Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Relativity of Time

This is a picture of me sitting in Dr. Elisabeth Rareshide's examining room this past Monday morning, looking - and feeling - a little ghostly. Outside, there is a heavy fog, swallowing the Superdome in the distance and the tall buildings around it.

This shot is pretty different from an earlier image I'd snapped on November 25th. Back then, I was feeling optimistic; and the 25th was a clear, crisp winter day, glowing in sunlight. It was the day she spoke encouragingly to me about my condition, while cautioning me that I was not yet out of the woods.

A week later, on Monday, December 5th, she saw me again. She would conclude this visit with the biopsy I had hoped she would have decided I didn't need to have done.

It was then my sense of time slowed down.

I've put aside most of the memories of what I felt or experienced between that day and the return visit when I would receive the results of my biopsy, but I have held on tight to some of the realizations that descended on me during those days.

The first thing I realized was something that surprised me. I discovered I was not as scared of dying as I thought I might have been. I figured, if there is a God, He would love me beyond my capacity to comprehend or deserve it, so there was no need to be afraid; and I reasoned, if there is no God, then there will only be a last, deep, dreamless sleep. Above all, there was the clarity that death is universal and comes to all life. Though birth might be seen as a matter of happenstance, death is inevitable.

On the other hand, I also regarded the possibility of my passing as the cruelest joke the cosmos could have played. Who would there be to look after Bob? Yes, he can be aggravating. Yes, there have been times when, for example, I might find myself following him on one of his courtyard-decorating excursions with a hammer in my hand, and I would think, It would be so easy ...

But isn't that what long-term love is all about?

I came to see my life in toto as a wasted thing, a series of missed opportunities, bad choices, unkind acts, unbearable losses. I'd like to believe this feeling is just one of those tricks the mind plays to prepare us for the eventuality of death, as if to say, "What's the point? There's nothing to be missed. Get on with it. Go."

I began to see the pictures I make as common, bland, with no beauty or meaning to anyone but me. The plays I had directed appeared just as colorless, dissipating in the fading memories of the very few people who had ever seen them, like the great buildings outside the window, vanishing into the fog. Everything I'd made appeared as insignificant and paltry as the person who had made them.

Nevertheless, I could still recall moments of inexpressible joy when it seemed as if something inside of me held stars in its hands.

I may have done nothing to change the world for the better, but how many people have?

I was no better, and perhaps not much worse, than anyone else.

Then it was Monday and time for my return.

This was the first visit when the doctor seemed to be busy. I wasn't called out of the waiting room as punctually as before. Once in the examining room, I had to wait a longer time for the doctor to appear.

I sat there alone, looking out over a fog-heavy landscape. It was noontime, but the haze had not cleared. It hung there like a reminder of uncertainty. I prayed a few prayers, asking only that I be able to handle the news with dignity.

Eventually, she came into the room.

Eventually, I heard her say what sounded like, "... not cancer."

I didn't cry.

When she was done with me, I left her office and stopped at a next-door Walgreen's to pick up some Christmas candy Bobby had asked me to buy.

I felt unheavy, perhaps even happy; my sense of time righted itself; and the fog all around me, I felt I could lean on its shoulder like a friend.


  1. So happy for the good news!!!  And your pictures inspire me, thank you for sharing them.

  2. dear glenn, this is both reassuring (no fear of death) and unsettling (your sense of your life as wasted). Your photos are anything but common, they are poetry in light and shadow; you plays are as alive as when they were staged; and you, you my friend, make our world immeasurably richer. i just thought you should know that, because I'm really glad you're going to live on.  


  3. Thank you, dear, but remember what I said about the tricks the mind might play. I'll never forget those stars in my hands.

  4. Isn't interesting how life gives us little "wake up calls"? Someone dear to me pointed out once, that the powers of be are constantly sending messages, little & small. It's up to us to keep our senses open. I'm still working on the open part!

    My heart sang when you posted the good news. March on, Mr. Glenn.

  5. I agree with you, Deborah, about the "wake up calls." I sometimes think the cosmos - if I can anthropomorphize for a moment - is inherently compassionate to its own and will carry us through the scary times if we listen. Thank you for listening, too.

  6. Hi, Glenn. It's been a while since I came here to visit your blog. I am so happy to know the great news about your health! I didn't follow your anguish during the whole process of doctor's suspicions, exams and the horror of waiting for the answer, but it's easy to imagine how hard it must have been.... I wish you and Bobby all the best in 2012 and a lovely and cheerful Christmas!!!

  7. Hello, hello, hello! I'm doing fine, and I'm glad you missed the turmoil. It turned out to be about nothing much. Bobby's been doing very well (he's driving me up the walls, which is a good sign), and, of course, I am - as usual - just fine. Happy Christmas to you  and your beautiful family, and may the new year bring you greater joy and happiness than before and good health and fun!


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