Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cancer, the Springville Museum of Art & Home


It was while checking the grade on a rocky slope in the Nevada desert I noticed the Metro (3 cyl, 1,000cc, 50+ miles/gal) needs new tires. The Michelin "X Radial"s I bought two years ago were warranted (yeah, right) for 80,000 miles. Now at 35,000 even, less than half their lifespan, they're shot. I googled Costco and began cogitating on how much my pro-rated refund was worth.

I settled on a store in an outlying suburb (of Salt Lake City). It was rush hour (of course) when I began my approach. I made several passes, each involving getting on & off the freeway, multiple u-turns (when sequential they become pirouettes) and other gyrations. Forty minutes later.....not bad for rush hour.

Early demise - Promise not even remotely met.
I eavesdropped as The Tire Manager schpeeled the customer in front of me. The pros and cons of tires weren't as fascinating as the olde days, but his prosody was amusing. Generally found in car salesman, door-to-door proselytizers and multi-level marketers (multi-level doesn't qualify for the teer suffix...as in marketeer), it had that "just get 'em tuh get out their wallet" cadence.

My turn. Things quickly deteriorated. I had THE FINAL INVOICE but not a receipt...and there wasn't one in the computer. AND the computer contained no evidence of my having purchased an INSTALLATION PACKAGE. This was where things got rough. I remembered buying the package, I always do, but without it the tire's mileage warranty isn't worth the noise of voicing it. He Laughed Out Loud when I asked about the manufacturer's warranty. We then went out, took the measure of the tread, and determined that the tires were, in fact, worn out.

Back inside Steve printed out all the information in my file and signed off on my handwritten notes. He then offered to escort me through the bay rather than chance the possibility of overexertion from walking round the building. I accepted.

As we approached the exit door he asked what had brought me to the area. I explained I'd been the primary caregiver for two women undergoing treatment for cancer during the last few years and was taking a breather before entering the next phase, a stem-cell transplant pre-op meeting at the Mayo Clinic. This is a difficult subject for me and I spoke while looking at the floor. The pause that followed my last sentence was longer than usual and when I looked up I saw that he was crying. I asked what was wrong.

He said he'd found out this week his mother has an aggressive form of breast cancer and was going to die. He and his wife were planning to visit, but the doctors had refused to speculate on how much time she had and he was in a turmoil over when to schedule the time off.

It is moments like this that even I find difficult. A friend who's had far more experience once counseled me to simply say, "I'm sorry." And so I did. He thanked me and there followed another pause. I thought he might reach for the door, but instead he talked a bit about her condition, how young she is, the life she's lead and that with all that and 24 grandchildren it didn't seem fair. Again at a loss for words, after a  moment I once more expressed my sympathy and extended my hand, which he accepted.

As I walked out into the deepening dusk of the parking lot I looked up at the stars which were just beginning. I stood there softly crying and pondered on how difficult it sometimes gets. Somehow, most of us find the wherewithal to make it through. Later I remembered what my wife (the one time I legally married) who was an ICU nurse (the Intensive Care Unit is where alot of the dying occurs) said, "It's sad how many people don't take the time to say I love you. It's often too late when they get to the end....and then they realize they've missed their chance." If I'd been thinking a bit faster I might have said something to Steve about the significance of those three words; but I felt sure he knew.

Intuition said head for the pass. I could just make it out against the darkeling sky. As I drove through the streets of Springville a sign for the Art Museum blinked. I made a mental note to check it out the next day.

Suddenly, I noticed a multitood of cars parked along the curb and a large, brightly-lit building loomed in the dark -- people were coming and going. It was the museum and there was a reception in process. Art has always provided solace and I made for the entrance like a boar that's sighted a sow. (Male pig's are famous for their multiple orgasms; little to nothing is known of female pigs' orgasms. One can guess which gender did the counting.)






The installation by Ashlee Whitaker, Associate Curator of Exhibition









The reception was for an exhibit of paintings and prints by German-American artist, Herr Wulf Barsch. Born in 1943, Herr Barsch studied painting in Germany before immigrating to the U.S. After receiving his Master's degree from Brigham Young University he taught there. Over the years he also produced a number of lithographs at The Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque.



But it was Andrew Smith's sculpture, Moon Pool that made the day.






After the party the road led into the Exclusive Neighborhood. (Nothing like a big home to assuage the mortality.) At the end I took a right, went about a mile (which way?) and came to Canyon Road.
The name was right and it went toward the mountains. Ten (mostly dirt) miles later I was ensconced on a mountain top surrounded by those stars. Now, I could tell, giving it their all.

And though not fully recovered from the jolt of Steve's mother's illness, they inspired a wave of gratitude for the sixth sense that enables me to find my way home each night...into the wilds where they await with their undying lights.

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