Thursday, March 24, 2011

"My Canopy Bed"

          In 1965 Ross, my four-year-old brother, my mother and I spent most weekends in San Francisco with Grammy Lou, my mother’s mother. I was five years old. My mother and father divorced earlier in the year and a beautiful new world awaited us. My mother rented bicycles for us to ride around Golden Gate Park. First, we deposited Grammy Lou on a patch of lawn and then we rode. 
We watched and observed the “hippie” generation. The sights were incredible: long hair woven through with flowers, beaded necklaces, lots of smoke, Frisbee throwing, live music from the park’s center stage and lounging around.
As my eyes took in the sights and sounds of this generation, Ross would trail along behind me, attempting to knock my wheels off course. He knew I was not paying attention to my riding. I could barely keep my training wheels on the sidewalk. These were some of the best times of my life.
After one fun Saturday in the park, we all piled back into my mother’s red Volvo station wagon and headed to Sears on the other side of San Francisco. Grammy Lou needed to purchase a few items and since she did not drive, we took her to do some shopping.
            I was exhausted from the bike ride and the long aisles of Sears seemed endless. Unexpectedly, I spied the most beautiful twin-size canopy bed. Without a word I crawled in, PF Flyer tennis shoes and all, (yes, complete with whistle). Little did I realize, my mother and Grammy Lou flew into a panic when they looked back and saw only Ross. My mother demanded of Ross, “Where’s Debbie?” He shrugged his shoulders.
Frantically, retracing their steps through Sears, they made their way back to the furniture department. There, they discovered me sound asleep in the white canopy bed with pale yellow linens. It was the middle of summer and Christmas was nowhere in sight, however, Grammy Lou thought I looked so perfect in that bed, she bought me an “early Christmas present.”
            This special piece of furniture and my family relocated when my mother remarried in 1967. One year later, we moved several hours north to Star Thistle Ranch. When my mother divorced and married again, the bed was packed up and moved. When I turned 18 and moved to the Hawaiian Islands, my bed was wrapped up and stored in the shop behind our home.
            Some 18 years after my move to Hawaii, I married.  Seven months later, I was pregnant. Believing I would have a girl, my mother and stepfather took my canopy bed out of storage and refinished it. After doing so, they put it in the back of their truck and drove it down to my current home, Lone Pine Ranch.
They wanted my “daughter” to grow up sleeping in the same bed, which served me so well. We put the bed in the barn and awaited the birth of my baby girl.  My mother purchased pale yellow linens for this special bed. As it turned out, I gave birth to a son and the bed remained in the barn, wrapped in blankets. 
Still, I longed for a daughter. I continued to hope “she” would someday sleep in my old bed. My husband and I discussed having another child. As the monthly timing was perfect for me, we agreed to attempt conceiving our second child.
My husband said he would return home from his business trip around 6:00 that evening. We knew we could have one night together, before he departed again the next morning, on a two-week trip to Asia and Australia. As it turns out, he didn’t return home until around midnight.
            The next morning, I awoke to a real life nightmare. I discovered my right breast bled through my nightgown onto the sheets. Horrified, I jumped out of bed, racing to the kitchen to tell my husband. I quickly determined he was already gone. Other than Spencer, my infant son, I was alone.
To make certain my eyes were not playing tricks on me, I rushed into the bathroom and checked in the mirror. I could plainly see the blood coming through the fabric on the right side of my pajamas. I peeked inside my nightgown, discovering my right breast covered in blood. I sat on the bathroom floor, unable to move a muscle.
It was so early in the morning; I did not know whom to call. Finally, I mustered up the courage to telephone my mother. My call woke her. When I told her about my situation, in her usual calm voice, she told me to get out my doctor’s telephone number and call their office as soon as they opened at 9:00 a.m.
            Overcome with terror, I refused to make the call. Four months later, I went for my annual physical examination. When I casually mentioned the bleeding episode to the doctor, he immediately checked my right breast. He left the room and returned five minutes later with an appointment for me to have a mammogram.
During the mammogram, blood again squirted out of my right nipple. The technician stared at me. I stared back at her. Neither of us said a word. I thought my knees would buckle. From there, I was sent to the medical director for the Mammography Center. She performed an ultra-sound. Quietly I got dressed, went to my car and burst into tears.
The 30 minutes I waited for the results was an eternity. The outcome revealed a tumor the size of a walnut.  The medical director was unable to determine if the tumor was benign or malignant therefore, I was given the name of a surgeon to schedule its immediate removal. Once again, I chose not to make the appointment. I was scared to death.
            My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 44. She opted for a radiation implant treatment instead of a mastectomy. She saved her breast and remained cancer-free exactly 20 years. Despite the fact cancer has only a five percent heredity rate, because of my mother’s history; both my doctors and I were understandably alarmed.
I waited more than a year to call the surgeon. Finally, I made an appointment with my physician. After meeting with him he called the surgeon and scheduled my procedure for two days after my 41st birthday.
            I braced myself for the removal of the large tumor. However, on my 41st birthday, I received a call from my stepfather. He admitted my mother to the hospital that morning for liver cancer. Normally, I telephoned my mother daily just to chitchat, now I telephoned her up to eight times a day. When I telephoned her from my hospital room, the discussion centered on concerns for our well-being.
Our conversation went from my hospital bed to her hospital bed. I told her how terrified I was. She said she was certain the tumor was benign and I would be fine. She reminded me, when we face our fears they go away. She passed along her optimistic view in a weakened voice, barely more than a whisper.
            I opted to have my surgery under a local anesthetic. At one point, I felt the surgeon’s knife and alerted him. He asked if I wanted to go under a general anesthetic. I declined a second time, as I feared never waking up. I was freezing cold in the operating room. The nurses brought heavy, heated blankets for me. They piped in music from one of my favorite local radio stations and kept talking with me throughout the procedure.
Once removed, the tumor was taken to biopsy. Within 10 minutes the results were back. My surgeon leaned over me and said, “I don’t know how you did it, but by the grace of GOD, you missed the speeding bullet.”
Fortunately, I was well enough to be at my mother’s side when she died 17 days after my surgery. Regretfully, I am no longer able to telephone her for the comfort and companionship she provided the first 41 years of my life. Even though my mother, my brother and Grammy Lou are no longer a part of my physical world, their love continues.
I am grateful for my son’s angelic presence. It has grown to be more than I ever could have imagined. There is not a doubt in my heart; he is the one to be here with me.
As for my canopy bed, it may not be used for its intended purpose; however, I continue to thank Sears for its public display of affection. 

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