then they seem to disappear from your memories, only to return at certain times, when little things remind you of them. Such was the way it went with Grandpa back in the 1970s, by the 1980s, life had shown me the disease twice. First grandpa and my then my female friend, one dying and passing away the other surviving, oh yes she did survive and does today, she is thinner the last I saw her, yet she still smiled so brightly and laughed so well. I stop to think, I hope her battle now goes well, with the disease but I haven’t seen her in a long time. And I guess I never shall see her again, but her smile, her laughter, her energy before the disease fills my mind and heart with the joy of knowing her, in our younger days. Time though does not wait for mankind, nor will it ever I was told as a child by my step-father, of course he was correct, when he said to me one day, Mother Nature and Time are old lover’s son, they have an on-going affair, that has lasted forever. And no one will ever stop that love affair and relationship, and we will never be here to see how it ends. So live fully, live happily and love and be good! Someday I will be gone he said to me, and you will live on. I always have remembered that conversation dad, in my mind.
The memories alone make me tired as I finish setting a trap in the field for a meal, and tromp on back to the cabin slowly now. The energy and strength I had to start the day, has been sapped by the memories, the sun and my working on the traps to get food. I stop by and pick some wild raspberries and pile them into my old tee shirt, to take back with me. Munching on them as the flavor explodes in my mouth giving me that taste I do love. The memories of my hideaway little cabin, make me smile inside and just grin as I slowly walk back. Finally entering the cabin, I plop down on the old metal chair now and rest. How I wish I had never heard of the disease, or seen its damages. I fall asleep as my raspberries’ fall out of my tee shirt and onto the floor of the old cabin. Tomorrow is another day I think as I drift to sleep once more, tomorrow will come I am sure.
My third day begins at sunlight now, the sky is crystal clear blue no clouds to be found out there. The air is crisp with its sweet smell of the wheat and trees and flowers around still left at this time of year. The cabin isn’t exactly the greatest place to stay warm all the time in October, so I go gather more kindling and start a fire and add some old logs to it. As the flames burst higher and the heat spreads I warm myself and my hands and slowly stroke my face.
Now I have to go find food once more, at least I am sure of the berries and bushes of them about, so I make a carryall out of the tee-shirt I used the day before and tromp off to the bushes. I pick and pick under the chilly air and bright sky, munching some as I do. Filling the old tee shirt with them all I do so carefully, and carry it gently back to the cabin. Setting it down, I snack on a couple for good measure leaving a fine taste in my mouth and satisfying some of my hunger, but not all of it. I know I need more to eat for my body has its own way of telling me, so I know I must go check my traps I laid out.
As I turn and head back out, the door my mind wanders back to the next victim of the disease, the man who produced me, my own real father. I only met him twice and he lived two states away, but I did meet him. Then one day in 1984 I got a phone call from the red Cross, because I was in the service at the time, my father was dying. Applying for and receiving leave to go to his funeral. I packed up my wife and my child and drove to where it all was held. The disease ravaged my father, in many ways, for he was a big man like my step-father was, 6 feet tall and about 260 lbs. when healthy. What lay in the casket and looked out at us was a man, who weighed no more than 100 pounds soaking wet. His body was gone, diminished like a mountain of sand being swept away by the winds of time. They said the disease ravaged him quickly that year and he went fast within a few months of finding out he had the damn disease. No one knew how fast he went except for his family there in his home, but they say it was painful at the end for him, he suffered, the disease causing pain in every way it could. You can’t escape the disease once you get it and it eats at you from the inside out, leaving you in a shell of a body not worth much for protection from anything. Sadly, that is how my real father went that year!
Checking the traps produced a rabbit for me to eat, big brown one, healthy plenty of meat on him. I grab him up and reset the trap, and carry him back slowly to the cabin, to skin and prepare my next meal. Rabbit is always good fresh, and cooked over an open fire, I used to do it in my younger days here at the cabin, when I hid from the world. Tastes like fresh chicken and is tender as it peels off the bones. I hang my chicken on a wooden stick over the fires and rotate it slowly to cook, the smell itself, makes me want to eat it sooner, but I know it has to be cooked all the way so I wait it out.
When it finishes I let it cool a bit by removing it from the little spit I built, and laying it aside on the little desk top, I cleaned up. Piece by piece I eat it slowly as I think of the disease more and how it is so responsible for some many bad things in my life. I wish I could just wish it away, or find the cure for it and wipe it off the planet, but I know, I can’t maybe someday a Doctor or Scientist will find the cure and save many lives. All I can do is hope and pray for the solution to be found, soon. My body is tired once more as the sun begins to set, but I build the fire bigger and gather more wood for the night to keep warm, then as it roars back to life warming me, I cover myself with the old blanket and slide in the real old sleeping bag I brought along for a night of sleep. The stars above bright in the sky as a quarter moon hangs there and I look up and stare and wonder why the disease was ever, ever, invented or created by God, to destroy so many lives in such a short time. Slowly I close my eyes and pray to god for my soul to keep, as I slowly fall asleep.
Day four at the cabin begins with my awakening, by the sounds of some birds flying overhead in the crisp cold air, and looking for cover, the rain is coming and I can feel it in my bones now the aching has begun, and I know the day will go slower. At least I have left over berries and rabbit to eat from yesterday and I won’t have to leave the cover of this little cabin today. Although boredom may overcome me, I know at least I am alive. I get up and shake off the effects of sleeping, and sit on the old chair it springs creaking under me. Another day is here I think, maybe if the rain stops I can make a spear and go fishing down at the old creek on the edge, we shall see.
Popping a few more berries in my mouth I look out at the rain through the cabins doorway, the rains have begun to fall softly now, coating the wheat in the fields and the trees on the edges. I think about the fishing once more and it makes me think of the next victim of the disease who was taken from me in nine months. It was 1990 when I came home from the service, because of discharge for medical reasons and divorce. My Step-father was a big man originally, he was six feet tall and 280 pounds last I had seen him. On this day in 1990 he was a ghost of himself. A thinner version for sure and hurting in many ways, mom was with him and caring for him then.
I remember him as being a big man with strength, honor, and love, but some violence in him too. Yet, he always treated us kids, well and cared for us, even if he smacked us around now and then to teach us lessons as he called them. The disease had now hit close to home, closer than ever before as we watched dad, slowly fade away each day, being eaten up from the inside out. It would take nine months for dad to die, a slow painful death too. During those nine months we would discuss my broken marriage, my children, our family, and mom and much more. Dad was slowly dying, but he wanted to say things before he could go, at least to me.
I remember growing up with dad he had his ways as all men do, he was taught the hard way so he passed it on to us, it wasn’t his fault it was all he knew. He gave me his IKE jacket when I was younger from the Korean War one day, and told me it’s yours enjoy and wear it proudly, so I did. He took us fishing, and carnivals and fairs and even the World’s Fair once.
The things dad did his singing as he played the piano, his fights and arguments with mom all flash by my mind now as I think how the disease got him too. His being a fan of The Boston Red Sox made me a lifetime fan of them too. He never saw them win a World Series in his life, but I did after he was gone. The quiet conversation he had with me, when he offered to adopt me as his own and change my name. The years of his counseling and talking to me, how he handed me a brand new electric razor, when I signed up for the service.
I shiver in the chilly air as I listen to the rain drops coming down over head the cabin roof barely there, but enough for cover. I pop a few more berries into my mouth and chew as the taste of them spreads throughout my mouth bring some pleasure. Yes indeed, Dad taught me to fix cars, build walls, and fix homes and fish. He even tried to teach me music once I remember now. He gave me a sheet of music and taught me to read it, it took him five minutes he always said and he would always say it with wonder at me. He said I was a natural but I never stayed with it.
I remember many things about Dad, but most of all the quiet little conversations we had before he died watching the Red Sox that summer. 0h Dad told me how the Lazy Boy Recliner, I gave him 30 years before made him happy and how he used it all his life and when I went downstairs that day it sat there, empty. He kept that chair from the day I gave him it to the day he died in the same place right by the fireplace. I used to sit on the couch as he sat in his chair on Sundays watching Football in the fall and winters. Dad, and I always screaming, at the games, picking opposite teams, just for fun, those days are long gone now Dad and so are you, I will always miss you, but you knew that too.
I breathe heavily now and shiver a bit more as it grows more chilly and the rains come harder. My mind wanders back to the day, dad died in the hospital. He refused all cared except pain medication he would only take the morphine they gave him as he wasted away from the disease. I remember it so clearly now, his last lines to me as he sent me away and what happened.
We were chatting that day in his room as he lay in bed, when the pain from the disease flared up in dad. He grimaced and even yes even groaned. Then he held up a fragile finger that I remembered as being so strong before and looked at me. Then he began, “Son, I shall be gone soon, the disease is eating me alive, do not grieve for me for time shall keep moving forward”. He said “The minutes will turn to hours the hours to days, the days to months and years and you shall forget me, but time shall always move ahead”. Then he choked for two minutes with sweat on his brow and finished it all, Live good, live with honesty, live fully and happily, live life to the fullest, do what you want to most and love fully, for time waits for no one”. He finished and choked once more, then turned his head to one side and vomited and dad was gone. The disease had taken one more from my life and who was next.
It would be one year and a day, before the disease would claim its next victim from me. Sadly, I had no idea, until right before dad died who that victim would be. But, I shake my head and grow tired now, munching more berries and then I eat more of my cold rabbit meat from yesterday, and feel more comfy inside. I find my little made up bed back on the floor in the corner and lay down, slowly falling asleep once more.
I awaken the next morning, the sun is shining outside the birds are fluttering by as I open the door and stumble outside for air. The crows this time of year are big and getting ready to fly away now, faster they progress across the sky. The sky is a bright blue once more with a few sparse clouds around and the air is refreshing after being cleaned by the rains, even the pollen count is down I can tell. But I know I need more food to keep going, so I stretch and stretch, moving my aching muscles and bones and begin to feel a little move alive.
Next is my walk through the wheat field, to check my traps for rabbits once more or anything else I can eat. Of course I grab my old tee shirt for more berries and take it with me. Slowly I tromp through the field of wheat, the ground wet from the rains of the day before, as I get to the first trap. Checking it I find no food there, the trap is still set the way I put it, Ah, one to the next I have to go, and in my mind as I slowly walk to the next trap in the wet wheat, I think of the next victim in the disease my mother.
Mom, god bless her soul and heart, was a French Canadian woman, who have streaming black hair and the looks of a beauty in all ways. She gave birth to five of us, four boys and one girl, and had two husbands. She always kept all her kids at least, even though she never had much of a mothering instinct. Mom had her favorites and she showed it over the years and I was not one for sure. Yet it didn’t matter to me, because we were family and that is how it always would be. By 1991, a year and day after Dad died mom followed him the disease ate her insides out, killing her slowly over that year and a day. She unlike dad tried treatments of all kinds, chemo- radiation, and pain killers she used. Slowly she withered away, month by month getting worse, her weight reducing her, hair falling out, mom tried to show a brave front for sure but she knew, oh she knew. The disease had attacked her father before it got anyone else and mom was not stupid but well educated and a Registered Nurse for a career. She knew her chance were very slim and signed a DNR form to ensure not to leave her kids straddled with bills. And mom, I do remember your smile, maybe not your warmth, but your smile, you never were big on hugs and kisses were you?
I stumble and tromp through the wheat field now to each trap, hoping for some meat to eat, but alas the second trap is empty today too. I guess my diet will be berries today, or I can spear fish as my dad taught me. I find a straight hard wood stick and take it with me to the cabin. I sit on the cabin steps and sharpen it slowly on a stone to make a point. At least there is always the stream and fish close by. I stare up into the afternoon sky now as I continue to sharpen my spear for fishing and think of the damn disease it is never far from my mind, for it pursues and eats at an alarming rate. People around the world suffer from it and die each day and night.
Holding my spear in one hand I tromp through the wheat field once more now in the southern direction to the stream. The stream dad taught me to fish in, and told me will always be there. Finding the stream, I look up and down to just make sure no animals are feeding now I don’t have any weapons to stop one from attacking me. I shimmy down the banks of the stream and stare into the running water looking for fish as dad taught me to. Holding my breath and looking for fish, and hoping for a good sized one to eat. There is one, finally, after an hour of searching up and down the banks. I cautiously approach so to not scare it away, and poise myself to spear it and not miss. Suddenly I let loose spearing the fish as fast as I can, and smiling, dinner is served I say, holding the fish up on the end of the spear, and waving to the sky at Dad. He taught me well enough to take care of myself, yes indeed. Taking a deep breath I tromp on back to the little cabin, and start a fire to cook my fish as the sun goes down. Supper then bed I think, the day has been long and I am tired, tomorrow I shall see how I feel. Adding a couple of logs to the fire I build it higher so I can feel the heat and have it to keep warm overnight. Then I grab my bedroll from the cabin and pick a spot next to the fire and lay down now, the stars showing in the sky now, I stare at the stars and try not to think anymore today, and close my eyes. Sleep comes quickly for me now, a day.
After mom died, the disease took a vacation from my life it seems and didn’t raise its ugly head again, until I remarried. The year was 2001, and my new wife was found to have the disease. It surprised us all as she started to feel bad and it came up on tests she had done. The good thing was we found it early, the bad thing is what it takes to defeat it all, no easy job indeed.
We started the battle through periods of chemo, six month worth she faced. Her hair thinned and fell out on me until one day she asked me to shave her head, I cried to see her beautiful hair go away. Then, the radiation treatments for six more months and her barely able to eat anything, her weight going down and hours and hours of sitting at the hospital for me. No way was she going to face it alone I was there every moment, every second, carrying her through. I never left her side that period of time and we actually overcame it all. We had the operation too at the beginning to remove the disease that took twenty nine lymph nodes out from under her left arm. In the end it saved her breast and her life, because we went all the way to New York for specialist to see her, it paid off because she is still kicking today. The disease knows no age, nationality, color, race, or anything else it just eats at human beings, killing them slowly and painfully. It’s a sad, sad, time when someone you love has it and all you can do is pray and hold, on to their memory.
Well the years have passed now and my second wife is still here, alive and kicking and as feisty as ever. Me, well, here I sit in my little cabin in the woods today waiting for the end. I awake and know soon it must all end the pain won’t let me go check my traps, or pick berries all I can do is stare at the pale blue sky. My body won’t move, every breath is pain, the sun rising hurts my eyes. I knew when I came out here it was peaceful and quiet it is why I choose this place to come to, I knew.
As the sun rises my breathing slows down and the pain wracks my body, making me, whimper and cry out loudly. No one can hear me and that is what I wanted. I didn’t want anyone to know the disease finally caught me too, it is eating my insides out and my time has come. Pulling myself up I lean back against my little old cabin and let the disease take its course. I am going to say hello once more to all I loved and lost to you disease, at least in that way I win! The disease that kills so many millions, has me, Cancer won’t let go once you get it! God Bless!