Such a Winding Road

| July 29, 2011 | 0 Comments

July 28th, 2011

The most beautiful man I have ever known starts chemotherapy today.  He has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His prognosis is good, there is excellent care, and doctors assure its “treatable and beatable.” Nevertheless, this is cancer and there is a fight ahead.  This man matters to me.  Years ago, we filled each other’s lives with talk of love.  I lived in Chicago, he in Brooklyn.  We are no longer together and went our separate ways.  The distance?  Maybe.  The timing?  Okay.  Who knows, really?  I think I thought I was being noble.  Silly me.  But, there is still joy when we see each other and the hugs are real.  I never stopped caring; there is just no place for it now.  Fortunately, he has found his great love in a man who fills his life in ways I could not.  Thank goodness, that man is beside him now.

I won’t pretend the news of his illness did not come as a shock.  I was attending a 4 day retreat when I overheard a conversation about it.  It was as if I’d been sleeping and suddenly doused with a bucket of ice water.  I sat bolt upright and just stared in the direction of the speaker — the assault — with no words available to me.  I would like to think this rending I felt went unobserved (“…there is just no place for it now.”) but the gentle hand on my arm, of a friend seated beside me, who was far more informed than the speaker, said otherwise.  He steadied me enough so that I could hear, “…the prognosis is good.”  Those words, that assurance, freed me enough to, at the very least, be present for the rest of that retreat.  And, they carried me until I could get home and reach-out to the most beautiful man I have ever known.

Brooklyn-born, of Haitian descent, a United States military veteran, this beautiful man is a talented and committed photojournalist who brought his documentary skills, and military training, to the people of Haiti after a 2004 hurricane, and more recently following its devastating earthquake.  This brief bio, though accurate, fails to account for the heart and courage given so willingly to help people in crisis.  And, now, facing his own crisis, he turns his lens on himself and blogs about this new “journey.”  This is not without fear or uncertainty, but there is an open heart, one that invites us to look at our own lives too.  What I see is that I have not been a part of his life for quite some time.  Those hugs, I mentioned earlier, are infrequent, and we don’t speak as often as we might.  We travel in different orbits that occasionally overlap.  So, my concern is somewhat removed.  I have been a fixture in the background satisfied with periodic reports of an event or an accomplishment along the way.  To varying degrees that has been okay.  Except now, the trip-hammer in my chest…

Writing this, I struggled against censoring myself.  This isn’t about me, I kept thinking.  But, it is dishonest to pretend I do not have an experience of this, separate and apart from his.  When you have told a person you love them, and meant it, regardless of how inadequate it may have ultimately been, or where your lives are now, how could you not?  Still, my past experience of cancer (both of my parents died of it) is that it is ultimately a private affair.  The day-to-day reality of it, the burdensome and emotional weight of it, the resentful host of the brutal therapies, the anxiously awaited life-changing lessons!, the terrible exhaustion and ferocious side effects language simply cannot convey, the anger and fears it exposes and, sometimes, ugly truths it reveals – as well as the special healing gift of every morning — are, most often, the privilege of immediate “family.”  So, even if there is no space for me to lend a hand here, and the hugs remain infrequent, my quiet caring is alive and always available.  I hope he was able to hear that when we spoke.

As for our hero?  He is confronting cancer head-on.  I expected nothing less.  Defiant and determined to be the one directing these circumstances, he shaved off a decades-worth of locs so as not to be “robbed” of them by “dis-ease.”  I am inspired and humbled by him.  The awesome outpouring of love, support, prayer and even humor that has washed over him, leading to today, has me thoroughly convinced that the most beautiful man I have ever known has already won this fight.


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Allen Luther Wright

About the Author ()

Born on the Westside, raised on the Southside, lived on the Northside, only side left was East, but that was the lake. Allen Luther Wright left Chicago for New York when he fell in love with a man from Harlem. His work has appeared in several publications and he co-wrote Kevin’s Room Part 2: Trust and Kevin’s Room Part 3: Together, the provocative and educational television productions of Chicago’s Department of Public Health, also featured at numerous film festivals. Allen now lives in the Catskills town of Liberty, New York.

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