Each day on my way home I stops
At one of the neighborhood shops
Although they’re quite dear
I’m addicted I fear
To pig’s feet and peppermint schnapps
–Robert Lee Haycock
My Two Week Rule
I remember it like it was yesterday, even though it was over a decade ago. I worked in radio then, and I was zipping through the content of the local paper (print version–I don’t know if was online yet) while the BBC ran at the top of the hour. This was my habit. When I started my show at six minutes past the hour I wanted to alert my listeners to any vital local happenings.
I saw her name and thought, “Oh, Jeannie wrote a letter to the editor.” I looked again. I was on the obituary page. Suddenly I was intensely aware of my heart rate, my blood pressure.
Jeannie Olts had been my therapist off and on for ten years. I went to her intermittently on an issue by issue basis, and I hadn’t seen her in a few years. I knew she was there though, in her oak furniture and plant-filled office, ready to offer me a cup of tea from the large variety she kept there. I knew I could figure out anything with her help.
I had three more minutes of BBC. Then I was live.
What I knew of her life flashed before my eyes. Discipline, scholarship, athletic prowess, focus, familial love.
Two weeks from diagnosis to death, it said. Pancreatic cancer, it said.
Two more minutes of BBC. I could not move my body the five feet to the consul.
So much planning, I thought. So much care. So much focus on the future. What if I only had two more weeks? What would I do? In that moment, deep in my core, I changed forever.
Walking to the mic was like walking through sand. Because like Jeannie I always planned ahead, I had a whole set of songs cued. By rote I greeted my listeners and read the underwriter cards. (The underwriter cards are like ads, but we pretended they weren’t.) That day, in many ways, I stopped pretending.
I flipped the mic. I announced Jeannie’s death and dedicated the show to her. Silently, I dedicated my life to myself in a new way. The future didn’t matter. Bathroom scale and blood pressure be damned. Fuck what the neighbors thought. I needed to tell so many people I loved them. Two weeks. We all have two weeks. What did I want to do with the rest of my life? Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Life. Life. Life.
I remembered in a flash the message my 10-year-old nephew sent me from beyond fifteen years before at his graveside service: Just live!
The phone lines lit up with Jeannie’s admirers. I managed the show flawlessly, as usual, before I ventured out into a world with fewer rules and more dangers. I had a lot to experience in just a couple weeks.
–Carolyn M Crane